Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Flavianus (4) I., bp. of Antioch
Flavianus (4) I., bp. of Antioch, 381-404. Born at Antioch, of a distinguished family, he was still very young when his father's death left him heir of his considerable property. As bishop he continued to occupy the family mansion at Antioch, which he devoted to the reception of the sick and distressed of his flock. Chrysostom, in his highly coloured eulogium pronounced on receiving priest's orders at his hands, records that he was remarkable from his earliest years for temperance and contempt of luxury, although early deprived of parental control and exposed to temptations incident to youth, wealth, and good birth. Theodoret (H. E. ii. 24) relates that, when a half-concealed Arianism was triumphing, Flavian, with his friend Diodorus (afterwards bp. of Tarsus), left his home and adopted the life of a solitary. The necessities of the times soon recalled them to Antioch, where as laymen they kept alive an orthodox remnant. Leontius was then the intruding bp. of Antioch, and, while a Eusebian at heart, sought by temporizing to preserve a hollow peace in his church. The counsel of the orthodox bp. Eustathius, before he was expelled from Antioch (c. 328), was that his adherents should maintain the unity of the church and continue in communion with his successors in the see; but there was no small risk of their being thus gradually absorbed by the Eusebians and losing hold of the Catholic faith. This danger was strenuously met by Flavian and Diodorus. They rallied the faithful about them, accustomed them to assemble round the tombs of the martyrs, and exhorted them to adhere steadfastly to the faith. They are said by Theodoret to have revived the antiphonal chanting of the Psalms, which tradition ascribed to Ignatius (ib. ii. 24; Socr. H. E. vi. 8). Leontius endeavoured to check the growing influence of these gatherings by causing them to be transferred from the martyries without the walls to the churches of the city, but this only increased their popularity and strengthened the cause of orthodoxy. Flavian and Diodorus became all-powerful at Antioch; Leontius, being unable to resist them, was compelled to retrace his steps (Theod. ii. 24).
Leontius was succeeded by Eudoxius, then by the excellent Meletius, who was deposed, and in 361 by Euzoïus, the old comrade of Arius. Euzoïus was repudiated with horror by all the orthodox. Those who had till now remained in communion with the bishops recognized by the state, separated themselves and recognized Meletius as their bishop. The old Catholic body, however, who bore the name of Eustathians, would not submit to a bishop, however orthodox, consecrated by Arians, and continued to worship apart from their Meletian brethren, as well as from Euzoïus, having as leader Paulinus, a presbyter highly esteemed by all parties. This schism between two orthodox bodies caused much pain to Athanasius and others. A council at Alexandria, early in 362, wisely advised that Paulinus and his flock should unite with Meletius, who had now returned from exile; but the precipitancy of Lucifer of Cagliari perpetuated the schism by ordaining Paulinus bishop. The Arian emperor Valens came to reside at Antioch in June 370; and this was the signal for a violent persecution of the orthodox. Meletius was banished a third time, and the duty of ministering to the faithful under their prolonged trials devolved on Flavian and Diodorus. The Catholics, having been deprived of their churches, took refuge among ravines and caverns in the abrupt mountain ranges overhanging the city. Here they worshipped, exposed to the assaults of a rude soldiery, by whom they were repeatedly dislodged. The persecution ceased with the death of Valens in 378. The exiles were recalled, and Meletius resumed charge of his flock. His official recognition as the Catholic bp. of Antioch was more tardy. Gratian had commanded that the churches should be given up to prelates in communion with Damasus, bp. of Rome, and that Arian intruders should be expelled. But here were two bishops with equal claims to orthodoxy, Paulinus and Meletius, and a third, Vitalian, who held Apollinarian views. Sapor, a high military officer, to whom Gratian had committed the execution of the edict, was much perplexed. Flavian convinced him that the right lay with Meletius. The separation, however, still continued. Paulinus declined the proposal of Meletius that they should be recognized as of equal authority and that the survivor should be sole bishop. The Oriental churches recognized Meletius, the West and Egypt Paulinus (ib. v. 1-3). In 381 Flavian accompanied Meletius to the council of Constantinople, during the session of which Meletius died. Gregory of Nazianzus entreated his brother-bishops to heal the schism by recognizing Paulinus as orthodox bp. of Antioch (Greg. Naz. de Vita Sac. v. 1572 seq. p. 757). But this, however right in itself, would have been a triumph for the Westerns. The council was composed of Oriental bishops, and, in spite of the remonstrances of Gregory, Flavian was elected to succeed Meletius. Flavian cannot be