Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Origen and Pelagius

In 399 CE Anastasius I became pope.  He issued directives calling for priests to stand and bow their heads when they read from the Gospels.  He condemned the writings of Origen and fought against these writings throughout his papacy which lasted only two years.  In 401 CE he was succeeded by his son Innocent I.  Melania the Elder returned to Rome that same year and convinced her granddaughter of the same name take up the way of life of the desert hermits. 

Pope Innocent I defended John Chrysostom and consulted with the bishops of Africa concerning the controversies concerning the teachings of Origen and Pelagius.  In 404 CE, the Patriarch of Alexandria called for a synod charged Chrysostum with heresy and forced him into exile.  His supporters revolted and burned the cathedral to the ground.  Olympias wrote letters calling for the decision of the synod to be overturned, but the clergy accused her of inciting the rebellion that led to the destruction of the cathedral. Despite strenuously denying the accusations, Olympias was arrested.  Her properties were confiscated and she was sent into exile.

Chrysostom wrote her a series of letters reminding her that the Church had been redeemed from such trials in the past.  Her letters were full of concern for his well-being and safety.   Chrysostom wrote, “Do not be anxious on my behalf, nor rack yourself with solicitude, on account of the severity of the winter, and the weakness of my digestion...”
During the first winter both of them suffered and nearly died from a recurrent intestinal disorder. 

Medications sent to them from Constantinople seemed only to exacerbate their condition.  Olympias fell into despair and Chrysostom tried to buoy her spirits, but her condition did not improve.  She began to long for death as a release from suffering, and Chrysostom feared that he if he died first she would give in to despair.  Knowing she needed his support helped him to survive the harshest conditions and the beatings of robbers sent to attack him. 

Chrysostom was confined to his bed unable to digest food for months.  Plagued by perpetual vomiting, headache, loss of appetite, and constant sleeplessness, Olympias began to suffer from hallucinations.  Each of them was more concerned about the other than for themselves.  Olympias continued writing letters to the clergy and nobility of Constantinople, urging them to overturn the synod's charge of heresy against Chrysostom.  

Feeling that her advocacy on his behalf was placing her in danger, he begged her to stop writing.  The elite tried to undermine the popular influence of Chrysostom and Olympias, but their popularity only increased during exile.  The Patriarch had Chrysostom moved to an even more desolate location and he died on the way in 407 CE Olympias succumbed to her illness and died soon after she heard of Chrysostom’s death.