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St Dioscorus' response to Empress Pulcheria - AndrewY - 22-12-2007

I vaguely recall reading/hearing somewhere that when Empress Pulcheria slapped Pope Dioscorus on the face, he responded with reference to the tragedy that befell St John Chrysostom. If anyone has more information or references on this, I would appreciate it. My aim is to establish that St Dioscorus was sympathetic to St John Chrysostom despite the fact his uncle (St Cyril) and great uncle (St Theophilus) both contributed to his downfall.

- admin - 23-12-2007


The Coptic Synaxarium describes St Dioscorus being assaulted by the Empress Pulcheria. In the contemporary History of St Dioscorus, written by his disciple Theopiste, we learn that Pulcheria had visited St Dioscorus and attempted to convince him. The History says...

Quote:..she came to the saint where he dwelt , fell to his feet while crying and entreated him saying: ?I am your maidservant and your daughter, you are the father and the chief of all the country of the Romans.? ? Saint Dioscorus said to her: ?I am not your father and you are not my daughter because you have abandoned the way of truth, and you have abandoned the faith which the apostles and the fathers established, to follow the error of demons.? ? When she saw that she could not achieve her will and that of her husband, she said to him, after many supplications: ?If you do not obey us, we will remove you from the throne of your priesthood.? He answered: ?Even if you take from me that throne of wood, you will not be able to take from me the throne that the Messiah has prepared for me in heaven? . And as he would not obey her, she left annoyed and angry. ? When the emperor learned what had occurred, he ordered that one of his ministers, named Soumarle, lead him into exile.

In the Coptic panegyric of Macarious there is an addition made to this account, and therefore probably not historic, in which Pulcheria says..

Quote:My mother sent a proud man into exile until he died. He was John the archbishop of this city. Do I not have the power to exile you in the same way?

I think that this is the reference to St John Chrysostom, and we can see that it is put in the mouth of Pulcheria.

I am trying to find a list of the places where St Cyril quotes St John Chrysostom, but I do have the letters of St Timothy Aelurus (the successor of St Dioscorus) in front of me and he DOES quote twice from Blessed John, the Archbishop of Constantinople.

Quote:14. From the sermon by blessed John of Constantinople on the text 'Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me' 'He, who transcends all knowledge, is superior to all excogitation, surpassing angels, archangels, and all the super-sensible powers of heaven, undertook to become man and earthly flesh. He assumed the moulded clay and was borne nine months in the Virgin's womb. He was nursed on milk and endured all the conditions of humanity.'

15. From the same author's teaching addressed to John Comes when he had fled to the church 'He longed for the harlot, and what did he do? He did not summon her on high, for he refused to bring a harlot up into heaven. No, he went down to her, because she could not go up to him. Unashamed he came; to her hut he came. He sees her drunk. How did he come? Not in his undisguised substance, but he became what the harlot was - not in will but in nature. So that when she saw him she should not quail in amazement and flee. Yes, he came to the harlot and became man. How did he become man? By conception in the womb and gradual growth.'

St Timothy also quotes from St John Chrysostom in his work 'Against Chalcedon'. I would find it hard to believe that the context of St Timothy's patriarchate would make it likely that he was the first in Alexandria to have made positive use of St John Chrysostom, and indeed the towering spiritual presence of St Cyril in the decades after his death would seem to me to make it likely that the reconciliation with the memory of St John Chrysostom took place in the time of St Cyril.

I'll keep looking for material from St Cyril. Online sources suggest that St John's name was restored between 417 and 421. And that St Cyril quoted from St John on some occasions.

Certainly St Severus quotes extensively from St John Chrysostom.

As ever


- admin - 23-12-2007

St Cyril deals with the issue of St John Chrysostom in Letters 75 and 76 found in volume 2 of the CUA edition.

