This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

February 18 -- Feast of Saint Flavian

The Apostle Peter, or whichever pseudoepigrapher (forger) wrote the Second Epistle of Peter, opened up his letter with a warning:

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.

By the fifth century,  that warning was being heeded with internecine results.  Take, for example, the statement by Nestor, the archbishop of Constantinople, that Theotokos (Godbearer) was an inappropriate term for Mary.  This reignited a debate over the nature of Jesus, a conflict that had ripped up the fourth century, eventually being "settled" with the adoption of the Nicene Creed.  Poor Nestor found himself packed off to a monastery in Upper Egypt and anathematized by every branch of the Church except Mesopotamia and Persia.  It was not until the Bazaar of Heracleides was discovered in a Nestorian monastery in AD 1895 that Nestor's good name would get restored throughout the Church -- in that book, he reaffirmed his own orthodoxy and clarified what he meant.  Much good it did him, having been sent to the Mediterranean equivalent of Tatooine.

READER:  Hey Major, I thought this was about Flavian!

Right.  Among those who denounced Nestor at the Council of First Council of Ephesus was an archmandrite (middle manager of the Church) named Eutyches. In his argument, he went so far in praise of the combination of divine and human natures of Jesus that he asserted it was one blended nature known as the incarnate Word of God.  Whoops.  Was that a slip of the tongue or did he just assert another heresy, viz. that Jesus has only one nature?  He argued against Nestor in 431; he found himself denounced as a heretic at synod in Constantinople in 448. He was convicted, defrocked, and excommunicated.  I can't help but think of the Red Guards purging loyal communists whose orthodoxy was not as nimble as the central committees during the Maoist era.

READER:  Major!  Flavian?

Right.  Flavian, the new Archbishop of Constantinople, was the president of the synod that stripped Eutyches of everything except his life.   A Second Council of Ephesus was convened to examine whether Flavian had acted appropriately.  The room had been stacked against Flavian by the minions of the Emperor Theodosius, who was still nursing grudges against Flavian.

Grudge One:  When the Emperor was visiting Calcedon, his eunuch told Flavian that a gift of gold would be appropriate.  Flavian declined to give anything.

Pulcheria?  I doubt it, but some gamer says so.
Grudge Two:  Flavian ordained the Emperor's sister, Empress Pulcheria, as a deaconess.  Pulcheria was a strong woman, stronger perhaps than her brother.  Theodosius had not wanted her position buttressed by an official position in the Church. 

Just to make sure that he got his way at the Ephesian Council, Theodosius sent his soldiers along with his priests and bishops.  When Flavian protested the proceedings, he was beaten mercilessly.  The Council then voted to reinstate Eutyches and depose Flavian, who died three days later anyway.

Upon hearing of this, Pope Leo I, voted the Ephesian proceedings, dismissing the event as The Robber Council of Ephesus.  Theodosius himself died a year later.  Pulcheria shared her throne with her new husband, Marcian.  They translated Flavian's relics to Constantinople in a triumphal parade and summoned another council to affirm Leo's judgment and toss Eutyches back out on his ass.

POP QUIZ:  The false teacher or false prophet in the story was:

a) Nestor
b) Eutyches
c) Flavian
d) Theodosius
e) Pulcheria
f) Leo
g) all of the above
h) none of the above

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