Page images
PDF
EPUB

as they are independent they are probable. We are not at present undertaking a criticism ; we present to our readers a summary of their contents, stating that prima facie they have all the appearance of being genuine; and we shall leave a more thorough examination of the subject until the publication of the documents themselves, a publication which we hope will not long be delayed.

We ask our readers, then, to accept provisionally this narrative as the genuine recital of the monk Victor, written for the benefit of the members of his own monastery in Upper Egypt, and incorporating incidentally a number of original documents, some known, some unknown, including the Acta of the Council, and adding many interesting personal details. Admitting its genuineness, its value as an historical authority will also demand investigation, but there is a naïveté about the recital which seems to guarantee even this. We can only wish we had a similar document preserved to us narrating the experiences and impressions of some supporter of Nestorius with an equal opportunity of obtaining information.

I. The first leaf of the manuscript is absent ; but an idea may be formed of its contents. Besides the title it probably contained the preamble mentioning the name of Victor, archimandrite of the great convent of Faou, and also the summons which Cyril addressed to him. In fact, the second leaf begins with the end of this summons. From it we see that the Archbishop of Alexandria entreated—we may almost say ordered - Victor to give up any business that might retain him, for God would care for that, in order that he might at once come to Alexandria. Some few words at the beginning of the leaf lead us to suppose that Cyril had spoken in the first part of his letter of the imperial commands to all bishops to proceed to Ephesus for the feast of Pentecost, to watch over matters of faith. This letter exists in the first part of the Acts of the Council of Ephesus, and may be read in the various conciliar collections. The letter of Cyril to Victor is

. unknown.

At any rate, whatever may have been its contents, Victor hastened to leave Faou,' and embarked on the 26th of Paremhat - March 22 according to our reckoning ?-and

Faou still exists. It is a little village situated to the north of Keneh and Denderah, on the east bank of the Nile.

? The month of Paremhat, Phamenoth, or Baremhoth, began in 431 on February 25, and ended on March 26. Each month consisted of thirty days.

arrived at Alexandria on the 5th of Parmoute ? (March 31), having, as the text observes, taken only ten days in the navigation of the Nile--a speed which was extraordinary for any one, much more for an Egyptian to show in carrying out the orders that had been received. These events happened in the fourteenth year of the indiction, which corresponds with the year 431. Victor stayed with Cyril until the end of Pashons 3 (April 27), on which day he started for Constantinople, where he arrived, after a passage of twenty-four days, on the 25th of the same month-that is, on May 20. During the time that he had spent with Cyril he had received full instructions on the part he had to play with the Emperor, and carried with him an exact memorandum of what he was required to do.

In it Cyril begins by stating that he will start for Ephesus as soon as the feast (of Easter) is passed, and then instructs Victor to take the greatest care that the questions concerning the Faith should be put in the first place in the programme of the Council. He knew, as a matter of fact, that certain bishops wished to present petitions with the object merely of retarding the final judgment against Nestorius. Victor was to obtain from the Emperor that these private matters should be postponed to the end of the Council, or even transferred to Constantinople; but they were not to be brought before the magistrates of Ephesus, or even the court of the province of Asia, for fear that the orthodox should not be treated with fairness. This first point settled, Victor was to see that a guard of orthodox troops was sent to Ephesus, to support the magistrates of the country, to watch over the security of the Council, to provide the bishops with a suitable reception, to guarantee, in fact, the absence of all violence. Amongst the persons that he is in any case to avoid he mentions particularly the Count Irenæus, who has become the partisan of Nestorius, and will do all in his power to win the final victory for his friend. It will be better, then, that Lausus should be sent alone, or, if it is necessary for Irenæus to go, that Lausus should accompany him. The Archbishop of Alexandria reverts at the end of his instructions to the fears that he has for the lives of the bishops; they are strangers to the country,

Parmoute (in Arabic Barmoudah) began March 27 and ended April 25.

2 The distance between Faou and Alexandria is more than 600 miles by river, and the journey would require a pace of sixty miles a day for ten days, a pace which is certainly not usual on the river at the present time.

3 This month extended from April 26 to May 25.

easily exposed to attacks. No doubt Nestorius will do all in his power to prevent the Council from taking place; that with the assistance of the monks of Ephesus he will attempt to drive away the bishops, so as to be able afterwards to accuse them of not having come; no doubt that he will stir up every sort of violence in the city.

On his arrival in Constantinople Victor found the whole city in confusion. Everywhere theological questions were the subject of energetic dispute, and disorder reigned in the streets. This outburst of public feeling was, however, only temporary. It was due to the departure of Nestorius for the Council, and this departure, by a curious coincidence, took place the same day as the arrival of Victor. The news of his arrival spread, he assures us, with great rapidity, and the young king, Theodosius, sent one of his officers to testify to his desire to see him. How far the circumstances may be exaggerated we cannot say ; but it is by no means improbable that the reputation of Cyril's envoy should have inspired some curiosity. A feeling of respect, mingled with a certain amount almost of religious terror, was felt for these men who had deserted all earthly pleasures to live, either alone or with others, in the desert, and had thus acquired an almost supernatural power. And Cyril of Alexandria knew well what he was doing in choosing Victor to represent him at the royal court.

