Athanasius De Synodis 5f, 9, 43

Home / Athanasius De Synodis 5f, 9, 43

5. As to the Nicene Council, it was not a common meeting, but convened upon a pressing necessity, and for a reasonable object. The Syrians, Cilicians, and Mesopotamians, were out of order in celebrating the Feast, and kept Easter with the Jews ; on the other hand, the Arian heresy had risen up against the Catholic Church, and found supporters in Eusebius and his fellows, who were both zealous for the heresy, and conducted the attack upon religious people. This gave occasion for an Ecumenical Council, that the feast might be everywhere celebrated on one day, and that the heresy which was springing up might be anathematized. It took place then; and the Syrians submitted, and the Fathers pronounced the Arian heresy to be the forerunner of Antichrist , and drew up a suitable formula against it. And yet in this, many as they are, they ventured on nothing like the proceedings of these three or four men.Without pre-fixing Consulate, month, and day, they wrote concerning Easter, ‘It seemed good as follows,’ for it did then seem good that there should be a general compliance; but about the faith they wrote not, ‘It seemed good,’ but, ‘Thus believes the Catholic Church;’ and there upon they confessed how they believed, in order to show that their own sentiments were not novel, but Apostolical; and what they wrote down was no discovery of theirs, but is the same as was taught by the Apostles.

6. But the Councils which they are now setting in motion, what colourable pretext have they? If any new heresy has risen since the Arian, let them tell us the positions which it has devised, and who are its inventors? And in their own formula, let them anathematize the heresies antecedent to this Council of theirs, among which is the Arian, as the Nicene Fathers did, that it may appear that they too have some cogent reason for saying what is novel. But if no such event has happened, and they have it not to show, but rather they themselves are uttering heresies, as holding Arius’s irreligion, and are exposed day by day, and day by day shift their ground , what need is there of Councils, when the Nicene is sufficient, as against the Arian heresy, so against the rest, which it has condemned one and all by means of the sound faith? For even the notorious Aetius, who was surnamed godless , vaunts not of the discovering of any mania of his own, but under stress of weather has been wrecked uponArianism, himself and the persons whom he has beguiled. Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faith’s sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point, there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrine so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture.

9. When this had been read, the dishonesty of its framers was soon apparent. For on theBishops proposing that the Arian heresy should be anathematized together with the other heresies too, and all assenting, Ursacius and Valens and those with them refused; till in the event the Fathers condemned them, on the ground that their confession had been written, not in sincerity, but for the annulling of the acts of Nicæa, and the introduction instead of their unhappy heresy. Marvelling then at the deceitfulness of their language and their unprincipled intentions, the Bishops said: ‘Not as if in need of faith have we come hither; for we have within us faith, and that in soundness: but that we may put to shame those who gainsay the truth and attempt novelties. If then you have drawn up this formula, as if now beginning to believe, you are not so much as clergy, but are starting with school; but if you meet us with the same views with which we have come hither, let there be a general unanimity, and let us anathematize the heresies, and preserve the teaching of the Fathers. Thus pleas for Councils will not longer circulate about, the Bishops at Nicæa having anticipated them once for all, and done all that was needful for the Catholic Church. ‘ However, even then, in spite of this general agreement of the Bishops, still the above-mentioned refused. So at length the whole Council, condemning them as ignorant and deceitful men, or rather as heretics, gave their suffrages in behalf of the Nicene Council, and gave judgment all of them that it was enough; but as to the forenamed Ursacius and Valens,Germinius, Auxentius, Gaius, and Demophilus, they pronounced them to be heretics,deposed them as not really Christians, but Arians, and wrote against them in Latin what has been translated in its substance into Greek, thus:—


43. This is sufficient to show that the meaning of the beloved ones is not foreign nor far from the ‘Coessential.’ But since, as they allege (for I have not the Epistle in question), theBishops who condemned the Samosatene have said in writing that the Son is not coessential with the Father, and so it comes to pass that they, for caution and honour towards those who have so said, thus feel about that expression, it will be to the purpose cautiously to argue with them this point also. Certainly it is unbecoming to make the one conflict with the others; for all are fathers; nor is it religious to settle, that these have spoken well, and those ill; for all of them fell asleep in Christ. Nor is it right to be disputatious, and to compare the respective numbers of those who met in the Councils, lest the three hundred seem to throw the lesser into the shade; nor to compare the dates, lest those who preceded seem to eclipse those that came after. For all, I say, are fathers; and yet not even the three hundred laid down nothing new, nor was it in any self-confidence that they became champions of words not in Scripture, but they fell back upon fathers, as did the others, and used their words. For there have been two of the name of Dionysius, much older than the seventy whodeposed the Samosatene, of whom one was of Rome, and the other of Alexandria. But a charge had been laid by some persons against the Bishop of Alexandria before the Bishop ofRome, as if he had said that the Son was made, and not coessential with the Father. And, the synod at Rome being indignant, the Bishop of Rome expressed their united sentiments in a letter to his namesake. And so the latter, in defence, wrote a book with the title ‘ofRefutation and Defence.’ and thus he writes to the other: