Nectarius is the name of two patriarchs of the Eastern Church who figure prominently in ecclesiastical history.
1. The first, who is most widely known, was a native of Tarsus, and with the assistance of the emperor Theodosius became patriarch of Constantinople after the deposition of Gregory (q.v.) Nazianzen, and immediately before Chrysostom. Nectarius's occupancy of the episcopal chair between two such men would have required extraordinary merit to make him conspicuous. But, in truth, though he does not seem to merit the epithet applied to him by Gibbon; "the indolent Nectarius," the fact of his having been appointed at all is the most remarkable feature in his personal history. When Gregory Nazianzen (q.v.) resigned his office (A.D. 381), it was during the meeting of the second cecumenical council at Constantinople. Nectarius, a senator and a man of the highest family, was at this time intending to visit his native place, and previously waited on Diodorus, the bishop of Tarsus, who was in Constantinople as a member of the council. Diodorus, along with the other bishops, was perplexed as to whom they should nominate to the vacant see. Struck by the majestic appearance and white hair of Nectarius, and taking for granted that he was a Christian and had been baptized, Diodorus requested Nectarius to postpone his departure, and recommended him to Flavian, bishop of Antioch, as a fit person to succeed Gregory. Flavian laughed at the strange proposal; but, to oblige his friend, put Nectarius's name last on the list, and together with the other bishops presented it to the emperor. To the astonishment of all, Theodosius selected Nectarius, and persisted in his choice, even when it was ascertained that this candidate for episcopal honor had not yet been baptized, and had never proposed publicly to join the Church. The bishops at last acceded to the wishes of the monarch who had so rigidly opposed the Arians, while the people, attracted probably by his gentle manners and the venerable appearance of the man, presenting as he did every way a strong contrast to Gregory, loudly applauded the choice. Nectarius was baptized, and, before he had time to put off the white robes of a neophyte, he was declared bishop of Constantinople. Most important matters came under the consideration of the council over which, it is probable, he was now called to preside. He showed his discretion by putting himself under the tuition of Cyriacus, bishop of Adana, but we can hardly believe that Nectarius took any active part in the theological questions which were discussed. It is doubtful whether the canons that were enacted under the name of the second oecumenical council were not passed at two different sessions, a second taking place in 382. But this does not matter much, as they all bear the name of this council. The principal business transacted in the council, considered in a theological point of view, related to the conforming and extending of the Nicene Creed, mainly to meet the opinions of the Macedonians. The creed thus enlarged is that used at the mass of the Roman Catholic Church. Other canons regulated discipline, the restriction of the authority of each bishop to his own diocese, and the restoration of penitent heretics. The most important article of all, however, historically considered, was one which was conceded not more on account of the natural propriety of the arrangement than the personal favor which the emperor bore to Nectarius. It was decreed that as Constantinople was New Rome, the bishop should be next in dignity to the bishop of Rome, and hold the first place among the Eastern prelates. This, which at first was a mere mark of dignity, became a source of substantial power, embroiled Constantinople with, Rome, and was pregnant with all those circumstances "that have marked this important schism. Nectarius was the first who held the dignity of ex officio head of Eastern bishops as patriarch of Constantinople. These canons were signed July 9, 381. The zeal of Theodosius in the extirpation of Arianism led to the summoning of a council (not oecumenical) at Constantinople in July, 383. There assembled the chiefs of all the sects. By the advice of Sisinnius, afterwards a Novatian bishop, given through Nectarius, the emperor ensnared his opponents into an approval of the writings of the early fathers. He then required of each sect a confession of its faith, which, having read and considered, he condemned them all, and followed up this condemnation by the most stringent laws, for the purpose of entirely rooting them out. As might have been expected, Nectarius was obnoxious to the Arians; and we find that in 388, while the emperor Theodosius was absent in Italy opposing Maximus, a rumor that had falsely spread of the defeat and death of the prince excited their hopes, and they broke