The See of Antioch (The other See of St. Peter)

The city of Antioch was in many ways the mother of the Church in the Roman world.  It lay just inland from the northeast corner of the Mediterranean Sea in modern-day Turkey in the region of Hatay near the current border between Turkey and Syria.  The city became a great metropolis following the conquests of Alexander that opened up the highway of trade from India and the east to the Mediterranean.  Antioch, during Roman times, was in a highly favorable location at the western terminus of the Silk Road and took full advantage of this to profit in the exchange of goods between distant Asia and the rest of the Roman Empire.  During the apostolic age Antioch was the third city of the Empire after Rome itself and Alexandria.  It was here that the Prince of the Apostles seems first to have moved to after leaving Jerusalem and he became the city’s first bishop before moving on to Rome.  Paul and Barnabas also spent much time preaching and winning converts in the city.  St. Luke, companion of St. Paul and author both of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles was a native of Antioch.  And it was in Antioch that the name of Christian was first applied to believers in Jesus Christ and members of the Church.

After the age of the Apostles had ended the church in Antioch continued to supply the Church with great teachers and martyrs.  St. Ignatius of Antioch’s, who himself was a hearer of the apostles, letters written on the way to his martyrdom in Rome provide us with a fascinating glimpse of the Church during the decades following the death of the apostles, and give ample evidence of the primacy of the church of Rome even at that early date.  St. Ignatius’ Feast Day is October 17.

Following  Ignatius the city continued to supply the Church with bishops and martyrs, among them Babylas who suffered martyrdom under the reign of Decius during the middle of the third century.  The church of Antioch expanded its reach to become the leading church of the East, and second only in primacy to Rome, by the ascension of Constantine to power during the early fourth century.  The church there unfortunately was also a place of discord and a birthplace for heresy.  Paul of Samosata in the third century was bishop of Antioch and denied the divinity of Jesus Christ.  And the ideas of Arius, while first publicly proclaimed in Alexandria, have their roots in Antioch.  The Arian heresy which also denied the divinity of Jesus Christ but were far more successful than Paul’s troubled the Church for three centuries following the Edict of Milan.

Antioch continued to form a part of the Pentarchy, the five great Sees (Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria) of Roman times but fell into decline after the rise of Constantinople in the fourth century.  Constantinople became master of the East religiously, politically, and economically and Antioch suffered both from the Christological disputes and the resulting schisms in the Church, and from the depredations of the Persian Empire during the epoch of wars between Rome and Persia that stretched from the third to the seventh centuries during which Antioch and/or its hinterland were often battlegrounds.  The Muslims conquered Antioch in 638 AD and the city was now on the front lines of the almost constant warring between the Constantinople and the Caliphate and its importance in the Christian world rapidly diminished.  The Orthodox Church was unable regularly to supply a patriarch for the city as its Muslim political masters showed a preference for their Monophysite rivals, hostile as they were to Constantinople.  The Byzantines briefly reconquered the city in 969 before losing it again to the Turks during the following century.  Antioch was taken by the Crusaders in 1098 and they established the Latin Patriarchate of Antioch which endured for more than a century and a half before the Turkish reconquest of the city and the martyrdom of its last resident Latin Patriarch in 1268.  The city of Antioch has more or less disappeared from the map since that time and the site is now occupied by the Turkish city of Antakya.  The Pope continued to appoint Latin Patriarchs of Antioch, none of whom were able to take residence in the city after 1268, until the Patriarchate was abolished in 1964.  There are now a whole host of Patriarchs of Antioch, five at last count; none of whom actually reside in the city.

Pray the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for this ancient and once great apostolic See of the Church: for its liberty and its salvation, and the restoration of its ancient position as a pillar of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome and for the conversion of the Muslim peoples.  We should also remember the currently suffering land of Syria which forms the patrimony of this ancient See in our prayers, if we can find the heart.

