Sunday, March 3, 2024

Hieromartyr Eusebius, Bishop of Samosata

The Hieromartyr Eusebius, Bishop of Samosata, stood firmly for the Orthodox Confession of Faith proclaimed at the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea in the year 325. For this he underwent persecution by the Arians, being repeatedly deprived of his see and banished.

The emperor Constantius (337-361), patron of the Arians, learned that Saint Eusebius kept a conciliar decree regarding the election of the Orthodox Archbishop Meletius to the See of Antioch. He commanded him to give up the decree. The saint boldly refused to do as ordered.

The enraged emperor sent a message that if he did not give up the decree, then his right hand would be cut off. Saint Eusebius stretched out both hands to the emissary saying, “Cut them off, but I will not give up the Decree of the Council, which denounces the wickedness and iniquity of the Arians.” The emperor Constantius marveled at the audacity of the bishop, but did not harm him.

During the reign of Julian the Apostate (361-363), even more difficult times ensued, and an open persecution against Christians began. Saint Eusebius, having concealed his identity, went about in the garb of a soldier across the whole of Syria, Phoenicia and Palestine, urging Christians to the Orthodox Faith.

He established priests and deacons in desolated churches, and he consecrated bishops who renounced the Arian heresy. After Julian the Apostate’s death, he was succeeded by the pious emperor Jovian (363-364), during whose reign the persecutions stopped. Returning from exile, Saint Meletius (February 12) convened a local Council at Antioch in the year 379 on the advice of Saint Eusebius.

Twenty-seven bishops participated, and it reaffirmed the Orthodox teaching of the First Ecumenical Council. The Arians signed the conciliar definition, fearing the steadfast defenders of Orthodoxy, the holy hierarchs Meletius, Eusebius and Pelagios, who had great influence with the emperor. After the death of Jovian the Arian Valentinian (364-378) came to power.

The Orthodox were again subjected to persecution. Saint Meletius was banished to Armenia, Saint Pelagius to Arabia, and Saint Eusebius was condemned to exile in Thrace. Having received the imperial decree, Saint Eusebius left Samosata by night so as to prevent tumult among the people that esteemed him.

Having learned of of the bishop’s departure, believers followed after him and with tears entreated him to return. The saint refused the entreaty of those who had come, saying that he had to obey the authorities. The saint urged his flock to hold firm to Orthodoxy, blessed them and set off to the place of exile.

The Arian Eunomios became Bishop of Samosata, but the people did not accept the heretic. The Orthodox would not go to the church and avoided meeting with him. The heretical Arian perceived that it was impossible to attract the independent flock to him.

The emperor Gracian (375-383) came upon the throne, and all the Orthodox hierarchs banished under the Arians were brought back from exile. Saint Eusebius also returned to Samosata and continued with the task of building up the Church. Together with Saint Meletius he supplied Orthodox hierarchs and clergy to Arian places. In the year 380 he arrived in the Arian city of Dolikhina to establish the Orthodox bishop Marinus there.

An Arian woman threw a roof tile at the holy bishop’s head. As he lay dying, he asked her for wine and requested those around not to do her any harm. The body of Saint Eusebius was taken to Samosata and was buried by his flock. The saint’s nephew, Antiochus, succeeded him and the Samosata Church continued to confess the Orthodox Faith, firmly spread through the efforts of the holy Hieromartyr Eusebius.

After the expulsion of Eudoxius from the see of Antioch, the Arians of Antioch, believing that Meletius of Armenia would uphold their doctrines, petitioned the Emperor Constantius to appoint Meletius Bishop of Antioch, while signing a document jointly with the Orthodox of Antioch, unanimously agreeing to Meletius’ appointment (see Feb. 12); this document was entrusted to Eusebius, Bishop of Samosata. Meletius, however, after his Orthodoxy became apparent, was banished, and the Arians persuaded Constantius to demand the document back from Eusebius, as it convicted their perfidy. Imperial officers were sent;

Eusebius refused to surrender the document without the consent of all who had signed it; the officers returned to the Emperor, who furiously sent them back to Eusebius with threats. But so great a zealot for the true Faith, so staunch an enemy of the Arians, so fearless a man of valor was Saint Eusebius, that when Constantius’ officers arrived, threatening to cut off his right hand unless he surrendered the document, Eusebius held out both hands. When Constantius learned of it, he was struck with astonishment and admiration.

