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Chapter VIII.—Facts relating to Meletius the Egyptian, from whom originated the Meletian Schism, which remains to this day.—Synodical Epistle respecting him.
After Meletius363363 Meletius (Μελέτιος), Bishop of Lycopolis, in Upper Egypt, was accused of apostasy. During the Patriarch Peter’s withdrawal under persecution he intruded into the see of Alexandria. He was deposed in 306. had been ordained bishop, which was not long before the Arian controversy, he was convicted of certain crimes by the most holy Peter, bishop of Alexandria, who also received the crown of martyrdom. After being deposed by Peter he did not acquiesce in his deposition, but filled the Thebaid and the adjacent part of Egypt with tumult and disturbance, and rebelled against the primacy of Alexandria. A letter was written by the council to the Church of Alexandria, stating what had been decreed against his revolutionary practices. It was as follows:—
“To the Church of Alexandria which, by the grace of God, is great and holy, and to the beloved brethren in Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis, the bishops who have been convened to the great and holy council of Nicæa, send greeting in the Lord.
“The great and holy council of Nicæa having been convened by the grace of God, and by the most religious emperor, Constantine, who summoned us from different provinces and cities, we judge it requisite that a letter be sent from the whole Holy Synod to inform you also what questions have been mooted and debated, and what has been decreed and established.
“In the first place, the impious doctrines of Arius were investigated before our most religious emperor Constantine; and his impiety was unanimously anathematized, as well as the blasphemous language and views which he had propounded, alleging that the Son of God was out of what was not, that before He was begotten He was not, that there was a period in which He was not, and that He can, according to His own freewill, be capable either of virtue or of vice. The holy council anathematized all these assertions, and even refused so much as to listen to such impious and foolish opinions, and such blasphemous expressions. The final decision concerning him you already know, or will soon hear; but we will not mention it now, lest we should appear to trample upon a man who has already received the recompense due to his sins. Such influence has his impiety obtained as to involve Theonas, bishop of Marmarica, and Secundus, bishop of Ptolemais, in his ruin, and they have shared his punishment.
“But after Egypt had, by the grace of God, been delivered from these false and blasphemous opinions, and from persons who dared to raise discord and division among a hitherto peaceable people, there yet remained the question of the temerity of Meletius, and of those ordained by him. We now inform you, beloved brethren, of the decrees of the council on this subject. It was decided by the holy council, that Meletius should be treated with clemency, though, strictly speaking, he was not worthy of even the least concession. He was permitted to remain in his own city, but was divested of all power, whether of nomination or of ordination, neither was he to shew himself in any province or city for these purposes: but only to retain the bare name of his office. Those who had received ordination at his hands were to submit to a more religious re-ordination; and were to be admitted to communion on the terms of retaining their ministry, but of ranking in every diocese and church below those who had been ordained before them by Alexander, our much-honoured fellow-minister. Thus they would have no power of choosing or nominating others to the ministry, according to their pleasure, or indeed of doing anything with out the consent of the bishops of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, who are under Alexander. But they who, by the grace of God, and in answer to your prayers, have been detected in no schism, and have continued spotless in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, are to have the power of electing, and of nominating men worthy of the clerical office, and are permitted to do whatsoever is in accordance with law and the authority of the Church. If it should happen, that any of those now holding an office in the Church should die, then let these recently admitted be advanced to the honours of the deceased, provided only that they appear worthy, and that the people choose them, and that the election be confirmed and ratified by the catholic bishop of Alexandria. The same privilege has been conceded to all the others. With respect to Meletius, however, an exception has been made, both on account of his former insubordination, and of the rashness and impetuosity of his disposition; for if the least authority were accorded to him, he might abuse it by again exciting confusion. These are the chief points which relate to Egypt, and to the holy Church of Alexandria. Whatever other canons were made, or dogmas decreed, you will hear of them from Alexander, our most-honoured fellow-minister and brother, who will give you still more accurate information, because he himself directed, as well as participated in, every thing that took place.
“We also give you the good news that, according to your prayers, the celebration of the most holy paschal feast was unanimously rectified, so that our brethren of the East, who did not previously keep the festival at the same time as those of Rome, and as yourselves, and, indeed, all have done from the beginning, will henceforth celebrate it with you. Rejoice, then, in the success of our undertakings, and in the general peace and concord, and in the extirpation of every heresy, and receive with still greater honour and more fervent love, Alexander, our fellow-minister and your bishop, who imparted joy to us by his presence, and who, at a very advanced age, has undergone so much fatigue for the purpose of restoring peace among you. Pray for us all, that what has been rightly decreed may remain steadfast, through our Lord Jesus Christ, being done, as we trust, according to the good pleasure of God and the Father in the Holy Ghost, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
Notwithstanding the endeavours of that divine assembly of bishops to apply this medicine to the Meletian disease, vestiges of his infatuation remain even to this day; for there are in some districts bodies of monks who refuse to follow sound doctrine, and observe certain vain points of discipline, agreeing with the infatuated views of the Jews and the Samaritans.
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