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Council of Constantinople I. Western bishops, like Hilary of Poitiers and Eusebius of Vercellae, banished to Asia for holding the Nicene faith, were acting in unison with St. Basil, the two St. Gregories [of Nyssa and Nazianzus -- Ed. ], and the reconciled Semi-Arians.

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council of constantinople i
Council of Constantinople I

Western bishops, like Hilary of Poitiers and Eusebius of Vercellae, banished to Asia for holding the Nicene faith,

were acting in unison with St. Basil, the two St. Gregories [of Nyssa and Nazianzus --Ed.], and the reconciled Semi-Arians.

St. Basil the Great with his friend Gregory of Nazianzus and his brother Gregory of Nyssa, made up the trio known as

"The Three Cappadocians."

As an intellectual movement the heresy had spent its force.

Theodosius

A Spaniard and a Catholic, governed the whole Empire.

cappodocians
Cappodocians

St. Basil the Great

Bishop of Caesarea, and one of the most distinguished Doctors of the Church. Born probably 329; died 1 January, 379.

  • With his friend Gregory of Nazianzus and his brother Gregory of Nyssa, he makes up the trio known as "The Three Cappadocians."
  • In Pontus, Basil became known as the father of Oriental monasticism, the forerunner of St. Benedict.
  • How well he deserved the title, how seriously and in what spirit he undertook the systematizing of the religious life, may be seen by the study of his Rule.
  • He seems to have read Origen's writings very systematically, for in union with Gregory of Nanzianzus, he published a selection of them called the "Philocalia".

He ranks after Athanasius as a defender of the Oriental Church against the heresies of the fourth century.

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Cappodocians

St. Basil the Great

Basil was drawn into the area of theological controversy in 360 when he accompanied two delegates from Seleucia to the emperor at Constantinople, and supported his namesake of Ancyra.

  • Eusebius persuaded the reluctant Basil to be ordained priest, gave him a prominent place in the administration of the diocese of Caesarea (363).
  • In ability for the management of affairs Basil so far eclipsed the bishop that ill-feeling rose between the two.
  • "All the more eminent and wiser portion of the church was roused against the bishop" and to avoid trouble Basil withdrew into the solitude of Pontus.

A little later (365) when the attempt of Valens to impose Arianism on the clergy and the people necessitated the presence of a strong personality, Basil was restored to his former position.

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Cappodocians

St. Basil the Great

There seems to have been no further disagreement between Eusebius and Basil and the latter soon became the real head of the diocese.

"The one", says Gregory of Nanzianzus, "led the people the other led their leader".

  • During the five years spent in this most important office, Basil gave evidence of being a man of very unusual powers.
  • He laid down the law to the leading citizens and the imperial governors, settled disputes with wisdom and finality, assisted the spiritually needy, looked after "the support of the poor, the entertainment of strangers, the care of maidens, legislation written and unwritten for the monastic life, arrangements of prayers, adornment of the sanctuary". In time of famine, he was the saviour of the poor.

In 370 Basil succeeded to the See of Caesarea, being consecrated according to tradition on 14 June.

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Cappodocians

St. Basil the Great

Caesarea was then a powerful and wealthy city. Its bishop was Metropolitan of Cappadocia and Exarch of Pontus which embraced more than half of Asia Minor and comprised eleven provinces.

  • The see of Caesarea ranked with Ephesus immediately after the patriarchal sees in the councils, and the bishop was the superior of fifty chorepiscopi.
  • Basil's actual influence covered the whole stretch of country "from the Balkans to the Mediterranean and from the Aegean to the Euphrates".
  • The need of a man like Basil in such a see as Caesarea was most pressing, and he must have known this well.
  • Some think that he set about procuring his own election; others say that he made no attempt on his own behalf.

In any event, he became Bishop of Caesarea largely by the influence of the elder Gregory of Nanzianzus.

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Cappodocians

St. Basil the Great

During his previous administration of the diocese Basil had so clearly defined his ideas of discipline and orthodoxy, that no one could doubt the direction and the vigor of his policy.

  • St. Athanasius was greatly pleased at Basil's election
  • The Arianizing Emperor Valens, displayed considerably annoyance and the defeated minority of bishops became consistently hostile to the new metropolitan.
  • By years of tactful conduct, however, "blending his correction with consideration and his gentleness with firmness", he finally overcame most of his opponents.