out in riot, in the course of which they set fire to the house of Nectarius. The most important act of his office occurred in 390, when Nectarius, alarmed by the public odium which had been excited by the seduction of a woman of quality by a deacon, abolished the practice of confession which had been introduced into the Eastern Church — a penitential priest (presbyter poanitentiarus) having been appointed, whose office it was to receive the confessions of those who had fallen into sin after baptism, and to prescribe for them acts of penitence previously to their being admitted to partake of the privileges of the Church. The officer of the confessional, while seeking to do his duty, provoked such scandal in the Church that it seemed advisable not to continue an office which was likely to do more harm than good (Neander, Ch. Hist. 2:181; Schaff, Ch. Hist. 3:357, 358). According to Balsamon (Hardouin, Concil. 1:955), the last council (not cecumenical) at which Nectarius presided was held in Constantinople in 394, regarding a dispute between Agapius and Bagadius in relation to the bishopric of Bostria, this council deciding that the consent of several bishops of a province is necessary to confirm the deposition of one of their number. Nectarius survived his patron, Theodosius, two years, dying September 27, 397. He seems to have borne his honor meekly, and to have acted with great discretion. In the subtle controversies that agitated the Church we learn that he avoided discussion himself, and was guided by the advice of men better skilled in the puzzling dialectics of the time. If the conjecture of Tillemont (Histoire Ecclesiastique, 9:466) be correct, Nectarius was married, and had one son. His brother, Arsatius, succeeded John Chrysostom as patriarch of Constantinople (comp. Fleury, Histoire Ecclesiastique, volumes 4 and 5; Socrates, Historia Ecclesiastica, 5:8, 13; Sozomen, Hist. Eccles. 7:8, 9, 14,16; 8:8, c. 23). Nectarius is said to have been the author of a Homilia in Theodorum martyrem, which was first published among the discourses of Chrysostom (Paris, 1554), and has since been several times reprinted. The decision of the synod concerning Agapius and Bagadius is contained in Freher's In Jure Graeco-Romano, 4:247. See Oudin, Comment. 1:686; Tillemont, 9:486; Fabricius, Bibliotheca Graeca (ed. Harl.), 9:309; 10:833; 12:390; Cave, Hist. Literaria, 1:277; Smith, Dict. Greek and Rom. Biog. and Mythol. s.v.; Edinb. Rev. 1867 (July), page 58.
2. The second Nectarius was patriarch of Jerusalem in the 17th century. Little is known of his history. According to Fabricius, he was born in Crete, educated at Athens under Theophilus Corydales, and while yet a young man entered a convent of Mount Sinai. He succeeded Paisus as patriarch of Jerusalem. A strict partisan of Greek orthodoxy, he opposed both the other parties, and endorsed the Confession of Mogilas in 1662 (Conf. libr. symb. eccl. Or. [ed. Kimmel] page 45). During his patriarchate the Romish emissaries were very active in endeavoring to persuade the Greek Christians of Palestine, suffering under the yoke of the Turks, to unite with the Church of Rome; among them a Franciscan, named Peter, was especially active in distributing five tracts in defence of the papal authority. These tracts Nectarius answered by the publication of another, entitled Κατὰ τ ῾ης ἀρχῆς τοῦ Παππᾶ (Jasii. 1681; Lond. 1702, 8vo), which is a fair refutation of the five principles laid down in the Roman Catholic tracts: 1st, of unity in the primitive Church; 2d, of the harmony of the two principal divisions of the Church in the apostolic time; 3d, of the sole authenticity of the Church of Rome; 4th, of the necessity of the monarchial government of the Church. To the first point Nectarius answers that the union of the Church means the unity between the members of the spiritual Church, which still exists, and this alone constitutes the true Church. To the second, he replies by historical documents showing that, though identical in point of doctrine, the Greek and the Latin churches differed in their form of worship and Church government in the 2d century. To the third, he answers by proving the alteration of the symbols in the Roman Church. Admitting the fourth in principle, he says that the king and head of the Church being Christ, there can be no other head, but naturally an aristocratic organization. He also wrote a work in Greek against the doctrines of Luther and Calvin, which was translated into Latin by Renaudot, who published it, together with Gennadius's Homilies on the Eucharist, etc. (Paris, 1709, 4to). Nectarius is said to have also written a history of the Egyptian empire down to sultan Selim. See Fabricius, Bibl. Graeca (ed. Harl.), 9:310; Kimmel, 1.c. Prae. page 75; Nic. Commenus in praenott. mystagog. respons. 6, sec. 2. (J.N.P.)