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Sketch of the Life and Works of Saint Basil the Great

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Page 36

X.--Troubles of the Closing Years.

The relief to the Catholic East was brief. The paroxysm of passion which caused Valentinian to break a blood-vessel and ended his life, [260] ended also the force of the imperial rescript. The Arians lifted their heads again. A council was held at Ancyra, [261] in which the homoousion was condemned, and frivolous and vexatious charges were brought against Gregory of Nyssa. [262] At Cyzicus a Semiarian synod blasphemed the Holy Spirit. [263] Similar proceedings characterized a synod of Antioch at about the same time. [264] Gregory of Nyssa having been prevented by illness from appearing before the synod of Ancyra, Eustathius and Demosthenes persisted in their efforts to wound Basil through his brother, and summoned a synod at Nyssa itself, where Gregory was condemned in his absence and deposed. [265] He was not long afterwards banished. [266] On the other hand the Catholic bishops were not inactive. Synods were held on their part, and at Iconium Amphilochius presided over a gathering at which Basil was perhaps present himself, and where his treatise on the Holy Spirit was read and approved. [267] The Illyrian Council was a result incommensurate with Basil's passionate entreaties for the help of the westerns. From the midst of the troubles which beset the Eastern Church Basil appealed, [268] as he had appealed before, [269] for the sympathy and active aid of the other half of the empire. He was bitterly chagrined at the failure of his entreaties for support, and began to suspect that the neglect he complained of was due to coldness and to pride. [270] It has seemed to some that this coldness in the West was largely due to resentment at Basil's non-recognition of the supremacy of the Roman see. [271] In truth the supremacy of the Roman see, as it has been understood in later times, was hardly in the horizon. [272] No bishop of Rome had even been present at Nicaea, or at Sardica, where a certain right of appeal to his see was conceded. A bishop of Rome signed the Sirmian blasphemy. No bishop of Rome was present to save the world' from the lapse of Ariminum. Julian "might seem to have forgotten that there was such a city as Rome." [273] The great intellectual Arian war was fought out without any claim of Rome to speak. Half a century after Basil's death great orientals were quite unconscious of this supremacy. [274] At Chalcedon the measure of the growing claim is aptly typified by the wish of Paschasinus of Lilybaeum, one of the representatives of Leo, to be regarded as presiding, though he did not preside. The supremacy is hardly in view even at the last of the four great Councils.

[260] Nov. 17, 375. Amm. Marc. xxx. 6. Soc. iv. 31.

[261] Mansi, iii. 499. Hefele, S: 90.

[262] Ep. ccxxv.

[263] Ep. ccxliv.

[264] Soc. v. 4.

[265] Ep. ccxxxvii.

[266] Greg., Vit. Mac. ii. 192.

[267] Ep. ccii., cclxxii. Hefele, S: 90. Mansi, iii. 502-506. There is some doubt as to the exact date of this synod. cf. D.C.A. i. 807.

[268] Ep. ccxliii.

[269] Ep. lxx., addressed in 371 to Damasus.

[270] Ep. ccxxxix.

[271] cf. D.C.B. i. 294: "C'est esprit, conciliant aux les orientaux jusqu'a soulever l'intolerance orientale, est aussi inflexible avec les occidentaux qu'avec le pouvoir imperial. On sent dans ses lettres la revolte de l'orient qui reclame ses prerogatives, ses droits d'anciennete; l'esprit d'independance de la Grece, qui, si elle supporte le joug materiel de Rome, refuse de reconnaitre sa suprematie spirituelle." Fialon, Et. Hist. 133.

[272] cf. note. on S: ix.

[273] Milman, Lat. Christ. i. 85.

[274] cf. Proleg to Theodoret in this series, p. 9, note.

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