BEWARE lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Today is the feast of St Paul, Patriarch of Constantinople from about 337, and a martyr for our faith that Jesus Christ is truly God before the ages.
‘Arius dares to call you a creature’
St Paul was a determined opponent of Arianism, the doctrine of the Alexandrian priest Arius.
Arius could not accept that Jesus Christ is God incarnate. The Son of God, he claimed, could only be the first of God’s creatures, not everlasting God himself.
YOU were born from the womb before the morning star, without a mother, from the Father before the ages, though Arius dares to call you a creature, and does not glorify you as God, insanely joining you, the Creator, with the creatures.
Vespers on the evening before the Sunday of the Fathers of Nicaea. (Anastasis.)
The Council of Nicaea in AD 325 was called to resolve the bitter dispute, but Arius’s followers refused to accept its decree.
The Arians were able to gain a foothold in the Church by electing and imposing their own senior clergy, secure in the knowledge (as St Athansius put it) that they could “boast of patronage of friends and authority of [Emperor] Constantius”.
St Paul was deposed on more than one occasion, taking refuge in Rome where he found no less than St Athanasius himself sharing his exile.
The Arians eventually murdered him, even as he was celebrating the Liturgy in the little house where they held him prisoner.
Simplicity of faith, not wordy contention
St Ambrose of Milan blamed Arius’s error on putting human cleverness before Gospel simplicity.
FOR they store up all the strength of their poisons in dialetical disputation, which by the judgment of philosophers is defined as having no power to establish aught, and aiming only at destruction.
But it was not by dialectic that it pleased God to save His people; for the kingdom of God consisteth in simplicity of faith, not in wordy contention. (cf. 2 Cor 1:12)
The Life-giving blessing
I AM the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
St Cyril of Alexandria (+444) later said something which goes straight to the heart of why Arianism would have been a mortal blow to the Gospel, and the Eucharist.
IF thou remove the Life-giving Word of God from the Mystical and true Union with His Body and sever them utterly, how canst thou shew that it is still Life-giving?
And Who was it who said, He that eateth My Flesh and drinketh My Blood, abideth in Me and I in him? […]
Consider then how He abideth in us and maketh us superior to corruption, infusing Himself into our bodies, as I said, through His own Flesh too, which is true meat, whereas the shadow in the Law and the worship under it possess not the truth.
The plan of the Mystery is simple and true, not overwrought with varied devices of imaginations unto unholiness but simple as I said.
Five Tomes Against Nestorius, IV.5. Source.
‘Christ is Risen’
WHEN the women who were disciples of the Lord learnt the bright message of the Resurrection from the Angel, they cast aside the ancestral sentence, and spake triumphantly unto the Apostles: Death is spoiled, Christ God is risen, granting unto the world the Great Mercy.
GLORY be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
Both now, and forever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
THE mystery hidden from the age, and which the angels knew not, hath through thee O Theotokos been full revealed to them that are on the earth: God made flesh, in a union without confusion, who also willingly accepted the Cross for our sakes, who through it raised up what he had fashioned long before, and saved our souls from death.
At Matins on the Feast of St Paul of Constantinople, Confessor. My amateur translation, from Analogion.