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Eustathius of Sebaste

One of the chief founders of monasticism in Asia Minor, b. about 300; died about 377

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Eustathius of Sebaste, born about 300; died about 377. He was one of the chief founders of monasticism in Asia Minor, and for a long time was an intimate friend of St. Basil. He was censured because of the exaggerated asceticism of his followers, hesitated all his life between various forms of Arianism, and finally became a leader of the Pneumatomachians condemned by the First Council of Constantinople (381). Eustathius was apparently the son of Eulalius, Bishop of Sebaste, the metropolis of Armenia (the Roman province). He studied under Arius (Basil, Ep. ccxxiii, 3; ccxliv, 3; cclxiii, 3), and was known from the beginning as one who sympathized with the heretic. He was ordained priest and then founded a community of monks. Partly because of the idea common at that time (Fortescue, The Greek Fathers, London, 1908, pp. 57, 94) that no one could be both a priest and a monk, and partly also because of the extravagance of his community, he was suspended from his priesthood by a synod at Neo-Caesarea. Later, in 340, a synod at Gangra condemned his followers (tous peri Eustathion) for exaggerated and extravagant asceticism. These monks forbade marriage for any one, refused to communicate with married priests, and taught that no married person can be saved; they fasted on Sundays and would not do so on the appointed fast days; they claimed special grace for their own conventicles and dissuaded people from attending the regular services of the Church. It was evidently a movement like that of the Encratites and Montanists. Against these abuses the council drew up twenty canons, but without directly censuring Eustathius (Hefele, “Conciliengesch.”, 1st ed., II, 777 sq.; Braun, “Die Abhaltung der Synode von Gangra” in “Hist. Jahrb.”, 1895, pp. 586 sq.). Sozomen (Hist. Eccl., III, xiv, 36) says that Eustathius submitted to this council and gave up his eccentricities. However, a synod at Antioch (341?) condemned him again for “perjury” (Sozomen, IV, xxiv, 9), perhaps because he had broken his promise made on oath. About the year 356 he became Bishop of Sebaste. St. Basil was at that time (357-358) studying the life of monks before founding his own community at Annesus, and he was much attracted by Eustathius‘s reputation as a zealous leader of monasticism. For years, till about 372 or so, Basil believed in and defended his friend. But Eustathius was anything but a Catholic. Once, apparently in 366, he persuaded the pope (Liberius, 352-366) of his orthodoxy by presenting a confession of the Nicene faith (Socrates, IV, xii); otherwise he wavered between every kind of Arianism and semi-Arianism and signed all manner of heretical and contradictory formulae. In 385 a synod at Melitene deposed him, it seems rather for the old question of his rigorism than for Arianism. Meletius (later the famous Bishop of Antioch) succeeded him at Sebaste. But the Semi-Arians still acknowledged Eustathius. He wandered about, was present at many synods (at Seleucia in 359, later at Smyrna, in Pisidia, Pamphylia, etc.—Socrates, IV, xii, 8), and signed many formulae. If one can speak of any principle in so inconsistent a person, it would seem that Eustathius was generally on the side of one of the forms of Semi-Arianism, opposed to Catholics on the one hand and to extreme Arians on the other. St. Basil found him out and broke with him definitively at last (about 372 or 373). By this time Eustathius had taken up the cause of the people who denied the consubstantial nature of the Holy Ghost (Socrates, Hist. Eccl., II, xiv, 6; Basil, Ep. cciii, 3). We hear of him last about 377; he was then a very old man (Basil, Ep. cciv, 4; cciii, 3). Besides his activity as a founder of monasticism in Roman Armenia, Pontus, and Paphlagonia (Sozomen, III, xiv, 36), Eustathius had merit as an organizer of works of charity, builder of almshouses, hospitals, refuges, etc. (Epiphanius, Haer., lxxv, 1; Sozomen, III, xiv, 36).



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