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UNDER the rule of the iconoclasts, the differences which divided the "orthodox" had been suffered to slumber; but the defeat of the common enemy was the signal for the renewal of a conflict which had disturbed the peace of the Church under Irene and Nicephorus. The two parties, which had suspended their feud, now again stood face to face.
The fundamental principle of the State Church founded by Constantine was the supremacy of the Emperor; the Patriarch and the whole hierarchy were subject to him; he not only protected, he governed the Church. The smooth working of this system demanded from churchmen a spirit of compromise and "economy." It might often be difficult for a Patriarch to decide at what point his religious duty forbade him to comply with the Emperor's will; and it is evident that Patriarchs, like Tarasius and Nicephorus, who had served the State in secular posts, were more likely to work discreetly and harmoniously under the given conditions than men who had been brought up in cloisters. We saw how the monks of Studion organized an opposition to these Patriarchs, whom they denounced for sacrificing canonical rules to expediency. The abbot Theodore desired to subvert the established system. He held that the Emperor was merely the protector of the Church, and that the Church was independent. He affirmed, moreover, the supremacy of the Roman See in terms which no Emperor and few, if any, Patriarchs would have endorsed. But by their theory, which they boldly put into practice, the Studites were undermining Patriarchal and episcopal authority. They asserted the right of monks to pass an independent judgment
on the administration of their bishop, and, in case his actions did not meet with their approval, to refuse to communicate with him. A movement of independence or insubordination, which was likely to generate schisms, was initiated, and the activity and influence of Theodore must have disseminated his views far beyond the limits of his own community.
Thus there arose two antagonistic sections, of which one approved more or less the doctrines of Theodore of Studion, while the other upheld Patriarchal authority and regarded Nicephorus as an ideal Patriarch. One insisted on the strictest observation of ecclesiastical canons and denounced the sudden elevations of Nicephorus and Tarasius from the condition of laymen to the episcopal office; the other condoned such irregularities which special circumstances commended to the Imperial wisdom. One declined to allow any relaxation of canonical rules in favour of the Emperor; the other was prepared to permit him considerable limits of dispensation. There were, in fact, two opposite opinions as to the spirit and method of ecclesiastical administration, corresponding to two different types of ecclesiastic. Both sides included monks; and it would not be true to say that the monks generally rallied to the section of the Studites. There were many abbots and many hermits who disliked the Studite ideal of a rigorous, disciplinary regulation of monastic life, and many who, like Theophanes of Sigriane, were satisfied with the State Church and had no sympathy with the aggressive policy
of Theodore and his fellows.
Methodius had always been an ecclesiastic, and the Studites could not reproach him for any irregularity in his consecration as bishop. He had been a martyr in the cause of imageworship, and he had effectively assisted in its triumph. But his promotion to the Patriarchate was not pleasing to the Studite monks. His sympathies were with the other party, and he was prepared to carry on the tradition of Tarasius and Nicephorus. We can well understand that his intimacy with the Emperor Theophilus, with whom he agreed to differ on the iconoclastic question, was far from commending him to the stricter brethren. The Studites were prepared to be critical, and from the very beginning his administration was the subject
of adverse comment or censure.1 He desired to conciliate them, and the bones of their revered abbot Theodore were brought back for interment at Studion, with great solemnity. But the satisfaction of the monks at this public honour to their abbot was mitigated, if it was not cancelled, by the translation, at the same time, of the remains of Nicephorus to the Church of the Apostles. They recalled his uncanonical consecration, they recalled his condonation of "adultery." But if he could not conciliate them, the Patriarch was determined to crush their rebellious spirit. He called upon them to anathematize all that Theodore had written against Tarasius and Nicephorus, and he urged that Theodore had himself practically revoked his own strong language, had been reconciled with Nicephorus, and in fact changed his opinion. But the Studites obstinately refused, and Methodius asserted his Patriarchal authority. "You are monks," he said," and you have no right to question the conduct of your bishops; you must submit to them." 3 He pronounced against the rebellious brethren not the simple anathema, but the curse, the katathema, of the Church. The struggle seems to have ended with concessions on the part of the Patriarch.*
The difficulties which troubled the short administration of Methodius possess a significant bearing on the more serious ecclesiastical strife which marked the reign of his successor, and which led, indirectly, to the great schism between the Eastern and the Western Churches. The two opposing parties of Ignatius and Photius represent the same parties which distracted the Patriarchate of Methodius, and the struggle is thus a
'Methodius was blamed especially for too indulgent treatment of repentant iconoclasts, and for ordaining new bishops and priests without a sufficient investigation of their quali fications. For the disputes see Vita Joannicii, c. 51, 52, 57, and Vita Methodii, 257-260. They are discussed by Uspenski, Ocherki, 83 sqq.; Lebedev, Istoriia, 17-19; Hergenrother, i. 352 sqq.; but best by Dobschütz, Meth. u. die Stud.