The next day, the 26th of Pashons (May 21), he went to the palace for his audience with the Emperor. The Emperor, after Victor had delivered his message, received him well, and spoke of the pleasure he had in seeing him. We are happy, he said, 'to see your reverence safe and sound, and only by God's grace are we worthy of such an honour. We hope that you will intercede for us before God, and at the same time, although you live far from us, you will ever be present to our spirit. Victor, very much flattered, replied to him, Great indeed are the gifts that God has granted to the world, since we enjoy the safety of your power, which daily progresses in piety and faith. Christ has strengthened your kingdom because you support the holy dogmas of His Church, for you are an example for the whole world, which ought to imitate your faith.'

The Emperor questioned him on the cause of his journey. Victor did not hesitate to reveal it, for it was what he desired. He spoke of the scene that he had witnessed on arriving in the town the evening before, and the mention of the departure of Nestorius naturally led the conversation to the subject of VOL. XXXIII.-NO. I.XV.

H

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the Council. The Emperor, after he had finished his narrative, said, 'I believe that God has sent you to give me advice on the question of the Council. Victor, again flattered, entered fully into the mission with which he was charged, without, however, deserting the language of a courtier.

"God is my witness,' he said, “that I have not so much care for myself as I have for the consolidation of your power ; for the preservation of your orthodox piety is the force which strengthens the whole world. That is why I pray your Majesty to prevent any human power from influencing the Council ; for the law of the Church is not the law of the State. Let the bishops be free to act. They will be sufficient to settle the question conformably to the canons of the Church and the creed of the 318 fathers of the Council of Nicæa. If they do not fulfil their duty it is their affair ; they will have to render account to God, and you have not to concern yourself with it. Only it is necessary to take care that the Council is not disturbed. Issue a proclamation to hinder the action of the count Irenæus ; choose some Christian and make him take an oath not to favour either party ; take care that no appeals be allowed to Council or judge at Ephesus, but that all who have disputes come to Constantinople to be judged by your Majesty.'

The pious Emperor ordered these demands to be carried out as soon as possible. He embraced Victor and took leave of him.

The next day the Emperor invited Victor to a new conference. He presented himself at once, because it was in the highest degree important to send the Count to the Synod with the letters of the Emperor, to avoid violence being done to the pious bishops.' As soon as he had arrived the Em

. peror ordered the draught of the letter he had decided to send to the Council to be brought, for he wished to examine it with Victor before it was transcribed on parchment. The chancellor began to read, but at the first words Victor stopped him. The beginning of the letter was as follows: The Emperors Theodosius and Valentinianus, the victorious, the triumphant, always to be praised, to the pious and holy Nestorius, Cyril, and the other religious bishops. Here Victor interrupted to say

“The beginning of the letter is not as it ought to be ; for, if you put Nestorius at the head of all the bishops, it implies that he is to judge on questions of the Faith, and not to be judged. If you do so there will be trouble and sedition in the Council. According to the proper episcopal rank and the date of their episcopate Cyril ought to be mentioned first, for he was bishop long before Nestorius ; but, to avoid all scandal, it would be better to write simply, “ The pious Emperors, &c., to the bishops united in the metropolitan city of Ephesus."

The Emperor, who by a question had elicited the last part of this reply, ordered the decree to be drawn in this form, and the names to be effaced which were found in the letter.

Unfortunately a leaf is here missing in the manuscript, so that we cannot say if many changes were made in the original text. The letter, which is published in the Acts of the Council of Ephesus, does not mention the name of any bishop. It is probable that the chancellery at Constantinople which drew up the document was altogether friendly to Nestorius and the claims of his see, and that the omission of any name represents a compromise.

en our narrative begins again we find a letter of Cyril to the bishops Komarius and Potamon, and to the archimandrite Victor. This letter is not contained in the documents published in the Acts of the Councils. Cyril tells us that, in obedience to the command of the Emperor, he had left Alexandria with a large number of bishops from Egypt-his enemies said fifty, a considerably larger number than we find in the Acts of the Council. The passage from Alexandria to Ephesus was retarded by a violent storm. Cyril was obliged to touch on the coasts of Lycia ; then he sailed to an island, the name of which is not given ; finally he was able to reach Ephesus in an open boat the Saturday before Pentecost. There he was received with great joy by the people, who conducted him to the church, and afterwards to the house that had been prepared for him. Nestorius arrived the evening of the same day, and immediately suggested that Cyril should join him in assisting at the Synaxis, which began at the lighting of the lamps. When this proposal was made to him Cyril was not alone : he had on his side numerous foreign bishops, without counting those of Egypt, under Flavian—the same, no doubt, who was killed in the council hall of Ephesus eighteen years later. These bishops would not hear of the idea of assisting at the Synaxis with Nestorius, for it was to prejudge a question which had to be decided in the Council. However there were some who thought that it was right to join with Nestorius in the office, so as not to give his supporters a pretext for rebellions or seditions. The others replied that it was necessary before anything else to settle the dogmatic question. It was agreed eventually to leave the duty of officiating at the Synaxis to the ordinary—that is to say, to Memnon, bishop of

« PreviousContinue »