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August 27, 2018

Saint Hosios, Bishop of Corduba (+ 359)

St. Hosios of Corduba (Feast Day - August 27)

Our Holy Father Hosios was probably born in Corduba in Hispania (now Córdoba, Spain), a province of the Roman Empire, although a passage in Zosimus has sometimes been conjectured as the writer's belief that Hosios was an Egyptian.

Elected to the see of Cordova about 295, he narrowly escaped martyrdom in the persecution of Maximian. In 300 or 301 he attended the provincial Synod of Elvira (his name appearing second in the list of those present), and upheld its severe canons concerning such points of discipline as questions concerning clerical marriage, and the treatment of those who had abjured their faith during the recent persecutions. The Synod appears to have had Novationist tendencies and held a strict view that refused readmission to those baptized Christians who had denied their faith or performed the formalities of a ritual sacrifice to the pagan gods under pressures of persecution.

In 313 he appears at the court of Constantine the Great, mentioned by name in a constitution directed by the emperor to Caecilianus of Carthage in that year. He is not listed among the attendees of the Synod of Arles of 314, but may have been in attendance. As early as 320 or 321 Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria, convoked a synod at Alexandria at which more than one hundred bishops from Egypt and Libya anathematized Arius, his deacon. In 323 Hosios was the bearer of Constantine's letter to Bishop Alexander and Arius, in which he urged them to reconciliation. On the failure of the negotiations in Egypt, Constantine convened the First Ecumenical Synod of Nicaea, probably in agreement with Pope Sylvester I, and perhaps on the advise of Hosios. Hosios presided, although it is unclear whether he did so in the name of the Pope or was nominated by Constantine. Hosios took an active part in drawing up its canons and the Nicene Creed. After the Synod, Hosios returned to his diocese in Spain.

For nearly fifty years Hosios was among the foremost bishops of his time. He was held in universal esteem and exercised great influence. In 340 Athanasius of Alexandria was expelled from his diocese by the Arians. After passing three years in Rome, Athanasius went into Gaul to meet with Hosios. From there, they went to the Synod of Sardica, which began in the summer, or, at latest, in the autumn of 343. Hosios presided, proposed the canons, and was the first to sign the Acts of the synod.

After Constantine's death, the prestige given to the Homoousian cause in the Arian controversy by the support of the venerable Hosios led the Arians to bring pressure to bear upon Constantius II, who had him summoned to Milan, where he declined to condemn Athanasius nor to extend communion to Arians. He so impressed the emperor that he was authorized to return home. There is a letter from Pope Liberius to him (ca. 353). More Arian pressure led to Constantius writing a letter demanding whether he alone was going to remain obstinate. In reply, Hosios sent his courageous letter of protest against imperial interference in Church affairs (353), preserved by Athanasius, which led to Hosios' exile in 355 to Sirmium, an imperial center in Pannonia (in modern Serbia). From his exile he wrote to Constantius II his only extant composition, a letter justly characterized by the French historian Louis-Sébastien Le Nain de Tillemont as displaying gravity, dignity, gentleness, wisdom, generosity and in fact all the qualities of a great soul and a great bishop.

Subjected to continual pressure from the Arians the old man, who was near his hundredth year, was weak enough to sign the formula adopted by the third Synod of Sirmium in 357, which involved communion with the Arians but not the condemnation of Athanasius. He was then permitted to return to his Hispanic diocese, where he died in 359.