Date 343
Council Serdica
Ancient Sources Theodoret, HE 2.8; Hilary, Collectanea Antiariana Parisinia B.2.1-2; [Wickham, pp 41-47] Athanasius, Apologia Secunda 44-49; Collectio Theodosii Diaconi, in the Cod. Veron. LX [Turner, Ecclesiae Occidentalis Monumenta Iuris Antiquissima, 1.2.645-653].

The holy Council, by the grace of God, assembled at Serdica, to their dearly beloved brethren, the bishops and fellow-ministers of the catholic church everywhere, sends health in the Lord.

The Arian madmen have dared repeatedly to attack the servants of God, who maintain the right faith; they attempted to substitute a spurious doctrine, and to drive out the orthodox; and at last they made so violent an assault against the faith, that it became known even to the piety of our most religious Emperors. Accordingly, the grace of God assisting them, our most religious Emperors have themselves assembled us together out of different provinces and cities, and have permitted this holy council to be held in the city of Serdica; to the end that all dissension may be done away, and all false doctrine being driven from us, Christian godliness may alone be maintained by all men. The bishops of the East also attended, being exhorted to do so by the most religious Emperors, chiefly on account of the reports they have so often circulated concerning our dearly beloved brethren and fellow-ministers Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, and Marcellus, Bishop of Ancyro-Galatia. Their calumnies have probably already reached you, and perhaps they have attempted to disturb your ears, that you may be induced to believe their charges against the innocent, and that they may obliterate from your minds any suspicions respecting their own wicked heresy. But they have not been permitted to effect this to any great extent; for the Lord is the Defender of His Churches, Who endured death for their sakes and for us all, and provided access to heaven for us all through Himself. When therefore Eusebius and his fellows wrote long ago to Julius our brother and Bishop of the Church of the Romans, against our forenamed brethren, that is to say, Athanasius, Marcellus, and Asclepas, the bishops from the other parts wrote also, testifying to the innocence of our fellow-minister Athanasius, and declaring that the representations of Eusebius and his fellows were nothing else but mere falsehood and calumny.

And indeed their calumnies were clearly proved by the fact that, when they were invited to a council by our dearly beloved fellow-minister Julius, they would not come, and also by what was written to them by Julius himself. For had they had confidence in the measures and the acts in which they were engaged against our brethren, they would have come. And besides, they gave a still more evident proof of their conspiracy by their conduct in this great and holy council. For when they arrived at the city of Serdica, and saw our brethren Athanasius, Marcellus, Asclepas, and the rest, they were afraid to come to a trial and though they were repeatedly invited to attend, they would not obey the summons. Although all we bishops met together, and above all that man of most happy old age, Ossius, one who on account of his age, his confession, and the many labors he has undergone, is worthy of all reverence; and although we waited and urged them to come to the trial, that in the presence of our fellow-ministers they might establish the truth of those charges which they had circulated and written against them in their absence; yet they would not come when they were thus invited, as we said before, thus giving proof of their calumnies, and almost proclaiming to the world by this their refusal, the plot and conspiracy in which they have been engaged. They who are confident of the truth of their assertions are able to make them good against their opponents face to face. But as they would not meet us, we think that no one can now doubt, however they may again have recourse to their bad practices, that they possess no proof against our fellow-ministers, but calumniate them in their absence, while they avoid their presence.

