), was the successor of Gregory of Nazianzus, and the predecessor of John Chrysostom, as bishop of Constantinople. His occupancy of the episcopal chair between two such men would have required extraordinary merit to make him conspicuous.
But, in truth, though he does not seem to merit the epithet applied to him by Gibbon, " the indolent Nectarius," the fact of his having been appointed at all is the most remarkable thing in his personal history. When Gregory, as has been related [Vol. II. p. 313], resigned his office, A. D. 381, it was during the meeting of the second oecumenical council at Constantinople. Nectarius, a senator, and a man of the highest family, was a native of Tarsus.
The ecclesiastical historians relate that, at this time, he intended to visit his native place, and previously waited on Diodorus, the bishop of Tarsus, who was in Constantinople attending the council. Diodorus, along with the other bishops, was perplexed as to whom they should nominate to the vacant see. Struck by the majestic appearance and the white hair of Nectarius, taking for granted that he had been baptized, Diodorus requested Nectarius to postpone his departure, and recommended him to Flavian. bishop of Antioch, as a fit person to succeed Gregory. Flavian laughed at the strange proposal, but, to oblige his friend, put his name last on the list, which he, as well as the other bishops, presented to the emperor. To the astonishment of all, Theodosius selected Nectarius, and persisted in his choice, even when it was ascertained that he had not yet been baptized.
The bishops at last acceded to the wish of the monarch, who had so stoutly opposed the Arians, while the people, attracted probably by the gentle manners and the venerable appearance of the man, presenting as he did every way a strong contrast to Gregory, loudly applauded the choice. Nectarius was baptized, and, before he had time to put off the white robes of a neophyte, he was declared bishop of Constantinople. Most important matters came under the consideration of the council, over which it is probable he was now called to preside.
He showed his discretion by putting himself under the tuition of Cyriacus, bishop of Adana; but we can hardly believe that he took any active part in the theological questions which were discussed.
It is doubtful whether the canons that were enacted, under the name of the second oecumenical council, were not passed at two different sessions, a second taking place in 382.
But this does not matter much, as they all bear the name of this council.
The principal business transacted in the council, theologically considered, related to the confirming and extending of the Nicene Creed, mainly to meet the opinions of the Macedonians.
The creed thus enlarged is that used at the mass of the Roman Catholic church. Other canons regulated discipline, the restriction of the authority of each bishop to his own diocese, and the restoration of penitent heretics.
The most important article of all, however, historically considered, was one which was conceded not more to the natural propriety of the arrangement, than to the personal favour which the emperor bore to Nectarius.
It was decreed, that as Constantinople was New Rome,
the bishop should be next in dignity to the bishop of Rome, and hold the first place among the Eastern prelates.
This, which was at first a mere mark of dignity, became a source of substantial power, embroiled Constantinople with Rome, and was pregnant with all those circumstances that have marked this important schism. Nectarius was the first who held the dignity of ex officio
head of the Eastern bishops, as patriarch of Constantinople.
These canons were signed on the 9th of July, 381.
The zeal of Theodosius in the extirpation of Arianism led to the summoning of a council (not oecumenical) at Constantinople, in July, 383.
There assembled the chiefs of all the sects.
By the advice of Sisinnius, afterwards a Novatian bishop, given through Nectarius, the emperor ensnared his opponents into an approval of the writings of the early fathers.
He then required of each sect a confession of its faith, which, having read and considered, he condemned them all, and followed up this condemnation by the most stringent laws, for the purpose of entirely rooting them out.
As might have been expected, Nectarius was obnoxious to the Arians, and we find that in 388, while the emperor Theodosius was absent in Italy, opposing Maximus, a rumour that had arisen of the defeat and death of the prince having excited their hopes, a riot ensued, in the course of which they set fire to the house of Nectarius.
In the year 390, Nectarius, alarmed by the public odium which had been excited by the seduction of a woman of quality by a deacon, abolished the practice of confession which had been introduced into the Eastern church--a penitential priest having been appointed, whose office it was to receive the confessions of those who had fallen into sin, after baptism, and prescribe acts of penitence previously to their being admitted to partake of the privileges of the church.
The last council (not oecumenical) at which Nectarius presided was held in Constantinople in 394, regarding a dispute as to the bishopric of Bostria. Nectarius survived his patron, Theodosius, two years, dying on the 27th of September, 397.
He seems to have borne his honours meekly, and to have acted with great discretion.
In the subtle controversies that agitated the church, we learn that he avoided discussion himself, and was guided by the advice of men better skilled in the puzzling dialectics of the time. If the conjecture of Tillemont (vol. ix. p. 486) be correct, he was married, and had one son. His brother Arsatius succeeded John Chrysostom as patriarch of Constantinople. (Fleury, Hist. Eccles.
vol. iv. v. cc. 18, 19; Socrat. H. E.
5.8, 13; Sozom. H. E.
7.8, 9, 14, 16, 8.100.23.)
Nectarius wrote (Cave doubts this) a homily De S. Theodoro
, a martyr, whose festival is held by the Greek church on the first sabbath of Lent.
The original is said to exist in several libraries, and a Latin version was printed, Paris, 1554, with some Homilies of Chrysostom.
Also his Sententia Synodalis de Episcopatu Bostrensi
, is given in Jure Graec. Roman.
Fabric. Bibl. Graec.
vol. ix. p. 309, vol. x. p. 333; Cave, Hist. Lit.
vol. i. p. 277.