October 15, 2009

The Orthodoxy of Lucian of Antioch

St. Lucian (Loukianos) of Antioch (Feast Day - October 15)

By John Sanidopoulos

You know we are living in evil times when scholars seek to exonerate people like Origen of Alexandria and condemn St. Lucian of Antioch for being a heretic. Honest scholars know they have no basis for their speculations, but since they consider themselves better arbiters of Orthodoxy than the Church Fathers we are expected to take their speculations as fact. The philosophy they base their speculations on are that "history is written by the winners" and for this reason any Orthodox history is to be distrusted at the expense of the "underdog".

The underdogs in this case are the heretical Arians who claimed as the teacher of their heresy to be Lucian of Antioch. However the Orthodox also claim him as one of their own. For contemporary scholars, the claim of the Orthodox must be immediately dismissed if the underdog heretics oppose the Orthodox view of history. Because Lucian left no writings, the claims of neither can be objectively justified. The only thing that can be objectively established is that Lucian lived an exemplary holy life and after being accused of heresy was received back into the Church communion and valued this communion till the end of his martyric life, for which he suffered the torture of hunger till death for the glory of God. Heresy is something he tried to avoid and based his entire ministry in combating. This is why he opposed the philosophical speculations of the Alexandrian School, this is why he revised the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, and this is why he submitted himself to the Church when he was (probably falsely) accused of Monarchianism.

He was accused of being the father of Arianism based on an encyclical of 321, promulgated by Alexander of Alexandria, that associates Lucian with Paul of Samosata. But Henry Melville Gwatkin responds: "It was no love of heathenism, but a real difficulty of the gospel which led him to form a new theory. His aim was not to lower the person of the Lord or to refuse him worship, but to defend that worship from the charge of polytheism. Starting from the Lord's humanity, he was ready to add to it everything short of the fullest deity. He could not get over the philosophical difficulty that one who is man cannot be also God, and therefore a second God" (Studies of Arianism, London, 1900).

Lucian was reconciled with the Orthodox Church in 285, before Arianism was declared a heresy. Church authorities officially accepted a conciliatory statement of belief by Lucian in 289 and, posthumously, in 341, at an ecclesiastical synod in Antioch. At the Council of 341 a Creed written by Lucian was presented that defended his Orthodoxy and was preserved by Rufinus (Historia Eccles., 9:6). In his History of the Christian Church, Philip Schaff offers the explanation that Lucian was “a critical scholar with some peculiar views on the Trinity and Christology which were not in harmony with the later Nicene orthodoxy, but that his heroic defense of the Church and his martyrdom under the Romans restored his legitimacy in the Church." Though this may initially have been true of Lucian, I would go further and accept the decision of the Synod of 341 which defended the Orthodoxy of St. Lucian and vindicated him of the accusations of Bishop Alexander of Alexandria. Though he cannot be viewed as a Father of the Church, he certainly deserves to be acknowledged as a Saint worthy of veneration and emulation according to the tradition handed down concerning him by the Church.

St. Nikolai Velimirovich gives us this brief biography of St. Lucian:

"Born of noble parents in Syrian Samosata, he received in his youth a very wide education, both secular and spiritual, and was a man eminent both for his learning and for his strict ascetic life. Giving his goods away to the poor, he supported himself by the writing of works of instruction, feeding himself thus by the work of his hands. He did a very great service to the Church in the work which he undertook of the correcting of the Hebrew text of the Scriptures in many places, texts which heretics had taken the opportunity to twist and corrupt according to their wicked teaching. Because of his learning and his great spirituality, he was ordained priest in Antioch. In the time of Maximian's persecution, when St Anthimus of Nicomedia and St Peter of Alexandria were put to torture, St Lucian was also on the list of those whom the Emperor wanted to have killed. Lucian fled the city and hid, but a jealous heretic priest, Pancratius, revealed his whereabouts. The persecution was terrible at that time, and not even tiny children were safe. Two boys, who would not eat food offered to idols, were thrown into a bath of boiling water, where, under torture, they gave their holy souls into God's hands. A disciple of Lucian's, Pelagia (see Oct. 8th), to preserve her virginal purity from the dissolute authorities, gave her soul into God's hands, and her body fell from the roof of her house. Lucian was taken to Nicomedia. to appear before the Emperor. On the way, he managed to bring forty soldiers to Christ by his counsel, and they all died a martyr's death. After interrogation and flogging, St Lucian was thrown into prison, where he was tortured by hunger. 'He scorned hunger', writes St John Chrysostom of Lucian. 'Let us also scorn luxury and destroy the lordship of the stomach; that we may, when the time comes for us to meet such torture, be prepared beforehand, by the help of a lesser ascesis, to show ourselves worthy of glory in the hour of battle.' He received Communion in prison on the Theophany, and on the following day gave his soul into God's hands, on January 7th, 312."

Eusebius writes of St. Lucian (Church History 8:13.2):

"Among the martyrs at Antioch was Lucian, a presbyter of that parish, whose entire life was most excellent. At Nicomedia, in the presence of the emperor, he proclaimed the heavenly kingdom of Christ, first in an oral defense, and afterwards by deeds as well."

Creed of St. Lucian

We believe, in accordance with the evangelic and apostolic tradition, in one God the Father Almighty, the Maker and Provider of all things.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ His Son, the only-begotten God, through whom all things were made, who was begotten of the Father before all ages, God of God, Whole of Whole, One of One, Perfect of Perfect, King of King, Lord of Lord, the living Word, Wisdom, Life, True Light, Way, Truth, Resurrection, Shepherd, Door, unchangeable and unalterable, the immutable likeness of the Godhead, both of the substance and will and power and glory of the Father, the first-born of all creation, who was in the beginning with God, the Divine Logos, according to what is said in the Gospel, 'and the Word was God' through whom all things were made and in whom 'all things consist'. Who in the last days came down from above and was born of a Virgin, according to the Scriptures, and became man, the Mediator between God and man, and the Apostle of our Faith, and the Prince of Life; as He says: 'I have come down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me'; who suffered for us; and rose for us the third day, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father, and again is coming with glory and power to judge the living and the dead.

And in the Holy Spirit given for consolation and sanctification and perfection to those who believe; as also our Lord Jesus Christ commanded His disciples, saying: 'Go ye, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit' -- clearly of a Father who is really a father, and of a Son who is really a son, and of the Holy Spirit who is really a holy spirit, these names being assigned, not vaguely nor idly, but indicating accurately the special personality (hypostasy), order, and glory of those named, so that in personality they are three, but in harmony one.

Having then this faith, having it both from the beginning and to the end, before God and Christ we anathematize all heretical false doctrine. And if any one, contrary to the right faith of the Scriptures, teaches and says that there either is or has been a period or time or age before the Son of God was begotten, let him be accursed (anathema). And if any one says that the Son is a creature as one of the creatures, or generated as one of the things generated, or made as one of the things made, and not as the Divine Scripture have handed down each of the things aforesaid, or if any one teaches or preaches a gospel other than we have received, let him be accursed.

For we truly and clearly both believe and follow all things from the Holy Scriptures that have been transmitted to us by the Prophets and Apostles.