Quartodeciman Ramble

A couple of things:

According to the wiki (and we know how that goes) Melito of Sardis is a saint. As proof a link to an Orthodox website referring to “St Melito”. If anyone knows anything about this, let me know. True or not the Wiki reports that Melito’s feast day is 1 April. Coincidence being all things…

Sunset on 1 April 2007 is the beginning of 14 Nisan. Sunset on 2 April is the beginning of 15 Nisan.

Some authorities indicate that the ancient Quartodeciman communities fasted until 3PM on the 14th and feasted at Sundown… this would correspond near exactly to the Jewish Fast of the Firstborn on 14 Nisan followed by the Passover meal. Other maintain that the Qs feasted on the night of the 14th.

Without any first-hand knowledge on the topic, it seems that Praxis Asheville follows this second style (does that make them Pentadecimans?) I was also interested to learn that “Sabbatarian Church of God” groups, Messianic Jews and Jehovah’s Witnesses also use Quartodeciman systems.

Finally – the start of this ramble – Melito (Saint or Not) has left us a brilliant work in his Peri Pascha or “On Pascha”. I have a good translation here, published by St Vladamir’s Seminary Press but finally it is also available online. Some consider this to be one entire homily. Others suggest that, in fact, these are fragments of a Christian Haggada or service book for that community’s seder service.

8 Responses to “Quartodeciman Ramble”

Benjamin Andersen
March 31st, 2007 at 3:28 pm

The old Catholic Encyclopedia has an entry on “Saint Melito”, although he does not seem to appear in the old Roman Martyrology (I have no idea about the recently revised Martyrology).

April 1st, 2007 at 12:59 am

The first place I thought to check was the old Catholic Encyclopedia that Ben mentioned. Then I grabbed my copy of the Prologue from Ohrid. Both of these sources confirm that St. Melito of Sardis (“Meliton” according to St. Nikolai) is commemorated on April 1. Oddly enough, neither GOARCH nor the OCA online festal calendar make mention of him, and the Antiochians simply link to the Prologue online.

April 1st, 2007 at 6:33 am

Thank Peter and Mike and Ben. I have the Prologue here… a mark of my my odd brain on sleeping days that I dind’t think to check it either.

Happy St Melito’s day!

Well. the Prologue is a little whitewashed:

2. St Melliton, Bishop of Sardis in Asia Minor.

A well-known pastor of the Church in the second century, he was a man of great learning and laboured to codify all the books of Holy Scripture. He laboured also in meekness and devotion to bring peace to the Church in Laodicea, involved in a quarrel about the celebration of Easter. Apart from this, he defended Christianity against the pagans. He travelled to Rome in about 170, bringing a written apologia on the Faith and the Christian Church to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. St Meliton, this learned, devout and zealous man, entered peacefully into rest in the Lord in about 177.

Of course, he was on the “wrong” sidee.

Nevertheless, I shall add this to my mental banks.

April 1st, 2007 at 2:11 pm

I don’t think that’s a whitewash; nor do I think Melito was on the “wrong” side of anything. Even after the Easter controversies reached their boiling point, no one denied Melito’s sanctity, even though everyone knew how the early Fathers (and even the Apostles) lined up on the issue. It’s within the purview of Church authority to determine that believers should be united in the celebration of the key feast of the calendar, even if all the possible alternatives are technically valid. As in a healthy family, so in the Church. There are times when the bishops have to insist on unity. We don’t have all the data about the second-century disputes, but the dating of Easter may have been one of those circumstances, and it may have been representative of a larger constellation of issues.

April 1st, 2007 at 2:27 pm

Hi Mike:

I see nothing wrong with multiplicity: I think it’s an error on the part of various hierarchs at various times to insist (a) we all be the same; and (b) those who won’t are now outsiders. It’s equally an error to say ‘we all do the same therefore we are unified’ and also to say “we don’t do the same so we are disunified.’

And it is a little bit of a whitewash for two reasons to say ”
He laboured also in meekness and devotion to bring peace to the Church in Laodicea, involved in a quarrel about the celebration of Easter.”
(1) As from what we can tell the Quarto folks insisted they were right as well and to heck with the rest of the Church for wanting to change them.
(2) Melito didn’t have a say in the Paschal controversy as the excommunication from Pope Victor I came after Melito’s death… so in fact the Church was *at peace with multiple easter dates* during St Melito’s time.

To write the controversy back in time – and then say Melito was being humble (which I, perhaps mistakenly, read to imply he was on the “right side”) seems a little bit of a whitewash, especially since for many of the intended audience of this text (St Nikolai’s Prologue) this would have been the only reading in history they would have got.

Peter Gardner
April 1st, 2007 at 9:32 pm

Though it’s probably been said before, I just thought of this: might there be paralells between the Quartodeciman controversy and today’s calendar controversy?

April 2nd, 2007 at 9:51 am

Yes, Peter, I think so. I think the same arose again just before Nicea when the Jewish calendar was changed and even the standard paschal calculations (of the first Sunday after the Jewish feast) were tossed out and the current practise was adopted. It still took 200 years or so to get the main body of folks on the same page.