Lanternarius Press

SAINT POPE ANASTASIUS I

Pope Anastasius stands out as a little known man, with one unusual characteristic: he was succeeded by his own son, Innocent I.

Anastasius was known as a pious youth and, apparently, cared nothing for material things as an adult. He was born about the year 330AD, a Roman, whose father's name was Maximus. When he was a young man, Anastasius must have married and had at least one son. Relatively early, it would appear, Anastasius was widowed and never remarried.

It was a time of peace and growth for the Catholic Church and, despite wars in far off regions of the empire, it was a time of relative peace in the Western provinces. Anastasius became a cleric, and, it would make sense to assume, so did his son.

However, just a few years before Anastasius became pope, Emperor Theodosius died, leaving his eleven year old son, Honorius, to govern. The half-Vandal Stilicho, became regent and the power behind the throne. Within three years, Stilicho declared war on the North African province, when he heard rumors of the province seceeding and moving to the Eastern Empire. Africa was Rome's bread basket. The rebellion was quashed within a year. Anastasius was consecrated with the promise of more peace.

The Church had converted to Latin as its universal language. Due to the expansion of the faith, it became necessary to have a common language for councils and synods. At this point, many of the fathers of the Church and theologians thus wrote in, or had works translated into, Latin. It often happened that the original authors were long dead at the time of the translation and mistranslations were often found. Thus was the scenario when Anastasius ascended the Chair of Peter. The new pope, consecrated November 27, 399, received a letter from Rufinus of Aquiliea. This man had taken the time to translate Origen's "First Principles" from the original Greek. St. Jerome, the elderly man who had worked so hard on the "Vulgate Bible", had attacked Rufinus' work. He felt the writings of Origen did not meet his sense of orthodoxy. Not being familiar with Origen's work, himself, Anastasius called a council to consider the problem. The council ultimately agreed with Jerome and claimed that Origen's work was heterodox, thus eliminating it from acceptable belief.

On the south side of the Mediterranean, the North African Christians were battling another heresy: the Donatists. Their main argument, in a nutshell, was that sacraments were valid, depending on the spiritual character of the priests and bishops. For the better part of one hundred years, the arguments had been continuing, despite the death of Donatus in 355, and several synods trying to straighten it out. In the late 300s, Augustine of Hippo argued and tried to settle the question. This was apparently of high interest to Anastasius, who encouraged the fight against this heresy. He did not live to see Emperor Honorius' secretary of state declare Donatism illegal. But Augustine did.

Anastasius died December 19, 401, having ruled just over two years. He was buried in the cemetery of Pontian. Innocent I succeeded his father.

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