altogether excused for this continuance of the schism; and the less so if, as Socrates (v. 5) and Sozomen (vii. 3, 11) state, he was one of the six leading clergy of Antioch who had sworn not to seek the bishopric themselves at the death of Meletius or Paulinus, but to acknowledge the survivor. This charge, however, is rendered very doubtful by the absence of reference to it in the letters of Ambrose or any contemporary documents published by adherents of Paulinus during the controversy. Flavian was consecrated by Diodorus of Tarsus and Acacius of Beroea with the ratification of the council. Paulinus remonstrated in vain (Theod. v. 23), but his cause was maintained by Damasus and the Western bishops and those of Egypt; while even at Antioch, though most of the Meletians welcomed Flavian with joy (Chrys. Hom. cum Presbyt. fuit ordinatus, § 4), some, indignant at his breaking an engagement, real or implied, separated from his communion and joined Paulinus (Soz. vii. 11). The West refused all intercourse with Flavian, and the council at Aquileia in Sept. 381 wrote to Theodosius in favour of Paulinus, and requested him to summon a council at Alexandria to decide that and other questions. Theodosius acquiesced, but selected Rome. The Eastern prelates declined to attend, and held a synod of their own at Constantinople in 382. Even here the bishops of Egypt, Cyprus, and Arabia recognized Paulinus, and demanded the banishment of Flavian, who was supported by the bishops of Palestine, Phoenicia, and Syria (Socr. v. 10). A synodal letter was, however, dispatched to Damasus and the Western bishops, recognizing Flavian's consecration as legitimate (Theod. v. 9). Paulinus himself attended the council at Rome, accompanied by Epiphanius and his ardent supporter Jerome. At this council the West refused to acknowledge Flavian as canonically elected. It is said that they even excommunicated him and his two consecrators (Soz. vii. 11). The two rivals continued to exercise episcopal functions for their respective flocks. Consequently church discipline became impossible. Early in his episcopate Flavian exercised his authority against the Syrian sect of perfectionists known as Euchites or Messalians, and to make himself acquainted with their doctrines, which it was their habit to conceal, he condescended to an unworthy act of deception.
In 386 Flavian ordained Chrysostom presbyter, and Chrysostom preached a eulogistic inaugural discourse (Chrys. u.s. §§ 3, 4). The sedition at Antioch and the destruction of the Imperial Statues, 387, shewed Flavian at his best. When the brief fit of popular madness was over and the Antiochenes awoke to their danger, Flavian at their entreaty became their advocate with the emperor, starting immediately on his errand of mercy (Chrys. de Statuis, iii. 1, xxi. 3). The success of his mission was complete. Though Paulinus died in 388, the schism continued; for on his deathbed he had consecrated Evagrius, a presbyter of his church, as his successor (Socr. v. 15; Soz. vii. 15; Theod. v. 23). Theodosius summoned Flavian to meet him at a synod at Capua. Flavian excused himself as winter was setting in, but promised to obey the emperor's bidding in the spring (Theod. v. 23). Ambrose and the other leading Western prelates urged Theodosius to compel Flavian to come to Rome and submit to the judgment of the church. Flavian replied to the emperor that if his episcopal seat only was the object of attack, he would prefer to resign it altogether. The knot was before long cut by the death of Evagrius. Flavian's influence prevented the election of a successor. The Eustathians, however, still refused to acknowledge Flavian, and continued to hold their assemblies apart (Soz. vii. 15, viii. 3; Socr. v. 15). This separation lasted till the episcopate of Alexander, 414 or 415. The division between Flavian and Egypt and the West was finally healed by Chrysostom, who took the opportunity of the presence of Theophilus, patriarch of Alexandria, at Constantinople for his consecration in 398, to induce him to become reconciled with Flavian, and to join in dispatching an embassy to Rome to supplicate Siricius to recognize Flavian as canonical bishop of Antioch. Their mission was entirely successful (Socr. v. 15; Soz. viii. 3; Theod. v. 23). To shew that all angry feeling had ceased, and to conciliate his opponents, Flavian put the names of Paulinus and Evagrius on the diptychs (Cyril. Alex. Ep. 56, p. 203). Flavian lived long enough to see the deposition and exile of Chrysostom, against which he protested with his last breath. His death probably occurred in 404 (Pallad. Dial. p. 144; Soz. viii. 24; Theophan. p. 68). He governed the church of Antioch for 23 years; and Tillemont thinks it probable that he lived to the age of 95. The Greek church commemorates him on Sept. 26.
He left behind certain homilies, of which a few fragments are preserved. Theodoret, in his Eranistes, quotes one on John i. 14 (Dial. i. p. 46), another on St. John the Baptist (ib. p. 66), on Easter, and the treachery of Judas (Dial. iii. p. 250) or the Theophania, and a passage from his commentary on St. Luke (Dial. ii. p. 160).