Basil did not confine his activity to diocesan affairs, but threw himself vigorously into the troublesome theological disputes then rending the unity of Christendom.

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Cappodocians

St. Basil the Great

He drew up a summary of the orthodox faith;

he attacked by word of mouth the heretics near at hand

and wrote tellingly against those afar.

  • His correspondence shows that he paid visits, sent messages, gave interviews, instructed, reproved, rebuked, threatened, reproached, undertook the protection of nations, cities, individuals great and small.
  • There was very little chance of opposing him successfully, for he was a cool, persistent, fearless fighter in defense both of doctrine and of principles.

His bold stand against Valens parallels the meeting of Ambrose with Theodosius.

  • The emperor was dumbfounded at the archbishop's calm indifference to his presence and his wishes.
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Cappodocians

St. Basil the Great

The incident, as narrated by Gregory of Nanzianzus, not only tells much concerning Basil's character but throws a clear light on the type of Christian bishop with which the emperors had to deal

It goes far to explain why Arianism, with little court behind it, could make so little impression on the ultimate history of Catholicism.

  • In the midst of his labors, Basil underwent suffering of many kinds.
    • Athanasius died in 373 and the elder Gregory in 374, both of them leaving gaps never to be filled.
    • In 373 began the painful estrangement from Gregory of Nanzianzus.
    • Anthimus, Bishop of Tyana, became an open enemy
    • Apollinaris "a cause of sorrow to the churches"
    • Eustathius of Sebaste a traitor to the Faith and a personal foe as well.
    • Eusebius of Samosata was banished
    • Gregory of Nyssa condemned and deposed.
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Cappodocians

St. Basil the Great

When Emperor Valentinian died and the Arians recovered their influence, all Basil's efforts must have seemed in vain.

  • His health was breaking,
  • the Goths were at the door of the empire,
  • Antioch was in schism,
  • Rome doubted his sincerity,
  • the bishops refused to be brought together as he wished.
  • "The notes of the church were obscured in his part of Christendom, and

He had to fare on as best he might,--admiring, courting, yet coldly treated by the Latin world, desiring the friendship of Rome, yet wounded by her reserve,--suspected of heresy by Damasus, and accused by Jerome of pride.

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Cappodocians

St. Basil the Great

Had he lived a little longer and attended the Council of Constantinople (381), he would have seen the death of its first president, his friend Meletius, and the forced resignation of its second, Gregory of Nanzianzus.

Basil died 1 January, 379.

His death was regarded as a public bereavement;

Jews, pagans, and foreigners vied with his own flock in doing him honor.

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Cappodocians

St. Gregory of Nanzianzus

Doctor of the Church, born at Arianzus, in Asia Minor, c. 325; died at the same place, 389.

  • He was son -- one of three children -- of Gregory, Bishop of Nazianzus (329-374), in the south-west of Cappadocia, and of Nonna, a daughter of Christian parents.
  • The saint's father was originally a member of the heretical sect of the Hypsistarii, or Hypsistiani, and was converted to Catholicity by the influence of his pious wife.
  • His two sons, who seem to have been born between the dates of their father's priestly ordination and episcopal consecration, were sent to a famous school at Caesarea, capital of Cappadocia, and educated by Carterius, who was afterwards tutor of St John of Chrysostom.

Here commenced the friendship between Basil and Gregory which intimately affected both their lives, as well as the development of the theology of their age.

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Cappodocians

St. Gregory of Nanzianzus

From Caesarea in Cappadocia Gregory proceeded to Caesarea in Palestine, where he studied rhetoric under Thespesius; and thence to Alexandria, of which Athanasius was then bishop, though at the time in exile.

  • At Athens Gregory and Basil, who had parted at Caesarea, met again, renewed their youthful friendship, and studied rhetoric together under the famous teachers Himerius and Proaeresius.
  • Among their fellow students was Julian, afterwards known as the Apostate, whose real character Gregory asserts that he had even then discerned and thoroughly distrusted him.

During the next few years Gregory's life was saddened by the deaths of his brother Caesarius and his sister Gorgonia, at whose funerals he preached two of his most eloquent orations, which are still studied as homiletic masterpieces today.

