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Crisis of Empire

Doctrine and Dissent at the End of Late Antiquity

Phil Booth (Author)

Available worldwide

Hardcover, 416 pages
ISBN: 9780520280427
October 2013
$75.00, £55.95
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This book focuses on the attempts of three ascetics—John Moschus, Sophronius of Jerusalem, and Maximus Confessor—to determine the Church’s power and place during a period of profound crisis, as the eastern Roman empire suffered serious reversals in the face of Persian and then Islamic expansion. By asserting visions which reconciled long-standing intellectual tensions between asceticism and Church, these authors established the framework for their subsequent emergence as Constantinople's most vociferous religious critics, their alliance with the Roman popes, and their radical rejection of imperial interference in matters of the faith. Situated within the broader religious currents of the fourth to seventh centuries, this book throws new light on the nature not only of the holy man in late antiquity, but also of the Byzantine Orthodoxy that would emerge in the Middle Ages, and which is still central to the churches of Greece and Eastern Europe.


1. Toward the Sacramental Saint
Ascetics and the Eucharist before Chalcedon
Cyril of Scythopolis and the Second Origenist Crisis
Mystics and Liturgists
Hagiography and the Eucharist after Chalcedon

2. Sophronius and the Miracles
Impresario of the Saints
Medicine and Miracle
Narratives of Redemption
The Miracles in Comparative Perspective

3. Moschus and the Meadow
The Fall of Jerusalem
Moschus from Alexandria to Rome
Ascetics and the City
Chalcedon and the Eucharist

4. Maximus and the Mystagogy
Maximus, Monk of Palestine
The Return of the Cross
The Mystagogy

5. The Making of the Monenergist Crisis
The Origins of Monenergism
The Heraclian Unions
Sophronius the Dissident

6. Jerusalem and Rome at the Dawn of the Caliphate
Sophronius the Patriarch
Jerusalem from Roman to Islamic Rule
The Year of the Four Emperors
From Operations to Wills
Maximus and the Popes

7. Rebellion and Retribution
Maximus from Africa to Rome
The Roman-Palestinian Alliance
Rebellion and Trial
Maximus in Exile

Primary Sources
Secondary Sources
Phil Booth is Leventis Lecturer in Eastern Christianity at Oxford University.
"Phil Booth has produced a magisterial book focusing on three crucial figures from Palestine who wrote in Greek in the early seventh century. Two of them played a central role in the huge issues of the period that saw the first Arab conquests; all three saw their world as that of the entire Mediterranean. Booth's demonstration of how sacramental spirituality, theology and politics were interlinked is a major achievement and a real breakthrough. The seventh century will never seem the same again."
—Averil Cameron, editor of Late Antiquity on the Eve of Islam

"Crisis of Empire is a fresh, provocative, and carefully revisionist interpretation of the extraordinary “monastic dissent” that challenged the imperial order in the turbulent seventh century in Byzantium. Booth’s narrative brilliantly captures the drama of the alliances forged between monks, ecclesiastics, and provincial imperial officials in countering the christological positions assumed by emperors and Patriarchs of Constantinople. This monograph will be of tremendous interest to Byzantinists and patristics scholars alike."
—Paul Blowers, author of Drama of the Divine Economy: Creator and Creation in Early Christian Theology and Piety

"Booth’s book showcases the political and religious roles of John Moschus, Sophronius of Jerusalem, and Maximus the Confessor, who have never before been treated together in this way. A compelling case is made for the position of the ascetic within the church, rather than on its fringes, against the continuous backdrop of the declining fortunes of the Christian Roman empire during the Persian and Arab advances. This book is well-written, well-argued, and above all readable."
—Pauline Allen, author of Sophronius of Jerusalem and Seventh-Century Heresy

"Previous works on this crucial period of Byzantine history have tended to focus on material, legal or military history, at the expense of the important role of theology in the events that unfolded. Booth’s innovation is to make the sacramental understanding of the eucharist central to the political involvement of Maximus, Sophronius, and Moschus, whose collaboration is traced here for the first time."
Bronwen Neil, author of Seventh-Century Popes and Martyrs: The Political Hagiography of Anastasius Bibliothecarius


Toward the Sacramental Saint

At some point in the 350s A.D., an ecclesial council was convened at Gangra in Paphlagonia. The disciplinary canons that that council produced were the first to legislate on the nascent monastic enterprise and constitute a classic expression of the anxieties that that enterprise engendered among clerics. The council had been convened to examine the activities of the Eustathians, a monastic sect whose leader had been the erstwhile ascetic mentor of Basil of Caesarea. The charges leveled at the Eustathians at the council can be categorized to constitute three central purported abuses: first, the introduction of ascetic innovations against established practice; second, the disparagement or active dissolution of conventional social relations; and third, the marginalization or denigration of the hierarchical and sacramental structures of the Church. From our perspective (and perhaps that of the presiding clerics) it was this last accusation that was most salient: "If anyone teaches that the house of God and the liturgies performed there [tas en autōi sunaxeis]are to be despised," one canon proclaimed, "let him be anathema." Another legislated that "If anyone holds private assemblies outside the Church [para tēn ekklēsian idiai ekklēsiazoi] and in his hatred of the Church wishes to perform ecclesiastical acts [ta tēs ekklēsias etheloi prattein], when the priest in accordance with the bishop's will has refused permission, let him be anathema." This assumption of clerical privilege, and with it the repudiation of the structures of the Church, represented a fundamental challenge to episcopal notions of a Christianity formed within, and mediated by, the episcopate. The Gangran legislation sought to reinforce those same notions through subordinating monks to clerical authority and ritually orienting the entire Christian community around the assemblies of the Church.

Despite sporadic legislative measures against monastic groups at both the local and imperial levels, the tensions between monks and clerics evident in the Gangran legislation nevertheless recurred throughout the late-antique Mediterranean. Clerics responded to such tensions through two principal (and quite discordant) means. The first such approach was to blur the intellectual and institutional boundaries between the two institutions, incorporating and redefining ascetic principles within the clerical ideal, and thus both clericizing monasticism and asceticizing the episcopate. The second approach, however, was not so much to blur as to strengthen the boundaries between the two vocations-not so much to bring ascetics within the world but rather to force them from it. As Daniel Caner has demonstrated in a seminal monograph on monasticism in the period up to 451, ecclesial authorities across the Mediterranean responded to the emergent monastic enterprise through attempting to impose paradigms of proper ascetic practice that were more congenial to clerical claims to leadership, and thus also economic support, within Christian communities. The monastic model enshrined in episcopal sermons, letters, and hagiographies emphasized that real monks were not those who wandered in cities and begged for alms-ascetic practices that in fact had a long and illustrious pedigree, in particular in Syria-but rather those who remained in the deserts and were self-sufficient, a model associated with Egypt and enshrined, of course, in Athanasius's Life of Antony. Practices through which ascetics encroached upon the social and economic jurisdictions of clerics were thus stigmatized as impious; and in successive controversies involving the conflict of monks and ecclesiasts, those who did not conform to these normative paradigms of monastic practice were branded as heretics and relegated from the religious mainstream.

Caner regards the canonical legislation of the ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (451) as the apogee of this process, for here the ideological reorientation of monasticism anticipated at a more local level throughout previous decades was reinforced with universal episcopal and also imperial approval. Crucial in this regard is the council's famous Canon 4, which summarized the monastic abuses of which the assembled bishops disapproved-meddling in ecclesiastical and even civil affairs, wandering in cities, and even founding monasteries without clerical approval-and instead promoted a paradigm more congenial to the preservation of clerical privilege, in which the economic oversight of monastic communities was made an episcopal prerogative. The canon thus attempted to effect the full legal and economic subordination of monasticism to the clerical establishment, presenting the former, for the first time, as a lesser institution of the latter. Caner contends that the legislation of Chalcedon marked a significant watershed in relations between clerics and ascetics, not least because it implicated their economic interests. It is indeed true that the post-Chalcedonian period witnessed a distinct shift in monastic practice: in tune with episcopal demands, monks themselves began to promote models of monastic practice emphasizing that individual, withdrawn asceticism could be legitimized only by an extended period of sustained communal discipline; and in turn the power of individual ascetics went into decline, with spiritual authority increasingly the preserve of the leaders of sizable, largely coenobitic communities. If both these developments proved apposite to episcopal attempts to delimit ascetics' sphere of influence and operation, we must nevertheless be cautious not to overstate the extent of reconciliation between monastic and clerical imperatives. Significant tensions remained.

For our purposes, the most important such tensions were those that we have seen within the canonical legislation of Gangra: that is, tensions between the competing demands of individual cultivation and submission to the spiritual improvement conferred through the rites and sacraments of the Church, in particular the eucharist. Although monks themselves in the post-Chalcedonian period began to promote forms of ascetic discipline that were more apposite to the vision of their clerical superiors, and although monastic and clerical institutions were indeed ever more implicated, a significant tension remained that the Chalcedonian legislators had, in effect, ignored: that is, the discordant imperatives of the ascetical and sacramental lives. Thus, despite a heightened degree of legal, economic, and institutional integration, the relative indifference to the structures of the Church witnessed within the Gangran legislation had still not been overcome.

This chapter first outlines the striking eucharistic minimalism of the earliest ascetic biographies and anthropologies before tracing the attempts of various post-Chalcedonian commentators-and, in particular, anti-Chalcedonian commentators-to renegotiate that same tension. In part this renegotiation represented an extension of previous attempts to reconcile the monastic and clerical vocations, in particular in a context within which the boundaries between the two were becoming more porous. But it was also driven in the disintegration of dogmatic consensus accelerated through the Chalcedonian settlement, as anti-Chalcedonian communities began to elevate the eucharist as the central, aggregating icon of the orthodox faith and participation in its rites as the central expression of anti-Chalcedonian identity. This assertion of ritual integrity occurred at a time when sixth-century anti-Chalcedonian communities had become more alienated from the imperial Roman Church, and it was destined to be replicated within their seventh-century Chalcedonian equivalents, when foreign incursion and the perceived doctrinal deviation of Constantinople encouraged others to attempt a comparable, and indeed more comprehensive, renegotiation of the competing demands and theologies of the ascetical and ecclesial lives.


It has sometimes been observed that the Eustathian practices condemned at Gangra intersect with a heretical sect described in the texts of later authors as Messalianism. It is clear that in its earliest stages the heretical profile of Messalianism gathered together the various deviant monastic practices that clerics despised-wandering in cities, begging, refusing to acknowledge clerics. Messalianism, however, had a further dimension that should be emphasized: that is, a perceived disengagement from the sacraments of the Church. According to Theodoret, one of the first to describe in detail the Messalian sect, their theological convictions rested on notions of inherent but displaceable sin and the possibility of restoration only through assiduous prayer. Thus, he claims, the Messalians saw no benefit in baptism; but also "declared, though not separating from ecclesiastical communion, that the divine food, about which Christ the master said, 'He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood shall live into eternity' [Joh. 6:54-58], neither benefits nor harms [oute oninanai oute lōbasthai]." Little wonder, then, that some commentators-both ancient and modern-have thought of the Eustathians as Messalians.

For centuries it has been recognized that the various errors that Theodoret and others ascribe to the Messalians contain numerous correspondences with the corpus of Pseudo-Macarius, a late fourth-century Syrian theologian who is counted, alongside Evagrius Ponticus, as a progenitor of the late-antique mystical tradition. Comparison of the two corpora indicates that Pseudo-Macarius operated within an ascetic milieu similar to, but not interchangeable with, one that observers identified as Messalian. Thus he corrects the antisacramental leanings of the Messalian profile in dwelling upon the parallels between the ascetic life and the eucharistic rite, above all in Logos 52 of the so-called Collection I. It begins with the statement "The entire visible dispensation [oikonomia] of the Church came about for the sake of the living and intellectual essence of the rational soul, which is made in the image of God, and which is the living and true Church of God." Because "the entire Church that we now perceive is a shadow of the true, rational man within," God granted that the Spirit be present at the altar and in baptism, and the Savior that it preside over and participate in (epipolazein kai koinōnein) the Church's services (leitourgia), so as to act on "believing hearts." Here, "the dispensation and service of the sacraments of the Church [hē oikonomia kai diakonia tōn mustēriōn tēs ekklēsias]" have an emphatic spiritual effect, leading the faithful to the cultivation of the inner man represented in the structures of the Church. Pseudo-Macarius presents the Church's services as an illustration of the workings of the Spirit within the heart of the ascetic, and emphasizes in no uncertain terms the presence of the Spirit within the sacraments, perhaps as a direct defense against accusations of an antiecclesial Messalianism. Nevertheless, even in that defense, it is clear that his focus remains on the cultivation of the spiritual life and that, for the advanced ascetic, the outward structures of the Church are subordinated to the development of the inner man-in the words of Hans Urs von Balthasar, "at once something indispensable and something that must be outgrown."

It is therefore incorrect to regard Pseudo-Macarius as antisacramental; but at the same time, he conforms to a pattern in which the earliest ascetic theorists marginalized a developed sacramental, and in particular eucharistic, discourse in favor of a focus upon personal, ascetic transformation. Indeed, if the Pseudo-Macarian corpus constituted one prevailing strand of late-antique ascetic thought, the other was formed through the Egyptian monk and Origenist Evagrius Ponticus. Within the Evagrian corpus, spiritual progression is on occasion conceived in sacramental terms, with practical virtues corresponding to Christ's flesh, and contemplation corresponding to his blood. Thus the famous tract To Monks:

Flesh of Christ is practical virtues [Sarkes Christou praktikai aretai]; he who eats it shall become passionless [ho de esthiōn autas genēsetai apathēs].

Blood of Christ is contemplation of creation [haima Christou theōria tōn gegonotōn], and he who drinks it will thereby become wise [kai ho pinōn auto sophisthēsetai hup' autou].

Although in passages such as these Evagrius appears to point to the spiritual benefits conferred through communion, we should be cautious not to overstate the extent of Evagrius's eucharistic orientation. Contained within his quite vast corpus, there are but few comments on the eucharist; and even then, those comments are quite ambiguous as to the need for continuous submission to the rites of the Church. Evagrius's approach, like that of Pseudo-Macarius, is perhaps best appreciated as a eucharistic minimalism.

It should be noted that this minimalism does not reflect a more general ambivalence toward the eucharist within Christian thought of the period, for contemporaneous with the ascetical speculations of Pseudo-Macarius and Evagrius there were various Christian intellectuals who devoted far greater attention to the eucharist and to the interpretation of its rites-Ambrose of Milan, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Cyril of Jerusalem, to name but three. In the precise same period that the great ascetic pioneers developed their complex, introspective anthropologies, so too, therefore, was there a veritable explosion of contemplation on the nature of the eucharist, the significance of its rite, and its spiritual effect on the communicant. Within that tradition-which admits a remarkable degree of variation in terms of emphasis-one sometimes encounters a concern to elevate the need for moral pureness when receiving the sacrament (in particular in the homilies of John Chrysostom); but there was nevertheless little interest in accommodating the complex spiritual anthropologies developed in monastic circles. In turn, developed contemplation on the eucharistic rite remained the preserve of the episcopate.

Throughout the period before Chalcedon, therefore-and thus coterminous with the continued separation of ecclesial and monastic institutions-these two great Christian discourses remained quite distinct. The effects of that continued intellectual separation can indeed be measured further, for in the hagiographies of the same period that describe anchorites or semianchorites, the ritual structures of the Church, and in particular the eucharist, are to a large extent absent. As noted above, Athanasius's Life of Antony has been seen as the classic expression of the episcopal vision for proper ascetic practice: withdrawn from the world, self-sufficient, and obedient to episcopal power. But as various scholars have observed, the same Life is also notable for its hero's total absence from the demands of the sacramental life. There were of course practical difficulties for those who engaged in more singular or more withdrawn forms of asceticism in ensuring regular access to the eucharist, so that its absence might be explained in an actual indifference to communion. But one must also nevertheless wonder if the emphasis upon monastic extrication from urban contexts within clerical hagiographies such as the Life had not also encouraged a relative ideological indifference to the regular submission of ascetics to the eucharist, which may also have demanded a regular infringement of those ascetics within the episcopal sphere.

As we might expect, then, those monastic hagiographies that describe more settled or more concentrated communities are in general full of casual references to their ascetics' attendance of the regular service. But here again we encounter a striking indifference to the spiritualeffects of both the eucharist and its rites, so that in comparison to the vast amount of intellectual effort expended on material concerning the cultivation of the virtues and of mystical contemplation, speculation on the power of the eucharist is, in these texts, a marginal concern. Thus, for example, in Palladius's Lausiac History-a work that derives from the circle of Evagrius-we discover a specific condemnation of antisacramental attitudes in two consecutive tales in which the protagonists' descent into arrogance reaches its apogee with their refusal to attend communion and their dismissal of the eucharist as nothing. But the point of these stories seems not to be an emphasis upon the spiritual benefits to be conferred through the eucharist but rather a warning against spiritual arrogance, of which absence from the communal celebration is a classic manifestation. Here, then, we cannot explain indifference to the eucharist as a simple reflection of its actual absence from the ascetic life in practice (as we might for anchorites). Rather, it must reflect the same intellectual stance that we have witnessed within the earliest and most prominent ascetic theoreticians: an acknowledgment that the eucharist exists and cannot be dispensed with, but a simultaneous failure, nevertheless, to integrate regular communion within the spiritual vision.

From a later perspective, when the eucharist begins to infringe upon hagiographic narratives more and more, one text nevertheless stands out: the late fourth-century History of the Monks in Egypt. Once again we discover a sanction to regular eucharistic participation, but here that same insistence is more balanced: on one side, with an emphasis on the spiritual benefits accrued through the host itself; and on the other, with an emphasis on the need for moral virtue on the part of the participant. Thus one tale, for example, refers to "a custom among the great [ascetics] not to provide food to the flesh before giving spiritual food [hē pneumatikē trophē] to the soul: that is, the communion of Christ [hē tou Christou koinōnia]"; while in another an eminent ascetic avers that "Monks, if possible, must each day partake of the mysteries of Christ [tōn mustēriōn tou Christou koinōnein]. For he who removes himself from the mysteries removes himself from God. But he who does this frequently receives the Savior frequently. For the voice of the Savior proclaims, 'He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him' [Joh. 6:56]. It is therefore profitable for monks constantly to remember the Savior's passion and always to be worthy to receive the heavenly mysteries [pros tēn tōn ouraniōn mustēriōn hupodochēn], since thus we also receive forgiveness from sin."

Here, therefore, not only is the eucharist emphatically present, and its spiritual efficacy emphatically acknowledged, but its spiritual effect is also made dependent upon the moral attainment of the participant. Rather than a prevailing indifference to eucharistic communion, therefore, the History of the Monks in Egypt-as well as the associated vignettes within the Lausiac History-suggests a not insignificant debate on the spiritual status of eucharistic communion amid monastic communities, mirroring the theoreticians' attempts to counter the more extreme antisacramentalist tendencies of (at least some of) their contemporaries. Although there is no developed attempt, in this earlier period, to integrate the dominant focus upon ascetic virtue and contemplation within a wider ecclesial framework, the same texts nevertheless manifest evident anxieties over ascetics' relation to the eucharist, anxieties that subsequent generations were to explore in far greater depth.


From around the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the relative hagiographic indifference to the eucharist and its rites begins to change. In part, this change must be considered as the product of real shifts on the ground: that is, on the one hand, the extension of the aforementioned phenomenon of monastic ordination, which blurred the lines between the monastic and clerical vocations; and, on the other, the increasing sacramentalization and liturgification of monastic practice itself, as that practice came to be reframed within an ever-growing set of prescribed rituals. In certain cases, therefore, we witness a simple continuation of the earlier inclusion within some hagiographies of casual references to monks' attendance of the eucharistic rite; but in others, one detects a definite and deliberateemphasis upon those same rituals as a prerequisite of legitimate asceticism: that is, nothing less than an attempt to uphold a new model of monasticism itself. What we are interested in here, therefore, is not the disinterment of actual monastic practice from the scattered references contained within hagiographies so much as the delineation of the ideological model of that practice that such hagiographies seek to represent.

Post-Chalcedonian commentators offered various such models, but all shared a fundamental concern with the competing imperatives of individual and institutional ascetic endeavor. At stake was the status of the contemplative tradition represented in the corpora of Evagrius and of Pseudo-Macarius, and here we will examine two responses to it-clerical and sacramentalized on the one hand; monastic and desacramentalized on the other. The latter is contained within the collected Lives of the sixth-century Palestinian hagiographer Cyril of Scythopolis, in which we encounter an ascetic quite different from those exemplified in the texts of the pioneering generations, one in whom individual endeavor is subordinated to the demands of a wider institutional framework-monastic, ecclesial, and imperial. Where the most prominent monastic figures of the pre-Chalcedonian generation often found themselves in conflict with the secular authorities, Cyril's conception of the ascetic's place within the world forms a notable complement to that contained within the legislation of the emperor Justinian. Bernard Flusin has demonstrated how the stated doctrine of Cyril's heroes retrojects and repeats verbatim the official doctrinal position of the Justinianic state; but these parallels in fact extend even further, to their respective political philosophies of the ascetic life. Justinian's attitude to monasticism is summed up in his Novel 133 (published in 539), in which he proclaims the proper function of monasticism as the petitioning of God for the health of the state. It is thus of great interest to note an anecdote contained within Cyril's Life of Sabas in which the eponymous hero encounters Justinian himself and in that encounter embodies the monastic ideal expressed within the emperor's Novels. The narrative describes how Sabas once traveled to Constantinople on behalf of the patriarch in order to beg for a remission of taxes following a Samaritan revolt. "While our God-protected emperor was engaged in these matters with Tribonian the quaestor in the place called Magnaura," Cyril reports, "the blessed Sabas separated himself off a little and began to recite to himself the Davidic psalms, completing the divine office of the third hour. One of his disciples-called Jeremiah, a deacon of the Great Laura-approached him and said, 'Honorable Father, when the emperor is showing such enthusiasm in fulfilling your requests, why do you yourself stand apart?' And the elder said to him, 'Those men, my child, do their work; let us also do ours [ekeinoi, teknon, to idion poiousin; poiēsōmen kai hēmeis to hēmeteron].'"

Through his various Novels Justinian provided a secular complement to the canonical legislation on monasticism at Chalcedon, insisting too on the subordination of ascetics to bishops, and on the same principles of proper ascetic practice: in particular, social withdrawal and stabilitas loci. Here, however, there is a new emphasis, for while Chalcedon failed to discriminate between ascetic types, in the Justinianic Novels it is the communal life that is regarded as the norm and duly legislated for. Cyril too repeats this emphasis on coenobial training as the sine qua nonof more advanced ascetic endeavor. Indeed, as Flusin has shown, throughout his various Lives he develops an implicit but consistent cursus honorum of the ascetic life, which complements that envisioned within the Justinianic Novels: first, a prolonged period of communal discipline and submission within a coenobium, then progression to a semianchoritic laura; and then, having proved one's ascetic credentials, progression again to the full anchoritic life. There is, therefore, a significant recontextualization of the process of ascetic legitimization set out, for example, in the Life of Antony: less of a progressive withdrawal from the world, and more of a progressive rise through successive monastic institutions. Miracles within the collection serve a similar, group-oriented purpose-still associated with an individual saint, but focused on the institution and sanctioned through that same saint's progression within a hierarchical structure from which he receives sanctification, and which he in turn sanctifies. Flusin has thus spoken of "une sainteté institutionnelle" in Cyril's hagiographies, a pervasive celebration of the holiness not of the ascetic as the perfect human but rather of the monastic institution as the perfect social group.

Within this recontextualization of the monastic life-that is, in its shift from an individual to a collective emphasis-we also encounter an apparent condemnation of the traditions of monastic contemplation enshrined within the corpus of Evagrius. The conclusion to his Life of Sabas records how, after its hero's death in 532, an Origenist faction among the monks of the Judean desert succeeded in sowing their doctrine among several of the leading monasteries, in securing significant episcopal appointments, and even in gaining the emperor's ear at court. It then describes how the tide in Constantinople turned against that same faction, and how the emperor and patriarch then issued a condemnation of Origen's doctrines. According to the Life, there then followed a period of resurgence before the rupturing of the movement when a doctrinal disagreement emerged between protoktists (who, we must assume, upheld the doctrine that Christ's soul preexisted those of other beings) and isochrists (who, we must again assume, thought that the posthumous soul might become equivalent to Christ).The Life of Sabas reports that, following disturbances within the capital, Justinian once again turned against his former favorites, so that Origen-as also, with him, the teaching of Evagrius and Didymus the Blind on preexistence (prouparxis) and universal restoration (apokatastasis)-was again condemned at the Fifth Ecumenical Council, in 553.

We are fortunate that both sets of anathemas on Origen alleged in the Life of Sabas survive. The first set of nine, produced in 543, is drawn from Origen's own writings and is aimed, for the most part, at classic Origenist errors-the preexistence of the soul and universal salvation, for example. The anathemas of 553, however, are of a different order. Here again standard Origenist doctrines such as preexistence and apokatastasis are condemned; but alongside these ideas we also encounter various others not included in the condemnations of the previous decade-for example, the restoration of a primitive and undifferentiated henad. Above all, however, there is a far more developed Christologicaldimension to the anathemas, including the condemnation of isochristism: the doctrine that all rational beings will become identical to Christ (attributed to the Origenists within the Life of Sabas). In a classic book, André Guillaumont demonstrated that the same Christological position in fact derives not from Origen but rather from the Kephalaia Gnostica of Evagrius, with which the anathemas share various doctrinal and literal correspondences. Within a decade of 543, therefore, the target of anti-Origenist polemic had undergone a notable transformation-from a somewhat clichéd and anachronistic condemnation of the master himself to a more pointed and nuanced condemnation of his most prominent late-antique heir and his interpreters.

In a letter of Justinian that prompted the fifteen anathemas of 553, he cited the opinions of "certain monks at Jerusalem" as inspiring his opposition. Were the Origenist monks of Cyril's hagiographies, therefore, adherents of the Christological speculations of Evagrius? There can be little doubt that his cosmological and eschatological speculations were in the air in Palestine. Thus in the Justinianic correspondence of the Gazan hermits Barsanuphius and John, we find a series of letters devoted to the controversial doctrines contained within Origenist writings, and in particular the Kephalaia Gnostica of Evagrius. A monk asks the pair about the Origenist doctrines of preexistence and universal salvation-making specific reference to the Kephalaia of Evagrius-and when both elders condemn those doctrines, he asks whether it is therefore harmful to read Evagrius's works. In his response John draws a distinction between the more speculative and more useful aspects of the Evagrian corpus: "Do not receive such doctrines. But nevertheless, if you wish, read in him what is beneficial to the soul." The same monk then asks, "So how is it that some of the present fathers accept these [doctrines], and we hold them to be good monks and give them our attention?" and John responds again with specific reference to the Kephalaia, confessing that "certain brothers accept these things as gnostics [hōs gnōsitkoi]" but warning his interlocutor to avoid them.

