Athanasius Ap. con. Ar., 25, 29, 31f

25. If, as you write [548] , the decrees of all Councils ought to be of force, according to the precedent in the case of Novatus [549] and Paul of Samosata, all the more ought not the sentence of the Three hundred to be reversed, certainly a general Council ought not to be set at nought by a few individuals. For the Arians are heretics as they, and the like sentence has been passed both against one and the other. And, after such bold proceedings as these, who are they that have lighted up the flame of discord? for in your letter you blame us for having done this. Is it we, who have sympathised with the sufferings of the brethren, and have acted in all respects according to the Canon; or they who contentiously and contrary to the Canon have set aside the sentence of the Three hundred, and dishonoured the Council in every way? For not only have the Arians been received into communion, but Bishops also have made a practice of removing from one place to another [550] . Now if you really believe that all Bishops have the same and equal authority [551] , and you do not, as you assert, account of them according to the magnitude of their cities; he that is entrusted with a small city ought to abide in the place committed to him, and not from disdain of his trust to remove to one that has never been put under him; despising that which God has given him, and making much of the vain applause of men. You ought then, dearly beloved, to have come and not declined, that the matter may be brought to a conclusion; for this is what reason demands.

But perhaps you were prevented by the time fixed upon for the Council, for you complain in your letter that the interval before the day we appointed [552] was too short. But this, beloved, is a mere excuse. Had the day forestalled any when on the journey, the interval allowed would then have been proved to be too short. But when persons do not wish to come, and detain even my Presbyters up to the month of January [553] , it is the mere excuse of those who have no confidence in their cause; otherwise, as I said before, they would have come, not regarding the length of the journey, not considering the shortness of the time, but trusting to the justice and reasonableness of their cause. But perhaps they did not come on account of the aspect of the times [554] , for again you declare in your letter, that we ought to have considered the present circumstances of the East, and not to have urged you to come. Now if as you say you did not come because the times were such, you ought to have considered such times beforehand, and not to have become the authors of schism, and of mourning and lamentation in the Churches. But as the matter stands, men, who have been the cause of these things, shew that it is not the times that are to blame, but the determination of those who will not meet a Council.


29. Now when these things were thus represented to us, and so many witnesses appeared in his favour, and so much was advanced by him in his own justification, what did it become us to do? what did the rule of the Church require of us, but that we should not condemn him, but rather receive him and treat him like a Bishop, as we have done? Moreover, besides all this he continued here a year and six months [563] , expecting the arrival of yourselves and of whoever chose to come, and by his presence he put everyone to shame, for he would not have been here, had he not felt confident in his cause; and he came not of his own accord, but on an invitation by letter from us, in the manner in which we wrote to you [564] . But still you complain after all of our transgressing the Canons. Now consider; who are they that have so acted? we who received this man with such ample proof of his innocence, or they who, being at Antioch at the distance of six and thirty posts [565] , nominated a stranger to be Bishop, and sent him to Alexandria with a military force; a thing which was not done even when Athanasius was banished into Gaul, though it would have been done then, had he been really proved guilty of the offence. But when he returned, of course he found his Church unoccupied and waiting for him.


31. I have also thought it necessary to point out to you this circumstance, viz. that Athanasius positively asserted that Macarius was kept at Tyre under a guard of soldiers, while only his accuser accompanied those who went to the Mareotis; and that the Presbyters who desired to attend the inquiry were not permitted to do so, while the said inquiry respecting the cup and the Table was carried on before the Prefect and his band, and in the presence of Heathens and Jews. This at first seemed incredible, but it was proved to have been so from the Reports; which caused great astonishment to us, as I suppose, dearly beloved, it does to you also. Presbyters, who are the ministers of the Mysteries, are not permitted to attend, but an enquiry concerning Christ’s Blood and Christ’s Body is carried on before an external judge, in the presence of Catechumens, nay, worse than that, before Heathens and Jews, who are in ill repute in regard to Christianity. Even supposing that an offense had been committed, it should have been investigated legally in the Church and by the Clergy, not by heathens who abhor the Word and know not the Truth. I am persuaded that both you and all men must perceive the nature and magnitude of this sin. Thus much concerning Athanasius.

32. With respect to Marcellus [568] , forasmuch as you have charged him also of impiety towards Christ, I am anxious to inform you, that when he was here, he positively declared that what you had written concerning him was not true; but being nevertheless requested by us to give an account of his faith, he answered in his own person with the utmost boldness, so that we recognised that he maintains nothing outside the truth. He made a confession [569] of the same godly doctrines concerning our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as the Catholic Church confesses; and he affirmed that he had held these opinions for a very long time, and had not recently adopted them: as indeed our Presbyters [570] , who were at a former date present at the Council of Nicaea, testified to his orthodoxy; for he maintained then, as he has done now, his opposition to Arianism (on which points it is right to admonish you, lest any of you admit such heresy, instead of abominating it as alien from sound doctrine [571] ). Seeing then that he professed orthodox opinions, and had testimony to his orthodoxy, what, I ask again in his case, ought we to have done, except to receive him as a Bishop, as we did, and not reject him from our communion? These things I have written, not so much for the purpose of defending their cause, as in order to convince you, that we acted justly and canonically in receiving these persons, and that you are contentious without a cause. But it is your duty to use your anxious endeavours and to labour by every means to correct the irregularities which have been committed contrary to the Canon, and to secure the peace of the Churches; so that the peace of our Lord which has been given to us [572] may remain, and the Churches may not be divided, nor you incur the charge of being authors of schism. For I confess, your past conduct is an occasion of schism rather than of peace.