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Messalians also known as “Euchites” Alexopoulos, Lampros


The Messalians or Euchites was a Christian heresy originated in Mesopotamia around 360-370 CE and existed to about the ninth century. Their teachings spread into Syria and Asia Minor and later to Thrace. The name “Messalian” comes from the Syriac mṣallyānā, meaning “the person who prays”. The name euchitēs comes from the Greek translation of the Oriental name and means the same. The first references to Messalianism appear in the 370's in Ephrem the Syrian’s “Contra haereses”, in Epiphanius’s “Panarion” and “Ancoratus”, and later in Jerome, Atticus and Sisinnius, Archbishops of Constantinople and Theodotus of Antioch. The term “Messalianism” in fact does not refer to a specific group of people, but it was applied in a pejorative manner to any group of ascetics or monks who seemed to reject the sacramental ordinances of the Church, or who placed an emphasis on empirical aspects of prayer and demonstrated doctrinal and behavioural deviations from orthodox monastic norms. Messalians therefore were ascetics who practiced poverty, celibacy, and fasting, rejected the sacramental life of the Church and claimed that they were able to see God with their physical eyes. Messalianism was first condemned as a heresy at the Synod of Side (Pamphylia) in 388 or 390. They were finally anathematized by the Third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431. Messalianism and Messalian tendencies continued to exist for several centuries, influencing the Bogomils of Bulgaria and, thereby, the Bosnian Church, and Catharism. By the 12th century Messalianism had reached Bohemia and Germany and, by a resolution of the Council of Trier in 1231, was condemned as heretical. Messalians held that the essence of the Holy Trinity could be perceived by the senses. That the Threefold God transformed himself into a single substance to unite with the souls of the perfect and that has taken different forms in order to reveal himself to the senses. Only such sensible revelations of God confer perfection upon the Christian. They also taught that, once someone experienced the essence of God, he was freed from moral obligations or ecclesiastical discipline. They had male and female teachers, the "perfecti", whom they honored more than the clergy.

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