Feast of Sts. Dionysius of Alexandria, Eusebius of Laodicea, and Anatolius of Laodicea (July 3)   Leave a comment

Above:  Ancient Alexandria

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT DIONYSIUS OF ALEXANDRIA (CIRCA 190-265)

Patriarch of Alexandria, and Church Father

Also known as Saint Dionysius the Great

His feast transferred from April 8 and November 17

mentor of

SAINT EUSEBIUS OF LAODICEA (DIED CIRCA 268)

Bishop of Laodicea 

Also known as Saint Eusebius of Alexandria

His feast days = July 3 and October 4

predecessor of

SAINT ANATOLIUS OF ALEXANDRIA (DIED 283)

Bishop of Laodicea

Also known as Saint Anatolius of Laodicea

His feast = July 3

St. Dionysius of Alexandria/the Great mentored St. Eusebius of Laodicea and St. Anatolius of Alexandria/Laodicea.

These three saints lived during times of imperial persecution and doctrinal formation.  Doctrines did not descend fully-formed from Heaven.  No, people, debated them.  Councils and synods convened and issued statements, thereby defining orthodoxy.

We modern Christians stand on the shoulders of Sts. Dionysius, Eusebius, and Anatolius, who, in turn, stood on the shoulders of others.

St. Dionysius the Great, born in Alexandria, Egypt, circa 190, learned the Christian faith there.  He studied under Origen (185-254) at the catechetical school.  St. Dionysius, a priest, succeeded Origen as the head of that school.  After Origen returned from a visit to Pope St. Zephyrinus (reigned 198/199-217) in Rome, St. Dionysius encouraged Origen to resume teaching at the catachetical school.  St. Dionysius served as the Patriarch of Alexandria, starting in 248.

St. Dionysius maintained orthodoxy while remaining gentle toward penitent heretics.  He argued against baptizing former heretics; laying on hands then welcoming penitent heretics back into the fold sufficed for our saint.  The heresies du jour were Novatianism, Sabellianism, and Adoptionism.

Novatianism led to a schism.  Circa 250, Novatian argued that the church had no power to pardon mortal sins, therefore there was no forgiveness after baptism.  He also held a subordinationist view of the relationships within the Trinity.  The second point was not unique to Novatian; literal readings of certain Pauline passages supported subordinationism.  And some of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, orthodox according to the standards of their time, were subordinationists.  The greater issue was the Novatianist schism, which persisted into the 500s.  St. Dionysius wrote to Novatian to encourage him to return to the fold.  Our saint also wrote to Fabian, the Bishop of Antioch, to discourage him from supporting the Novatianist schism.  St. Dionysius’s efforts partially healed the schism.

Sabellianism was a variety of Modalistic Monarchianism, another Trinity-related heresy.  Circa 215, Sabellius defined the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as temporal projections, or “dilations” in an attempt to maintain strict monotheism.  St. Dionysius wrote against this heresy, too.

St. Dionysius, as the Patriarch of Alexandria, endured imperial persecutions.  Decius (reigned 249-251) persecuted the church.  Our saint, incarcerated in 250, went on to live as a fugitive in the desert until 251.  A few years later, Gallienus (reigned 253-268) launched another persecution.  St. Dionysius spent 257-260 in exile in the Mareotis desert.

St. Dionysius left a written legacy.  Repentance was a favorite theme in many letters.  He also composed a commentary on Revelation.

St. Dionysius died of natural causes in Alexandria in 265.

St. Eusebius of Alexandria/Laodicea had been a deacon under St. Dionysius.  Circa 255, during the Valerian persecution, the imperium sentenced St. Eusebius to Kefro, Libya.  He avoided his sentence by going on the lam.  Years later, in 260, our saint risked his life as he ministered to the sick of Alexandria during a plague.

St. Dionysius was till ill to travel to the Second Council of Antioch (264), so he sent St. Eusebius in his stead.  The purpose of the council was to condemn Adoptionism, a heresy from the previous century.  As Paul of Samosota wrote in 260,

Mary did not bear the Word, for Mary did not exist before the ages.  Mary is not older than the Word; what she bore was a man equal to us, but superior in all things as a result of the Holy Spirit.

–Quoted in Linwood Urban, A Short History of Christian Thought (1995), 76

In other words, according to Adoptionists and Paul of Samosota in particular, Mary was not the Theotokos, the Bearer and Mother of God, for Jesus became the Son of God when God adopted him.  Adoptionists disagreed about when God adopted Jesus.

Sts. Dionysius and Eusebius disagreed with the Adoptionists.

St. Eusebius did not return to Alexandria.  Shortly after the Second Council of Antioch (264), he became the Bishop of Laodicea (now Latakia, Syria), near Antioch.  He died in Laodicea in Syria circa 268.

Above:  The Tetraporticus (Erected in 183), Latakia, Syria

Photographer = Allamlatakia

St. Anatolius of Alexandria/Laodicea was a polymath.  He was a famous writer, mathematician, scientist, philosopher, and teacher.  Our saint, an erstwhile public servant in Alexandria, was also the founder and head of the Aristotelean school in that great city.  During a Roman military siege of Alexandria in 263, Sts. Eusebius and Anatolius successfully negotiated with the army for the release of innocents.  In so doing, St. Anatolius became persona non grata in Alexandria.

St. Anatolius found greener political pastures in Caesarea, Palestine.  There he was the assistant to the bishop.  In that capacity, our saint was passing through Laodicea in Syria, en route to the Third Council of Antioch, in 268.  St. Eusebius had died recently.  St. Anatolius, much to his surprise, became the next Bishop of Laodicea.  He remained in that office for the rest of his life, until 283.

Emphasizing relationships and influences is one goal of mine here at the Ecumenical Calendar.  A particular chain of influences germane to this post follows:  St. Clement of Alexandria (circa 150-circa 210/215) to St. Alexander of Jerusalem (died 251) and Origen (185-254) to St. Dionysius the Great/of Alexandria (circa 190-265) to St. Eusebius of Alexandria/Laodicea (died circa 268) and St. Anatolius of Alexandria/Laodicea (died 283).  It is a chain of influences worth celebrating.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

THE FEAST OF JOHANN OLAF WALLIN, ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSALA, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENNARO MARIA SARNELLI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO THE VULNERABLE AND EXPLOITED PEOPLE OF NAPLES

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH LONAS, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF PAUL HANLY FURFEY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, SOCIOLOGIST, AND SOCIAL RADICAL

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP POWEL, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1646

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God of compassion, you have reconciled us in Jesus Christ, who is our peace:

Enable us to live as Jesus lived, breaking down walls of hostility and healing enmity.

Give us grace to make peace with those from whom we are divided,

that, forgiven and forgiving, we may ever be one in Christ;

who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns for ever, one holy and undivided Trinity.  Amen.

Genesis 8:12-17, 20-22

Psalm 51:1-17

Hebrews 4:12-16

Luke 23:32-43

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 737

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