They fled, beloved brethren, not only on account of the calumnies they had uttered, but because they saw that those had come who had various charges to advance against them. For chains and irons were brought forward which they had used; persons appeared who had returned from banishment; there came also our brethren, kinsmen of those who were still detained in exile, and friends of such as had perished through their means. And what was the most weighty ground of accusation, bishops were present, one of whom brought forward the irons and chains which they had caused him to wear, and others appealed to the death which had been brought about by their calumnies. For they had proceeded to such a pitch of madness, as even to attempt to destroy bishops; and would have destroyed them, had they not escaped their hands. Our fellow-minister, Theodulus of blessed memory, died during his flight from their false accusations, orders having been given in consequence of these to put him to death. Others also exhibited sword-wounds; and others complained that they had been exposed to the pains of hunger through their means. Nor were they ordinary persons who testified to these things, but whole churches, in whose behalf legates appeared, and told us of soldiers with sword in hand, of multitudes armed with clubs, of the threats of judges, of the forgery of false letters. For there were read certain false letters of Theognius and his fellows against our fellow-ministers Athanasius, Marcellus, and Asclepas, written with the design of exasperating the Emperors against them; and those who had then been deacons of Theognius proved the fact. From these men, we heard of virgins stripped naked, churches burnt, ministers in custody, and all for no other end, but only for the sake of the accursed heresy of the Arian madmen, whose communion whoever refused was forced to suffer these things.
When they perceived then how matters lay, they were in a strait what course to choose. They were ashamed to confess what they had done, but were unable to conceal it any longer. They therefore came to the city of Serdica, that by their arrival they might seem to remove suspicion from themselves of such offences. But when they saw those whom they had calumniated, and those who had suffered at their hands; when they had before their eyes their accusers and the proofs of their guilt, they were unwilling to come forward, though invited by our fellow-ministers Athanasius, Marcellus, and Asclepas, who with great freedom complained of their conduct, and urged and challenged them to the trial, promising not only to refute their calumnies, but also to bring proof of the offences which they had committed against their churches. But they were seized with such terrors of conscience, that they fled; and in doing so they exposed their own calumnies and confessed by running away the offences of which they had been guilty.
But although their malice and their calumnies have been plainly manifested on this as well as on former occasions, yet that they may not devise means of practicing a further mischief in consequence of their flight, we have considered it advisable to examine the part they have played according to the principles of truth; this has been our purpose, and we have found them calumniators by their acts, and authors of nothing else than a plot against our brethren in ministry. For Arsenius, who they said had been murdered by Athanasius, is still alive, and is numbered among the living; from which we may infer that the reports they have spread abroad on other subjects are fabrications also. And whereas they spread abroad a rumor concerning a cup, which they said had been broken by Macarius the Presbyter of Athanasius, those who came from Alexandria, the Mareotis, and the other parts, testified that nothing of the kind had taken place. And the Egyptian Bishops who wrote to Julius our fellow-minister, positively affirmed that there had not arisen among them even any suspicion whatever of such a thing.

Moreover, the reports, which they say they have to produce against him, are, as is notorious, ex parte statements; and even in the formation of these very reports, heathens and catechumens were examined; one of whom, a catechumen, said in his examination that he was present in the room when Macarius broke in upon them; and another declared, that Ischyras of whom they speak so much, lay sick in his cell at the time; from which it appears that the mysteries were never celebrated at all, because Catechumens were present, and also that Ischyras was not present, but was lying sick on his bed. Besides, this most worthless Ischyras, who has falsely asserted, as he was convicted of doing, that Athanasius had burnt some of the sacred books, has himself confessed that he was sick, and was lying in his bed when Macarius came; from which it is plain that he is a slanderer. Nevertheless, as a reward for these his calumnies, they have given to this very Ischyras the title of bishop, although he is not even a presbyter. For two presbyters, who were once associated with Melitius, but were afterwards received by the blessed Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria, and are now with Athanasius, appeared before the council, and testified that he was not even a presbyter of Melitius, and that Melitius never had either church or minister in the Mareotis. And yet this man, who has never been even a presbyter, they have now brought forward as a bishop, that by this name they may have the means of overpowering those who are within hearing of his calumnies.

