(Welcome to our Saint of the Day series! Each weekday, we present you with an excerpt from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints series, published by Holy Cross Orthodox Press.Today's saint, Paul, comes from Volume 4 of the series.)
Saint Paul of Constantinople
"One of the most youthful of all the patriarchs since the time of Christ was the center of the Arianism controversy and was the pivotal factor in its eventual elimination, but at a cost to him of considerable political maneuvering and ultimately a shameful death at the hands of fanatics in his own house of worship. Like his contemporary, Athanasios the Great of Alexandria, Paul of Constantinople was a tragic figure in Christian history,victimized by the turbulence and passions of fourth-century heresy, a man of God who was in and out of favor with the Byzantine emperors but whose defense of the faith never wavered.
Despite the fact that Paul was born in Thessaloniki, he came to be known as Paul of Constantinople because of his long association with the Patriarchate of the Byzantine capital and his stubborn stand against the elements of Constantinople with which he was at odds over the theory of Arianism. A brilliant student and theologian, he served as patriarchal secretary with such eminence that he was the logical successor to Patriarch Alexander in the year 351, in spite of the fact that he was yet in his early thirties, and many prelates of longer but certainly not greater service to the Church were passed over.
As patriarch he challenged the theory of Arianism with his full authority, defying even the Emperor Constantios, who had publicly acknowledged his acceptance of Arianism. This defiance proved costly and the venerated patriarch was humbled by being exiled by the emperor, who in turn made patriarch the Arian Eusebios. The Christian world was thrown into a turmoil with this wretched expression of royal displeasure and in the ensuing ideological conflict the passions of the community were brought to such a feverish pitch that in the interest of the public good and for his own personal safety, Paul fled to Rome, there to meet none other than Athanasios, who had been deposed as patriarch of Alexandria.
In Rome Paul and Athanasios conferred over a period of many months in search of answers not only to the threat of Arianism but also to the many other burning issues that were ravaging the Eastern Church but had not yet reached the Western Church. It was to take nearly six hundred years to clear the weeds of controversy out of the garden of Christianity, and it was in Rome that Paul and Athanasios did the early spade work, preparing the way for successive generations to cultivate the soil whose fruits are enjoyed today in Christian houses of worship. The Western Church got caught up in its own web in the years to come, but meanwhile learned valuable lessons from its older sister in the East.
Some months after Paul and Athanasios had sought refuge in Rome, the brother of the emperor, known as Constans, threatened Constantios with a reprisal and the later acceded to the restoration of the two exiles to their proper patriarchal thrones. Their return was short-lived, however, because with the death of Constans the reigning Emperor Constantios once again removed Paul, who this time sought refuge in the ancient cultural center of Cappadocia, never to return to his Patriarchate of Constantinople.
While it is certain that Paul spent some time in meditation and prayer, he resumed an ex officio administration of the Christian churches of the area and succeeded in establishing a stronghold for the traditionalist Christians whose avowed purpose was the complete elimination of Arianism from the theological tenets. Paul preached from the pulpits and supplemented his oratory with considerable writings, the bulk of which denounced Arianism and discountenanced its place in the Church.
Paul’s successful forays against the heresy of Arianism infuriated its adherents to the degree that they plotted the death of a fellow Christian. Inconceivable as it may seem, one radical minority group of Christians hatched an assassination plot that ranks as the lowest point of shameful behavior in Christian annals. As Paul was preparing to celebrate the Divine Liturgy, he was set upon and murdered by a handful of Arian madmen, virtually sacrificing himself upon the altar of his own church for having defended the faith.This infamous incident touched off such a wave of protest against Arianism that it never again posed a threat to Christian belief. Paul died for Christ on November 6, 361."