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Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > E > Eutychius I

Eutychius I

Patriarch of Constantinople, b. about 512, in Phrygia; d. Easter Day, 5 April, 582. He became a monk and then archimandrite at Amasea, in Pontus. In 552 his bishop sent him on business to Constantinople, where he seems to have made a great impression on Justinian I (527-565), so much so that when Mennas the Patriarch (536-552) died, the emperor procured Eutychius's election as successor, on the very same day (in August). The great quarrel of "the Three Chapters" was then going on. Justinian thought he could conciliate the Monophysites, in Egypt, and Syria, by publishing anathemas against three theologians — long dead — who were suspect of the opposite heresy, Nestorianism. The three points (called kephálaia, capitula) were: (1) the condemnation of the person and works of Theodore of Mopsuestia (428); (2) the condemnation of the writings of Theodoret of Cyrus (c. 457) against the Council of Ephesus; (3) a letter of one Ibas, to a Persian named Maris, which attacked that Council. It should be noted that these documents certainly were Nestorian, and that their condemnation involved no real concession to Monophysitism. The question at issue was rather, whether it were worth while, on the chance of conciliating these Monophysites, to condemn people who had died so long ago. It is also true that, in the West, people suspected in these Three Chapters a veiled attack on Chalcedon. Justinian's "Edict of the Chapters" appeared in 544. It was accepted in the East and rejected in the West. Pope Vigilius (540-555) was the unhappy victim of the quarrel. In 548 he accepted the Edict by a Iudicatum, which also carefully guarded Chalcedon. He had himself just come to Constantinople, in order to preside at a Council that should confirm the three anathemas. But he found that, by his Iudicatum, he had grievously offended his own Western bishops. Dacius of Milan, and Facundus of Hermiane led the opposition against him, and in 550 a Synod of Carthage excommunicated the Pope. Vigilius then began that career of indecision that has left him the reputation of being the weakest Pope that reigned. He was still at Constantinople when Eutychius became Patriarch. Eutychius sent him the usual announcement of his own appointment and the usual (and quite orthodox) profession of faith. At the same time, he urged him to summon the Council at once. Meanwhile Justinian had published a second, and still stronger, condemnation of the Three Chapters (23 Dec., 551). Vigilius gave, and then withdrew, his consent to the Council. Justinian insisted on the exclusion of the African bishops, who were all strongly opposed to his condemnations. In spite of the Pope's refusal, the council met on 5 May, 553, at Constantinople. A hundred and sixty-five bishops attended. This is what was afterwards recognized as the Fifth General Council (Constantinople II). On 14 May the Pope sent them a modified Decree, called the Constitution, in which he condemned sixty propositions taken from Theodore of Mopsuestia, but forbade the condemnation of the other Chapters. As he would not attend the council Eutychius presided. The Council wrote respectfully to the Pope, but, in spite of the Constitution, completely confirmed Justinian's edicts, in its eighth session. It also acknowledged the formula Unus de Trinitate passus est as orthodox, and incidentally condemned Origen. (Can. 11, 12, 13, 14. For this Council see Liberati Breviarium, infra; Mansi, IX, 163; Hefele, Conciliengesch., 2nd ed., II, 898 sqq.) Vigilius gave in on 8 December, after months of ill-treatment, was allowed to go back to Rome, and died on the way, in Sicily, in 554. [There is an account of all this story in Fortescue's Orth. Eastern Church, 82-83.]

Eutychius had, so far, stood by the Emperor throughout. He composed the decree of the Council against The Chapters (Mansi, IX, 367-575). In 562, he consecrated the new church of Sancta Sophia. His next adventure was a quarrel with Justinian about the Aphthartodocetes. These were a sect of Monophysites, in Egypt, who said that Christ's body on earth was incorruptible (’aphthorá), and subject to no pain. The Emperor saw in the defence of these people a new means of conciliating the Monophysites, and, in 564, he published a decree defending their theory (Evagrius, Hist. Eccl., IV, 391). Eutychius resisted this decree, so on 22 January, 565, he was arrested in the church, and banished to a monastery at Chalcedon. Eight days later a synod was summoned to judge him. A ridiculous list of charges was brought against him; he used ointment, he ate deliciously, etc. (Eustathius, Vita S. Eutych., 4, 5). He was condemned, deposed, and sent to Prince's Island in Propontis. Thence he went to his old home at Amasea, where he stayed twelve years. Joannes Scholasticus succeeded as Patriarch (John III, 566-577); and after his death, in 577, the Emperor Justin II (565-578) recalled Eutychius, who came back in October. At the end of his life Eutychius evolved a heretical opinion denying the resurrection of the body. St. Gregory the Great was then Apocrisiarius (legate) of the Roman See, at Constantinople. He argued about this question with the patriarch, quoting Luke 24:39, with great effect, so that Eutychius, on his death-bed, made a full and orthodox profession of faith as to this point. St. Gregory tells the whole story in his "Exp. in libr. Job" (Moralium lib. XIV, 56); Eutychius dying said: "I confess that we shall all rise again in this flesh". (See also Paul. Diac.: Vita Greg. Mag. I, 9.) His extant works are his letter to Pope Vigilius (Migne, P.L., LXIX, 63, P.G. LXXXVI, 2401), a fragment of a "Discourse on Easter" (Mai: Class. Auct. X, 488, and Script. Vet. Nov. Coll. IX, 623); and other fragments in P.G., LXXXVI. His life was written by his disciple Eustathius, a priest of Constantinople. His feast is kept by the Byzantine Church on 6 April, and he is mentioned in our "Corpus Iuris" (Grat., I pars., Dist. XVI, Cap. x).

Sources

EUSTATHIUS, Vita St. Eutychii in Acta SS., April, I, 550-573; EVAGRIUS, Hist. Eccl., IV, 37, 38; V, 16, 18; HEFELE, Conciliengesch., II, II, 852, etc.

About this page

APA citation. Fortescue, A. (1909). Eutychius I. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05638b.htm

MLA citation. Fortescue, Adrian. "Eutychius I." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05638b.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by WGKofron. With thanks to Fr. John Hilkert, Akron, Ohio.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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