Death of Arius

In his excellent Essays on Miracles, Newman recounts the death of Arius, one of the greatest heretics the Church has ever known.

Emperor Constantine had converted to Christianity early in the 4th century. However, he began to take up with Arius’s errors, despite the teaching of the First Ecumenical Council (Nicaea, AD, 325). He allowed him and his supporters to return from exile. They returned to Palestine.

Then, Constantine pressured Bishop Alexander of Constantinople to allow Arius to return to the Church and become Bishop. He brought Arius to Constantinople for this purpose.

Alexander spent several days in prayer and fasting, having confined himself to a Church. Then, he emerged and was ordered to appear before Constantine. He was commanded to accept Arius. Alexander refused, leaving the emperor’s presence and going to a Church. He fell prostrate and beseeched Almighty God:

“If Arius communicates tomorrow, then let thy servant depart, and destroy not the righteous with the wicked. But if thou sparest thy church, and I know thou sparest it, have respect unto the words of the Eusebians, and give not thine heritage unto ruin and reproach; and take Arius away, lest if he enter into the Church his heresy seem to enter with him, and henceforth religion be counted as irreligion.”

Meanwhile, Arius had been pompously parading around the streets, protected by the imperial guard. At last, one could see him thinking, I shall be vindicated.

That every evening, Arius suddenly took ill, violently. Some say terror seized him. He felt the violent urge to relieve his bowels. So, he asked to be directed to an appropriate place. When he let his excrement go, his very bowels left his body as well, his intestines having flowed out his anus, together with his spleen.

Thus ended Arius, perhaps the greatest open heresiarch the Church has known.

May God deliver us from heretics, whether seen or unseen. If the heretics do not repent and amend their ways, may God expose their hidden treacheries and expel them and grant the clarity of Truth prevail over hearts so that, freed from the slavery of error, we may return to him in tears that lead to joy.