Orthodox Church Fathers: Patristic Christian Theology Classics Search Engine

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

The Definition of the Holy and Ecumenical Synod of Ephesus Against the Impious Messalians

Who are Also Called Euchetae and Enthusiasts.

Note on the Messalians or Massalians.

The Definition of the Holy and Ecumenical Synod of Ephesus Against the Impious Messalians

Who are Also Called Euchetae and Enthusiasts.

(Found in Latin only. Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. III., col. 809.)

When the most pious and religious bishops, Valerian and Amphilochius had come to us, they proposed that we should consider in common the case of the Messalians, that is the Euchetes or Enthusiasts, who were flourishing in Pamphylia, or by what other name this most contaminating heresy is called. And when we were considering the question, the most pious and religious bishop Valerian, presented to us a synodical schedule which had been drawn up concerning them in the great city of Constantinople, under Sisinnius of blessed memory: What we read therein was ap-proved by all, as well composed and as a due presentation of the case. And it seemed good to us all, and to the most pious bishops Valerian and Amphilochius and to all the most pious bishops of the provinces of Pamphylia and Lycaonia, that all things contained in that Synodical chart should be confirmed and in no way rescinded; also that the action taken at Alexandria might also be made firm, so that all, those who throughout the whole province are of the Messalian or Enthusiastic heresy, or suspected of being tainted with that heresy, whether clerics or laymen, may come together; and if they shall anathematize in writing, according to the decrees pronounced in the aforesaid synod [their errors], if they are clergymen they may remain such; and if laymen they may be admitted to communion. But if they refuse to anathematize, if they were presbyters or deacons or in any other ecclesiastical grade, let them be cast out of the clergy and from their grade, and also from communion; if they be lay-men let them be anathematized.

Furthermore those convicted of this heresy are no more to be permitted to have the rule of our monasteries, lest tares be sown and increase. And we give command that the most pious bishops Valerian and Amphilochius, and the rest of the most reverend bishops of the whole province shall pay attention that this decree be carried into effect. In addition to this it seemed good that the filthy book of this heresy, which is called the "Asceticon," should be anathematized, as composed by heretics, a copy of which the most religious and pious Valerian brought with him. Likewise anything savouring of their impiety which may be found among the people, let it be anathema.

Moreover when they come together, let there be commended by them in writing such things as are useful and necessary for concord, and communion, and arrangement (dispositionem vel dispensationem). But should any question arise in connexion with the present business, and if it should prove to be difficult and ambiguous, what is not approved by the most pious bishops Valerian and Amphilochius, and the other bishops throughout the province, they ought to discuss all things by reference to what is written. And if the most pious bishops of the Lycians or of the Lycaonians shall have been passed over; nevertheless let not a Metropolitan be left out of whatever province he may be. And let these things be inserted in the Acts so that if any have need of them they would find how also to expound these things morediligently to others.

Note on the Messalians or Massalians.

(Tillemont, Memoires, Tom. VIII., Seconde Partie. Condensed.)

St. Epiphanius distinguishes two sorts of persons who were called by the name of Messalians, the one and the more ancient were heathen, the other were Christian in name.

The Messalians who bore the Christian name had no beginning, nor end, nor chief, nor fixed faith. Their first writers were Dadoes, Sabas, Adelphus, Hermes, Simeon and some others. Adelphus was neither monk nor clerk, but a layman. Sabas had taken the habit of an anchorite and was surnamed "the Eunuch," because he had mutilated himself. Adelphus was of Mesopotamia and was considered their leader, so that they are sometimes called "Adelphians." They are also called "Eustathians." "Euchites" is the Greek equivalent of "Messalians" in Hebrew. They were also called "Enthusiasts" or "Corentes" because of the agitation the devils caused them, which they attributed to the Holy Spirit.

St. Epiphanius thought that these heretics sprang up in the time of Constance, although Theodoret does not put them down until the days of Valentinian. They came from Mesopotamia, but spread as far as Antioch by the year 376.

They pretended to renounce the world, and to give up their possessions, and under the habit of monks they taught Manichaean impieties, and others still more detestable.

Their principal tenet was that everyone inherited from his ancestors a demon, who had possession of his soul from the moment of his birth, and always led it to evil. That baptism cut away the outside branches of sin, but could not free the soul of this demon, and that therefore its reception was useless. That only constant prayer could drive out this demon. That when it was expelled, the Holy Spirit descended and gave visible and sensible marks of his presence, and delivered the body from all the uprisings of passion, and the soul from the inclination to evil, so that afterwards there was no need of fasting, nor of controlling lust by the precepts of the Gospel.

Besides this chief dogma, gross errors, contrary to the first principles of religion, were attributed to them. That the divinity changed itself in different manners to unite itself to their souls. They held that the body of Christ was infinite like his divine nature; they did not hesitate to say that his body was at first full of devils which were driven out when the Word took it upon him.1 They claimed that they possessed clear knowledge of the state of souls after death, read the hearts and desires of man, the secrets of the future and saw the Holy Trinity with their bodily eyes. They affirmed that man could not only attain perfection but equal the deity in virtue and knowledge.

They never fasted, slept men and women together, in warm weather in the open streets. But certain say that before attaining to this liberty of license three years of mortification were required,

The most well-known point of their discipline is that they forbade all manual labour as evil, and unworthy of the spiritual.

Harmenopulus in his Basilicoe (Tom. I. Lib. ix.) says that they held the Cross in horror, that they refused to honour the Holy Virgin, or St. John the Baptist, or any of the Saints unless they were Martyrs; that they mutilated themselves at will, that they dissolved marriages, that they foreswore and perjured themselves without scruple, that women were appointed as mistresses of the sect to instruct and govern men, even priests.

Although so opposed to the faith of the Church, yet for all this the Messalians did not separate themselves from her communion. They did not believe in the Communion as a mystery which sanctifies us, which must be approached with fear and faith, but only came to the holy Table to hide themselves and to pass for Catholics, for this was one of their artifices. When asked, they had no hesitation in denying all that they believed, and were willing to anathematize those who thought with them. And all this they did without fear, because they were taught they had attained perfection, that is impassibility.Vide Theodoret, H. E., Lib. iv., cap. xi.Photius tells us that John of Antioch wrote against these heretics.

St. Maximus the Abbot speaks of this heresy as still existing in the VIIth Century, and as practising the most abominable infamies. Photius bears witness of its resuscitation in his days in Cappadocia with its wonted corruptions. Harmenopulus remarks that a certain Eleutherius of Paphlagonia had added to it new crimes, and that in part it became the source of the sect of the Bogomiles, so well known in the decadence of the Greek empire.

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page