Severus of Antioch
Severus of Antioch is one of the ancient dissident bishops in the Church of Antioch, known in Syriac as the 'Togho d'Suryoye' or 'Crown of the Syrians.' He was the most prominent theologian associated with the opposition to Council of Chalcedon and played a central role in defending the phraseology of Dioscorus of Alexandria preserved by Chalcedon's opponents.
Severus was born around 459 in Sozopolis, Pisidia (modern day Turkey). His paternal grandfather, also named Severus, was Metropolitan of Sozopolis and in that capacity attended the Council of Ephesus in 431.
Following the death of his father, a senator in Sozopolis, Severus left Pisidia for Egypt, where he studied grammar and rhetoric together with the Greek and Latin languages in Alexandria. It was in Alexandria that he was introduced to the writings of Ss. Basil the Great and Gregory of Nazianzus. In 486 Severus moved to Beirut to study philosophy and Roman jurisprudence and in 488 he was baptized in nearby Tripoli, having not been previously baptized as it was a custom in Pisidia at that time not to baptize boys until they had at least come of age.
Life as a Monk
After his baptism Severus became increasingly ascetic in his daily life, eventually becoming a monk at St. Romanus' Monastery in Maiuma, Palestine. He later retreated into the desert near Eleutheropolis before founding a monastery for his disciples in Maiuma. Severus lived there until the coming of Nephalius to Gaza in 508. Nephalius had previously led a faction of the Eutychian heretics before renouncing his heresies and accepting Chalcedon. Severus insisted that Dioscorus' terminological rigidity be preserved, refused to acknowledge the later Cyrilline and Chalcedonian formula, and was therefore expelled.
Following his expulsion from his monastery Severus together with 200 monks from the area around Gaza left for the imperial capital of Constantinople, where they remained for 3 years seeking to obtain the favor of Emperor Anastasius. When Patriarch Macedonius of Constantinople was deposed in 511 he was considered for the patriarchate, but Patriarch Timothy, who also opposed Chalcedon, was enthroned instead and Severus was able to return to Palestine with his disciples.
When Patriarch Flavian II of Antioch was deposed in 512, Severus was elected Patriarch of Antioch, being enthroned on November 6, 512. Following the rise to power of Emperor Justinian I Severus was summoned to Constantinople, where the emperor attempted to persuade him to accept Chalcedon. When Severus refused the emperor ordered him to be killed, but he was saved by St. Theodora, the emperor's wife, who was the daughter of a priest from Syria and an opponent of Chalcedon. At her urging, Severus fled the capital, after which Emperor Justinian declared him deposed and in 518 placed a supporter of Chalcedon on the patriarchal throne of Antioch.
Severus fled Constantinople for Egypt, where he met with Pope Timothy II and took refuge in a number of different monasteries disguised as a simple monk. Throughout his travels in Egypt Severus preached his anti-Chalcedonian position and strengthened his followers in their resistance to the Fourth Ecumenical Synod. He also wrote many books and letters against heresies. Although he wrote in Greek his writings have been primarily preserved in Syriac.
In 535 Severus returned to Constantinople to discuss the reunification of the Church with Emperor Justinian. During his stay in the city he brought Patriarch Anthimus of Constantinople to reject Chalcedon, but the schism as a whole was unable to be healed at that time and in 536 the emperor had Severus formally excommunicated.
Upon returning to Egypt, Severus settled in the home of a layman, Dorotheus, in the city of Sakha and continued to teach and purportedly work miracles. He died on February 8, 538.
Severus is commemorated as a saint by the non-Chalcedonian Syriac Orthodox Church on February 8 and on the Thursday following the Fast of Nineveh.
External Links and Sources
- A Bibliography of Severus of Antioch
- Monophysites and Monophysitism (Catholic Encyclopedia)
- A Collection of Letters of Severus of Antioch
- Letters of Patriarch Severus of Antioch
- Orthodox Christology of St. Severus of Antioch
- Departure of St. Severus (Synaxarium)
- St. Severus (Syriac Orthodox Patriarchal Vicariate of the Western United States)
- Mor Severius of Antioch (Syriac Orthodox Resources)