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Feast of Sts. Flavian and Anatolius of Constantiople, St. Agatho, St. Leo II, and St. Benedict II (July 3)   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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SAINT FLAVIAN OF CONSTANTINOPLE (DIED AUGUST 449)

Patriarch of Constantinople

His feast transferred from February 17

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SAINT ANATOLIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE (LATE 300S-458)

Patriarch of Constantinople

His feast = July 3

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SAINT AGATHO (DIED JANUARY 10, 681)

Bishop of Rome

His feast transferred from January 10

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SAINT LEO II (DIED JULY 3, 683)

Bishop of Rome

His feast = July 3

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SAINT BENEDICT II (DIED MAY 8, 685)

Bishop of Rome

His feast transferred from May 7

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DEFENDERS OF CHRISTOLOGICAL ORTHODOXY

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INTRODUCTION

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Sometimes the most effective way to tell the story of a saint’s life or a portion thereof is to include other saints.  This generalization applies to St. Anatolius of Constantinople and St. Leo II, who have separate feasts on this day, according to the Roman Catholic calendar.

These five saints lived in times when theological debates were political.  Christological disputes were matters of imperial policy, frequently with negative consequences for those who opposed the Emperor at Constantinople.

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PATRIARCHS OF CONSTANTINOPLE

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St. Flavian of Constantinople, Patriarch of Constantinople from 446 to 449, opposed monophysitism, the heresy that Jesus had just one nature–divine.  The Patriarch excommunicated Eutyches, the founder of that heresy.  Eutyches had political allies, though.  He managed to turn Dioscorus, the Bishop of Alexandria, to his side.  Thus Dioscorus presided over the “Robber Council,” which acquitted Eutyches, condemned St. Flavian, and ended with Dioscorus and monks physically abusing St. Flavian, binding him in chains, and sending him into exile.  St. Flavian died in August 449.

St. Anatolius of Constantinople presided over the posthumous exoneration of St. Flavian.  St. Anatolius, born in Alexandria, Egypt, in the late 300s, was a man who lived simply and aided the poor.  He also stood on the side of Christological orthodoxy.  In 431 he and his mentor, St. Cyril of Alexandria, who had ordained him to the diaconate, attended the Council of Ephesus, which affirmed that Christ had two natures, called St. Mary of Nazareth the Mother of God (not just the Mother of Christ), and therefore condemned the Nestorian heresy.  As the Patriarch of Constantinople (449-458) St. Anatolius attended the Council of Chalcedon (451), convened by Pope St. Leo I “the Great” (in office 440-461), which refuted the monophysite heresy.  That council also canonized St. Flavian of Constantinople.  St. Anatolius, who also composed liturgical hymns, experienced much political difficulty due to his orthodoxy.  He might even have been a martyr at the hands of heretics.

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BISHOPS OF ROME

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The monothysite heresy remained an issue into the seventh century.  Byzantine Emperor Constantine IV (reigned 668-685) had used the monothelitist heresy (that Jesus had just one will–divine) to maintain peace with the monophysites in his realm.  He decided to abandon that strategy.

Pope Donus (in office November 2, 676-April 11, 678) died.  His successor was St. Agatho, in office from June 27, 678, to January 10, 681.  St. Agatho, once a monk, was a Sicilian who knew Latin and Greek well.  In 678 St. Agatho received a letter (addressed to Donus) proposing a conference to discuss how many wills Jesus had and whether the churches should reunite.  The Pope agreed to the conference, but held synods in the West prior to the Third Council Constantinople (680-681).  The papal delegation carried a condemnation of monothelitism signed by 150 bishops, as well as a document affirming Rome as the custodian of the Christian faith.  The Third Council of Constantinople, with Constantine IV presiding, affirmed that Jesus had two wills and anathematized monothelitist leaders.

St. Agatho, a kind and cheerful man, died on January 10, 681, while the council was in progress.  His successor was St. Leo II, elected in January 681 yet not installed until August 17, 682, due to imperial politics.  Emperor Constantine IV delayed the ratification of St. Leo II’s election due to the process of ratifying the decrees of the council.  St. Leo II, during his brief papacy, ratified the decrees of the council and ordered their translation from Greek into Latin.  He also readmitted repentant former monothelitists to the Church.

St. Leo II, also a Sicilian, like his predecessor, was a cultured and eloquent man with a fine singing voice.  He, a patron of the poor, asserted papal control over the bishops of Ravenna, autonomous since 666.  St. Leo II died on July 3, 683, after less than a year as the Pope.

St. Benedict II was a gentle and humble man who cared for the poor also.  He, elected Pope in July 683, did not enter into that office until June 26, 684, due to Constantine IV delaying the ratification of the election.  St. Benedict II, a Roman, not a Sicilian, secured an agreement by which the Exarch of Ravenna ratified papal elections, thereby preventing such long delays between papal elections and installations.  The Pope died on May 8, 685, after less than a year in office.

The spirit of cooperation with Constantinople broke down during the reign of Emperor Justinian II (reigned 685-695, 705-711).

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CONCLUSION

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The challenges faithful Christians face vary, depending on who, when, and where one is.  One can study the lives of one’s ancient predecessors in the faith, ponder the challenges they confronted, and take comfort in the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 25, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARK THE EVANGELIST, MARTYR

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Almighty God, you have raise up faithful bishops of your church, including

Saint Flavian of Constantinople,

Saint Anatolius of Constantinople,

Saint Agatho,

Saint Leo II, and

Saint Benedict II,

who were faithful in the care and nurture of your flock.

We pray that, following their example and the teaching of their holy lives,

we may by your grace attain our full maturity in Christ,

through the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and

reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:11-16 or Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84

1 Peter 5:1-4 or Ephesians 3:14-21

John 21:15-17 or Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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This is post #1500 of SUNDRY THOUGHTS.

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