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Chapter XIX.—Concerning the cunning of Leontius, Bishop of Antioch, and the boldness of Flavianus and Diodorus.
At Antioch Placidus was succeeded by Stephanus, who was expelled from
the Church. Leontius then accepted the Primacy, but in violation of the
decrees of the Nicene Council, for he had mutilated himself, and was an
eunuch. The cause of his rash deed is thus narrated by the blessed
Athanasius. Leontius, it seems, was the victim of slanderous statements
on account of a certain young woman of the name of Eustolia.567567 Ath.
Ap. de fug. §26 and Hist. Ar. §28. The question
was one of the great scandals and difficulties of the
early Church. Some suppose that the case of Leontius was the cause of
the first Canon of the Nicene Council περὶ τῶν
Theodoretus (iv. 12) relates an instance of what was considered conjugal chastity, and the mischiefs referred to in the text arose from the rash attempt to imitate such continence. Vide Suicer in voc. Finding himself prevented from dwelling with her he mutilated himself for her sake, in order that he might feel free to live with her. But he did not clear himself of suspicion, and all the more for this reason was deposed from the presbyterate. So much Athanasius has written about the rest of his earlier life. I shall now give a summary exposure of his evil conduct. Now though he shared the Arian error, he always endeavoured to conceal his unsoundness. He observed that the clergy and the rest of the people were divided into two parts, the one, in giving glory to the Son, using the conjunction “and,” the other using the preposition “through” of the Son, and applying “in” to the Holy Ghost. He himself offered all the doxology in silence, and all that those standing near him could hear was the “For ever and ever.” And had not the exceeding wickedness of his soul been betrayed by other means, it might have been said that he adopted this contrivance from a wish to promote concord among the people. But when he had wrought much mischief to the champions of the truth, and continued to give every support to the promoters of impiety, he was convicted of concealing his own unsoundness. He was influenced both by his fear of the people, and by the grievous threats which Constantius had uttered against any who had dared to say that the Son was unlike the Father. His real sentiments were however proved by his conduct. Followers of the Apostolic doctrines never received from him either ordination or indeed the least encouragement. Men, on the other hand, who sided with the Arian superstition, were both allowed perfect liberty in expressing their opinions, and were from time to time admitted to priestly office. At this juncture Aetius, the master of Eunomius, who promoted the Arian error by his speculations, was admitted to the diaconate. Flavianus and Diodorus, however, who had embraced an ascetic career, and were open champions of the Apostolic decrees, publicly protested against the attacks of Leontius against true religion. That a man nurtured in iniquity and scheming to win notoriety by ungodliness should be counted worthy of the diaconate, was, they urged, a disgrace to the Church. They further threatened that they would withdraw from his communion, travel to the western empire, and publish his plots to the world. Leontius was now alarmed, and suspended Aetius from his sacred office, but continued to show him marked favour.
That excellent pair Flavianus
and Diodorus,568568 Flavianus was a noble native of Antioch, and was afterwards
(381–404) bishop of that see. Diodorus in later times (c. 379)
became bishop of Tarsus, “one of the most deservedly venerated
names in the Eastern church for learning, sanctity, courage in
withstanding heresy, and zeal in the defence of the truth. Diodorus has
a still greater claim on the grateful remembrances of the whole church,
as, if not the founder, the chief promoter of the rational school of
scriptural interpretation, of which his disciples, Chrysostom and
Theodorus of Mopsuestia, and Theodoret, were such distinguished
representatives.” Dict. Christ. Biog. i. 836. On the
renewed championship of the Antiochene church by Flavianus and Diodorus
under the persecution of Valens vide iv. 22.
Socrates (vi. 8), describing the rivalry of the Homoousians and Arians in singing partizan hymns antiphonally in the streets of Antioch in the days of Arcadius, traces the mode of chanting to the great Ignatius, who once in a Vision heard angels so praising God.
But, remarks Bp. Lightfoot (Apostolic Fathers Pt. 2. I. p. 31.) “Antiphonal singing did not need to be suggested by a heavenly Vision. It existed already among the heathen in the arrangements of the Greek Chorus. It was practised with much elaboration of detail in the Psalmody of the Jews, as appears from the account which is given of the Egyptian Therapeutes. Its introduction into the Christian Church therefore was a matter of course almost from the beginning: and when we read in Pliny (Ep. x. 97) that the Christians of Bithynia sang hymns to Christ as to a god, ‘alternately’ (secum invicem) we may reasonably infer that the practice of antiphonal singing prevailed far beyond the limits of the church of Antioch, even in the time of Ignatius himself.”
Augustine (Conf. ix. 7) states that the fashion of singing “secundum morem orientalium partium” was introduced into the Church of Milan at the time of the persecution of Ambrose by Justina, “ne populus mœroris tœdio contabesceret,” and thence spread all over the globe.
Platina attributes the introduction of antiphons at Rome to Pope Damasus.
Hooker (ii. 166) quotes the older authority of “the Prophet Esay,” in the vision where the seraphim cried to one another in what Bp. Mant calls “the alternate hymn.” though not yet admitted to the priesthood and still ranked with the laity, worked night and day to stimulate men’s zeal for truth. They were the first to divide choirs into two parts, and to teach them to sing the psalms of David antiphonally. Introduced first at Antioch, the practice spread in all directions, and penetrated to the ends of the earth. Its originators now collected the lovers of the Divine word and work into the Churches of the Martyrs, and with them spent the night in singing psalms to God.
When Leontius perceived this, he did not think it safe to try to prevent them, for he saw that the people were exceedingly well-disposed towards these excellent men. However, putting a colour of courtesy on his speech, he requested that they would perform this act of worship in the churches. They were perfectly well aware of his evil intent. Nevertheless they set about obeying his behest and readily summoned their choir569569 I prefer the reading of Basil Gr. and Steph. I. ἐργάτας to the ἐραστάς of Steph. 2 and Pin. to the Church, exhorting them to sing praises to the good Lord. Nothing, however, could induce Leontius to correct his wickedness, but he put on the mask of equity,570570 ἐπιεικείας. “The mere existence of such a word as ἐπιείκεια is itself a signal evidence of the high development of ethics among the Greeks. It expresses exactly that moderation which recognizes the impossibility, cleaving to formal law, of anticipating or providing for all cases that will emerge, and present themselves to it for decision…It is thus more truly just than strict justice will have been; being δικαιον καὶ βελτίον τινος δικαίου, as Aristotle expresses it. Eth. Nic. V. 10. 6.” Archbp. Trench’s synonyms of the N.T. p. 151. The “clemency” on which Tertullus reckons in Felix is ἐπιείκεια; and in 2 Cor. x. St. Paul beseeches by the “gentleness” or ἐπιείκεια of Christ. and concealed the iniquity of Stephanus and Placidus. Men who had accepted the corruption of the faith of priests and deacons, although they had embraced a life of vile irregularity, he added to the roll; while others adorned with every kind of virtue and firm adherents of apostolic doctrines, he left unrecognised. Thus it came to pass that among the clergy were numbered a majority of men tainted with heresy, while the mass of the laity were champions of the Faith, and even professional teachers lacked courage to lay bare their blasphemy. In truth the deeds of impiety and iniquity done by Placidus, Stephanus, and Leontius, in Antioch are so many as to want a special history of their own, and so terrible as to be worthy of the lament of David; for of them too it must be said “For lo thy enemies make a murmuring and they that hate thee lift up their head. They have imagined craftily against the people and taken counsel against thy secret ones. They have said come and let us root them out that they be no more a people: and that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.”571571 Ps. 83.—2-3-4
Let us now continue the course of our narrative.
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