Elias of Jerusalem
Resisted the attempt of Emperor Anastasius I to abolish the Council of Chalcedon, d. 518
Elias of Jerusalem, d. 518, one of the two Catholic bishops (with Flavian of Antioch) who resisted the attempt of the Emperor Anastasius I (491-518) to abolish the Council of Chalcedon (451). Anastasius spent the greater part of his reign in a vain attempt to impose Monophysitism on his subjects. Unlike his predecessors, who favored Monophysitism merely as a political expedient whereby to conciliate Egypt and the great number of Monophysites in Syria, Anastasius carried on his propaganda apparently from religious conviction. His chief adviser, Marinus, a Syrian, was also a convinced Monophysite. At first the emperor tried to arrange a compromise. The population of Constantinople and nearly all the European provinces were too Chalcedonian for an open attack on that council to be safe. Macedonius II, Patriarch of Constantinople (469-511), submitted so far as to sign Zeno’s Henotikon (482), but refused to condemn the council. Flavian of Antioch also for a time approved of a policy of compromise. The Acacian schism (484-519) still continued during the reign of Anastasius, but the emperor and his patriarch made advances to the Roman See—advances that came to nothing, since the pope always insisted on the removal of the names of former schismatics from the Byzantine diptychs. Gradually Anastasius went over completely to the Monophysites. Severus of Sozopolis, Xenaias of Tahal in Persia, and a great crowd of Syrian and Egyptian Monophysite monks overwhelmed him with petitions to have the courage of his convictions and to break openly with the Dyophysites. In the emperor’s chapel the Trisagion was sung with the famous Monophysite addition (“who was crucified for us”). Macedonius of Constantinople was deposed (511), and an open Monophysite, Timothy I (511-518), took his place. Timothy began a fierce persecution of Catholics. Then the Government summoned a synod at Sidon in 512 that was to condemn the Council of Chalcedon. It was chiefly Elias of Jerusalem who prevented this result.
Elias was an Arab, by birth, who had been educated in a monastery in Egypt. In 457 he was driven out by the Monophysite Patriarch of Alexandria, Timothy the Cat. He then came to Palestine and founded a laura at Jericho. Anastasius of Jerusalem ordained him priest. In 494 Elias succeeded Sallustius as Bishop of Jerusalem and governed the see until 513. He acknowledged Euphemius of Constantinople and refused the communion of Macedonius, the intruder. About 509 the Monophysite Xenaias of Hierapolis tried to make Elias sign a Monophysite formula, and the emperor ordered him to summon a synod that should condemn the Council of Chalcedon. Instead, Elias sent the emperor a Catholic profession that his enemies seem to have falsified on the way. Evagrius says: “He when he had written it sent it to the Emperor by the hands of Dioscorus’ followers” (Monophysites). “And the profession that they then showed contained an anathema against those who speak of two natures in Christ. But the Bishop of Jerusalem, saying that it had been tampered with, sent another without that anathema. Nor is this surprising. For they often corrupted works of the holy Fathers” (H. E., III, xxxi). The Synod of Sidon in 512 was to condemn Chalcedon and depose Elias and Flavian. But they succeeded in persuading the Fathers to do neither (Labbe, Concil., IV, 1414). The Monophysites went on accusing these two of Nestorianism, and Anastasius deposed them, in spite of the protest of Elias‘ legate, Sabas. Flavian was deposed first and Severus, an open Monophysite, was intruded in his place. With this person Elias and the monks of Palestine would have no communion (Evagr., H. E., III, xxxiii). Then the Count of Palestine, Olympus, arrived at Jerusalem and offered Elias his choice of signing a Monophysite formula or being deposed. Elias refused to sign and was banished to Aila on the Red Sea (513). His monks remained faithful to him to the end.
Elias of Jerusalem was the founder of many monasteries in his patriarchate. The common presentation of him as a compromiser is unjust. He was steadfastly Catholic throughout and protested at once against the heretical formula brought to the emperor in his name. The Syrian Uniat Church keeps his feast, with St. Flavian of Antioch, on February 18 (Nilles, Kalend. Man., I, 471). These two are named in the Roman Martyrology on July 4.