DAILY CATHOLIC    TUESDAY     August 25, 1998     vol. 9, no. 166

THE HISTORY OF THE MASS AND HOLY MOTHER CHURCH

    INTRODUCTION
          As part of our re-run mode for the summer we are bringing you the early installments of or mega series on THE HISTORY OF THE MASS AND HOLY MOTHER CHURCH. The Seventy-third installment: "Pope Nicholas IV: A Franciscan on a crusade." will resume in September after the two month summer hiatus in which we bring you earlier chapters you might have missed.

          The fourteenth installment of this mega-part series on the History of the Mass and Holy Mother Church deals with the rise of Christianity and the subsequent growing pains of dealing with heresies such as Arianism which claimed many fatalities conversion-wise and how Holy Mother Church, the saints and pontiffs dealt with it.

The Fourth Century: 350-400 The Arian Threat in the East

Installment Fourteen
      With the liberation of the Church by Constantine persecutions by the Romans had ceased. Now the new persecution came from within as we first saw in the last installment with Saint Athanasius being falsely exiled for refusing to restore the heretic Arius. So great was Arius' influence that Arianism became rampant throughout the regions where the Church was established. But God rose up several saints to combat this apostasy, beginning with Athanasius who had been pardoned by Constantine and had gained great favor with Pope Saint Julius I who we covered in the last installment. The death of Julius I on April 12, 352 opened the door on May 17, 352 for the election of the 36th successor to Peter, Pope Saint Liberius, who also encouraged the saint who stood up to Arianism. Through Athanasius' prodding, Liberius proclaimed that all the loyal bishops exiled by the Arians be allowed to return to their diocese. With Athanasius' guidance the bishops bonded in restoring unity. This did not sit well with the Roman Emperor Julian, who was pro-Arian and despised as "Julian the Apostate." He effected two changes: First, he manipulated to have the antipope Felix II elected by the block of Arian bishops in 355; secondly, he managed to once again get Athanasius exiled. But the saint was undaunted, having been through this before, he is quoted as saying, "This little cloud will soon pass." True to his words, Julian was slain in battle and the next Emperor Jovian freed Athanasius in 363, bidding him to teach him and his royal court the Catholic religion. Before Jovian could depose Felix II, the emperor died, which left the eastern Roman Empire in the hands of the new Emperor Valens who was a strong Arian. His fourteen-year reign was a setback to the Church for he worked feverishly to reinstate Arianism throughout the empire. His first decree was to once again have Athanasius banished, but this time the "vox populi" overruled the emperor as the citizens rallied behind the saint. Reluctantly Valens had to relent, allowing Athanasius to stay. The people of God had spoken and because they did, Holy Mother Church became stronger.

      Our Lady, too, heard their plea and responded by appearing to a group of them on August 5th. Legend has it that, even though it was a typical scorching August summer, the following morning the ground, where the Mother of God had requested a Basilica dedicated to her be built, was completely outlined with snow. Liberius realized this was a Heavenly sign and immediately laid the foundation for the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, tracing Our Lady's architectural layout.

      Though Liberius responded and the people rallied around him and Athanasius, Arianism continued to spread. Yet those loyal to the true Church were not alone in their fight against this heresy in the east for God rose up Antioch-born Saint John Chrysostom and three Cappodocians: blood brothers Saint Basil and Saint Gregory of Nyssa as well as their friend Saint Gregory of Nazianzus who all became bishops. Gregory of Nyssa and Basil were two of ten children born in 329 and 330 respectively to a devout Christian family in the area of Cappadocia which is now Turkey. Their family was so holy that six are honored as saints. Besides Basil and Gregory, the Church also canonized their oldest sister, their parents and their grandmother Saint Macrina. In 357 Basil established a popular school of rhetoric in Caesarea. It was the beginning of the intellectual influence in the last half of the 4th Century.

      On November 22, 365 Felix died and many felt the Church would unite again but Liberius' attempts to reconcile hit a snag when he passed on to his Heavenly reward on September 24, 366. He was succeeded by Pope Saint Damasus I on October 1, 366. Almost immediately the Arians countered by selecting the antipope Ursinus, but he lived only one year. Three years later Damasus elevated St. Basil to Bishop of Caesarea where the people embraced him totally. But this didn't stop the emperor Valens from testing the saint to the "enth" degree. He ordered Basil to receive the Arians back into the good graces of the Church without them repenting or ceasing from spreading heresy. Naturally, Basil refused. This infuriated Valens who first tried to bribe him, then threatened seizure of his property and even death. Basil laughed in the face of the devil, remarking that he owned nothing but his clothes and a few books and that he welcomed martyrdom. Valens knew his hands were tied because to follow through on his threat would mean absolute revolt by the people which he could not afford because he was also consumed with fighting the hordes on the eastern front. It was here that Valens was fatally wounded on the battlefield in 378. His successor was the Emperor Theodosius who had seen the unrest and disharmony caused by the Arians and had grown steadfastly opposed to this heretical sect. Unfortunately Basil did not live to see the fruits for he died a year later in 379, the same year his life-long friend St. Gregory of Nazianzen was appointed Bishop of Constantinople. Gregory's example and teaching resulted in over half the city converting to Catholicism. This, aided by Theodosius' decree that Arianism be abolished and all churches be given back to the true faith, solidly secured Constantinople as a Catholic city. With this accomplished, Gregory, noted for his brilliant writings in defending the true faith, retired and settled in Asia Minor where he spent the remainder of his life in prayer, passing on in 391.