This took place in 361, the last year of the reign of Constantius; he was succeeded by Julian the Apostate, who was slain in Persia in 363; Jovian succeeded Julian, and Valentinian succeeded Jovian in 364, making his brother Valens Emperor of the East. Valens, who supported the Arians, exiled Eusebius to Thrace in 374.

The bearer of the edict of Eusebius’ banishment arrived in the evening; Eusebius bade him keep silence, or else the people, learning why he had come, would drown him: and Eusebius, though an old man, left his house alone on foot by night. After Valens was slain at Adrianopole in 378 (see Saint Isaacius, Aug. 3), the holy Eusebius returned from exile under the Emperor Gratian, and he ordained for the churches of Syria men known for their virtue and Orthodoxy.

About the year 380, as he was entering a certain village to enthrone its bishop, whom he had consecrated, an Arian woman threw a clay tile from the roof, and it crushed his head; as he was dying, he bound the bystanders with oaths that they not take the least vengeance. Saint Gregory the Theologian addressed several letters to him (PG 37:87, 91, 126-130); he had such reverence for him, that in one letter to him, commending himself to Saint Eusebius’ prayers, he said, “That such a man should deign to be my patron also in his prayers will gain for me, I am persuaded, as much strength as I should have gained through one of the holy martyrs.

Eusebius was a great denouncer of Arianism. When the throne of Antioch became vacant, Meletius was elected patriarch at the insistence of Eusebius. Meletius was a great beacon of the Church, who, after his death, was found worthy of great praise by St. John Chrysostom.

However, the Arians quickly banished Meletius from Antioch. When Constantine’s pernicious son Constantius died, another much worse than he was crowned–Julian the Apostate. During Julian’s persecution of Christians, St. Eusebius removed his clerical attire, donned a soldier’s uniform and, under the guise of a soldier, visited the persecuted Church throughout Syria, Phoenicia and Palestine, strengthening the Orthodox Faith everywhere and ordaining the necessary priests, deacons and other clergy and, in some places, bishops.

Following the turbulent death of Julian, St. Eusebius counseled Meletius to convene a council in Antioch in 361 A.D., at which twenty-seven hierarchs were present. The Arian heresy was condemned once more and the Faith of Orthodoxy was proclaimed in the same manner as it had been expressed at the First Ecumenical Council [Nicea 325 A.D]. Along with Meletius and Eusebius, St. Pelagius of Laodicea, a well known, chaste and ascetic man, made a great impact at the Council of Antioch.

This council was held during the reign of the pious Emperor Jovian. However, Emperor Jovian soon died and the wicked Valens was crowned, and a persecution of Orthodoxy again ensued. St. Meletius was exiled to Armenia, Eusebius exiled to Thrace, and Pelagius exiled to Arabia. After Valens, Gratian was crowned emperor, and he granted freedom to the Church and recalled the exiled hierarchs to their former sees.

Thus they returned: Meletius to Antioch, Eusebius to Samosata, and Pelagius to Laodicea. At that time many dioceses and parishes were vacant, and Eusebius zealously hastened to find canonical shepherds for the people.

When he came to the town of Doliche to enthrone the newly elected bishop, Marinus, and to denounce the heresy of Arius (which was strong in that town), a fanatical heretic hurled a ceramic tile at Eusebius’ head and mortally wounded him. Thus this great zealot, saint and martyr of Orthodoxy died, to live eternally in the blessedness of Paradise. He suffered in the year 379 A.D.

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