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Macarius of Antioch

Patriarch, deposed in 681

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Macarius of Antioch , Patriarch, deposed in 681. Macarius‘s dignity seems to have been a purely honorary one, for his patriarchate lay under the dominion of the Saracens, and he himself resided at Constantinople. Nothing is known of him before the Sixth General Council which deposed him on account of his Monothelitism, and after the council he disappeared in a Roman monastery. But he has left his mark on ecclesiastical history by bringing about the condemnation of Honorius. In the first session of the council the Roman legates delivered an address, in the course of which they spoke of four successive patriarchs of Constantinople and others as having “disturbed the peace of the world by new and unorthodox expressions”. Macarius retorted, “We did not publish new expressions but what we have received from the holy and ecumenical synods and from holy approved fathers”. He then went through the names given by the legates, adding to them that of Pope Honorius. In this and the following session Macarius came to grief over a passage from St. Cyril of Alexandria and St. Leo, in which, after the manner of a man who sees everything through colored glasses, he tried to find Monothelitism. In the third session some documents which he produced as emanating from Mennas and Pope Vigilius were found to be forgeries, surreptitiously introduced into the Acts of the fifth general council. In the fifth and sixth sessions he and his adherents produced three volumes of patristic testimonies which were sealed up for examination later on. In the eighth session he read his ecthesis, or “profession of faith”, in which the authority of Honorius was appealed to on behalf of Monothelitism. In answer to questions put to him by the emperor he declared that he would rather be cut to pieces and thrown into the sea than admit the doctrine of two wills or operations. In this same session and the following one his patristic testimonies were found to be hopelessly garbled. He was formally deposed at the close of the ninth session.

But Macarius had left the council more work to do. The papal legates seemed determined that Monothelitism should be disposed of once and for all, so, when at the eleventh session the emperor inquired if there was any further business, they answered that there were some further writings presented by Macarius and one of his disciples still awaiting examination. Among these documents was the first letter of Honorius to Sergius. The legates, apparently without any reluctance accepted the necessity of condemning Honorius. They must have felt that any other course of action would leave the door open for a revival of Monothelitism. Their conduct in this respect is the more noteworthy because the Sixth General Council acted throughout on the assumption that (it is no anachronism to use the language of the Vatician Council) the doctrinal definitions of the Roman Pontiff were irreformable. The council had not met to deliberate but to bring about submission to the epistle of Pope St. Agatho—an uncompromising assertion of papal infallibility—addressed to it (see Harnack, “Dogmengesch.”, II, 408; 2nd edition). At the close of the council Macarius and five others were sent to Rome to be dealt with by the pope. This was done at the request of the council and not, as Hefele makes it appear, at the request of Macarius and his adherents (History of Councils, V, 179; Eng. trans.). Macarius and three others who still held out were confined in different monasteries (see Liber Pontif., Leo II). Later on Benedict II tried for thirty days to persuade Macarius to recant. This attempt was quoted in the first session of the Seventh General Council as a precedent for the restoration of bishops who had fallen from the Faith. Baronius gives reasons for supposing that Benedict’s purpose was to restore Macarius to his patriarchal dignity, the patriarch who had succeeded him having just died (Annales, ann. 685). Before taking leave of Macarius we may call attention to the profession of faith in the Eucharist, in his “Ecthesis”, which is, perhaps, the earliest instance of a reference to this doctrine in a formal creed. To Macarius the Eucharist was a palmary argument against Nestorianism. The flesh and blood of which we partake in the

Eucharist is not mere flesh and blood, else how would it be life-giving? It is life-giving because it is the own flesh and blood of the Word, which being God is by nature Life. Macarius develops this argument in a manner which shows how shadowy was the line which separated the Monothelite from the Monophysite. (See Pope Honorius I; Councils of Constantinople.)


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