Were the Origenists of Cyril's hagiographies also adherents of Evagrius's Kephalaia? He does not mention Evagrius himself, and his exposition on the beliefs of the Origenists is a simple recapitulation of the anathemas of 553 (or their source). But an alternative route into the question is provided through his description of one Leontius of Byzantium as a leader of the Origenist faction within Palestine. This same person has been identified with another contemporaneous Leontius, the author of at least three extant tracts: Against the Nestorians and Eutychians, Thirty Chapters against Severus, and Solution to the Arguments of the Severans. Critics remain divided as to the potential Origenist content of those same treatises: some (in particular David Evans) have suggested that Leontius's Christological pronouncements in effect recapitulate but disguise those of Evagrius; whereas others (in particular Brian Daley) have defended Leontius as nothing more than a staunch proponent of the neo-Chalcedonian position, suggesting that the Origenist label applied to Leontius and his allies within Cyril's hagiographies should be appreciated not as an accurate description of the group's theological inclinations but rather as indicative of its adherence to the spirit of intellectual freedom enshrined within the Origenist tradition.

In a more recent contribution, however, Daniel Hombergen has opened up a new perspective on the crisis, one less dogmatic than spiritual. Eschewing (with others) the attempt to locate the Christological or cosmological fingerprints of Origen within Leontius's thought, Hombergen points to a passage in Against the Nestorians and Eutychians in which Leontius cites a spiritual axiom taken from none other than Evagrius in the Kephalaia Gnostica and shows that the citation is embedded in a section of text that recapitulates the vision of the spiritual life as contained within the Evagrian corpus. For Hombergen, therefore, Leontius's Origenism should be considered an adherence not to the more controversial and speculative Evagrian doctrines concerning Christ but rather to the contemplative tradition represented, above all, in Evagrius's writings.

In support of his spiritual reading of the crisis, Hombergen indeed demonstrates that Cyril effects a subtle damnatio memoriae both of Evagrius and of the contemplative ideas of which he was the champion. On the one hand, for example, he puts into the mouths of his heroes pronouncements against Origen that in fact derive from or recapitulate the later anti-Origenist anathemas of 553, and he claims that Origen's and Evagrius's teachings were the main issue at the Fifth Ecumenical Council, which was in fact devoted to the Three Chapters. But on the other hand, he also eschews an Evagrian influence within his hagiographies despite, as Flusin has demonstrated, the pervasive influence of previous monastic literature. Hombergen, therefore, reinterprets the Origenist crisis as one between a more intellectualizing group-that is, those who were accepting of, selective within, or indifferent to, the spiritualdoctrines of Evagrius-and a more fundamentalist group, those who repudiated the same doctrines and with them the tradition of individualistic monastic contemplation. Within that latter group is of course the hagiographer Cyril, whose Lives set out a radical new vision of the ascetic life, for the most part indifferent to the interior life and focused instead upon the institution. Hombergen thus places at the root of the Origenist crisis "a clash of two competitive ideals of the spiritual life: a somewhat collectivist current, focusing particularly on external aspects, and a more individualist current, concentrating primarily on the development of the interior life."

This of course assumes that the Origenist label used in a range of texts was in essence a phantom, devoid of doctrinal meaning and disingenuous in intent. But as István Perczel has insisted in a string of recent publications, it is difficult to suppose that the widespread anxieties and anathemas expressed toward Evagrian (or post-Evagrian) dogma did not have some basis in an actual Evagrian circle. At the same time, however, we need not assume that different observers applied the same criteria as to what constituted Origenism or that those whom contemporaries identified as Origenists did not themselves admit a vast degree of variation in their reception, reappropriation, or refusal of various Evagrian doctrines. However we wish to regard the real inspiration behind Leontius's doctrine, therefore, it is perhaps best to assume that the label "Origenist" might be applied to a wide of range of individuals who might or might not recognize that same label: from Evagrianists proper-that is, those who championed the same protological, Christological, and eschatological positions alleged and evidenced within a range of contemporaneous literature-to intellectual liberals with an interest in, or indifference to, the same theologian'sdogmatic vision.

Hombergen's fundamental insight on the spiritualdimension to the crisis must nevertheless be allowed to stand. That such tensions informed (though they did not determine) the crisis is indeed borne out in various texts associated with it. As we shall see, however, those tensions were more complex than a simple dichotomization of individualizing or Origenist versus institutionalizing or anti-Origenist can capture. For we shall discover that fundamental differences concerning conceptions of the spiritual life and its relation to wider institutional structures operated also within those groups that sought to suppress Evagrian doctrine and its spiritual inheritance. The hagiographer Cyril's response to such differences, therefore, was but one institutional response to the problem of monastic individualism. It competed, however, alongside others that shared the desire to subordinate ascetics but that nevertheless adopted a quite different approach, based less upon the integration of ascetic endeavor within the monastic institution and more upon its orientation around and subordination to the sacraments of the Church.


As we have seen, a notable feature of Evagrius's thought is his minimal interest in ecclesial life, and in particular in the eucharist. Were differing approaches to the eucharist also a feature of the Palestinian Origenist crisis? Cyril's hagiographies do not suggest so, although it is nevertheless notable that all his subjects, at the pinnacle of their coenobitic careers, are ordained as priests, emphasizing their integration within a wider ecclesial context outside the hagiographic desert. In certain cases, this leads to some anecdote concerning the eucharist: the Life of the Palestinian ascetic pioneer Euthymius, for example, contains two consecutive anecdotes in which he is, as celebrating priest, said to inspire or experience miraculous visions, and the latter of the two develops into a sermonette on the need for a pure heart while approaching the eucharist. In terms of a developed sacramental (though not institutional) emphasis, however, we have progressed little from the comparable emphases contained within the History of the Monks in Egypt.

It is nevertheless possible that there was indeed a eucharistic dimension to the intellectual tensions that informed the Origenist crisis. In that aforementioned series of letters on Origenism contained with the Questions and Answers of Barsanuphius and John, the elders' interlocutor makes a striking statement:

For indeed, we find even in the books of the elders that there was a certain great elder, and he said out of simplicity [idiōteia] that the bread of which we partake is by nature not the body of Christ but its antitype [antitupon]. And if he had not prayed to God on this matter, he would not have known the truth.

The statement might reference a number of spiritual tales in which monks appear to denigrate the real presence in the eucharist (and which indeed appear, in their original context, to respond to the perceived teaching of Evagrius). But embedded here, amid a series of issues connected with Justinianic Origenism, one must also wonder whether this defense of the real presence does not recapitulate, in a new context, concerns over a continued Origenist deviation from proper eucharistic doctrine.

That the eucharistic minimalism we have identified within the corpora of Evagrius and Pseudo-Macarius continued to dominate the works of ascetic theoreticians is clear. But one such theoretician we can also associate both with Palestine and with the Origenist crisis. According to a letter of Philoxenus of Mabbug, in the same period (ca. 510) there entered within the monastic circles of Jerusalem one Stephen bar Sudaili, a controversial ascetic who the later Chronicle of Michael the Syrian claims came to Palestine after a meeting with Philoxenus had resulted in a suspicion of heresy. The doctrine that Philoxenus attributes to Stephen in the same letter is Origenist in inspiration: in particular, he presents him as an adherent both of apokatastasis-that is, the belief that all beings will, in the end, return to a primordial union with divine nature-and, in line with that, of a two-stage eschaton, a period of punishment or reward before the final, universal consummation. Philoxenus himself dismisses those notions, pointing out that both undermine all efforts at holiness on earth (including, we should note, both asceticism andparticipation in the eucharist); but in his critique of Stephen's notion of a double consummation, he also refers to the latter's dependence on an Evagrian notion of motion (kinēsis).As Irénée Hausherr long ago observed, the predominant influence on Stephen's doctrine, as Philoxenus presents it, therefore appears to be not Origen but his spiritual heir Evagrius. Philoxenus, we should note, was himself an enthusiast for Evagrius, but used a Syriac version of the Kephalaia Gnostica that had removed or sanitized the same cosmological and eschatological doctrines of which he disapproved in Stephen.

Philoxenus's Stephen has long been identified as the author of an extant ascetic tract entitled The Book of the Holy Hierotheos. Therein the author indeed sets out the doctrines that Philoxenus refutes: he describes the fall of all beings from a primordial union with God; the ascent of the mind toward God, and its identification with Christ; its subsequent descent into hell, there to pronounce upon the souls of sinners; and its final consummation in the original Essence, in which all distinctions are dissolved and even the damned return to union. The content of the treatise, therefore, confirms on the one hand both Stephen's authorship and the substance of Philoxenus's critique but on the other, as several scholars have demonstrated, the pervasive influence of Evagrian thought upon his theological scheme (including, we should note, the doctrine that resurrected souls will become Christ). It is little surprise, then, that some have attributed to Stephen an obscure but nevertheless sure role in the origins of the Origenist crisis, the opening salvos of which occurred coterminous with his alleged arrival in Jerusalem.

For our purposes, however, perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Stephen's work is his attitude to the eucharist. In describing the spiritual ascent of the soul toward God he writes:84

Then the mind enters into the mystic and glorious holy of holies not made with hands, that it may accomplish mystically and divinely the glorious and holy mystery of the holy and hallowing sacrament; which is a kind of simple and unlimited power which is extended so as to include divinely the essences that are united with it: and those glorious angels display a kind of yearning of desire to receive the eucharist and to be made partakers in the mystery thereof; and [the mind] approaches divinely the spiritual altar; and sacrifices itself, holily and divinely, in most wonderful and ineffable mystery, and is raised again, divinely and holily, in the secret of holy mystery. . . . Know, O my son, that the material and bodily bread which is set upon the material altar is a kind of perceptible sign-and, to tell the truth, a small and unworthy shadow-of that glorious bread which is above the heavens; and the cup of mixture also that is in our world: it too, is (only) a material sign of that glorious and holy drink of which the mind is accounted worthy in the place that is above. . . . A material and bodily sacrament, then, is right for those who walk according to the body; and when the question is asked, whether those minds which have been accounted worthy to receive and to give the spiritual sacrament still need the bodily sacrament, I, for my own part, would say that those who have been initiated by water have yet to be made perfect and those who are in the body must also receive bodily nourishment.

