December 30, 2020

Saint Anysios, Bishop of Thessaloniki (+ 407)

St. Anysios of Thessaloniki (Feast Day - December 30)

Saint Anysios was the disciple and co-worker of his holy predecessor, Bishop Ascholios of Thessaloniki (Jan. 23). Saint Ambrose of Milan congratulated him personally, as well as the clergy, and people of Thessaloniki on his succession to the see of Thessaloniki in 383 (Letters 15 and 16). He commended his zeal and expressed great hopes for his episcopate. In Letter 15, Saint Ambrose compares the succession of Anysios to the succession of the Prophet Elisha:

"Like Elijah he [Ascholios] was carried up to heaven, not in a chariot of fire, nor by horses of fire, (unless haply it was but that we saw them not) nor in any whirlwind in the sky, but by the will and in the calm of our God, and with the jubilation of the holy Angels who rejoiced that such a man had come among them. Surely we cannot doubt this, when all other particulars agree so well. For at the very moment when he was being taken up, he let fall so to speak the vestment which he wore, and invested with it holy Anysios his disciple, and clothed him with the robes of his own priesthood. His merits and graces I do not now hear for the first time, nor have I first learnt them from your letters, but I recognized them in what you wrote. For as if foreknowing that he would be his successor, Acholios designated him as such by tokens, though in open speech he concealed it; saying that he had been aided by his care, labour, and ministry, thus seeming to declare him his coadjutor, one who would not come as a novice to the chief office of the priesthood, but as a tried performer of its duties. Well does that saying in the Gospel befit him, 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.'"

When Eastern Illyria came under the administration of the emperor in Constantinople, Pope Damasus of Rome asserted his rights to preserve previous jurisdiction over Illyria by appointing Anysios his Vicar Apostolic in Illyricum on December 11, 384. These privileges were later confirmed by Pope Innocent when he succeeded to the Roman see in 401. As Vicar Apostolic in Illyricum, Anysios was to oversee the ordinations of all clergy in Illyria. In this capacity, Bishop Anysios and the bishops of Illyria condemned Bonosus, Bishop of Sardica, as a heretic after his case was referred to them by the Synod of Capua. Bonosus had taught against the perpetual virginity of the Virgin Mary.

Bishop Anysios was also among the bishops who stood by Saint John Chrysostom against Theophilus of Alexandria during the efforts by Theophilus to depose Chrysostom. He even went to Constantinople to uphold his cause. In 404, together with fifteen other Macedonian bishops, he appealed to Pope Innocent on Chrysostom's behalf after he had been exiled from his see. Chrysostom wrote Anysios a letter in 406 thanking him for his courage and efforts, and encouraged him to continue in his struggle for the good order of the Church (Letters 162 and 163).

It was during the episcopate of Anysios that the shocking massacre took place in Thessaloniki for which Emperor Theodosius subsequently did penance when he was in Milan and encountered Saint Ambrose.

The virtue of Bishop Anysios were highly praised by both Pope Innocent I and Pope Leo the Great.

Bishop Anysios died at an advanced age about the year 407.