Церковные ВѢХИ

Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. Outside the Church there is no salvation, because salvation is the Church. For salvation is the revelation of the way for everyone who believes in Christ's name. This revelation is to be found only in the Church. In the Church, as in the Body of Christ, in its theanthropic organism, the mystery of incarnation, the mystery of the "two natures," indissolubly united, is continually accomplished. -Fr. Georges Florovsky

ΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΙΑ Ή ΘΑΝΑΤΟΣ!

ΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΙΑ Ή ΘΑΝΑΤΟΣ!
§ 20. For our faith, brethren, is not of men nor by man, but by revelation of Jesus Christ, which the divine Apostles preached, the holy Ecumenical Councils confirmed, the greatest and wisest teachers of the world handed down in succession, and the shed blood of the holy martyrs ratified. Let us hold fast to the confession which we have received unadulterated from such men, turning away from every novelty as a suggestion of the devil. He that accepts a novelty reproaches with deficiency the preached Orthodox Faith. But that Faith has long ago been sealed in completeness, not to admit of diminution or increase, or any change whatever; and he who dares to do, or advise, or think of such a thing has already denied the faith of Christ, has already of his own accord been struck with an eternal anathema, for blaspheming the Holy Ghost as not having spoken fully in the Scriptures and through the Ecumenical Councils. This fearful anathema, brethren and sons beloved in Christ, we do not pronounce today, but our Savior first pronounced it (Matt. xii. 32): Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. St. Paul pronounced the same anathema (Gal. i. 6): I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ, unto another Gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you, than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. This same anathema the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the whole choir of God-serving fathers pronounced. All, therefore, innovating, either by heresy or schism, have voluntarily clothed themselves, according to the Psalm (cix. 18), ("with a curse as with a garment,") whether they be Popes, or Patriarchs, or Clergy, or Laity; nay, if any one, though an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. Thus our wise fathers, obedient to the soul-saving words of St. Paul, were established firm and steadfast in the faith handed down unbrokenly to them, and preserved it unchanged and uncontaminate in the midst of so many heresies, and have delivered it to us pure and undefiled, as it came pure from the mouth of the first servants of the Word. Let us, too, thus wise, transmit it, pure as we have received it, to coming generations, altering nothing, that they may be, as we are, full of confidence, and with nothing to be ashamed of when speaking of the faith of their forefathers. - Encyclical of the Holy Eastern Patriarchs of 1848

За ВѢру Царя И Отечество

За ВѢру Царя И Отечество
«Кто еси мимо грядый о нас невѣдущиiй, Елицы здѣ естесмо положены сущи, Понеже нам страсть и смерть повѣлѣ молчати, Сей камень возопiетъ о насъ ти вѣщати, И за правду и вѣрность къ Монарсѣ нашу Страданiя и смерти испiймо чашу, Злуданьем Мазепы, всевѣчно правы, Посѣченны зоставше топоромъ во главы; Почиваемъ въ семъ мѣстѣ Матери Владычнѣ, Подающiя всѣмъ своимъ рабомъ животь вѣчный. Року 1708, мѣсяца iюля 15 дня, посѣчены средь Обозу войсковаго, за Бѣлою Церковiю на Борщаговцѣ и Ковшевомъ, благородный Василiй Кочубей, судiя генеральный; Iоаннъ Искра, полковникъ полтавскiй. Привезены же тѣла ихъ iюля 17 въ Кiевъ и того жъ дня въ обители святой Печерской на семъ мѣстѣ погребены».
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Sunday, May 16, 2010

THE DOGMATIC FORMULATION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH: THE ECUMENICAL COUNCILS

1.The Ecumenical Councils
2.Formulation of the Dogma of the Blessed Trinity
3.The First Council of Nicaea (325) and the Formulation of the Nicene Creed
4.The First Council of Constantinople
5.The Humanity and Divinity of Jesus Christ
6.The Council of Chalcedon


In the centuries following the conversion of the ancient world, precise definition was given to Christian teaching on basic truths of faith — on the Blessed Trinity, on the mysteries of Christ and on the question of grace.