Once again, therefore, we encounter that same ambiguous attitude to the eucharist that we have seen within the writings both of Evagrius and of Pseudo-Macarius. Stephen-much like Pseudo-Macarius-is aware of potential accusations of antisacramentalism and is thus careful to acknowledge the place of the material eucharist within the general Christian life; but at the same time it is clear that he regards that eucharist as a mere imitation of a far more glorious and efficacious spiritualequivalent, of which the mind partakes in contemplation.

Stephen's text emerged from a context in which other contemporaries had formed a quite different perspective both on the spiritual life and on the eucharist. The Book of the Holy Hierotheos has often been noted for certain correspondences that it shares with the corpus of another contemporary author, the neo-Platonic theologian writing under the pseudonym of the first-century Christian convert Dionysius the Areopagite. As with the Hierotheos of Stephen, the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius first emerged in anti-Chalcedonian circles in the early sixth century-a provenance that has inspired numerous attempts to identify him with prominent miaphysite theologians of the period-and as with the Hierotheos again, those writings have been alleged to contain the Origenist protological and eschatological positions condemned in Justinian's fifteen anathemas. (We shall return to this accusation below.) The extent and direction of dependence between Stephen and the Areopagite is a matter of much contention. Karl Pinggéra, in the most recent and most extensive salvo in discussions, has argued for a distinction between a Grundschrift and a Redaktionsschicht within Stephen's extant text, the latter extending the Evagrianism of the former but offering an explicit response to the Areopagite (and redacted, Pinggéra proposes, in Justinianic Palestine). These are, then, two texts that emerge in conversation with each other, and from the precise same theological milieu.

Both the similarities and differences between the Corpus Dionysiacum and the extant version of the Book of the Holy Hierotheos are perhaps best represented in their treatment of a striking shared theme: that is, their mutual conception of the ninefold arrangement of celestial beings. There are two crucial and informative differences: where the Book imagines a hierarchical ordering that is both flexible and permeable-that is, in which beings can alter their rank in ascent-in the Areopagite's vision all such ranks are fixed and immutable; and where the Book seems to have no terrestrial equivalent to its hierarchical ranking of the angels, and thus no terrestrial mediation between the individual and God, the Areopagite situates beneath his angelic host a further hierarchical structure corresponding to the various orders of the Church.

This is not the place for a full exposition of Pseudo-Dionysius's complex vision of the Church and its rituals. But for our purposes, it is important to note his striking perspective on the place of monks within the world. In his Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, an interpretation of the various Christian rites,the Areopagite propounds a vision of the cosmos as a strictly delineated terrestrial hierarchy, the function of which is to communicate divine illumination through its ranks, and for each rational being within those ranks to fulfill its hierarchical function and therein achieve divine union. He divides those ranks into three successive orders, defined through their closeness to God: first, the sacraments themselves; then those who initiate others in them; and then those who are initiated. He divides each of these ranks into three further divisions: the sacramental, into baptism, eucharist, and oil; the clerical, into deacons, priests, and bishops; and the laical, into the uninitiated, people, and monks. These threefold divisions also correspond to a neo-Platonic triad of purification, illumination, and perfection. The deacons offer purification to the uninitiated; the priests offer illumination to the people; and the bishops offer perfection to the monks. On monks themselves the Areopagite comments:

However, the most exalted rank of all those being initiated [tōn teloumenōn] is the sacred order of monks [hē tōn monachōn diakosmēsis], which has been completely purified by its full power and total purity of its own operations, and inasmuch as contemplation of the sacred order [hierourgia] is permissible to it, it has entered into intellectual contemplation and communion [theōria kai koinōnia]. It is entrusted to the perfecting powers of the bishops [hierarchai] and through their divine illuminations and hierarchical traditions is instructed in the sacred works [hierourgiai] of the sacred sacraments that it has contemplated, and led, as much as it can be [analogōs], to the complete perfection of the sacred knowledge of them.

Ascetics, therefore, are regarded as exalted members of the congregation, but their structural and spiritual dependence upon bishops is emphatic.

For Pseudo-Dionysius, the hierarchical ordering of ecclesiastical structures has a strict soteriological function that is extinguished if subverted. This means, for example, that monks cannot exploit alternative paths to the perfection offered through the bishops or appropriate the functions of those clerical ranks above them. Instructive in this regard are the Areopagite's Letters, a series of dramatic mise en scènesthat provide examples of the hierarchical principles enshrined within the wider corpus. Thus in Letters 8, "To the Monk Demophilus," he responds to an ascetic who has presumed to dismiss a priest who forgave a penitent sinner and then stormed into the sanctuary and there saved the eucharist from imminent defilement. The Areopagite offers a stinging rebuke that summarizes much of his thought upon the situation of monks:

Now hear my words. It is not permissible for a priest to be reproached [euthunesthai] by the deacons who are above you or by the ranks of monks to which you belong, even if he appears to have acted impiously against the divine or might be convicted of having done something else forbidden. For even if there is chaos and disorder [akosmia kai ataxia] of the most divine things and an abandonment of the ordinances and laws, that is no reason to overthrow the God-given order on God's behalf. . . . Do the sacred symbols [ta hiera sumbola] not also shout this? For the Holy of Holies [ta hagia tōn hagiōn] is not completely removed from all. Instead, the order of those who initiate in sacred things [ho tōn hierotelestōn diakosmos] is close to them, then the order of priests, and following them that of the deacons. To the ranks of monks are reserved the doors of the inner sanctuary, where they are both initiated and remain, not to guard them but rather to preserve order and their recognition of being closer to the people than the priests. From here the holy principle of ordering sacred things [hē tōn hierōn hagia taxiarchia] has ordained them to partake of the divine things, entrusting their distribution to others-that is, of course, those within. For those who are stood symbolically, as it were, at the divine altar see and hear the divine things that are brilliantly revealed to them, and benevolently they come out beyond the divine curtains to the obedient monks [tois hupēkoois therapeutais], to the sacred people, and to the orders being purified, and reveal, according to worthiness, the divine things that were well protected and undefiled, until through your invasion you forced the Holy of Holies, against its will, to be exposed.

Demophilus's intervention is, therefore, not only a disruption of proper liturgical protocol but a destructive subversion of the entire divine dispensation through which ascetics receive their perfection from the sacraments and bishops set over them.

There is here an emphatic and unambiguous elevation of the eucharist, which is the supreme sacrament, "sacrament of sacraments [teletōn teletē]." Thus the Areopagite's introduction to his exposition on the eucharistic rite:

But I proclaim that perfection [teleiōsis] in participating in other hierarchical symbols is possible only from the divine-ordered and perfecting gifts [teleiōtikōn dōreōn: i.e., of communion]. For scarcely one of the hierarchic sacraments [teletēs] can be completed [telesthēnai] without the divine eucharist as the summation of each rite [teloumenon], which divinely fashions a gathering to the One of the one being initiated [tou telesthentos] and perfects [telesiourgousēs] his communion with God through the God-granted gift of the perfecting mysteries [tōn teleiōtikōn mustēriōn].

In his subsequent description of the ritual, Pseudo-Dionysius insists on the moral righteousness required of the participants: thus, for the uninitiated, the rite-being a representation of the Last Supper, and a remembrance of Judas' exclusion from it-"teaches in a pure and at the same time divine manner that the approach to the divine things that is true through habit [kath' hexin alēthēs] bestows upon those who approach the communion that brings assimilation with them [tēn pros to homoion autōn koinōnian]; whereas for the initiated, "if we desire communion [koinōnia] with him, we must look toward his most divine life in the flesh and in assimilation [aphomoiōsis] to its sacred sinlessness return to the godlike and unblemished state. For thus he will give to us, in a harmonious manner, the communion that brings assimilation [tēn pros to homoion koinōnian]." The subsequent distribution of the eucharist is then said to achieve a perfect communion among those who receive and participate in it.

It must be said that Pseudo-Dionysius is by no means hostile to the ascetic tradition of contemplation-that is, he does not seem to reserve the full contemplation of God for the bishop, even if the latter is, among the Church's members, the most receptive to divine illumination. Instead, the need to contemplate the hidden realities of the outward structures of the Church-and thus, while remaining fixed in one's place, to be brought into closer union with God through the fulfillment of one's role in that place, ascending "into the hierarchy rather than up it"-is an imperative placed upon all the faithful. The Areopagite's departure from other representatives of that tradition is, instead, to make the ecclesial liturgy the sole point around which contemplation is oriented and to emphasize the structural (and thus spiritual) subordination of ascetics to clerics. His vision is, therefore, expounded from an episcopal perspective, acknowledging monks as preeminent members of the congregation but nevertheless recontextualizing ascetic advancement as an ecclesial endeavor, and thus offering a dramatic correction to the traditional monastic indifference to the structures of the Church as an effective medium of salvation. Indeed, this striking dissonance-between the institutionalized, sacramental, and hierarchical vision of the Areopagite on the one hand, and the individualized, sacramentally minimalist, and antihierarchical vision of Evagrius on the other-perhaps recaptures something of the former's purpose. If, as has been suggested above, the writings of the Areopagite emerge from the same milieu as that of Stephen bar Sudaili, then his corpus can be appreciated as a direct challenge to an Evagrian "minimalist" conception of ecclesial structures. We may thus appreciate the Pseudo-Dionysian corpus as a corrective to that same conception, in the same manner as the Pseudo-Macarian corpus serves as a corrective to the more extreme Messalian inclination that operated around it.

