Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Epiphanius of Constantinople

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 5
Epiphanius of Constantinople

by Adrian Fortescue

Epiphanius of Constantinople, d. 535. Epiphanius succeeded John II (518-20) as Patriarch of Constantinople. It was the time of the reaction against Monophysitism in the Eastern Empire that followed the accession of Justin I (518-27). Justin was Catholic; he let the Henoticon (482) of his predecessor Zeno (474-91) quietly drop, and very soon after his accession he caused a synod of forty bishops to meet under John II at the capital, in order to proclaim a general acceptance of the decrees of Chalcedon throughout the empire, the restoration of Catholic, and the deposition of Monophysite, bishops (P.G., LXXXVI, I, 785). The same synod reopened negotiations with the Roman See after the schism of Acacius (484-519). The reigning pope was Hormisdas (514-23), and it was on this occasion that he composed his famous formula. On Easter Day, March 24, 519, the reunion was proclaimed. Severus of Antioch and the other Monophysite leaders fled to Egypt. The papal legates remained at Constantinople till 520. In that year the Patriarch John died, and Epiphanius was elected as his successor. He was then given authority from the pope to reconcile all schismatics and Monophysites who retracted their errors and signed the formula. Epiphanius signed it himself in the first place (Mansi, VIII, 502 sqq.).

Four letters from Epiphanius to Hormisdas are extant, with the pope's letters to him (P.L., LXIII). In the first, from Hormisdas to Epiphanius (col. 493), the pope complains that he has received as yet no letter and no legate to announce the patriarch's accession. In the second letter (I. c.) the pope requires that three repentant Monophysite bishops, Elias, Thomas, and Nicostratus, should be restored to their sees, and he appoints Epiphanius to restore them. Epiphanius then writes to Hormisdas (col. 494-95) to announce his succession to the See of Constantinople as the pope had demanded. He excuses himself for his delay by explaining the difficult circumstances and the disorder that still remain since the Monophysite troubles, and protests his exceeding desire for communion with the Roman See: "It is my special prayer, most blessed Father, to be united to you and to embrace the Divine dogmas which were left by the holy Apostles especially to the holy See of Peter, chief of the Apostles; for I count nothing more precious than them" (I. c.). He then draws up a very orthodox profession of faith according to the decrees of Ephesus and Chalcedon; he accepts all the dogmatic letters of St. Leo I, and declares that he will never name in his diptychs anyone who is condemned by the pope. His second letter (col. 497-99) to Hormisdas praises the emperor's zeal for the Faith, explains the case of many bishops in Pontus, Asia, and the (civil) "diocese" of the East, whom Epiphanius wishes to receive back into communion now that they have renounced Monophysitism, and mentions a jewelled chalice and other gifts he sends to the pope (this letter is dated 520). Hormisdas answers (col. 505-6), exhorting the patriarch to persevere in reconciling Monophysites and thanking him for his presents. Epiphanius' third letter relates that a number of Eastern bishops have petitioned the emperor for union with Rome (col. 506-7), and the fourth (col. 507) praises Paulinus, whom the pope had sent to Constantinople as his legate. Migne (P.G., LXXXVI, Pt. I, 783-86) gives the text of the condemnation of Severus and Peter of Antioch, made by a synod of Constantinople held under Epiphanius. Assemani (Bibl. Orient., I, 619) gives a list of forty-five canons drawn up by this same synod. Epiphanius was succeeded by Anthimus I.

ADRIAN FORTESCUE