      Six years prior Pope St. Damasus I died on December 11, 384. Damasus had been a learned pontiff who authorized the singing of the Psalms by alternate choirs as instituted by St. Saint Ambrose, appropriately called the "Ambrosian Rite." In the next installment we shall cover St. Ambrose when we deal with the Arian Threat in the West and the role of Ambrose and Saint Augustine. Damasus also is the one attributed to introducing the Hebrew term "Alleluia" into the liturgy as well as translating Sacred Scripture from Hebrew into Greek and Latin. It was during his papacy that the Second General Council was convened in Constantinople in 381 and at which the Errors of Macedonius were condemned. He had spoken against the Divinity of the Holy Spirit, maintaining that only the Father and Jesus the Son were God.

      Pope Saint Siricus was chosen to succeed Damasus on December 15, 384. Surprisingly, Siricus was the first, after Saint Peter, of course, to assume the title of "Pope" (il Papa) derived from the Greek word for Father. There are also claims that the Italian word "Papa" is an acronym from the Latin Petri Apostoli Potestatem Accipiens. It was during his papacy that the great sainsts Saint Cyril of Jerusalem and Saint Monica, mother of St. Augustine, died; Cyril in 386 and Monica a year later. Pope Siricus, despite the Arian opposition, staunchly defended the true faith and upheld the need for priests to remain celibate as well as choosing St. John Chrysostom to be Patriarch of Constantinople in 397. Born in 349, John lived 58 years, dying on the feast of the Holy Cross on September 14, 407 while enroute to the village of Comana near the Black Sea to preach. Throughout his life John was a fierce defender of the true faith against Arianism and received the name Chrysostom which means "golden-mouthed" in Greek. Like Athanasius and Basil, St. John Chrysostom was not only greatly cherished by the people but also falsely accused by the Arians, in particular the Bishop of Alexandria who forced John's exile. John knew, like Basil, that the people would not stand for this and thus he called the Arian bishop's bluff by refusing to show up for the mock trial that would condemn him. Regardless, the Arian bishops unanimously decided to exile him. However John refused, claiming they had no authority and the Arians appealed to the Roman Empress Eudoxia who was moved to side with the Arians after hearing one of St. John's sermons denouncing the pomp and luxury promulgated by the Roman rulers. It wasn't until 403 that John was allowed to return by the Emperor Arcadius . However, that was short-lived for, always loyal to Christ, he objected vehemently to the unveiling of a statue of the Empress Eudoxia who had exiled him. He did not object because of the exile edict, but rather the pagan nature attributed to the statue. Once again exiled he would not return until posthumously carried back by the Emperor's son Theodosius II thirty years after the saint's death. While he spent his last years in exile John orchestrated the missionary efforts of Lebanon, Syria and Persia and helped in the conversion of the Goths. He also continued his campaign to be reinstituted as the rightful Patriarch of Constantinople, writing the new pontiff Pope Saint Innocent I who had been elected the 40th Vicar of Christ on December 22, 401. Though Innocent was in favor as well as the Constantinople citizens who would accept no one else other than John as their bishop, the new Roman Emperor Theodosius was stronger and more influential and reinforced the exile, commanding John be sent even farther away. Though Basil and John had accomplished much in converting Constantinople, there would be problems originating from this city without a bishop during that time for heresies such as Nestorianism and schism rose would also raise their ugly heads as we shall see in future installments.

      On November 26, 399 Pope St. Siricus passed on and a day later his successor was announced. It was Saint Anastasius I. Roman-born like Siricus, St. Anastasius would be the Pope to bring the Church into the 5th Century, sitting on the papal throne until December 19, 401. During his two years as the Holy Father, Anastasius resolved the schism that had risen between Rome and Antioch, a schism that would unfortunately split the Church centuries later and a schism that Basil never intended but who Eastern Orthodox disciples attribute to following. Pope Anastasius strenuously reprimanded those who followed immoral and pagan practices and it was he who decreed that priests should also stand throughout the reading of the Gospel at Holy Mass.

      In the next installment we will cover the same time period, focusing on the Arian threat in the west and feature the saintly teachers in the west: Saint Jerome, St. Ambrose and St. Augustine who all mirrored the efforts of their counterparts St. Anastasius, St. Basil, St. Gregory and St. John Chrysostom in the east.


August 25, 1998       volume 9, no. 166
THE HISTORY OF THE MASS AND HOLY MOTHER CHURCH

DAILY CATHOLIC

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