Raison d’Etre of this Blog

This site exists to encourage people to pray the Rosary.  And to pray the Rosary for a very specific group of intentions.  For the five great Sees of the Catholic Church lost to Islam so long ago.  Fourteen centuries ago the Catholic Church covered the entire Mediterranean basin and the True Faith was spread and gaining adherents from Scotland to the Euphrates river and beyond.  Then Islam came out of the desert and shattered the old, if by that point strained, unity.  Immediately they took the eastern and southern shores of the Mediterranean and cast a veil between Rome and the great and ancient Christian Sees of Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Carthage while greatly weakening the power and influence of Constantinople which the Muslim armies continually preyed upon for the next eight centuries until it finally fell to the Turks in 1453.

While the Catholic Church has gained large numbers of adherents in the Americas, Asia, and sub Saharan Africa over the last half millennium it has not penetrated a jot into our ancient heartland in all of the centuries since this was lost to us.  A small number of Catholics remain there, and there are still a decent number of adherents to the ancient apostolic churches unfortunately separated from Rome by schism, but their number is rapidly shrinking due to the convulsions of the Middle East over the last century and particularly over this last decade.  Islam seeks now to cement its domination and control won first a millennium and a half ago and sees within its grasp a final victory over the Catholic Church in the land of its birth.

We must now call upon the Mother of God, the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, Our Lady of Victory to come to our aid and to the aid of the Church founded by her son Our Lord Jesus Christ.  No weapon of war will return the Church to its birthplace; the Crusades failed because they were in the end only a military adventure.  Let us use then a far more powerful weapon than guns or bombs: the Rosary.  Pray the Rosary Monday for Constantinople, Tuesday for Antioch, Wednesday for Jerusalem, Thursday for Alexandria, and Friday for Carthage.  And along with this intention let us beseech the Lord God the conversion of the Jewish and the Muslim peoples: Jesus Christ shed his blood for them too.  All of the great accomplishments of the Church have begun with prayer.  The life of Our Lord as passed down to us by the Evangelists shows this to be the case.  Pray the Rosary and meditate on its Mysteries.  Our Lady has proclaimed at all of her apparitions that this will change the world.  The time is now.

In the fifth chapter of St. Luke’s (a native of Antioch) Gospel the Evangelist narrates an episode where Our Lord enters Peter’s boat to teach the multitude and, when finished, he tells St. Peter to “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. (Lk. 5: 4)”  After protesting that he had been fishing all night and catching nothing the Apostle does as commanded, and the haul of fish is so large that his net breaks and he has to call on the other boats for aid.  They are so full of fish that they almost sink before reaching the shore.  The prophetic aspects of these events, from the perspective of someone living 2,000 years after the fact, seems to refer to the first great conversion that brought the Roman Empire into the Church’s net.  The net was broken however by schism and discord which continues down to our own day.

But there is a second miraculous draught of fishes.  At the conclusion of the Gospel of St. John the beloved disciple relates to us an event which he himself took part in.  After Our Lord’s Resurrection some (not all) of the Apostles venture out on the Lake of Galilee with St. Peter to fish.  After fishing all night and again catching nothing they are approaching the shore at first light when they catch sight of Our Lord standing on the shoreline.  He tells them to cast their nets over the right side of the boat and the haul was the miraculous number of 153 (symbolic of all the species of fish known to the ancient world) fish.  The Prince of Apostles then himself hauls the net full of fish ashore and “although there were so many, the net was not broken. (Jn. 21: 11)”  This seems to indicate that near the end of time approaching the end of the Church’s journey there will be another and greater mass conversion that will not be broken apart as of old.  This must begin with the five great Sees.  This region forms the geographic heart of the world, and it was in the part of the world where Our Lord chose to reveal Himself.  I am no prophet and do not claim that the end is upon us, that is not the point of this effort, but we must begin to repair the saving net of the Church and should we not begin this task with prayer?

This site becomes active on Wednesday of the 30th week of Ordinary Time, October 30, the first year of Francis’ pontificate, and in the year MMXIII of the Incarnation.  I will attempt to post here with the greatest frequency I can muster some reminder of the lost world of the five great Sees.  I beg Our Lady of Victory her bountiful aid in attracting visitors to this site that we may together beseech her most powerful assistance in repairing the Church’s broken net.