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Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume VII: July. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

July 16

St. Eustathius, Patriarch of Antioch, Confessor

        From St. Athanasius, Sozomen, Theodoret, l. 1, Hist. c. 6, St. Jerom, in Catal. c. 85. See Tillem. t. 7, p. 21. Ceillier, t. 4, and the Bollandists, Bosch in his Life, t. 4. Jul. p. 130, and Solier in Hist. Chron. Patr. Antioch. ante, t. 4, Jul. p. 35.

A.D. 338.

ST. EUSTATHIUS was a native of Sida, in Pamphylia, and with heroic constancy confessed the faith of Christ before the pagan persecutors, as St. Athanasius assures us, 1 though it does not appear whether this happened under Dioclesian or Licinius. He was learned, eloquent, and eminently endowed with all virtue, especially an ardent zeal for the purity of our holy faith. Being made bishop of Beræa, in Syria, he began in that obscure see to be highly considered in the church, insomuch that St. Alexander, of Alexandria, wrote to him in particular against Arius and his impious writings, in 323. St. Philogonius, bishop of Antioch, a prelate illustrious for his confession of the faith, in the persecution of Licinius, died in 323. One Paulinus succeeded him, but seems a man not equal to the functions of that high station; for, during the short time he governed that church, tares began to grow up among the good seed. To root these out, when that dignity became again vacant, in 324, the zeal and abilities of St. Eustathius were called for, and he was accordingly translated to this see, in dignity the next to Alexandria, and the third in the world. He vigorously opposed the motion, but was compelled to acquiesce. Indeed, translations of bishops, if made without cogent reasons of necessity, become, to many, dangerous temptations of ambition and avarice, and open a door to those fatal vices into the sanctuary. To put a bar to this evil, St. Eustathius, in the same year, assisting at the general council of Nice, zealously concurred with his fellow bishops to forbid for the time to come all removals of bishops from one see to another. 2 The new patriarch distinguished himself in that venerable assembly by his zeal against Arianism. Soon after his return to Antioch he held a council there to unite his church, which he found divided by factions. He was very strict and severe in examining into the characters of those whom he admitted into the clergy, and he constantly rejected all those whose principles, faith, or manners appeared suspected; among whom were several who became afterwards ringleaders of Arianism. Amidst his external employs for the service of others, he did not forget that charity must always begin at home, and he laboured in the first place to sanctify his own soul; but after watering his own garden he did not confine the stream there, but let it flow abroad to enrich the neighbouring soil, and to dispense plenty and fruitfulness all around. He sent into other diocesses that were subject to his patriarchate, men capable of instructing and encouraging the faithful. Eusebius, archbishop of Cæsarea, in Palestine, (which church was, in some measure, subject to Antioch,) favoured the new heresy, in such a manner as to alarm the zeal of our saint. 3 This raised a violent storm against him.
  Eusebius of Nicomedia laid a deep plot with his Arian friends to remove St. Eustathius from Antioch, who had attacked Eusebius of Cæsarea, and accused him of altering the Nicene Creed. Hereupon, Eusebius of Nicomedia, pretending a great desire to see the city of Jerusalem, set out in great state, taking with him his confidant, Theognis of Nice. At Jerusalem they met Eusebius of Cæsarea, Patrophilus of Scythopolis, Aëtius of Lydda. Theodotus of Laodicea, and several others, all of the Arian faction: who returned with them to Antioch. There they assembled together, as in a Synod, in 331, and a debauched woman, whom the Arians had suborned, coming in, showed a child which she suckled at her breast, and declared that she had it by Eustathius. The saint protested his innocence, and alleged that the apostle forbids a priest to be condemned unless convicted by two or more witnesses. This woman, before her death, after a long illness, called in a great number of the clergy, and publicly declared to them the innocence of the holy bishop, and confessed that the Arians had given her money for this action, pretending that no perjury was implied in her oath, upon the frivolous and foolish plea that she had the child by a brazier of the city called Eustathius. 4 The Arians accused him also of Sabellianism, as Socrates and others testify; this being their general charge and slander against all who professed the orthodox faith.  2