We must be cautious, therefore, not to overstate the degree of correspondence between the Areopagite's corpus and Stephen's Book of the Holy Hierotheos. Indeed, in a challenge to some recent attempts to uncover a hidden Origenism in the Areopagite's corpus, Emiliano Fiori has in a recent article demonstrated how the divergent attitudes to the sacraments revealed within the two works depend on their divergent cosmologies. Thus the Book, which posits the future restoration of an undifferentiated cosmos, cannot conceive a permanent place for the hierarchical order of the Church, which must be transcended; while the Areopagite-who does not in fact commit to the classic Origenist notions of isochristism or apokatastasis-in contrast believes in both a present and a future union in which the righteous retain their individualism and that is realized in and through the hierarchical, sacramental order of the Church. Thus the Areopagite is committed not to the abolition of terrestrial hierarchies but rather to their transfiguration.

The most important conclusion from comparison of the two authors, therefore, is not their similarity but rather their distinct difference, for the pair offer quite antithetical approaches to the nature of the cosmos and the place of the individual within it. Those antithetical approaches, moreover, are arranged along the same dividing lines that we have identified elsewhere in the same period: on the one side, ascetical enthusiasts emphasizing spiritual independence and the endeavor of the individual; on the other, the representatives of institutions emphasizing spiritual submission and integration within wider structures. It is in this sense that Alexander Golitzin has seen in Pseudo-Dionysius a response to sustained concerns about Messalian practice and belief; and it is in this sense also-and not in a clandestine commitment to the more controversial aspects of Evagrian doctrine-that he should be connected to the Origenist crisis in Palestine.

This tension between Pseudo-Dionysian and Evagrian schemes is not a modern observation, for it was obvious also to the former's first translator into Syriac, Sergius of Resh‛aina (d. 536). Among his manifold interests Sergius, we should note, was an enthusiast for Evagrius, and was perhaps a commentator on the latter's controversial Kephalaia Gnostica-one of his contemporaries, at least, went so far as to describe him as practiced "in the doctrine of Origen." Indeed, Sergius attached to his translation of the Areopagite's corpus an existing autograph treatise On the Spiritual Life that recapitulated the thought of Evagrius and then proceeded to set out how the Dionysian corpus might be reconciled to that same thought. Sergius here sees in the progression of the Areopagite's texts the Evagrian program of spiritual progression from action to contemplation, so that, for example, the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy is related to the Evagrian stage of praktikē or virtuous action, and the Divine Names to the final, divine contemplation. This short introduction, then, should perhaps be appreciated as the first serious attempt to reconcile the two competing visions. It was an attempt that later generations were to replicate.

It is perhaps unsurprising to discover that the Areopagite's ideas also found a particular resonance within Palestine, and here nowhere other than in Scythopolis. The city indeed appears as something of a crucible for the same intellectual tensions that we have explored here, tensions that revolved around the competing imperatives of the individual and the institution. At the end of 552 the bishop of Scythopolis-one Theodore, a former Palestinian monk of the Origenist faction-submitted to the emperor Justinian a libellus in which he recanted various Origenist errors (errors that mirror the anti-Evagrian anathemas of 553); and, as we have seen, the hagiographies of Cyril of Scythopolis point toward a comparable interest in the suppression of Origenism and, with it, the traditions of individual contemplation enshrined within the Evagrian tradition.

Pseudo-Dionysius's first substantial commentator was another Scythopolite, the sixth-century bishop John (most probably Theodore's predecessor). As Paul Rorem and John Lamoreaux have noted in their compelling book on John's commentaries, besides Christological observations, it is above all a concern for the preservation of hierarchical order within the Church that characterizes John's comments on the texts. Within that same concern John, like Pseudo-Dionysius, demonstrates an acute concern with the subordination of monks to their clerical superiors. Thus when he comes to the Areopagite's aforementioned Letters 8, to the rebel monk Demophilus, he reaffirms the structural relegation of monks to clerics, noting that "even if he sins, a priest must not be corrected by a deacon or a monk, or indeed by the laity . . . for [they are] above the order of monks and the liturgists-that is, deacons." For John, the monastic rebellion that Demophilus epitomized was a resonant topic: "And so note," he concluded in the opening scholion on the letter, "that these evils also took place in those times [kaka tauta kai epi ekeinōn tōn chronōn egeneto]."

Contained within John's scholia we also encounter a somewhat ambiguous and selective approach both to Origen and to Evagrius. Indeed, it has been suggested that the same prevarication places John within the Origenist camp in Palestine-that is, within the circle of those who pursued a spirit of intellectual liberalism-and moreover explains the otherwise quite remarkable silence of Cyril's Lives, in which his fellow Scythopolite does not feature. I would propose a quite different explanation, however: if we accept that the label "Origenist" signifies more than mere dedication to theological experiment and in fact implies (at least) an interest in the Evagrian tradition of spiritual contemplation, then it becomes problematic to place John within the same camp, since the liturgical vision that he promotes is in itself antagonistic to the presumptions of singular monastic practice. Both Cyril and John, in effect, share the same desire to situate monasticism within a fuller institutional context and thus also to deemphasize more singular spiritual endeavor; but each approaches the same tension from a quite different perspective, corresponding to their respective vocations, monastic and clerical. Thus, while Cyril (as Flusin has demonstrated) is careful to acknowledge the theoretical subordination of his heroes to the patriarch of Jerusalem, it is above all the institution of monasticism that for him constitutes the perfect terrestrial society; in contrast, for John (as for Pseudo-Dionysius) that same society is realized in the entire worshipping community, gathered around the altar of communion. In the end, despite their common purpose, the views of Cyril and John on the place of monasticism within the Christian cosmos are quite antithetical. It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that the former might prove hostile to the latter, refusing him the (inapposite) title "Origenist" but nevertheless condemning him through silence.

Within the Justinianic Near East, then, and in particular in Palestine, we witness something of the intellectual tensions that remained within and around monastic circles, tensions that the Chalcedonian legislators had failed to address. While the bishops gathered in 451 had lent an ecumenical impetus to preexistent notions of monks' legal and economic dependence on their clerical superiors, those same bishops did not-indeed could not-legislate against the spiritual independence long enshrined within the dominant traditions of ascetic thought, in particular that of Evagrius. Those traditions were, as we have seen, indifferent (though not hostile) to the hierarchical and sacramental structures of the Church and located salvation in complex processes of ascetical self-transformation and spiritual contemplation, for the most part detached from wider dependences. In time, however, that independence would in turn be challenged, as various post-Chalcedonian authors attempted a theologicalrenegotiation of ascetics' relation to the wider world. Two authors are of particular note: first, Cyril of Scythopolis, whose hagiographies sought to reorient monastic practice around the monastic institution, deemphasizing the individualistic, contemplative tradition and demonizing its adherents or admirers as Origenists; and second, Pseudo-Dionysius, whose liturgical vision presented nothing less than the full institutional, cosmological, and spiritual dependence of monks upon the external realities of the Church.


If, as we have seen, the eucharistic minimalism of earlier ascetic thought is complemented in the general eucharistic minimalism of the earlier hagiographies, is the post-Chalcedonian shift toward a more sacramentalized vision of the ascetic life-so evident in the works of the Areopagite and his commentator-also paralleled within the period's hagiographies? This might of course be expected, for the process of monastic ordination that various authorities promoted, and that served as a prominent medium through which ascetic charisma was integrated within ecclesial structures, was in this period far more advanced. But, to repeat, we are interested here not in fleeting references to monastic participation in rituals or sacraments but rather in the deliberateand developed attempt of hagiographers to articulate a new, more sacramentalized vision of the ascetic life. Thus, for example, Cyril of Scythopolis reports his heroes' ordination but, coterminous with his moral elevation of monasticism above the clerical vocation, devotes minimal attention to the eucharist. In the same period, however, we do discover elsewhere hagiographic visions of ascetics-cum-priests that include an unprecedented eucharistic emphasis. Those visions are contained within the Lives of the stylites.

Eucharistic participation presented a particular problem both to pillar saints themselves, stood atop their remote columns, and to those ecclesiasts who would attempt to subordinate them to regular submission to a priest. It is nevertheless notable that despite these difficulties, the hagiographers of these saints, rather than relegating a eucharistic emphasis in order to focus on their heroes' superior ascetic prowess as in most earlier hagiographies, chose in fact to dwell upon communion in order to demonstrate their subjects' integration within the wider Church. Within a context in which significant ideological constraints had been placed upon the practice of more singular ascetic feats, and in the light of the rather extreme ascetic singularity that stylites represented, it was no doubt now crucial that these same hagiographers demonstrate their heroes' consciousness of, and place within, local ecclesial structures.

