Ossius of Cordova and Silence: Christ Can Even Save The Broken

Ossius of Cordova and Silence: Christ Can Even Save The Broken January 23, 2017

Ossius of Cordova. Uploaded by MaiDireLollo (http://www.freewebs.com/orientalhispana/clero.htm) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Saint Ossius of Cordova. Uploaded by MaiDireLollo (http://www.freewebs.com/orientalhispana/clero.htm) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
St. Ossius of Cordova was one of the more influential and well respected bishop-confessors at the time of St. Constantine’s conversion to the Christian faith. When Constantine wanted to follow the Christian faith, Ossius was one of the many bishops Constantine called to his court to teach him the intricate details and expectations of his newfound faith. Moreover, Ossius was the first Constantine trusted to serve as a mediator between himself and the Church, directing Constantine in his activity with the Church itself. This is why, when the Arian controversy emerged in Alexandria, disrupting the peace of the Church, Ossius was sent to investigate the cause of the conflict and to find a way to end the controversy and reestablish the peace of the Church.

What happened next was not what either Constantine or Ossius expected. When Ossius talked to the Patriarch of Alexandria, St. Alexander, and learned what was at stake, he was more than a little surprised: how can a Christian deny the divinity of Christ? Ossius and Alexander quickly came into an agreement as to the errors of Arius, and they tried, without success, to bring an end to the controversy before it spread throughout the empire. While working with Alexander, Ossius met the young St. Athanasius, and quickly became one of Athanasius’s mentors. Ever since his meeting with the bishop from Cordova, Athanasius looked upon him with great favor.

Because the conflict did not end with Ossius’ intervention in Alexandria, Ossius, working with Constantine, eventually decided it was best to convene an empire-wide, that is ecumenical, council to help deal with the Arian controversy (as well as many other internal conflicts causing scandal to the Christian faith). Ossius presided at the council, convened at Nicea, and helped write and produce is creed.

Ossius continued to be a strong opponent of Arianism. His reputation as a holy confessor certainly gave him credibility to the rest of the Church, and that meant Arians felt the sting of his denial of their claims.  But this was not to mean they did not try to undermine his message. When Constantine died, the Arians found all kinds of ways to influence the empire, getting into the courts of his successors, so that orthodox bishops often suffered exile or worse, persecution and torture, for their defense of Nicea.

Ossius fought the good fight for a long time, but, as an old man, he eventually suffered greatly as he and his family were tortured, and that suffering broke him down. Against his desire and wishes, against his will, for the sake of his family more than himself, he found himself resigned to signing one Arian creed. Once he did so, he and his family were free to flee back to his homeland. Once he got there, he immediately repudiated the creed which he signed, and died soon afterwards (perhaps with the wounds of the torture itself as a part of the cause of his death).

Since he fell and signed the creed, many have condemned him, despite being a confessor-bishop who suffered torture several times in his life for the sake of Christ. Many Novatians and Donatists, who despised Ossius because he persuaded Constantine not to give financial support to their churches, besmeared his name, causing the West to ignore his holy and saintly life (he is recognized as a Saint in the East). His lapse was against his will, when he was not in the best frame of mind or health, and was done in part for the sake of others to stop them from being tortured. His situation is quite like the situation found in Endo’s novel Silence, and the movie which has come out of that novel.

Would those same people who condemn Silence condemn a film about Ossius of Cordova which deals with his signing of the Arian Creed of Sirmium, showing the psychological and physical torture which led to his breakdown  (similar to what is shown in Endo’s Silence)?  Would they say such a film promotes apostasy by being realistic about history? Would they likewise condemn Ossius, not allowing him forgiveness afterward, and denounce any who would show him such graceful consideration?

They would do so against the express wishes of Athanasius.


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