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Cappodocians

St. Gregory of Nanzianzus

About this time Basil was made bishop of Caesarea and Metropolitan of Cappadocia, and soon afterwards the Emperor Valens, who was jealous of Basil's influence, divided Cappadocia into two provinces.

  • Basil continued to claim ecclesiastical jurisdiction, as before, over the whole province, but this was disputed by Anthimus, Bishop of Tyana, the chief city of New Cappadocia.
  • To strengthen his position Basil founded a new see at Sasima, resolved to have Gregory as its first bishop, and accordingly had him consecrated, though greatly against his will.

Gregory, however, was set against Sasima from the first; he thought himself utterly unsuited to the place, and the place to him; and it was not long before he abandoned his diocese and returned to Nazianzus as coadjutor to his father.

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Cappodocians

St. Gregory of Nanzianzus

Three weeks after Basil's death, Theodosius was advanced by the Emperor Gratian to the dignity of Emperor of the East.

  • Constantinople, the seat of his empire, had been for the space of about thirty years practically given over too Arianism, with an Arian prelate, Demophilus, enthroned at St. Sophia's.
  • The remnant of persecuted Catholics, without either church or pastor, applied to Gregory to come and place himself at their head and organize their scattered forces; and many bishops supported the demand.

After much hesitation he gave his consent, proceeded to Constantinople early in the year 379, and began his mission in a private house which he describes as "the new Shiloh where the Ark was fixed", and as "an Anastasia, the scene of the resurrection of the faith".

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Cappodocians

St. Gregory of Nanzianzus

Not only the faithful Catholics, but many heretics gathered in the humble chapel of the Anastasia, attracted by Gregory's sanctity, learning and eloquence

  • it was in this chapel that he delivered the five wonderful discourses on the faith of Nicaea --
  • unfolding the doctrine of the Trinity while safeguarding the Unity of the Godhead -- which gained for him, alone of all Christian teachers except the Apostle St. John, the special title of Theologus or the Divine.
  • He found himself exposed to persecution of every kind from without, and was actually attacked in his own chapel, whilst baptizing his Easter neophytes, by a hostile mob of Arians from St. Sophia's, among them being Arian monks and infuriated women.

He was saddened, too, by dissensions among his own little flock, some of whom openly charged him with holding Tritheistic errors.

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Cappodocians

St. Gregory of Nanzianzus

St. Jerome became about this time his pupil and disciple, and tells us in glowing language how much he owed to his erudite and eloquent teacher.

  • Gregory was consoled by the approval of Peter, Patriarch of Constantinople
  • Peter appears to have been desirous to see him appointed to the bishopric of the capital of the East.

Gregory allowed himself to be imposed upon by a plausible adventurer called Hero, or Maximus, who came to Constantinople from Alexandria and who professed to be a convert to Christianity, and an ardent admirer of Gregory's sermons.

  • Gregory entertained him hospitably, gave him his complete confidence, and pronounced a public panegyric on him in his presence.
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Cappodocians

St. Gregory of Nanzianzus

Maximus secretly an Arian sought to obtain the bishopric for himself

  • He found support in various quarters, including Alexandria, which the patriarch Peter, for what reason precisely it is not known, had turned against Gregory
  • Certain Egyptian bishops deputed by Peter, suddenly, and at night, consecrated and enthroned Maximus as Catholic Bishop of Constantinople, while Gregory was confined to bed by illness.
  • Gregory's friends, however, rallied round him, and Maximus had to fly from Constantinople.

The Emperor Theodosius, to whom he had recourse, refused to recognize any bishop other than Gregory, and Maximus retired in disgrace to Alexandria.

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Cappodocians

St. Gregory of Nanzianzus

Theodosius received Christian baptism early in 380, at Thessalonica, and immediately addressed an edict to his subjects at Constantinople, commanding them to adhere to the faith taught by St. Peter, and professed by the Roman pontiff, which alone deserved to be called Catholic.

  • In November, the emperor entered the city and called on Demophilus, the Arian bishop, to subscribe to the Nicene creed: but he refused to do so, and was banished from Constantinople.
  • Theodosius determined that Gregory should be bishop of the new Catholic see, and himself accompanied him to St. Sophia's, where he was enthroned in presence of an immense crowd, who manifested their feelings by hand-clappings and other signs of joy.