See Theophanes, De exsilio Nicephori; Methodius, Ad Studitas, 129398 (and the Synodica in Pitra, Jur. ecc. Gr. 2, 361); Dobschütz, 42 sqq.
Narratio de Tar. et Niceph. 1853.
5 His difficulties are illustrated by a despondent letter which he wrote to the Patriarch of Jerusalem (see Bibliography). He expresses his disappointment at the unbecoming and insolent conduct of the repentant iconoclastic clergy. His Patriarchate was also troubled by the heresy of Zêlix, or Lizikos, an Imperial secretary (Gen. 85; Vita Method. 282), who considered Jesus Christ to be a creature (KTlapa), refused the title of Theotokos to the Virgin, and rejected the vivificous cross. These dangerous opinions were suppressed, and Zêlix and his followers reconciled to orthodoxy.
continuation of the same division which had vexed Tarasius and Nicephorus, although the immediate and superficial issues are different.1 When we apprehend this continuity, we are able to see that the particular question which determined the course of the conflict between Photius and Ignatius only rendered acute an antagonism which had existed for more than half a century.2
Methodius seems to have availed himself of the most popular kind of literature, edifying biographies of holy men, for the purpose of his struggle with the Studites. Under his auspices, Ignatius the Deacon composed the Lives of Tarasius and Nicephorus, in which the troubles connected with the opposition of Studion are diligently ignored. The ecclesiastical conflicts of the period are, indeed, reflected, more by hints and reticences than direct statements, in the copious hagiographical productions of the ninth century, to which reference is frequently made in this volume.
On the death of Methodius, the Empress Theodora and her advisers chose his successor from among three monks of illustrious birth, each of whom, if fortune had been kind, might have worn the Imperial crown. Nicetas, a son of the Emperor Michael I., had been tonsured after his father's death, had taken the name of Ignatius, and had founded new monasteries in the Islands of the Princes,, over which he presided as abbot.1 Here he and his family, who had not been despoiled of their wealth, afforded refuge to imageworshippers who were driven from the capital. The sons of
1 Hergenrother (i. 353) saw that there was a connexion between the quarrels which vexed Methodius and those which troubled his successor. The continuity of the parties has been worked out by Uspenski, op. cit. 81 sqq., and more fully by Lebedev, op. cit. § 1.
2 It is noteworthy that Methodius was a Sicilian, and that a SicilianGregory Asbestas-was to play a leading part in the.opposition to Ignatius. For at an earlier period we find traces of antagonism between Sicilian monks and the Studites (Michael, Vita Theod. 312; cp. Uspenski, op. cit. 81-82).
3 See the illuminating article of v. Dobschütz (referred to in the preceding notes), where the hagiographies
the Emperor Leo V., to whom the family of Ignatius owed its downfall, had been cast into a monastery in the island of Prote; they renounced the errors of their father, and won a high reputation for virtue and piety. When the Patriarchal throne became vacant, these monks of Imperial parentage, Basil and Gregory, the sons of Leo, and Ignatius, the son of Michael, were proposed for election.1 Ignatius was preferred, perhaps because it was felt that notwithstanding their own merits the shadow of their father's heresy rested upon the sons of Leo; and he was consecrated on July 4, a.d. 847.2
Ignatius had spent his life in pious devotion and monastic organization. Tonsured at the age of thirteen or fourteen, he had made no progress in secular learning, which he distrusted and disliked. He was not a man of the world like Methodius; he had the rigid notions which were bred in cloistral life and were calculated to lead himself and the Church into difficulties when they were pursued in the Patriarchal palace. It is probable that he was too much engaged in his own work to have taken any part in the disputes which troubled Methodius, and Theodora may have hoped that he would succeed in conciliating the opposing parties. But he was by nature an anti-Methodian, and he showed this on the very day of his consecration.
Gregory Asbestas, the archbishop of Syracuse, happened to be in Constantinople at the time. A Sicilian, he was a friend of the Sicilian Methodius, on whom he composed a panegyric, and he was a man of some learning. There was a charge against him of some ecclesiastical irregularity, and it was probably in connexion with this that he had come to the capital. He had taken his place among the bishops who attended in St. Sophia, bearing tapers, to acclaim the Patriarch, and Ignatius ordered him to withdraw, on the ground that his episcopal status was in abeyance until the charge which lay
1 Gen. 99.
2 Methodius died June 14, 847 (Vita Joannic. by Simeon Met. 92; Menol, Bas., sub die, p. 500, where he is said to have been Patriarch for four years three months).
It is said that Ignatius was recommended to the Empress by the hermit Joannikios (Vita Ignatii, 221). As Joannikios had been a strong sup
porter of Methodius, it is probable that Ignatius had taken no part in the opposition to Methodius.
According to Pseudo-Simeon, 671, he had irregularly consecrated Zacharias-a priest whom Methodius had sent to Rome - bishop (of Tauromenium). This author erroneously states that Gregory was deposed by Methodius.