One such hagiographer is the anonymous author of the Life of Daniel the Stylite, that fifth-century disciple and imitator of Symeon the Elder who established a column outside Constantinople during the reign of the emperor Leo I. Within the Life Daniel's integration within the surrounding world is above all emphasized in political terms, in the patronage of successive emperors, the saint's predictions concerning the future of the state, and the supplications of foreign diplomats before him; but his radical ascetic practice is also offset through his integration within the local church through ordination and a subsequent emphasis upon the reciprocal bond that tied him to the Constantinopolitan patriarch. Soon after Daniel established himself in the capital, the Life reports, the emperor commanded the patriarch Gennadius to make Daniel a priest. The latter's column then provides the stage for a quite remarkable scene expressing the mutual cohesion of saint and patriarch, for after the ritual of ordination Gennadius ascends on a ladder and the pair receive communion from each other's hands. Although in the earliest stages of his career Daniel had fallen under criticism from local Constantinopolitan priests, he now becomes the patriarch's companion and supporter. Thus, during the reign of the usurper Basiliscus, and in the context of an imperial edict abrogating Chalcedon, the patriarch Acacius summons Daniel, and the saint descends from atop his column and travels to the cathedral church, uniting with Acacius and writing to rebuke the emperor as a new Diocletian. Daniel then presides over the reconciliation of emperor and patriarch in church.

In Daniel's Life, however, as in the Lives of Cyril of Scythopolis, the saint's or saints' reported ordination above all emphasizes a commitment to the wider Christian ministration; the celebration of the eucharist itself, however, infringes little upon the narrative. We can nevertheless contrast this relative absence with another Life of the post-Chalcedonian period, that of the sixth-century Antiochene stylite Symeon the Younger, an imitator of his more illustrious fifth-century namesake. Like Daniel, Symeon is portrayed as the spiritual patron of an emperor (Justin II)and, like Daniel again, his life is presented as one of progressive integration within the wider ecclesiastical establishment. In his early career atop his column, he is frequented and feted by the bishops of Seleucia and Antioch, and ordained as a deacon; at some later stage, under pressure from his monks and the local population, he becomes a priest; and throughout his life, he predicts the careers of the great and the good of the Eastern patriarchal scene-Anastasius of Antioch and John the Faster, for example.

At the same time, Symeon's hagiography is notable for the constant intrusion of liturgical acts and contexts upon the narrative. Its hero's life is marked with visions of the eucharistic celebration; he composes liturgical troparia; and his ascetic practice is defined in the constant performance of the monastic office. Most striking, perhaps, is a notice that places the stylite at the heart of liturgical life:

When Pentecost arrived and the synaxis had been completed, [Symeon] commanded the approaching crowds to be dismissed, and on the following Sunday, after the morning hymns, he commanded the brothers to close the gates of the monastery and to come together to him. And as he spread incense he ordered everyone to perform genuflections and then did so himself. He threw himself upon his face and in tears prayed for one hour along with them, and at the end of the prayer everyone said Amēn, and he told them to remove his leather cowl. In prayer he forgave them for their ignorance concerning every quarrel, speaking to them that Gospel saying . . . [There follows a brief sermon]. And when he had said these and many other things that turned and led them on the way to the eternal life, he entrusted them to the Lord, and having pronounced the Lord's prayer that lies in the Gospel of John on behalf of his disciples, he placed his hands upon them and blessed them all. He spoke a universal prayer for the world and for the men who hate us in vain . . . [There follows another brief sermon]. And when he had prayed thus he gave himself to those outside the sanctuary's railing, and receiving him they set him upon an empty throne and lifted unto his chest the holy Gospels, and as he went around he spoke a prayer in every place within the monastery and in the guardhouse. With great prudence the truly holy Martha, his mother according to the flesh, took the honorable and life-giving Cross and processed before him singing, "Save us, Son of God, who was crucified for us. Lord, glory to you, hallelujah!" And so the brothers raised the slave of God in their own hands like a holy vessel [hōs skeuos hagion], and singing hymns to God they bore him into the holy church of God that had been built by him. They prostrated themselves before him and asked that he recommend them to the Lord, and led him up both in peace and with hymns and installed him on his holy column.

In an important but perhaps neglected article on the hagiographies of Symeon and his synonymous predecessor, Susan Ashbrook Harvey has noted the "extraordinary emphasis on the integration of the stylite's ascetic practice into the liturgical life of the worshipping community, both monastic and civic." Pointing to the rituals of prostration, prayer, and psalmody through which these stylites are said to have practiced their labors, and through which their supplicants are said to have approached them, Harvey argues that the "stylite's defining ritual context" was not a "ritualized activity [an individual ascetic practice]"-as in Peter Brown's classic interpretation-but the "eucharistic liturgy of the gathered body of the church, the collective presentation of the Christian salvation drama." In these texts, Harvey suggests, the ascetic endeavors of the individual stylite are brought within, and made relevant through, the communal ritual contexts in which they are practiced.

In the Life of Symeon the Younger, the remarkable emphasis on the ascetic's ecclesiastical, sacramental, and liturgical context in part represents, no doubt, its hero's actual sacerdotal status. But placed next to the Life of Daniel the Stylite and the Lives of Cyril of Scythopolis-whose subjects are also all priests, but where the liturgical aspect is far less developed-that emphasis appears also to indicate the hagiographer's desire to underline his hero's orientation around, and integration within, liturgical structures. In a context of ascetic redefinition, in which the models of the pioneering generation more and more proved discordant with the ideological constraints that beset ascetics both from outside and from within, these post-Chalcedonian authors presented their heroes as an integral part of a far wider worshipping community. But for the author or authors of the Life of Symeon the Younger, that same project involved a far more pervasive assertion of the stylite's ecclesial credentials and, in particular, the placement of his ascetic practices within a distinct liturgical context. Thereby (in the memorable words of Harvey) "liturgy transfigured the ascetic body of the stylite into the ecclesial body of the church," reconciling "the poles of charismatic and institutional authority" and presenting "a ritual practice dependent upon mutually inclusive ascetic and liturgical meanings."

The elaboration of this more sacramentalized, more liturgified vision of the ascetic life occurs also within another, interrelated context: less, however, in relation to tensions over the boundaries of the clerical and monastic vocations, and more in relation to tensions over doctrine and the formation of schismatic communities. The canonical reinforcement of a normative paradigm of ascetic practice had, of course, been marginal to Chalcedon's actual purpose, which had been a decisive intervention in the doctrinal dissent concerning Christ's "one" nature or "two" natures. The Chalcedonian definition, however, failed to convince large numbers of clerics and monks, and led to the gradual formation of distinct, anti-Chalcedonian communities committed to a "one nature" Christological confession. In the post-Chalcedonian period, hagiographers within those same communities-confronted with a swathe of Chalcedonian bishops and oscillating if not oppositional imperial opinion-began to elevate the eucharist within the texts that celebrated their ascetic heroes, placing the sacrament and its rites at the center of new religious identities and shifting the orientation of their communities from the pious Christian emperor and his empire to the pious, "true" Church, the rites of which remained unsullied despite alienation from the secular authorities.

A wonderful example is provided in the Plerophoriae of John Rufus, a collection of anti-Chalcedonian vignettes composed in Palestineabout 515. Rufus was a priest at Antioch who broke communion after the second deposition of the anti-Chalcedonian Peter the Fuller, and thence traveled to Palestine, where he entered the ascetic circle of Peter the Iberian (whose Life he also composed), later, perhaps, becoming bishop of Maiuma. Within the Plerophoriae we find a plethora of stories concerning the eucharist and its rites, in striking contrast to the relative minimalism of earlier hagiographic collections. The change of tone reflects a change of circumstance. For Rufus, the differentiation between efficacious and nonefficacious, true and false, eucharists is the ultimate dividing line between anti-Chalcedonian and Chalcedonian, true and false, doctrines. Frequent visions or miracles associated with the eucharist therefore serve to establish the righteousness of the anti-Chalcedonian position; while communion serves as the ultimate statement of membership within the orthodox group.

The Chalcedonian eucharist is therefore presented as polluted; its anti-Chalcedonian equivalent, as exalted. Rufus relates, for example, how a woman at Alexandria once hesitated to commune after the circulation of the so-called counterencyclical (that is, the proclamation of the emperor Basiliscus that withdrew his previous support for the anti-Chalcedonians). Then in a vision she perceived a great church with two altars: one grand but somber, with a Chalcedonian bishop celebrating the eucharist; and the other small but ordained in gold and gems, where a small child (the Savior) was offering the sacrifice and proclaiming "Receive communion at this altar." Chalcedonian bishops are here presented as dishonoring the host or unable to transform it: thus in one tale Timothy of Alexandria relates how, at the time of Chalcedon, he had a vision in which he approached the altar to receive communion and discovered the bread to be stale, a portent that presaged "the abandonment of God's grace from the churches"; in another Zachariah of Maiuma had a vision in which he perceived himself in a Chalcedonian church at Beirut and saw the priests offering the cup but treating it as miserable; while in one more, also situated at the moment of the circulation of the counterencyclical, one Abba John has a vision in which he perceives the altar of the Church to have been stripped and the eucharistic elements scattered on the floor.

