Nectarius of Constantinople

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Our father among the saints Nectarius was the Archbishop of Constantinople from 381 to 397. Although an unbaptized layman, Nectarius was elected by the people, the clergy, and emperor Theodosius to succeed Gregory as the bishop of Constantinople. His feast day is October 11.


Little is known about the early life of Nectarius. He was born in Tarsus, into a senatorial family. He was praetor of Constantinople. His brother, Arsacius, was also Archbishop of Constantinople from 404 to 405. Yet, while only a catechumen, he had lived a divine and holy life. In preparation for a trip to Tarsus, Nectarius asked that Diodorus, the bishop of Tarsus, who was in Constantinople for the Second Ecumenical Council, to deliver a letter for him. Bp. Diodorus was so impressed with Nectarius' demeanor and appearance that he became determined that Nectarius should be advanced as a candidate for bishop. Bp. Diodorus asked Nectarius to delay his return to Tarsus and took him to meet Bishop Meletius of Antioch.

With the resignation of Archbishop Gregory as Archbishop of Constantinople during the time of the Council, emperor Theodosius asked the bishops attending the Council to suggest candidates for the see of Constantinople from which he could make a selection. Bp. Meletius placed the name of Nectarius at the bottom of his list. From the submitted lists, emperor Theodosius selected Nectarius to be his choice for Archbishop of Constantinople. The emperor's choice of Nectarius took everyone by surprise, as Nectarius had not yet been baptized. The people of Constantinople were delighted at the news as was the council. After he had been baptized and admitted to the Holy Orders, Nectarius was duly consecrated and installed as Archbishop of Constantinople and became at once president of the Second Ecumenical Council.

Initially, a number of Bishops of the West who opposed the election attempted to initiate a council for reconsideration. But, the election of Abp. Nectarius stood, other than a council in Rome from which no formal account remains of its proceedings, nor of how its members treated the question of Nectarius. On the other hand a letter from Nectarius to the bishops of Illyria noted that the church in Rome had finally agreed to recognize him as well as Abp. Flavian I of Antioch, who also was elected during the period.

During Nectarius' episcopate at Constantinople, the disputes continued with the Arians in its variations. In spite of the decrees of bishops and the emperor, the Arians continued to spread their doctrines. Emperor Theodosius summoned all parties to Constantinople for a great discussion in June 383, hoping to reconcile all differences. Before this he had sent for Nectarius and told him that all questions should be fully debated. Returning home, Nectarius, full of anxiety, consulted the Novationist Bishop Agelis, who felt himself unsuited to arbitrate on such a controversy. However, he did have a reader, Sisinnius, a philosopher and theologian, to whom he referred the argument with the Arians. Sisinnius suggested that they should produce the testimonies of the old Fathers of the Church on the doctrine of the Son, and ask the leaders of the several parties whether they accepted these authorities or desired to anathematize them. Both Abp. Nectarius and emperor Theodosius agreed to his suggestion. When the Bishops met, Theodosius asked whether they respected "...the teachers who lived before the Arian division?" The assembled bishops confirmed that they did. He then asked if they acknowledged, "...them sound and trustworthy witnesses of the true Christian doctrine?". This question, however, produced divisions among the bishops and so the emperor ordered each party to draw up a written confession of his doctrine. When this was done, the Bishops were summoned to the Imperial palace where the emperor received them with kindness and then he retired to his study with their written confessions. After considering them Theodosius rejected and destroyed all except that of the orthodox, because he felt that the others introduced a division into the Holy Trinity.

Theodosius, then, forbade all sectaries, except the Novatianists, to hold divine services or to publish their doctrines or to ordain clergy, under threat of severe civil penalties.

Towards the close of his episcopate, Nectarius abolished the office of presbyter penitentiary, whose duty was to receive confessions before communion. His example was followed by nearly all other bishops.

Nectarius reposed in 397 or 398 and was succeeded by John Chrysostom.

Succession box:
Nectarius of Constantinople
Preceded by:
Patriarch of Constantinople
381 - 397
Succeeded by:
John Chrysostom
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