  The Catholic bishops who were present with Eustathius, cried out loudly against the injustice of these proceedings, but could not be heard, and the Arians pronounced a sentence of deposition against the saint; and Eusebius of Nicomedia and Theognis hastened to inform the Emperor Constantine of these proceedings. The Arian bishops invited Eusebius of Cæsarea to exchange his see for the patriarchal chair of Antioch; but he alleged the prohibition of the canons; and the Emperor Constantine commended his modesty, by a letter which Eusebius has inserted in his life of that prince. 5 We should have been more edified with his humility had this circumstance been only recorded by others. 6 This happened, not in 340, as Baronius and Petavius imagine, but in 330 or 331, as is manifest not only from the testimony of Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, and Philostorgius, but also from several circumstances of the affair. 7 The people of Antioch raised a great sedition on this occasion, but the Emperor Constantine, being prepossessed by the slanders of the two bishops, ordered St. Eustathius to repair to Constantinople, and thence sent him into banishment. The holy pastor assembled the people before his departure from Antioch, and exhorted them to remain steadfast in the true doctrine, which exhortations were of great weight in preserving many in the Catholic faith. St. Eustathius was banished, with several priests and deacons, first into Thrace, as St. Jerom and St. Chrysostom testify, and from thence into Illyricum, as Theodoret adds. Socrates and Sozomen confound him with a priest of Constantinople of the same name, when they tell us he was recalled by Jovian, and survived till the year 370; for St. Eustathius died thirty years before St. Meletius was advanced to the see of Antioch in 360, as Theodoret testifies. Nor was he mentioned in the council of Sardica, or in any of the disputes that followed; and our best critics and historians conclude him to have been dead in 337. Philippi, in Macedon, which, in the division of the empire into diocesses, was comprised in that of Illyricum, was the place of his death, 8 but his body was interred at Trajanopolis, in Thrace, from which city Calandion, one of his successors, caused it to be translated to Antioch, about the year 482, as Theodorus Lector informs us. 9  3
  St. Eustathius bore his exile with patience and perfect submission, and was under its disgraces and hardships greater and more glorious than whilst his zeal and other virtues shone with the brightest lustre on the patriarchal throne. We may please ourselves in those actions in which we seem to be something; into which, however, self-love, under a thousand forms, easily insinuates itself. But the maxims of our Divine Redeemer teach us that no circumstances are so happy for the exercise of the most heroic virtue as humiliations and distresses when sent by Providence. These put our love to the test, apply the remedy to the very root of our spiritual disorders, employ the most perfect virtues of meekness, forgiveness, and patience, and call forth our resignation, humility, and reliance on Providence; in these trials we learn most perfectly to die to our passions, to know ourselves, to feel our own nothingness and miseries, and with St. Paul to take pleasure in our infirmities. Here all virtue is more pure and perfect. A Christian suffering with patience and joy, bears in spirit the nearest resemblance to his crucified Master, and enters deepest into his most perfect sentiments of humility, meekness, and love: for Jesus on his cross is the model by which his disciples are bound to form themselves, which they no where can do with greater advantage than when they are in a like state of desolation and suffering.  4
Note 1. Hist. Arian ad Monachos, p. 346. [back]
Note 2. Conc. Nicæn. Can. 15. [back]
Note 3. That prelate had been educated at Cæsarea, where he studied with St. Pamphilus the martyr, whose name he afterwards added to his own. He suffered imprisonment with him for the faith about the year 309, but recovered his liberty without undergoing any severer trial, and was chosen archbishop of Cæsarea in 314. When Arius, in 320, retired from Alexandria into Palestine, having been deposed from the priesthood by St. Alexander the year before, Eusebius of Cæsarea and some other bishops were imposed upon by him, and received him favourably. Hereupon Arius wrote to Eusebius of Nicomedia, whom he calls brother to the other Eusebius of Cæsarea. Eusebius of Nicomedia was at that time of an advanced age, and had great interest with Constantine, who after the defeat of Licinius kept his court some time at Nicomedia as other emperors had done before him since Dioclesian had begun to reside in the East. This prelate was crafty and ambitious; his removal, procured by his intrigues, from his first see of Berytus to Nicomedia seems to have given occasion to the canon of the Nicene council, by which such translations were forbidden. Notwithstanding which, in defiance of so sacred a law, he afterwards procured himself to be again translated to the see of Constantinople, in 338, in the beginning of the reign of Constantius. The council of Sardica, in 347, confirmed the above-mentioned Nicene canon under pain of the parties being deprived even of lay communion at their death; but this arch-heretic died in 342. He openly defended not only the person, but also the errors of Arius; subscribed the definitions of the Nicene council for fear of banishment; but three months after, being the author of new