December 16, 2019

Saint Memnon, Archbishop of Ephesus

St. Memnon of Ephesus (Feast Day - December 16)


Divine Memnon is remembered by God,
And for this he is deemed worthy.

Our Holy Father Memnon (or Memnos) was Metropolitan of Ephesus during the Third Ecumenical Synod of 431, which he hosted in Ephesus. He participated as an associate of Saint Cyril of Alexandria and gathered Bishops around him that supported the Orthodox teaching against Nestorius of Constantinople and John of Antioch. Memnon opened the Synod before Nestorius' supporter John of Antioch and his Bishops and well as the Bishops of the West had arrived. Nestorius condemned this action and refused to appear with his Bishops until all were present. He also blamed Memnon for closing the churches of Ephesus to him. The Synod condemned Nestorius and his followers, while Nestorius and John held their own Synod which condemned Cyril and Memnon.

Memnon hosted the second session of the Synod in his episcopal palace and at the fourth session Cyril and Memnon presented a formal protest against John of Antioch for convening a separate Synod, which condemned both of them - Memnon for inciting violence and Cyril for being an Arian, Apollinarian and Eunomian. At the fifth session in the Church of the Theotokos, John of Antioch was excommunicated by Cyril, Memnon and their supporting Bishops. With both sides having condemned each other in their separate Synods, the Bishops left Ephesus.

Emperor Theodosius II eventually had John, Cyril and Memnon deposed and kept in close confinement, until the emperor was convinced to accept the Synod of Ephesus held by Memnon and Cyril, and in turn had Cyril and Memnon restored, while John and Nestorius were excommunicated and exiled.

A letter of Saint Memnon to the clergy of Constantinople alone exists of his writings (P.G. 77). In the Synodal Letter to the Clergy of Constantinople prior to the restoration of Cyril and Memnon by the emperor, the following was written:

"For we have not condemned the aforesaid most holy and most dear to God Bishops Cyril and Memnon but deem them worthy of the greatest glory and of crowns, for they alone and first, before all the rest, were moved with godly zeal and made use of every means to cut off the preacher of the impiety, the most impious Nestorius, and to purge the churches of such defilement. And now we will not suffer ourselves to be separated from the communion of the aforesaid most holy Bishops, but deem it the greatest gain to be exiled with them."

Although Saint Memnon is one of the principle figures of the Third Ecumenical Synod, almost nothing else is known about him outside of what took place during the Synod. Saint Memnon reposed in peace some time before 440.