It is therefore unsurprising that Rufus throughout the collection rails against indiscriminate participation in the Chalcedonian eucharist. We read of a monk, Constantine, who at the time of Chalcedon was unsure whether to commune at the shrine of St. John the Baptist at Sebaste, and thus to become an apostate; the saint himself then appears and warns the monk not to abandon the church and not to lose his soul-"For," John proclaims, "everywhere you go I will be with you." In the subsequent notice, another monk, Zosimus, goes from Sinai to Jerusalem and en route rests at the shrine of Jacob near Bethel; he is reassured that taking communion there is not a problem, but once again the saint appears, rebukes him, and orders him to hate "the renegades." Here, then, Rufus confronts a situation in which the Chalcedonian possession of prominent saints' shrines presented a significant concern, in particular, as Cornelia Horn has demonstrated, amid the manifold sacred sites of Palestine. His position is nevertheless unambiguous: preservation from doctrinal pollution is more important than worship at specific sites. Thus, for example, he holds forth the example of a nun who goes from the Mount of Olives to the Church of the Ascension at Jerusalem but is there closed in during a Chalcedonian celebration. When it has finished, she returns to her cell but soon after falls ill and on her deathbed proclaims, "People are saying to me, How could you be counted among the orthodox, you, who decided to stay put during a celebration of the renegades and watch the unworthy partake of the holy mysteries?"

As will be evident, there is a distinct anticlerical tone to Rufus's collection, an indignant sense that most (though not all) bishops had abandoned the true faith at Chalcedon. Where Chalcedonian priests challenge or persecute anti-Chalcedonian monks there are disastrous consequences for the former, and Rufus draws a sharp distinction between the pure world of anti-Chalcedonian ascetics and the corrupt world of Chalcedonian bishops. One anti-Chalcedonian relates how he once saw, in a vision, a mob of bishops sealing in a lit furnace a small child (Christ), with the hero of the Latrocinium, Dioscorus of Alexandria, alone abstaining from their plans; another reports still another vision, in which he perceives St. Paul standing amid a group of bishops and proclaiming to them, "Not one of you has been found to be pure."

Given that an alternative, anti-Chalcedonian Church had still to be realized at the time of the Plerophoriae's composition, this repudiation of the episcopate has some significant practical consequences that Rufus attempts to address. Thus, when during a persecution at Alexandria a monk can find no orthodox priests to celebrate the eucharist, his entreaties to God precipitate the miraculous revelation of a piece of the sacrament in his hand; and when a secular pilgrim hesitates to receive from his own hand a host that has been preconsecrated and that he carries with him, his doubts are assuaged when he discovers it bleeding.

In light of his celebration of anti-Chalcedonian asceticism, his perspective on the corrupted episcopate, and the evident difficulties in accessing the orthodox eucharist, it is quite remarkable that Rufus chose not to marginalize the sacramental structures of the Church but instead placed them at the center of his vision. The differentiation between true and false eucharists becomes a central marker of the wider differentiation between true and false doctrines, and orthodox communion becomes the superlative expression of anti-Chalcedonism. Thus Rufus records how a man in Cilicia who received the sanctified eucharist from Peter the Iberian married a woman who was devout but also a Chalcedonian and how that woman then fell into such a grave illness that the doctors despaired for her life; the wife, however, then had a vision in which angels revealed to her the heaven preserved for enemies of Chalcedon, and upon waking she received the anti-Chalcedonian host and was healed. Here, therefore, as elsewhere within the collection, it is the act of communion, more than a mere mental conversion, that is the most important expression of one's adherence to one or other camp.

The texts of Rufus's anti-Chalcedonian contemporaries are also conspicuous for this same elevation of the eucharist. The various Letters of Severus of Antioch, for example, demonstrate a constant concern for both sacramental protocol and the preservation of the eucharist from heretical pollution. Like Rufus, Severus in several places addresses the problem of absent priests, sanctioning autocommunion but also chastising those who consider the worthiness of the celebrant to affect the oblation itself. A series of his Letters, furthermore, reiterates the point that anti-Chalcedonians must not commune with their Chalcedonian adversaries: one should commune with those who are like-minded, or else invite damnation (even monks, Severus insists, are not exempt from this imperative); nor should one admit heretics to the eucharistic service, lest the gift of pure communion be polluted.

Volker Menze's recent monograph on the formation of the Syrian Orthodox Church has highlighted this eucharistic discourse as one of the central means through which anti-Chalcedonian authorities responded both to the doctrinal fragmentation of the episcopate and to their creeping alienation from Constantinople. It thus had both a practical and an ideological dimension: for those living in Chalcedonian areas, issues of sacramental protocol were no doubt real and immediate concerns that authorities were forced to confront; but at the same time, in elevating the anti-Chalcedonian eucharist and disparaging that of their opponents, those same authorities used the same sacramental emphasis as a means of establishing the ritual boundaries of their doctrinal group, without limiting participation to one particular social group (monks, clerics, seculars, etc.). It is, therefore, of little surprise that from the reign of the Chalcedonian emperor Justin I anti-Chalcedonian leaders, who had until then distributed the eucharist to the faithful through a disparate network of established or exiled clerics, began instead to ordain the leaders of an alternative, anti-Chalcedonian Church. Those ordinations were an intractable step on the path to the full fragmentation of the Eastern Church.

The intrusion of the eucharist within hagiographies such as the Plerophriae places the sacrament and its rites at the center of anti-Chalcedonian self-perception. In setting out this new vision, anti-Chalcedonian authors were also preparing the ground for a gradual dissociation of Christian faith and empire, in which the emphasis upon eucharisitc righteousness would come to provide the basis for self-definition in an imminent future in which both imperial politics and foreign incursion encouraged the exploration of new, post-Roman identities. But for our purposes here, we should note that a more immediate effect of this shift is to transport the eucharist-to a far greater degree than in the past-into hagiographic narratives, implicating hagiographic heroes within a broader ecclesial framework from which ascetics are not absent or excused. The presence of the eucharist therefore has a somewhat different purpose here than in, for example, the Life of Symeon the Younger (where doctrinal references are conspicuous for their absence). But the result is nevertheless the same: far from operating outside sacramental imperatives, in this post-Chalcedonian period some prominent ascetics are now presented as integrated within, and subordinated to, a far broader, sacramentalized world with the eucharist at its navel.

In a range of post-Chalcedonian literature we witness a series of interrelated tensions: between the individual and the institution, between asceticism and eucharist, between monasticism and Church. Although the process of ideological reorientation expressed and enforced within the Chalcedonian legislation had no doubt done much to reconcile the monastic and clerical vocations, it is evident that significant tensions remained. Not least, and despite legal and economic integration, no intellectual solution had been offered to the traditional ascetic indifference to the eucharist, an indifference so evident in the writings of the earliest ascetic theoreticians and hagiographers.

Throughout the post-Chalcedonian period various Christian commentators attempted to address those same tensions: the hagiographers of pillar saints emphasized the full liturgical integration, even ordination, of their heroes; anti-Chalcedonian commentators began to place the eucharist at the center of the orthodox monastic (and broader Christian) life; and, perhaps above all, the Areopagite set out a radical new vision that contextualized the ascetic tradition within the structures of the Church and made monks dependent upon the spiritual perfection offered through the eucharist and its episcopal mediators. Dissenting voices could still nevertheless be heard, and it is, above all, in the Palestinian Origenist crisis that we catch precious glimpses of a disparate group of monks who still clung to the mood of spiritual and moral freedom that had defined the earliest ascetic thinkers, against those who would subordinate monks to the demands of successive institutions (coenobium, church, and empire).

It is indeed in Palestinian circles that we will pursue such tensions in the remainder of this book, in the writings of three monastic authors trained in the coenobia and laurae of the Judean deserts: John Moschus, Sophronius of Jerusalem, and Maximus Confessor (fl. ca. 610-60). These three authors were Chalcedonian in doctrine, and when we first encounter the group, in Sophronius's Miracles of Cyrus and John, we discover an author who recapitulates the anti-Chalcedonian eucharistic emphasis notable, for example, in the Plerophoriae of Rufus, elevating communion as the preeminent expression of conversion to orthodox doctrine. This sacramental differentiation of orthodox and heretic, Chalcedonian and anti-Chalcedonian, would continue to dominate the cultural output of Sophronius and his circle, but whereas the former would in the Miracles prove indifferent to the spiritual demands of communion outside contexts of conversion, in later decades, the same group would attempt a far more comprehensive and more urgent reevaluation of Chalcedonian ecclesiological perception. As the empire was pitched into a geopolitical crisis that placed some Chalcedonian communities under "barbarian" rule and that forced Chalcedonian Christians to explain evident divine disfavor, the same circle set about exploring a new model of the Christian life, pursuing a far more profound and pervasive renegotiation of the conceptual divide between asceticism and eucharist than had hitherto been attempted, either in Chalcedonian or in anti-Chalcedonian circles. Therein, Moschus, Sophronius, and Maximus abandoned long-standing monastic claims to spiritual independence of ecclesial realities but at the same time asserted a more integrated model of the orthodox Christian community, guaranteeing its righteousness even as the Christian empire proved ephemeral.

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