Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/783

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709

ARIANISM


709


ARIANISM


tnnny liundreds of years set their mark on the de- velopment of Christian dogma. Alexander could not give way in a matter so vitally important. .'Vrius and his supporters would not yield. .V coun- cil was, therefore, assembled at Nica\i, in HithjTiia, which has ever been counted the first (ecumenical, and which held its sittings from the midtlle of June, 32.5. It is commonly .said that Hosius of Cordova

C resided. The Pope. St. Silvester, was represented y his legates, and ;j18 Fathers attended, almost all from the Kast. Unfortunately, the act-s of the Council are not prosorvi'il. The emperor, who was present, paid religious deference to a gathering which displayed the authority of Christian teaching in a manner so remarkable. Krom the first it was evi- dent that .\rius cnul 1 not reckon upon a large number of patrons among the bishops. .Mexander wa-s ac- companied by his youthful deacon, the ever-memora- ble .\thanasius who engaged in discussion with the heresiarch himself, and from that moment be- came the leatier of the Catholics during wellnigh fifty years. The Fathers appealed to tradition against the innovators, and were pa-ssionately ortho- dox; while a letter wa.s receiveti from Eusebius of Nicomedia, declaring openly that he never would allow Christ to be of one substance with God. This avowal suggested a means of discriminating between true believers and all tlio.se who, under that pretext, did not hold the Faith handed down. .\ creed wa.s drawn up on behalf of the Arian party by Ku.sebius of C.'Bsarea in which every term of honour and dig- nity, except the oneness of substance, was attributetl to Our Lord. Clearly, then, no other test save the Homoousian would prove a match for the subtle ambiguities of language that, then as always, were eagerly adopteil by dissidents from the niinil of the Church. .A. formula had been discovered which wouUi .serve as a test, though not simply to be found in Scripture, yet summing up the doctrine of St. John, St. Paul, and of Christ Himself, " I and the Father are one". Heresy. a.s St. Ambro.se remarks, had furnished from its own scabbard a weapon to cut off its head. The "consubstantial" was ac- cepted, only thirteen bishops di.s.senting, and the.se were speedily n-duccd to seven. Hosivis drew out the conciliar statements, to which anathemas were subjoineil against those who should affirm that the Son once did not exist, or that befo.e He was be- gotten He w.as not, or that He was made out of nothing, or that He was of a different substance or essence from the Father, or was created or change- able. Every bishop made this declaration except six, of whom four at length gave way. Eusebius of Nicomedia withdrew his opposition to the Nicene term, but woulil not sign the condemnation of .\rius. By the emperor, who considered heresy as rebellion, the alternative proposed was subscription or banish- ment; and, on political grounds, the Hishop of Nicomedia was exiled not long after the coimcil. involving .\rius in his ruin. The heresiarch and his followers underwent their .sentence in Illyria.

But the.se incidents, which might seem to close the chapter, proved a beginning of strife, and led on to tne most complicated proceedings of which we read in the fourth century. While the plain .\rian creed was defended by few, those political prelates who side<l with Eu.sebius carried on a double warfare against the term "con.substantial", and its champion, .Vthana.sius. This greatest of the Eastern Fathers had succeeded .Mexander in the Egj-ptian patriarchate (.326). He was not more than thirty years of age; but his published writings, antecedent to the Council, display, in thought and precision, a mastery of the issues involved which no Catholic teacher could surjia-ss. His unblemished life, con- siderate temper, and loyalty to his frienils made him by no means easy to attack. But the wiles


of Eusebius, who in 328 recovered Constantine's favour, were seconded by Asiatic intrigues, and a period of .\rian reaction set in. Eustathius of Antioch was deposed on a charge of Sabellianism (331), and the Emperor sent his command that Athansisius should receive Arius back to communion. The saint firmly declined. In 33-5 the heresiarch was absolved by two councils, at Tyre and Jeru.salem, the former of which deposed Athanasius on false and shameful grounds of personal mi.-'conduct. He was banished to Trier, and his sojourn of eighteen montlis in those parts cemented Alexandria more closely to Home and the Catholic West. Mean- while, Con.stantia, the Emperor's sister, had recom- mended .■\rius, whom she thought an injured man, to Constantine's leniency. Her dying words alTected him, and he recalled the Libyan, exacted from him a solemn adhesion to the Xicene faitli, and ordered Alexander, Bishop of the Imperial City, to give him Communion in his own church (336). Arius openly triumphed; but as he went about in parade, the evening before this event was to take place, he ex- pired from a sudden disorder, which Catholics could not help regarding as a judgment of heaven, due to the bishop's prayers. His death, however, did not stay the plague. Constant ine now favoured none but Arians; he was baptized in his last moments by the shifty prelate of Nicomedia; and he be-

aueathed to his three sons (337) an empire torn by issensions w'hich his ignorance and weakness had aggravated.

Constantius, who nominally governed the East, was him.self the puppet of his empress and the palace-ministers. He obeyed the Eusebian faction; liis spiritual director, Valens, Bishop of Mursa, did what in him lay to infect Italy and the West with .\rian dogmas. The term "like in substance", n omoiouxiim , which had been employed merely to get rid of the Nicene formula, Ijecanie a watchword. But as many as fourteen councils, licld between 341 and 360, in which everj' shade of heretical subterfuge found expression, bore decisive witness to the need and efficacy of the Catholic touchstone which they all rejected. About .340, an Alexandrian gathering had defended its archbishop in an epistle to Pope Julius. On the death of Constantine, and by the influence of that emperor's son and namesake, he had been restored to his people. But the young prince ptus-sed away, and in 341 the celebrated Ant iochene Council of the Dedication a second time degraded Athanasius, who now took refuge in Home. There he spent three years. Gibbon quotes and adopts "a judicious observation" of Wetstein which deserves to be kept always in mind. From the fourth centurj' onwards, remarks the German scholar, when the Eastern Churches were almost equally divided in eloquence and ability between contending sections, that party which sought to overcome made its appearance in the Vatican, cultivated the Papal majesty, conquered and estab- lished the orthodox creed bv the help of the Latin bishops. Therefore it was that Athanasius repaired to Rome. K stranger, Gregory, usurped his place. The Roman Council proclaimed his innocence. In 343. Constans. who niled over the West from Illyria to Britain, summone<l the bishojis to meet at Sardica in Pannonia. Ninety-four Latin, seventy Greek or Eastern, prelates began the debates; but they could not come to terms, and the Asiatics withdrew, hold- ing a separate and hostile session at Philippopolis in Thrace. It luis been justly said that the Council of Sardica reveals the first symptoms of discord which, later on, produced the unhappy schism of Eiist and West. But to the Latins tliis meeting, which allowed of appeals to Pope Julius, or the Roman Church, seemed an epilogue which com- pleted the Nicene legislation, and to this cfTect it