Augustine Sokolovski

Among a considerable number of saints, the Church especially honors the memory of St. Amphilochius of Iconium (340–394). The saint was a righteous bishop and a great theologian, a hero of the faith.

Saint Amphilochius is an undoubted pillar of Orthodoxy, one of the Fathers of the Church, a prophetic personality. His memory, in our time of divisions for the Universe and the Church, should be prayerfully revered. Without the dogmatic and practical efforts of Amphilochius, the cause of Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nazianzus in the struggle for orthodoxy and opposition to the Arian heresy might not have triumphed.

Let us recall that Arianism is the name given to the doctrine that asserted that the Son of God incarnate in Christ Jesus was the creation of God. The Arians argued that the Lord was originally created, that is, He once did not exist.

The Church, based on the Bible, believed that the Son of God, was uncreated, divine, and equal to God. He has always been there. There is no “gap” between His existence and the existence of God Himself. Because, as Jesus Himself says in Scripture: ‘I and the Father are one’ (John 10:30). The Creed calls the Son of God “consubstantial” with the Father.

This understanding was given to the disciples of Christ, the Apostles and the Church Itself, on the Day of Pentecost, by the Holy Spirit. It was based on the vision and reading of the words and deeds of Christ in the light of the accomplished Paschal Mystery, the Resurrection of Jesus, and His Second Coming, which, as Scripture and the Creed testify, will soon inevitably occur (Rev. 22:20).

The Arians relied on those passages of Scripture where Christ, before His Resurrection, testified to the primacy of God and the Father. In theological language, this is called the pre-Easter reading of the Bible.

Arius was not the first to think this way, but he was the first to express this opinion loudly and unequivocally. It is important that in the understanding of the Ancient Church this was precisely what made a person a heretic. “It is not heresy that makes one a heretic, but persistence in error,” wrote the great 17th-century theologian, Bishop Cornelius Jansenius (1585–1638).

So, the ‘Arians’ themselves did not consider themselves Arians. Many of them shared his beliefs, but they were ready to renounce Arius himself. He was an Alexandrian priest, that is, formally, he could not lead a significant church party. They considered themselves quite orthodox, but within themselves they were divided into many factions.

Nevertheless, in the second half of the 4th century, Arians made up the overwhelming majority in the episcopate of the Universal Church in the East. It is important to understand that parallel church structures were not created formally at that time, and in reality the Church was one. Therefore, it was very important which bishop, Orthodox or Arian, occupied this or that see, and what teaching was adopted at local and especially universal Councils of the episcopate.

This had a decisive influence on Amphilochius. Knowing about their true Orthodoxy and the impeccability of the “testimony from outsiders” (1 Tim. 3:7), Basil appointed him bishop.

Basil and Gregory of Nazianzus, as well as Amphilochius, were from Cappadocia. Therefore, collectively they are called the ‘Great Cappadocians’. Moreover, Amphilochius was Gregory's cousin. With him, as well as with Basil, in addition to the theological communion of the Orthodox faith, they were connected by genuine friendship. So, even most of the information about the biography of Amphilochius was preserved for us in their mutual correspondence.

Before the accession of Theodosius the Great (+395) in 379, the children and successors of Emperor Constantine, as well as the capital's episcopate, stood on the side of Arianism. Probably, the rulers saw in the absolute monarchy of God the Father a prototype of their autocracy, and influential bishops considered this the guarantee of a symphony of secular and spiritual authorities. According to this scheme, in the internal life of the Holy Trinity, God the Father, as a kind of autocrat, ruled the World, and the Son of God saved the Church from material difficulties.

The doctrinal victory over Arianism was largely ensured by the works of Basil the Great. He was the Archbishop of Caesarea Cappadocia - the Church Metropolis, the influence and jurisdiction of which at that time, in fact, was equal to the prerogatives of a modern Local Church.

However, Basil exhausted himself in episcopal labors and died very early, in 379, having lived only 49 years. His life’s work, the Second Ecumenical Council of 381, took place without him. It is important that, like Gregory of Nazianzus, it was Amphilochius who continued his work. This, along with the ability to remain in the shadow of his greater contemporaries, is his great merit.