These date from 415. Atticus of Constantinople writes that Theodotus of Antioch had been forced by the people to restore the name of St John Chrysostom to the diptychs, and that when a messenger came to Constantinople he had spread the news of his message across the city and now Atticus had also been forced to add St John's name, and the Emperor had also given his consent.

St Cyril replies that it is not necessary in the circumstances of the times to compromise for the sake of a greater good, because there are none at Constantinople who have not been reconciled already to Atticus. St Cyril says that even if there are a few causing problems because of the removal of St John's name, there are more who remain convinced that his name should continue to be removed. Indeed St Cyril says in 415 in Letter 76...

Quote:Order the title of John to be removed from the list of bishops.

St Cyril, in 415, urges Atticus to use his own eloquence to instruct the people and even the Emperors in the right conduct in this matter, and states that even if some bishops in the East have added John's name, this is not a reason for all others to do so, but rather for action to be taken to insist on his removal.

According to McEnerney, the translator of the Letters, St Cyril was persuaded by Isidore of Pelusium to restore St John to the diptychs in 417.

In the notes in Norman Russell's 'Cyril of Alexandria' there is the following..

Quote:Isidore of Pelusium, for example, who enjoyed parrhēsia, or freedom of speech, with Cyril, warned him not to pursue a family vendetta against the memory of John Chrysostom (Ep. 1. 370 [PG 78, 392C]).

I don't have access to the PG so I can't find what Isidore wrote. His writings are available here in French..

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and there is a wonderful collection of works here in French.

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Does anyone have access to PG?


- AndrewY - 24-12-2007

Dear Peter,

Thank you very much for the effort you put into your response.

Quote:In the Coptic panegyric of Macarious there is an addition made to this account, and therefore probably not historic, in which Pulcheria says..

I think that this is the reference to St John Chrysostom, and we can see that it is put in the mouth of Pulcheria.

The Panagyric on Macarius of Tkow is indeed the source I had in mind. I'm not quite sure how it escaped my memory. I am rather positive, however, that the Panagryic records a response by St Dioscorus. Do you have the Panagyric in its entirety? I only have an edited version which reads:

Quote:Ibas motioned to the emperor to order the Tome of Leo to be read. When he had given the order, the clerk began to read. I, Dioscorus, responded: ?What is this scroll which is being unrolled in our midst?? the clerk said: ?It is the letter of Leo, the patriarch?. Immediately, I leapt up in the court, took the document and threw it away. I said: ?Do not proclaim the blasphemous acts of that man in this place, (else) I shall leave the whole city of the [empire] under the interdict, and we shall go?.

(A discussion between Pulcheria and Dioscorus follows, referring to the controversy between Pulcheria?s mother Eudoxia and John Chrysostom. Dioscorus concludes his speechSmile

The comments in parenthesis suggest that an actual discussion took place on the matter.

Quote:Does anyone have access to PG?

I do. I can photocopy and scan a particular page if you wish, but I would have to wait till my studies resume in March of next year.


- admin - 24-12-2007

My reference to the Panegyric was taken from a footnote in the translation of the Histoire de Dioscore. The footnote included some or all of the material referred to in brackets in your reference and seems to me to consist of Pulcheria warning Dioscorus that her mother had got rid of John Chrysostom and that she could do the same with him.

I see that the Panegyric is available from CSCO but I already owe them for my last parcel so I need to clear that invoice before I can order more! Big Grin

There are a lot of PG volumes online but unfortunately not the volume containing the writings of Isidore of Pelusium.


- AndrewY - 24-12-2007

Dear Peter,

I am quite sure I remember reading, or hearing of a rather witty response by St Dioscorus to the Empress' remarks. As far as I remember, St Dioscorus refers to the fate suffered by Empress Eudoxia as a result of her treatment of St John. His response was something to the effect of: "You are referring to the act of your mother against St John in your effort to persuade me? Are you not forgetting what happened to her as a consequence?" If it's not in the Panegyric then it is certainly somewhere else; I can't be imagining it!

I will look for the PG volume you want once I resume my studies.