Nicetas (or Nechites) of Nicomedea

Nicetas (Or Nechites) Of Nicomedea, an Eastern prelate, flourished as archbishop of Nicomedea in the first half of the 12th century. When, in 1136, Anselm, bishop of Havelberg, was sent by pope Innocent II to Constantinople for the purpose of effecting a union between the Eastern and Western churches, Nicetas appeared at this meeting as the defender of the Eastern views on the doctrine of the Procession of the Holy Ghost. When Anselm, at a subsequent period, was residing at the court of pope Eugenius III, he drew up, at the request of that pope, a full account of the conference (in D'Achery, Spicileg. vol. i). We may take it for granted, indeed, that we are not presented here with a set of minutes drawn up with diplomatic accuracy; still we have every reason to presume that the manner in which the Greek prelate managed his cause in this conference has in all essential respects been truly represented by Anselm. He represents Nicetas as saying many pointed and striking things against the Latin Church, such as he assuredly could not have invented from his own point of view, and would not have put into the mouth of his opponent. In respect to the contested point in the doctrine of the Holy Ghost, Nicetas appealed, as the Greeks were ever wont to do, to the passage in the Gospel of John, and to the inviolable authority of the Nicene Creed. Anselm replied conformably with the doctrine of the Church, as it had been settled since the time of Vincentius Lirinensis. He presented on the other side the progressive evolution of that doctrine under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, actuating the Church, by virtue of which the doctrine, contained as to its germ in the sacred Scriptures, had been more exactly defined and explained, and what it contained in spirit reduced to the form of more precise conceptions; just as the work of one universal council is completed in the gradual development of Christian doctrine by another and later. All this is the work of the same Spirit, promised by Christ to his disciples and to his Church; of whom he says that he would teach many things which the apostles at that time could not understand. Even the doctrine of the Trinity, as explained by the Council of Nice, the doctrine of the divinity of the Holy Ghost, cannot be pointed out as a dogma expressed in so many words in the Bible (lib. ii, c. xxii sq.). Anselm alleged as an argument for the authority of the Roman Church that all heresies had found their birthplace in the Greek Church; while in the former the pure doctrine had ever been preserved free from alloy amid all the disputes proceeding from that other quarter. To this Nicetas replied, "If the heresies had sprung up in the Greek Church, still they were subdued there; and they could only contribute to the clearer evolution and stronger confirmation of the faith" (lib. iii, c. xi). And he endeavors to point out here a substantial advantage of the Greek Church over the Latin, tracing it to the predominating scientific culture which had distinguished the Greek Church from the beginning. "Perhaps the very reason why so many heresies had not sprung up among the Romans was that there had not been among them so many learned and acute investigators of the sacred Scriptures. If that conceit of knowledge by which the .Greek heretics had been misled deserved censure, still the ignorance of the Latins, who affirmed neither one thing nor another about the faith, but only followed the lead of others in unlearned simplicity, deserved not to be praised. It must be ascribed either to blamable negligence in examining into the faith, or to singular inactivity of mind and dullness of apprehension, or to hinderances growing out of the heavy load of secular business." He applies to the Latins in this regard the words in 1Ti 1:7, and to the Greeks what Aristotle says of the usefulness of doubt as a passage-way to truth. Earnestly does Nicetas protest against the intimation that the Greek Church might be compelled to adopt what the pope, without a council held in concurrence with the Greeks, could on his own self-assumed authority prescribe. He then goes on to say that if such authority belongs to the pope, then all study of the Scriptures and of the sciences, all Greek intellect amd Greek learning, were superfluous. The pope alone could be bishop, teacher, and pastor; he alone would have to be responsible to God for all whom God had omitted to his charge alone. The Apostolic Creed did not teach men to acknowledge a Roman Church in especial, but one common, catholic, apostolic Church (lib. iii, c. viii). Though Nicetas defended the use of ordinary bread in the celebration of the Lord's Supper, a custom which had always been handed down in the Greek Church, yet he estimates the importance of this disputed point with Christian moderation (lib. c, c. xviii). He says that he himself, in case no other bread was to be had, would have no hesitation in using unleavened bread in the mass. "Since, however,'" he adds, "the number of the narrow-minded far exceeds that of persons well-instructed in the faith, and the undistinguishing multitude easily take offense, it was worthy of all pains that both Latins and Greeks should be induced to join heart and hand in bringing about, in some suitable place and at some suitable time, a general council, at which the use of leavened or unleavened bread by all at the same time should be adopted; or if such an agreement could not be arrived at without giving scandal to one of the two parties, yet all should agree in this, that neither party should condemn the other, and this difference should no longer turn to the injury of holy charity." "Mutual condemnation," says he, "is a far greater sin than this diversity of custom, which is in itself a matter of indifference." Both finally agreed that a general council, consisting of Latins and Greeks, for the purpose of bringing about a reunion of the two churches was a thing greatly to be desired. The irritable state of feeling, however, between the two parties, heightened by the Crusades and the consequences following in their train, and the arrogant pretensions of the popes, who would not lower their tone, put the assembling of such a council out of the question; and, even if it could have been held, it would have failed to bring about the result desired by Nicetas and Anselm. Nothing further of the personal history of Nicetas is accessible to us.

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