Above: Europe in 526 Common Era
SAINT FLAVIAN II OF ANTIOCH (DIED 512)
Roman Catholic Patriarch
SAINT ELIAS OF JERUSALEM (DIED 518)
Roman Catholic Patriarch
His feast transferred from July 4
Before I write about these saints I must provide background information.
Nestorianism is a heresy derived from Nestorius (died circa 451), Bishop of Constantinople (428-431). He refused to accept St. Mary of Nazareth as Mother of God. (If Jesus was God incarnate and Mary was his mother, she was the Mother of God. It is simple logic.) In the mind of Nestorius the human Jesus and the divine Christ–two natures–coexisted in the same person but were conjoined. In other words, they were both there but were independent of each other. This was the “Siamese twins” understanding of how Jesus was both human and divine. (I have simplified a profound theological statement, I know.) The Council of Ephesus (431) condemned Nestorianism, the legacy of which persists in the (Assyrian) Church of the East, the (Indian) Christians of Saint Thomas, and offshoots. The Chaldean Rite of the Roman Catholic Church formed when former Nestorians reunited with Rome.
Twenty years after the Council of Ephesus the Council of Chalcedon (451) declared that Jesus Christ had two natures–human and divine–which shared with each other. (I know, I have simplified a profound theological doctrine again.) This Definition of Chalcedon became part of the standard of Christological orthodoxy in Christianity. Roman Catholics, Old Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, and Protestants accept it. Yet the Nestorians and Monophysites do not.
After the Council of Chalcedon there arose Monophysitism, a heresy which holds that Jesus Christ had just one nature–a divine one. Eutyches (circa 375-circa 454), early spokesman for Monophysitism, explained that Christ’s divine nature had absorbed his human one.
The Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire was a place where Christological disputes led to political discord and had the potential to lead to insurrections. If a bishop’s Christology differed from that of the emperor, there might be trouble for that bishop. The religious-political realities of the Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire make me grateful for the separation of church and state.
In 482 Emperor Zeno (reigned 474-491), as part of an effort to bring peace to his realm, issued the Henotican (Decree of Union) on his authority. The document condemned Nestorius and Eutyches, affirmed the Incarnation, avoided saying how many natures Jesus had, and condemned any heresy
whether advanced at Chalcedon or any synod whatever.
The eastern bishops signed, but the Monophysites were not satisfied. And, in 484, the Pope excommunicated Zeno. The next emperor, Anastasius I (reigned 491-518), also supported the Henotican. Only in 518, with the accession of Justin I (reigned 518-527), of whose religious policies Rome agreed, did the rift between and Constantinople and Rome end.
Now for the saints….
St. Flavian II of Antioch (died 512) had been a Syrian monk who represented the Patriarch of Antioch at the imperial court at Constantinople. Then he had become the Patriarch of that see in 498. As Patriarch St. Flavian II objected to the Henotican. Thus Anastasius I arranged for Flavian II’s deposition and exile in 512. The saint died at Petra, Arabia, that year.
St. Elias of Jerusalem (died 518) was a monastery-educated Arab. Timothy the Cat, the (Monophysite) Patriarch of Alexandria, had exiled him from that see. So the saint moved to Palestine, where he became a priest. In 494 he became Patriarch of Jerusalem. He also opposed the Henotican, hence his exile in 513. The saint died at Aila, on the Red Sea, in 518.
I hear certain analogies used much too casually. Some people (including many pundits and politicans) have what comedian Lewis Black calls “Nazi Tourette’s Syndrome.” My own Congressman (for whom I have never voted, I am glad to admit) has Nazi-Hitler-Stalin Tourett’e’s Syndrome. I have written him and told him so. The problem with comparing anyone to the Nazis, Adolf Hitler, or Joseph Stalin–or, ironically, both at once, for Hitler was an anti-Communist–is that this trivializes the crimes of the Nazis, Hitler, and Stalin. There is an old joke about food:
It tastes like chicken.
Then chicken must taste like everything. Likewise, to use the Nazi, Hitler, or Stalin analogies causally reduces monsters to punchlines.
Likewise, one should use the label “religious persecution” carefully. When a potentate exiles bishops over doctrinal differences, that is religious persecution. When a person in authority orders the deaths and/or imprisonments of people based on religious differences, that is religious persecution. When a government outlaws a religion, that is religious persecution. In my nation, the United States, during World War I (1917-1918 for us), the federal government imprisoned Amish and Mennonite conscientious objectors. That was religious persecution. It was also a betrayal of founding principles. James Madison, one of the Founding Fathers, went further than many of his generation (and those after it). Madison, the author of the First Amendment, argued for a strict separation of church and state. The state should know nothing of the church, he said. This was for the protection of the church from the state. I agree with his standard, one never observed in this nation, so far as I can tell. But I do live in a land with freedom of worship. No government is closing down churches, and neither is there a state church. I see no federal persecution of religion in 2012. I recognize policy disagreements between the federal government and some denominations, but that is not persecution. In society we all have to pay for things we find objectionable. If this were not so, we might not pay for much of anything. In the early 1980s, staffers at the headquarters of the Church of the Brethren, a historically pacifistic denomination, pooled money from their Reagan tax cuts, bought thirty pieces of silver, and mailed them to the White House with a note protesting cuts in domestic programs to help the poor. They received only a patronizing note in return. But they did not face persecution at any point, even though they did have to pay for wars to which they objected.
Here ends the lesson.
Incarnated God, whose glory we see in Jesus of Nazareth,
fully human and fully divine,
we thank you for the holy examples of your servants
Saint Flavian II of Antioch and Saint Elias of Jerusalem.
And we mourn them and all others who have suffered
(and who continue to suffer today)
because of religious intolerance.
May all who claim you as Savior, Lord, and God
follow you in spirit and in truth.
And, if persecution comes, may they cling to you tenaciously.
Furthermore, may those who persecute cease to do so,
and may persecution not arise where it does not exist.
In the Name of Jesus Christ,
who suffered, died, and rose again, the first-fruits from the dead. Amen.
Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 or Jeremiah 20:7-18
Matthew 5:1-16 or John 1:1-5
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
JUNE 18, 2012 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINTS DELPHINUS OF BORDEAUX, AMANDUS OF BORDEAUX, SEVERINUS OF BORDEAUX, VENERIUS OF MILAN, AND CHROMATIUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS
THE FEAST OF ANSON DODGE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST
THE FEAST OF BERNARD MIZEKI, ANGLICAN CATECHIST AND MARTYR
THE FEAST OF VERNARD ELLER, CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN THEOLOGIAN