Constantinople was now restored to Catholic unity; the emperor, by a new edict, gave back all the churches to Catholic use

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Cappodocians

St. Gregory of Nanzianzus

Arians and other heretics were forbidden to hold public assemblies; and the name of Catholic was restricted to adherents of the orthodox and Catholic faith.

  • Gregory had hardly settled down to the work of administration of the Diocese of Constantinople, when Theodosius carried out his long-cherished purpose of summoning thither a general council of the Eastern Church.
  • One hundred and fifty bishops met in council, in May, 381, the object of the assembly being, as Socrates plainly states, to confirm the faith of Nicaea, and to appoint a bishop for Constantinople

Among the bishops present were thirty-six holding semi-Arian or Macedonian opinions; and neither the arguments of the orthodox prelates nor the eloquence of Gregory, who preached at Pentecost, in St. Sophia's, on the subject of the Holy Spirit, availed to persuade them to sign the orthodox creed.

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Cappodocians

St. Gregory of Nanzianzus

As to the appointment of the bishopric, the confirmation of Gregory to the see could only be a matter of form.

  • The orthodox bishops were all in favor , and the objection (urged by the Egyptian and Macedonian prelates who joined the council later) that his translation from one see to another was in opposition to a canon of the Nicene council was obviously unfounded.
  • The fact was well known that Gregory had never, after his forced consecration at the instance of Basil, entered on possession of the See of Sasima, and that he had later exercised his episcopal functions at Nazianzus, not as bishop of that diocese, but merely as coadjutor of his father.

Gregory succeeded Meletius as president of the council, which found itself at once called on to deal with the difficult question of appointing a successor to the deceased bishop.

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Cappodocians

St. Gregory of Nanzianzus

There had been an understanding between the two orthodox parties at Antioch, of which Meletius and Paulinus had been respectively bishops that the survivor of either should succeed as sole bishop.

  • Paulinus, however, was a prelate of Western origin and creation, and the Eastern bishops assembled at Constantinople declined to recognize him.

In vain Gregory urged, for the sake of peace, the retention of Paulinus in the see for the remainder of his life, already fare advanced

  • The Fathers of the council refused to listen to his advice, and resolved that Meletius should be succeeded by an Oriental priest. "It was in the East that Christ was born", was one of the arguments they put forward; and Gregory's retort, "Yes, and it was in the East that he was put to death", did not shake their decision.
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Cappodocians

St. Gregory of Nanzianzus

Flavian, a priest of Antioch, was elected to the vacant see

Gregory, who relates that the only result of his appeal was "a cry like that of a flock of jackals" while the younger members of the council "attacked him like a swarm of wasps", quitted the council, and left also his official residence, close to the church of the Holy Apostles.

  • Gregory had now come to the conclusion that not only the opposition and disappointment which he had met with in the council, but also his continued state of ill-health, justified, and indeed necessitated, his resignation of the See of Constantinople, which he had held for only a few months.
  • He appeared again before the council, intimated that he was ready to be another Jonas to pacify the troubled waves, and that all he desired was rest from his labors, and leisure to prepare for death.
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Cappodocians

St. Gregory of Nanzianzus

The Fathers made no protest against this announcement, which some among them doubtless heard with secret satisfaction; and Gregory at once sought and obtained from the emperor permission to resign his see.

  • In June, 381, he preached a farewell sermon before the council and in presence of an overflowing congregation.
  • The peroration of this discourse is of singular and touching beauty, and unsurpassed even among his many eloquent orations.
  • Very soon after its delivery he left Constantinople (Nectarius, a native of Cilicia, being chosen to succeed him in the bishopric), and retired to his old home at Nazianzus.
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Cappodocians

St. Gregory of Nanzianzus

Looking back on Gregory's career, it is difficult not to feel that from the day when he was compelled to accept priestly orders, until that which saw him return from Constantinople to Nazianzus to end his life in retirement and obscurity, he seemed constantly to be placed, through no initiative of his own, in positions apparently unsuited to his disposition and temperament, and not really calculated to call for the exercise of the most remarkable and attractive qualities of his mind and heart.