Saint of the Day – 24 October – Saint Proclus of Constantinople (Died c 446) Confessor, Archbishop of Constantinople, Defender of the Church and of the Blessed Virgin, Writer, renowned Preacher – born in Constantinople (modern Istanbul, Turkey) and died in c 446 in the area of modern Turkey of natural causes. He defended the divine maternity of Mary, fought against the heresy of Nestorius and, after Nestorius’ deposition, became Bishop of Constantinople.
Roman Martyrology: In Constantinople, St Proclus, Bishop, who courageously proclaimed Blessed Mary as the Mother of God and brought the body of St John Chrysostom back from exile to the city with a solemn procession, thus deserving the title of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, as “Great.”
The friend and disciple of Saint John Chrysostom, Proclus became secretary to Archbishop Atticus of Constantinople (406–425), who ordained him Deacon and Priest. Atticus’ successor, Sisinnius I (426–427), consecrated him Bishop of Cyzicus but the Nestorians there, refused to receive him and he remained at Constantinople. On the death of Sisinnius, the infamous Nestorius succeeded as Archbishop of Constantinople (428–431) and early in 429, on a festival of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Proclus preached his celebrated sermon on the Incarnation, which was later inserted in the beginning of the Acts of the Council of Ephesus. Below is an excerpt from St Proclus sermon:
“Our present gathering in honour of the Most Holy Virgin inspires me, brethren, to offer her a word of praise, of benefit also for those who have come to this holy celebration. It is a praise of women, a glorification of their gender, which (glory) she brings to it, she who is both Mother and Virgin at the same time.
O desired and wondrous gathering! O nature, celebrate that whereby honour is rendered to woman! Rejoice, O human race, that in which the Virgin is glorified. “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” [Romans 5:20]. The Holy Mother of God and Virgin Mary has gathered us here. She is the pure treasure of virginity, the intended paradise of the Second Adam, the place where the union of natures (divine and human) was accomplished and the Counsel of salvific reconciliation was affirmed.
Who has ever seen, who has ever heard, that the Limitless God would dwell within a womb? He Whom the Heavens cannot circumscribe is not limited by the womb of a Virgin! He Who is born of woman is not just God and He is not just Man. He Who is born has made woman the gateway of salvation. Where evil poured forth its poison, bringing on disobedience, there the Word made a living temple for Himself, bringing obedience there. From the place where the archsinner Cain sprang forth, there Christ the Redeemer of the human race was born without seed. The Lover of Mankind did not disdain to be born of woman, since She gave Him life (in His human nature). He was not subject to impurity by being in the womb which He Himself arrayed free from all harm. If this Mother had not remained a Virgin, then the Child born of her might be a mere man and the birth would not be miraculous in any way. Since she remained a Virgin after giving birth, then how is He Who is born not God? It is an inexplicable mystery, for He Who passed through locked doors without hindrance was born in an inexplicable manner. Thomas cried out, “My Lord, and my God!” [John 20:28], thus confessing the union of two natures in Him.”
When Archbishop Maximianus (431–434) died on Holy Thursday, Proclus was immediately enthroned by the permission of the Emperor Theodosius II and the Bishops gathered at Constantinople. His first care was the funeral of his predecessor and he then sent to both Bishops, St Cyril of Alexandria and St John of Antioch, the usual synodical letters announcing his appointment, both of whom approved of it.
In 436 the Bishops of Armenia consulted Proclus upon certain doctrines prevalent in their country and attributed to Theodore of Mopsuestia, asking for their condemnation. Proclus replied the next year in the celebrated letter known as the Tome to the Armenians, which he sent to the Eastern Bishops, asking them to sign it and to join in condemning the doctrines arraigned by the Armenians. They approved the letters but from admiration of Theodore, hesitated to condemn the doctrines attributed to him. Proclus replied that while he desired the extracts subjoined to his Tome to be condemned, he had not attributed them to Theodore or any individual, not desiring the condemnation of any single person.
A rescript from Theodosius procured by Proclus, declaring his wish that all should live in peace and that no imputation should be made against anyone who died in communion with the church, appeased the storm. The whole affair showed, conspicuously, the moderation and tact of Proclus. In 438, he transferred the relics of his old master, Saint John Chrysostom, from Comana back to Constantinople, where he interred them with great honour in the Church of the Twelve apostles. This action reconciled to the church those of Saint John’s adherents, who had separated themselves in consequence of his unjust removal as Archbishop.
In 439, at the request of a deputation from Caesarea in Cappadocia, Proclus selected as their new Bishop Thalassius, who was about to be appointed praetorian prefect of the East.
Proclus died most probably in October, 446. He appears to have been wise, moderate and conciliatory, desirous, while strictly adhering to Orthodoxy himself, to win over those who differed from him by persuasion rather than force.
The works of Proclus consist of 20 sermons. Five were published by Cardinal Mai, of which 3 are preserved only in a Syriac version, the Greek being lost; 7 letters, along with several addressed to him by other persons and a few fragments of other letters and sermons.
Proclus was cited by St John Henry Newman for his work on Mariology and his strong support of the conciliar dogma on the Mother of God. With his Marian doctrine, St Proclus opened the door to the further development of Marian doctrine during the period following the Council of Ephesus. Thanks to him, the faithful understood in a clearer way the great dignity of Mary, the power of her intercession and the need to honour her with special devotion.