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Meletius of Antioch

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Saint Meletius of Antioch (Μελέτιος) (died 381) was the Christian bishop, or Patriarch of Antioch, from 360 until his death. His staunch support of the Nicene faction of the church led to his exile three times under Arian emperors. 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 (ca. 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. The idea being that God and Jesus Christ are of like essence or they are 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 Eustathius, who the synod of Melitene deposed for his Homousianism (Nicene trinitarianism) which they considered a heresy. The appointment was resented by the Homoeusian clergy, and Meletius retired to Beroea.[1]

According to Socrates Scholasticus he attended the synod of Seleucia in the autumn of 359, and then subscribed 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.

The successor of Meletius was Euzoeus, who had fallen with Arius under the ban of Athanasius; and Loofs explains the sub fidei mutajio 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 Meletius returned in consequence of the emperor Julian. Contemptuous policy reached the city and he found himself as one of three rival bishops. Meletius was now between two stools. 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' prebyters, was consecrated bishop by the heretical bishop Apollinaris of Laodicea.

Meanwhile, under the influence of his situation, Meletius had been more and more approximating to the views of Nicene Creed. Basil of Caesarea, throwing over the cause of Eustathius, championed that of Meletius who, when after the death of Valens he returned in triumph to Antioch, was hailed as the leader of Eastern 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.

He died soon after the opening of the 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, the recognition of Paulinus' sole episcopate was refused, and Flavian was consecrated as Meletius' successor. The Eustathians, on the other hand, elected Evagrius as bishop on Paulinus' death, and it was not until 415 that Flavian succeeded in re-uniting them to the Church.

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

See also


This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

Preceded by
Patriarch of Antioch
Succeeded by
Flavian I

cs:Melétios z Antiochiesk:Melétios z Antiochie sr:Мелетије Антиохијски uk:Святий Мелетій Антіохійський

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