tumults, he was banished by Constantine, and after three years recalled, upon giving a confession of faith in which he declared himself penitent, and professed that he adhered to the Nicene faith, as Theodoret relates. By this act of dissimulation he imposed upon the emperor, but he continued by every base art to support his heresy, and endeavoured to subvert the truth. Eusebius of Cæsarea held that see from 314 till his death in 339. He was always closely linked with the ringleaders of the heresy. Nevertheless, the learned Henry Valois, in his Prolegomena to his translation of this author’s Ecclesiastical History, pretends to excuse him from its errors, though he often boggled at the word Consubstantial. He certainly was so far imposed upon by Arius, as to believe that heretic admitted the eternity of the Divine Word; and in his writings many passages occur which prove the divinity and, as to the sense, the consubstantiality of the Son, whatever difficulties he formed as to the word. On which account Ceillier and many others affect to speak favourably, or at least tenderly of Eusebius in this respect, and are willing to believe that he did not at least constantly adhere to that capital error. Yet it appears very difficult entirely to clear him from it, though he may seem to have attempted to steer a course between the tradition of the church and the novelties of his friends. See Baronius ad an. 380, Witasse Nat. Alexander, and the late Treatise in folio, against the Arian heresy, compiled by a Maurist Benedictin monk. Photius, in a certain work given us by Montfaucon, (in Bibl. Coisliana, p. 348,) roundly charges Eusebius with Arianism and Origenism.
  Eusebius, whose conduct was so inconstant and equivocal, shines to most advantage in his works, especially those which he composed in defence of Christianity before the Arian contest arose. The first of these is his book against Hierocles, who, under Dioclesian, was a persecuting judge at Nicomedia, and afterwards rewarded for his cruelty against the Christians with the government of Egypt. In a book he wrote he made Apollonius Tyanæus superior to Christ. But Eusebius demonstrates the history of this magician, written by Philostratus, when he taught rhetoric at Rome, one hundred years after the death of that magician, to be false and contradictory in most of its points, doubtful in others, and trifling in all. About the time he was made bishop he conceived a design of two works, which showed as much the greatness of his genius, as the execution did the extent of his knowledge. The first of these he called The Preparation, the other The Demonstration of the Gospel. In the first he, with great erudition, confutes idolatry, in fifteen books, showing that the Greeks borrowed the sciences and many of their gods from the Egyptians, whose true history agrees with that of Moses; but the fictions of their theology are monstrous, impious, and condemned by their own learned men; that their oracles, which were only a chain of impostures and frauds, or the responses of devils, never attained to any infallible knowledge of contingencies, and were silenced by a power which they acknowledged superior. He also shows the Unity of God, and the truth of his revealed religion as ancient as the world. In his Demonstration of the Gospel, in ten books, he shows that the Jewish law in every point clearly points out Christ and the gospel. These books of Evangelical Preparation and Demonstration furnish more proofs, testimonies, and arguments for the truth of the Christian religion than any other work of the ancients on that subject.
  Eusebius’s two books against Marcellus of Ancyra, and three On Ecclesiastical Theology are a confutation of Sabellianism. His topography or alphabetical explication of the places mentioned in the Old Testament, is most exact and useful. It was translated into Latin, and augmented by St. Jerom. Eusebius’s useful Comments on the Psalms were published by Montfaucon. (Collect. Nova Script. Græc. Paris, 1706.) His fourteen Discourses or Opuscula, published by F. Sirmond, (Op. Sirmond, t. 1,) are esteemed genuine, though not mentioned by the ancients. His discourse on the Dedication of the Church at Tyre, rebuilt after the persecution, in 315, contains a curious description of that ceremony and of the structure. By his letter to his Church of Cæsarea, after the conclusion of the council of Nice, he recommended to his flock the definitions and creed of that assembly. His panegyric of Constantine was delivered at Constantinople in presence of that prince, who then celebrated the thirtieth year of his reign by public games. The praises are chiefly drawn from the destruction of idolatry; but study reigns in this composition more than nature, and renders the discourse tedious, though the author took some pains to polish the style. His four books of the Life of Constantine were written in 338, the year after that emperor’s death. The style is diffusive, and the more disagreeable by being more laboured. Photius reproaches the author for dissembling or suppressing the chief circumstances relating to Arius, and his condemnation in the council of Nice.
