How many of you realize the doctrine of the Catholic Church regarding the two natures of Jesus Christ? Both divine and human? Today’s saint literally fought to death to support that dogma.
FEBRUARY 18 is the traditional memorial of ST. FLAVIAN, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE (+449).
St. Flavian was a presbyter and sacristan of the church of Constantinople. He was noted for his sanctity and was raised to the bishopric of this city about 446. Patriarch is another name for archbishop. Chrysaphius, the minister to Emperor Theodosius II, was opposed to Flavian and plotted to bring Flavian to disfavor. It was customary for a new bishop to give a gift to the emperor, typically blessed bread. Chrysaphius convinced the emperor to reject the blessed bread and request gold, instead. The only gold Flavian had was the sacred vessels and other treasures of the church, which were not his to give away. This aroused enmity on the emperor’s part. The emperor’s sister, Pulcharia, supported Flavian, so he was not dismissed. But Chrysophius got the support of the Empress for his next move.
The dogma of two natures was supposed to have been settled by this time, but an old archmandrite (abbot) named Eutyches, who ruled several monasteries around Constantinople, had been saying things which were interpreted as being heretical. He refused to admit the two natures in the incarnate Jesus. By 448, Flavian held a synod. Many bishops from all over attended, including the papal legate Hilary, later Pope Hilary. Eutyches dodged attending and, when he finally came, dodged answers. Eventually he was sentenced to degradation, excommunication, and deposition. Flavian wrote to Pope Leo and Leo responded, agreeing with the sentence.
The patriarch of Alexandria, who was always vying with Constantinople for second place behind Rome, annulled the sentence and absolved Eutyches.
Within months, in August 449, a second synod was held, without Flavian. The minutes of the first synod were edited and Eutyches was absolved. When Flavian did come, a number of attendees beat him severely and sent him, immediately, into exile. He died of his wounds within days, and was buried quietly.
You would think that would be the end. But no. Within two years, the emperor suddenly died. Marcian became the new emperor and married the emperor’s sister, Pulcharia. One of the first things she did was to dig up Flavian’s body and bring it back to Constantinople. Witnesses noted that the funeral procession looked like a victory parade, not a funeral. Another council, the Council of Chalcedon, 451, under the design of Pope Leo, took place. Eutyches was banished and the dogma was firmly in place for centuries.
“The Son of God entered into these lowly conditions of the world, after descending from His celestial throne, and though He did not withdraw from the glory of the Father, He was generated in a new order and in a new nativity.” St. Leo to St. Flavian, 449.