Euchites

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The Euchites or Messalians were a sect first mentioned in the 370s by Ephrem the Syrian,[1] and Epiphanius,[2] and Jerome.,[3][4] and first condemned as heretical in a synod of 383 AD (Side, Pamphylia), whose acta was referred by Photius.[5] From Mesopotamia they spread to Asia Minor and Thrace. The name 'Messalian' comes from the Syriac ܡܨܠܝܢܐ, mṣallyānā, meaning 'one who prays'.[6] The Greek translation is εὐχίτης, euchitēs, meaning the same.

Modern scholarship has questioned, though, whether a coherent heretical movement existed behind these condemnations, and has emphasised instead the friction in the Eastern Church caused by Messalianism's 'ascetical practices and imagistic language far more characteristic of Syriac Christianity than of the imperial Church centred on Constantinople'.[7]

The condemnation of the sect by St John Damascene and Timothy, priest of Constantinople, expressed the view that the sect espoused a sort of mystical materialism. The sect's teaching asserted that:

  1. The essence (ousia) of the Trinity could be perceived by the carnal senses.
  2. The Threefold God transformed himself into a single hypostasis (substance) in order to unite with the souls of the perfect.
  3. God has taken different forms in order to reveal himself to the senses.
  4. Only such sensible revelations of God confer perfection upon the Christian.
  5. The state of perfection, freedom from the world and passion, is therefore attained solely by prayer, not through the church, baptism and or any of the sacraments, which have no effect on the passions or the influence of evil on the soul (hence their name, which means "Those who pray").

Messalians taught that once a person experienced the essence of God they were freed from moral obligations or ecclesiastical discipline.[8][9] They had male and female teachers whom they honored more than the clergy, the "perfecti".

They are mentioned in the works of Photius, Patriarch Atticus (406–425), Theodotus of Antioch and Sisinnius.[10] Their critics accused them of incest, cannibalism and "debauchery" (in Armenia their name came to mean "filthy")[11] but scholars[which?] reject these claims.[12]

The group continued to exist for several centuries, influencing the Bogomils of Bulgaria, whose name appears to be a translation of "Messalian" and, thereby, the Bosnian Church, the Patarenes and Catharism.[13]

By the 12th century the sect had reached Bohemia and Germany[citation needed] and, by a resolution of the Council of Trier (1231), was condemned as heretical.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Vladimir Lossky, The Vision of God, SVS Press, 1997. (ISBN 0-913836-19-2)
  • Marcus Plested, The Macarian Legacy: The Place of Macarius-Symeon in the Eastern Christian Tradition (Oxford Theological Monographs 2004)(ISBN 0199267790)
  • D. Obolensky, The Bogomils: A Study in Balkan Neo-Manichaeism (Cambridge, 1948), reprint New York, 1978
  • S. Runciman, The Medieval Manichee: A Study of the Christian Dualist Heresy (Cambridge, 1947)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ephrem the Syrian, Against the Heresies, 22.4
  2. ^ Epiphanius, Ancoratus 13, and Panarion 80
  3. ^ Jerome, Dialogue against the Pelagians
  4. ^ Frances Young, From Nicaea to Chalcedon, (2nd edn, 2010), p118
  5. ^ http://www.ccel.org/ccel/pearse/morefathers/files/photius_03bibliotheca.htm#52
  6. ^ Payne Smith, Jessie. A Compendious Syriac Dictionary. pp. 294, 478 (for the root). 
  7. ^ Columba Stewart, 'Working the Heart of the Earth': The Messalian Controversy in History, Texts and Language to AD431, (1991); Frances Young, From Nicaea to Chalcedon, (2nd edn, 2010), p118
  8. ^ The Vision of God by Vladimir Lossky pg 111-112
  9. ^ The Macarian Legacy: The Place of Macarius-Symeon in the Eastern Christian Tradition (Oxford Theological Monographs 2004) by Marcus Plested pg 16–27
  10. ^ The Macarian Legacy: The Place of Macarius-Symeon in the Eastern Christian Tradition (Oxford Theological Monographs 2004) by Marcus Plested, p. 20–23
  11. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Messalians". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  12. ^ A Dictionary of Christian Biography, Literature, Sects and Doctrines (pub. 1880) by Henry Wace and William Smith pg 258–261. Available at Google Books, last retrieved November 19, 2007.
  13. ^ S. Runciman, The Mediaeval Manichee: A Study of the Christian Dualist Heresy (Cambridge, 1947)