  The Chronicle of Eusebius was a work of immense labour, in two parts; the first called his Chronology, contained the distinct successions of the kings and rulers of the principal nations from the beginning of the world; the second part, called the Chronicle or the Rule of Times, may be called a table of the first, and unites all the particular chronologies of different nations in one. This second part was translated into Latin, and augmented by St. Jerom. The first part was lost when Joseph Scaliger gathered the scattered fragments from George Syncellus, Cedrenus, and the Alexandrian Chronicle; but Scaliger ought to have pointed out his sources; and has inserted many things which certainly belong not to Eusebius.
  Our author’s name has been rendered most famous by his ten books of Church History, which he brings down to the defeat of Licinius, in 323, when he first wrote it, though he revised it again in 326. He collected the Acts of the Martyrs of Palestine, an abstract of which he added to the eighth book of his History. Rufinus elegantly translated this work into Latin, reduced to nine books, to which he added two others, wherein he brings down his history to the death of Theodosius. Eusebius copied very much Julius Africanus in his Chronicle; and in his History, St. Hegesippos (who had compiled a History from Christ to 170) and others. This invaluable work is not exempt from some mistakes and capital omissions; nor was the author much acquainted with the affairs of the Western Church. (See Ceillier, t. 4, p. 258,) &c. Christophorson, bishop of Chichester, elegantly translated this History into Latin, but changed the manner of dividing the chapters. The translation of the learned Henry Velesius is most accurate. Eusebius was one of the most learned prelates of antiquity, and a man of universal reading; but he did not much study to polish his discourses, which is the common fault of those who make learning and knowledge their chief business. [back]
Note 4. Theodoret, l. 1, c. 20, 21. S. Hier. l. 3, in Rufin, &c. [back]
Note 5. Eus. l. 4, de Vit. Constant. c. 61, p. 518. [back]
Note 6. Sozom. l. 2, c. 19, p. 469. [back]
Note 7. See Tillemont, Ceillier, Cave, Hist. Littér. p. 187, t. 1, and Solier, the Bollandist. Hist. Patr. Ant. c. 24, p. 36. [back]
Note 8. Theodoret, l. 1, c. 20. Theodorus Lector, l. 2, c. 1, p. 547. Theophanes, p. 114. See Tillem. note 4, p. 653. [back]
Note 9. St. Jerom (ep. 126, p. 38,) calls St. Eustathius a loud sounding trumpet, and says he was the first who employed his pen against the Arians. The same father admires the extent of his knowledge, saying that it was consummate both in sacred and profane learning, (ep. 84, p. 327.) His just praises are set forth by St. Chrysostom in an entire panegyric; and Sozomen assures us (l. 1, c. 2,) that he was universally admired both for the sanctity of his life, and the eloquence of his discourses. The elegant works which he composed against the Arians were famous in the fifth century, but have not reached us. But we have still his Treatise on the Pythonissa or Witch of Endor, published by Leo Allatius, with a curious Dissertation, and reprinted in the eighth tome of the Critici Sacri. In it the author undertakes to prove against Origen that this witch neither did nor could call up the soul of Samuel, but only a spectre or devil representing Samuel, in order to deceive Saul. He clearly teaches that before the coming of Christ the souls of the just rested in Abraham’s bosom; and that none could enter heaven before Christ had opened it; but that Christians enjoy an advantage above the patriarchs and prophets, in being united with Christ immediately after their death if they have lived well. This treatise is well written, and justifies the commendations which the ancients give to this great prelate and eloquent orator. Sozomen justly calls his writings admirable, as well for the purity of his style as for the sublimity of thought, the beauty of the expression, or the curious choice of the matter. Nothing more enhances his virtue, than the invincible constancy and patience with which he suffered the most reproachful accusation with which his enemies charged him, and the unjust deposition and banishment which were inflicted on him. [back]