Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/St. Serapion

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 13
St. Seraphin of Montegranaro

by Arthur Adolphe Vaschalde


Serapion, Saint, Bishop of Thmuis in Lower Egypt, date of birth unknown; d. after 362. His parents were Christian and he was educated among the clergy of Alexandria, probably under the direction of St. Athanasius, who always held him in high esteem. After presiding over a monastery for some years, he was consecrated Bishop of Thmuis some time before 343, for in that year he attended the Council of Sardica as a defender of the Nicene Faith. In 355 St. Athanasius sent him and four other Egyptian bishops on an embassy to Emperor Constantius (337-61) that they might plead on his behalf and refute the charges which the Arians had brought against him. Serapion was deprived of his see in 350 by George, the anti-Patriarch of Alexandria, and sent into exile, hence the title "Confessor" conferred upon him by St. Jerome and the Roman Martyrology (March 21). Between the years 358-62 St. Athanasius addressed to him a letter on the death of Arius (P.G., XXV, 685-90) and four dogmatic epistles, of which one was on the Son of God and three on the Holy Ghost (P.G., XXVI, 529-676). Serapion was a man of great purity of life and extraordinary eloquence. St. Jerome calls him a "scholasticus", or scholar, and says that he wrote a treatise against the Manichaeans, another on the titles of the Psalms, and many useful letters to different parties. The work on the Psalms is lost; the treatise on the Manichaeans was published from the editio princeps of Basnage (1725) by Migne (P.G. XL, 599-924) and, with the addition of a newly-discovered fragment, by Brinkmann (Berliner Sitzungsberichte, 1894, pp. 479-91). Of his letters there remain: one to a certain bishop Eudoxios, otherwise unknown (P.G. XL, 923-925); a letter to the solitaries of Alexandria on the dignity of the religious life (ibid., 925-42); a fragment of his twenty-third letter (Pitra, "Analecta sacra", II, p. xl); three fragments extant only in Syriac (Pitra, op. cit., IV, 214-5), and a letter on the Father and the Son, first published in 1898 by Wobbermin from MS. 149 of the Convent of Laura on Mount Athos (Texte and Untersuchungen, XVII, new series II, fasc. 3b). From the same MS. Wobbermin published (ibid.) the Greek text of a "euchologion" of which Serapion is considered to be the author or redactor. Though some attribute the discovery of this work to Wobbermin its text had already been published in 1894 by Dmitrijewski in the periodical, "Trudy", of the ecclesiastical academy of Kiew and by Paulov in the chronika buzantiva (from the same MS.?). This euchologion contains thirty prayers, eighteen of which refer to the Mass, seven to baptism and confirmation, three to Holy orders, two to the anointing of the sick, and one to the burial of the dead. These prayers were arranged in their proper liturgical order by Brightman, and in this order they were published (text and Lat. tr.) by Funk in his "Didascalia" under the title "Sacramentarium Serapionis". They have been translated into English by Wordsworth in his work, "Bishop Serapion's Prayer Book". This euchologion is a most important document for the history of the Egyptian liturgy in the fourth century.

A. A. Vaschalde.