Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Eustathius, Patriarch of Antioch, Confessor

Article

A.D. 338.

Saint Eustathius was a native of Sida, in Pamphylia, and with heroic constancy confessed the faith of Christ before the pagan persecutors, as Saint Athanasius assures us, 1 though it does not appear whether this happened under Dioclesian or Licinius. He was learned, eloquent, and eminently endowed with all virtue, especially an ardent zeal for the purity of our holy faith. Being made bishop of Beræa, in Syria, he began in that obscure see to be highly considered in the church, insomuch that Saint Alexander, of Alexandria, wrote to him in particular against Arius and his impious writings, in 323. Saint Philogonius, bishop of Antioch, a prelate illustrious for his confession of the faith, in the persecution of Licinius, died in 323. One Paulinus succeeded him, but seems a man not equal to the functions of that high station; for, during the short time he governed that church, tares began to grow up among the good seed. To root these out, when that dignity became again vacant, in 324, the zeal and abilities of Saint Eustathius were called for, and he was accordingly translated to this see, in dignity the next to Alexandria, and the third in the world. He vigorously opposed the motion, but was compelled to acquiesce. Indeed, translations of bishops, if made without cogent reasons of necessity, become, to many, dangerous temptations of ambition and avarice, and open a door to those fatal vices into the sanctuary. To put a bar to this evil, Saint Eustathius, in the same year, assisting at the general council of Nice, zealously concurred with his fellow bishops to forbid for the time to come all removals of bishops from one see to another. 2 The new patriarch distinguished himself in that venerable assembly by his zeal against Arianism. Soon after his return to Antioch he held a council there to unite his church, which he found divided by factions. He was very strict and severe in examining into the characters of those whom he admitted into the clergy, and he constantly rejected all those whose principles, faith, or manners appeared suspected; among whom were several who became afterwards ringleaders of Arianism. Amidst his external employs for the service of others, he did not forget that charity must always begin at home, and he laboured in the first place to sanctify his own soul; but after watering his own garden he did not confine the stream there, but let it flow abroad to enrich the neighbouring soil, and to dispense plenty and fruitfulness all around. He sent into other diocesses that were subject to his patriarchate, men capable of instructing and encouraging the faithful. Eusebius, archbishop of Cæsarea, in Palestine, (which church was, in some measure, subject to Antioch,) favoured the new heresy, in such a manner as to alarm the zeal of our saint. This raised a violent storm against him.

Eusebius of Nicomedia laid a deep plot with his Arian friends to remove Saint Eustathius from Antioch, who had attacked Eusebius of Cæsarea, and accused him of altering the Nicene Creed. Hereupon, Eusebius of Nicomedia, pretending a great desire to see the city of Jerusalem, set out in great state, taking with him his confidant, Theognis of Nice. At Jerusalem they met Eusebius of Cæsarea, Patrophilus of Scythopolis, Aëtius of Lydda. Theodotus of Laodicea, and several others, all of the Arian faction: who returned with them to Antioch. There they assembled together, as in a Synod, in 331, and a debauched woman, whom the Arians had suborned, coming in, showed a child which she suckled at her breast, and declared that she had it by Eustathius. The saint protested his innocence, and alleged that the apostle forbids a priest to be condemned unless convicted by two or more witnesses. This woman, before her death, after a long illness, called in a great number of the clergy, and publicly declared to them the innocence of the holy bishop, and confessed that the Arians had given her money for this action, pretending that no perjury was implied in her oath, upon the frivolous and foolish plea that she had the child by a brazier of the city called Eustathius. The Arians accused him also of Sabellianism, as Socrates and others testify; this being their general charge and slander against all who professed the orthodox faith.

The Catholic bishops who were present with Eustathius, cried out loudly against the injustice of these proceedings, but could not be heard, and the Arians pronounced a sentence of deposition against the saint; and Eusebius of Nicomedia and Theognis hastened to inform the Emperor Constantine of these proceedings. The Arian bishops invited Eusebius of Cæsarea to exchange his see for the patriarchal chair of Antioch; but he alleged the prohibition of the canons; and the Emperor Constantine commended his modesty, by a letter which Eusebius has inserted in his life of that prince. We should have been more edified with his humility had this circumstance been only recorded by others. This happened, not in 340, as Baronius and Petavius imagine, but in 330 or 331, as is manifest not only from the testimony of Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, and Philostorgius, but also from several circumstances of the affair. The people of Antioch raised a great sedition on this occasion, but the Emperor Constantine, being prepossessed by the slanders of the two bishops, ordered Saint Eustathius to repair to Constantinople, and thence sent him into banishment. The holy pastor assembled the people before his departure from Antioch, and exhorted them to remain steadfast in the true doctrine, which exhortations were of great weight in preserving many in the Catholic faith. Saint Eustathius was banished, with several priests and deacons, first into Thrace, as Saint Jerom and Saint Chrysostom testify, and from thence into Illyricum, as Theodoret adds. Socrates and Sozomen confound him with a priest of Constantinople of the same name, when they tell us he was recalled by Jovian, and survived till the year 370; for Saint Eustathius died thirty years before Saint Meletius was advanced to the see of Antioch in 360, as Theodoret testifies. Nor was he mentioned in the council of Sardica, or in any of the disputes that followed; and our best critics and historians conclude him to have been dead in 337. Philippi, in Macedon, which, in the division of the empire into diocesses, was comprised in that of Illyricum, was the place of his death, 8 but his body was interred at Trajanopolis, in Thrace, from which city Calandion, one of his successors, caused it to be translated to Antioch, about the year 482, as Theodorus Lector informs us.

Saint Eustathius bore his exile with patience and perfect submission, and was under its disgraces and hardships greater and more glorious than whilst his zeal and other virtues shone with the brightest lustre on the patriarchal throne. We may please ourselves in those actions in which we seem to be something; into which, however, self-love, under a thousand forms, easily insinuates itself. But the maxims of our Divine Redeemer teach us that no circumstances are so happy for the exercise of the most heroic virtue as humiliations and distresses when sent by Providence. These put our love to the test, apply the remedy to the very root of our spiritual disorders, employ the most perfect virtues of meekness, forgiveness, and patience, and call forth our resignation, humility, and reliance on Providence; in these trials we learn most perfectly to die to our passions, to know ourselves, to feel our own nothingness and miseries, and with Saint Paul to take pleasure in our infirmities. Here all virtue is more pure and perfect. A Christian suffering with patience and joy, bears in spirit the nearest resemblance to his crucified Master, and enters deepest into his most perfect sentiments of humility, meekness, and love: for Jesus on his cross is the model by which his disciples are bound to form themselves, which they no where can do with greater advantage than when they are in a like state of desolation and suffering.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Eustathius, Patriarch of Antioch, Confessor”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. Saints.SQPN.com. 12 July 2013. Web. 1 August 2014. <>