Saint of the day 2nd August, We Celebrate St. Eusebius of Vercelli
Christians who breathed a sigh of relief when Constantine proclaimed Christianity the state religion, believing this would end the bloodshed and martyrdom. But it was all too short a time until they were facing persecution once more — from others who claimed to be Christian.
When Christianity became the state religion, many people adopted it for political reasons. Others adopted it without truly understanding it. Under these circumstances heresy found fertile ground. One of the most powerful heresies was Arianism which claimed that Jesus was not God (a heresy that has never completely died out). The Arians were powerful people, including nobles, generals, emperors. They commanded armies and senates. True Christianity was in real danger of being stamped out once again.
Eusebius had learned how to stand as a Christian from his father, who died a martyr in Sardinia. After his father’s death, he grew up in Rome where he was ordained a lector. This was a time when bishops were elected by the people and local clergy. When the people of Vercelli saw how well he served their Church, they had no doubt about choosing him as bishop.
Pope Liberius also noticed his abilities and sent him on a mission to the Emperor Constantius to try to resolve the troubles between Arians and Catholics. Seeming to agree, Constantius convened a council in Milan in 355. The powerful Arians however weren’t there to talk but to force their own will on the others. A horrified Eusebius watched as his worst fears were confirmed and the Arians made this peace council into a condemnation of Saint Athanasius, their chief opponent. Eusebius, unafraid of their power, slapped the Nicene Creed down on the table and demanded that everyone sign that before condemning Athanasius. The Nicene Creed, adopted by a council of the full Church, proclaims that Jesus is one in being with the Father — directly contradicting the Arian teaching.