The book of our fellow-minister Marcellus was also read, by which the fraud of Eusebius and his fellows was plainly discovered. For what Marcellus had advanced by way of enquiry, they falsely represented as his professed opinion; but when the subsequent parts of the book were read, and the parts preceding the queries themselves, his faith was found to be correct. He had never pretended, as they positively affirmed, that the Word of God had His beginning from holy Mary, nor that His kingdom had an end; on the contrary he had written that His kingdom was both without beginning and without end. Our fellow-minister Asclepas also produced reports which had been drawn up at Antioch in the presence of his accusers and Eusebius of Cæsarea, and proved that he was innocent by the declarations of the bishops who judged his cause. They had good reason therefore, dearly beloved brethren, for not hearkening to our frequent summons, and for deserting the council. They were driven to this by their own consciences; but their flight only confirmed the proof of their own calumnies, and caused those things to be believed against them, which their accusers, who were present, were asserting and arguing. But besides all these things, they had not only received those who were formerly degraded and ejected on account of the heresy of Arius, but had even promoted them to a higher station, advancing deacons to the presbytery, and of presbyters making bishops, for no other end, but that they might disseminate and spread abroad impiety, and corrupt the orthodox faith.

Their leaders are now, after Eusebius and his fellows, Theodorus of Heraclea, Narcissus of Neronias in Cilicia, Stephanus of Antioch, George of Laodicea, Acacius of Cæsarea in Palestine, Menophantus of Ephesus in Asia, Ursacius of Singidunum in Mœsia, and Valens of Mursa in Pannonia. These men would not permit those who came with them from the East to meet the holy council, nor even to approach the Church of God; but as they were coming to Serdica, they held councils in various places by themselves, and made an engagement under threats, that when they came to Serdica, they would not so much as appear at the trial, nor attend the assembling of the holy council, but simply coming and making known their arrival as a matter of form, would speedily take to flight. This we have been able to ascertain from our fellow-ministers, Macarius of Palestine and Asterius of Arabia, who after coming in their company, separated themselves from their unbelief. These came to the holy council, and complained of the violence they had suffered, and said that no right act was being done by them; adding that there were many among them who adhered to orthodoxy, but were prevented by those men from coming hither, by means of the threats and promises which they held out to those who wished to separate from them. On this account it was that they were so anxious that all should abide in one dwelling, and would not suffer them to be by themselves even for the shortest space of time.
Since then it became us not to hold our peace, nor to pass over unnoticed their calumnies, imprisonments, murders, wounds, conspiracies by means of false letters, outrages, stripping of the virgins, banishments, destruction of the Churches, burnings, translations from small cities to larger dioceses, and above all, the rising of the ill-named Arian heresy by their means against the orthodox faith; we have therefore pronounced our dearly beloved brethren and fellow-ministers Athanasius, Marcellus, and Asclepas, and those who minister to the Lord with them, to be innocent and clear of offence, and have written to the diocese of each, that the people of each church may know the innocence of their own bishop, and may esteem him as their bishop and expect his coming.

And as for those who like wolves have invaded their churches, Gregory at Alexandria, Basil at Ancyra, and Quintianus at Gaza, let them neither give them the title of bishop, nor hold any communion at all with them, nor receive letters from them, nor write to them. And for Theodorus, Narcissus, Acacius, Stephanus, Ursacius, Valens, Menophantus, and George, although the last from fear did not come from the East, yet because he was deposed by the blessed Alexander, and because both he and the others were connected with the Arian madness, as well as on account of the charges which lie against them, the holy council has unanimously deposed them from the Episcopate, and we have decided that they not only are not bishops, but that they are unworthy of holding communion with the faithful.

For they who separate the Son and alienate the Word from the Father, ought themselves to be separated from the catholic church and to be alien from the Christian name. Let them therefore be anathema to you, because they have ‘corrupted the word of truth.’ It is an apostolic injunction, ‘If any man preach any other Gospel unto you than that you have received, let him be accursed.’ Charge your people that no one hold communion with them, for there is no communion of light with darkness; put away from you all these, for there is no concord of Christ in Belial. And take heed, dearly beloved, that you neither write to them, nor receive letters from them; but desire rather, brethren and fellow-ministers, as being present in spirit with our council, to assent to our judgments by your subscriptions, to the end that concord may be preserved by all our fellow-ministers everywhere. May Divine Providence protect and keep you, dearly beloved brethren, in sanctification and joy.

I, Ossius, Bishop, have subscribed this, and all the rest likewise.

Translation from Athanasius, Apologia 44-9 (NPNF2vol. 4, pp. 123-7)

Adapted by SMT

Last updated: 2-28-2012

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