Meletius of Antioch

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Saint Meletius of Antioch (Μελέτιος) (died 381) was a Christian bishop, or Patriarch of Antioch, from 360 until his death. There were contrasting views about his theological position: on the one hand, he was exiled three times under Arian emperors; on the other, he was strongly opposed by those faithful to the memory of the staunchly pro-Nicene Eustathius of Antioch, whom the synod of Melitene deposed for his Homousianism (Nicene trinitarianism), which they considered a heresy, and by Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, the firm opponent of Arianism. One of his last acts was to preside over the First Council of Constantinople in 381.

He was born at Melitene in Lesser Armenia of wealthy and noble parents. He first appears (c. 357) as a supporter of Acacius, bishop of Caesarea, the leader of that party in the episcopate which supported the Homoean formula by which the emperor Constantius II sought for a compromise between the Homoiousian and the Homoousian.[1] The Homoiousians held that God and Jesus Christ are of like essence, the Homoousians that they are, as stated in the Nicene Creed, of the same essence (see ousia and hypostasis). Meletius thus makes his debut as an ecclesiastic of the court party, and as such became bishop of Sebaste in succession to the Arian Eustathius of Sebaste. The appointment was resented by the Homoousian clergy, and Meletius retired to Beroea.[2]

According to Socrates Scholasticus he attended the synod of Seleucia in the autumn of 359, and then subscribed to the Acacian formula. Early in 360 he became bishop of Antioch, succeeding Eudoxius, who had been translated to the see of Constantinople. Early the following year, 361, he was in exile. According to an old tradition, supported by evidence drawn from Epiphanius of Cyprus and John Chrysostom, this was due to a sermon preached before the emperor Constantius, in which he revealed Homousian views. This explanation, however, is rejected by G. F. Loofs - the sermon contains nothing inconsistent with the Acacian position favoured by the court party; on the other hand, there is evidence of conflicts with the clergy, quite apart from any questions of orthodoxy, which may have led to the bishop's deposition.[1]

The successor of Meletius was Euzoeus, who had fallen with Arius under the ban of Athanasius; and Loofs explains the sub fidei mutatio which Saint Jerome ascribes to Meletius to the dogmatic opposition of the deposed bishop to his successor. In Antioch itself Meletius continued to have adherents, who held separate services in the Apostolic church in the old town. The Meletian schism was complicated, moreover, by the presence in the city of another anti-Arian sect, stricter adherents of the Homousian formula, maintaining the tradition of the deposed bishop Eustathius and governed at this time by the presbyter Paulinus. The synod of Alexandria sent deputies to attempt an arrangement between the two anti-Arian Churches; but before they arrived Paulinus had been consecrated bishop by Lucifer of Calaris. When in consequence of the emperor Julian's contemptuous policy Meletius returned, he found himself as one of three rival bishops.[1]

The orthodox Nicene party, notably Athanasius himself, held communion with Paulinus only; twice, in 365 and 371 or 372, Meletius was exiled by decree of the Arian emperor Valens. A further complication was added when, in 375, Vitalius, one of Meletius' presbyters, was consecrated bishop by the heretical bishop Apollinaris of Laodicea. After the death of Valens in 378, the Western Emperor Gratian removed Euzoeus from Antioch, handing over the churches to Meletius. Theodosius I, the new Emperor of the East, also favoured Meletius, who had been more and more approximating to the views of the Nicene Creed and upon his return to Antioch was hailed as the leader of orthodoxy. As such he presided in October 379 over the great synod of Antioch, in which the dogmatic agreement of East and West was established. He helped Gregory Nazianzus to the see of Constantinople and consecrated him and also presided over the Second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in 381.[1]

However, Paulinus was the man favoured by Rome and Alexandria. Jerome accompanied Paulinus back to Rome in order to get more support for him. Ambrose hoped that a general council would be called in support of his friend.[clarification needed] He hoped that the Pope would be the influence to make this happen. "Ambrose was agitating for a general council to bring matters to a head, and succeeded in persuading the western emperor, Gratian, to convoke one in Rome. A number of western metropolitans assembled there in the summer of 382, but the east declined to cooperate. Theodosius had no wish to see the settlement he was establishing upset by western meddling, and had already re-convened the council of the previous year at Constantinople. When the belated western summons reached them, the eastern bishops gathered there sent a courteous but firm reply, excusing themselves from attending, apart from a token delegation of three, but not yielding an inch on the disputed issues."[3]

The two remaining factions which divided the Antiochene Church were orthodox but to unite them was a difficult move.[4] A temporary pacification ensued, when six of the leading presbyters took an oath not to seek episcopal consecration themselves but to accept as bishop of Antioch whichever of the two rivals outlived the other.

Meletius died soon after the opening of the Second Ecumenical Council and the emperor Theodosius I, who had received him with special distinction, ordered his body to be carried to Antioch and buried with the honours of a saint. The Meletian schism, however, did not end with his death. In spite of the advice of Gregory Nazianzus and of the Western Church, Paulinus was not recognized as the sole bishop and Flavian was consecrated as Meletius' successor.[5][6] The Eustathians, on the other hand, elected Evagrius as bishop on Paulinus' death.[1] In 399, John Chrysostom, who had been ordained a deacon by Meletius, but later separated from his group and accepted ordination to the priesthood at the hands of Paulinus's successor, Evagrius,[7] who secured reconciliation between Flavian and the sees of Alexandria and Rome. However, it would take the Eustathians at Antioch until 415 to accept Flavian.[8]

Meletius ascetic life was remarkable in view of his great private wealth. He is venerated as a saint and confessor in both the Catholic and Orthodox Eastern Churches.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Meletius of Antioch". Encyclopædia Britannica. 18 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 93–94.
  2. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Meletius of Antioch". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  3. ^ Kelly, J. N. D., (1975), "Jerome: His life, writings and controversies", (Hendrickson Publishers; Peabody, MA), pp80-81.
  4. ^ Leclercq, Henri. "Meletius of Antioch." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 18 Feb. 2014
  5. ^ Socrates Scholasticus, "The Ecclesiastical History" Book V.9
  6. ^ Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century A.D., "Meletius, bishop of Antioch"
  7. ^ Socrates Scholasticus, The Ecclesiastical History, Book VI.3
  8. ^ Philip Hughes, History of the Church (Sheed and Ward 1934), vol. I, pp. 231-232

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Titles of the Meletian group of Early Christianity
Preceded by
Patriarch of Antioch
with Paulinus (362–381)
Succeeded by
Flavian I