Theodosius Issued an Edict

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Theodosius Issued an Edict

There are many turning points in the Church’s history. One of the most significant is little remembered by most of the faithful.

After Constantine’s conversion, he legitimised Christianity. Soon thereafter Christians in the Roman empire divided between Arianism (which denies the divinity of our Blessed Lord) and Trinitarianism (which sees God as three persons in one being). The first universal Church council, held at Nicea in 325, resisted Arianism; all but three of its Bishops voted for a Trinitarian creed.

Shortly after he came to the Imperial throne, Theodosius ended the Arian dispute by the simple expedient of issuing an edict. On this day 27 February 380 (some historians say 381) this edict commanded everyone to be a Christian–but not just any kind of Christian. A Catholic Christian, it said, was one who held that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one Godhead and equal in majesty. This, of course, was the position of the Nicene Creed. Theodosius’ decision was the result of his upbringing: he was reared in a Christian home, perhaps the first emperor to enjoy that distinction.

The following year, Theodosius issued another edict specifically requiring worship of the one God according to the Nicene Creed. Theodosius deposed Demophilus of Constantinople an Arian bishop and replaced him with a Trinitarian.

These laws (Codex Theodosianus16.1.2 and 16.5.6) are significant for many reasons. They made orthodox catholic Christianity the official dogma of the Church and suppressed the Arian factions. The laws established a pattern which would become more pronounced as Theodosius’ reign progressed of using the apparatus of the state to ensuring the orthodoxy of the Faith.

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