1. The Ecumenical Councils


The Roman Empire, Third Century

The Christian-Roman period was extremely important from the point of view of doctrine. Now that the Church was free, the historic moment came for it to give precise formulation to orthodox teaching on basic questions of Christian faith — the Blessed Trinity, the mystery of Christ, and the question of grace. The definition of catholic dogma occurred in the context of heated theological battles against heresies which led to schisms in the Church, some of which are still with us.

The ecumenical councils played an important role in this task of defining catholic dogma. Eight ecumenical councils, between the fourth and ninth centuries, constituted the first cycle of councils in Church history. The First Council of Nicaea (325), which defined the consubstantiality of the Son with the Father; The First Council of Constantinople defined the divinity of the Holy Spirit (381). The Council of Ephesus (431) proclaimed the Divine Maternity of Mary; that of Chalcedon (451) defined the doctrine of the two natures in the one person of Christ. The Second Council of Constantinople (553) condemned Nestorianism, and the Third Council of Constantinople (680-681) formulated the doctrine of the Two Wills of Christ.

In the two early councils, the theological doctrine of the Blessed Trinity was defined and the four next councils formulated the fundamental Christological truths. Two other ecumenical councils were also held in the East: The Second Council of Nicaea (787), which formulated the orthodox doctrine on iconoclasm. Upon closer look at their historical and doctrinal context, the first seven ecumenical councils actually defined the Trinitarian and Christological doctrines of the Orthodox Catholic faith.

2. Formation of the Dogma of the Blessed Trinity

The fourth century saw the formulation of dogma concerning the Trinity, with catholic orthodoxy having to confront Arianism. Arianism can be traced back to certain early doctrines which overemphasized the oneness of God, to the extent of obliterating the distinction of persons in the Blessed Trinity (Sabellianism) or of 'subordinating' the Son to the Father, making him inferior to the Father (subordinationism). A radical subordinationism inspired the teaching of Arius, an Alexandrian priest (c. 250-336), who not only held that the Son was inferior to the Father, but went as far as denying that Jesus was God. The absolute oneness of God which Arius proclaimed led him to see the Word as simply the noblest of all created beings, not as the natural Son of God: Christ was God's adopted son and therefore only in an improper sense could he be called God.

Arian teaching was clearly influenced by Greek philosophy with its notion of the Supreme God — Summus Deus — and a concept of the Word very akin to Plato's demiurge, a being intermediate between God and the universe who was the shaper of creation. This connexion between Arianism and Greek philosophy accounts for its rapid spread and for its being welcomed by rationalist intellectuals involved with hellenism. Arianism had very serious consequences on Christian teaching, affecting as it did the dogma of the redemption: for if the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, were not God, then redemption would be ineffective. The Church of Alexandria realised the seriousness of the problem and, after attempting to dissuade Arius of his error, it proceeded to condemn him at a synod of the bishops of Egypt (318). But Arianism was already a world-wide problem and it led to the convoking of the first ecumenical council in history.



3. The First Council of Nicaea (325) and the formulation of the Nicene Creed

St. Constantine Burning Arian Books At Nicea

The first council of Nicaea (325) was a clear victory for the defenders of orthodoxy, two of the most outstanding of whom were bishops — Ossius of Cordova (Spain) and a deacon (and later bishop) of Alexandria, St. Athanasius the Great. The council defined the divinity of the Word, using an unambiguous term to describe his relationship with the Father — homoousios, 'consubstantial.' The Nicene symbol or creed proclaimed that the Son, Jesus Christ, 'God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made,' is 'consubstantial' with the Father.

Orthodoxy's victory at Nicaea was followed, however, by a post-council period of a radically opposed viewpoint, which constituted one of the most surprising episodes in Christian history. The pro-Arian party, led by Eusebius, Bishop of Nicomedia, managed to exert a decisive influence at the imperial court and in the last years of St. Constantine's reign and during the reigns of his successors it looked as if Arianism was going to prevail. The most outstanding of the Nicene bishops were exiled and, as St Jerome graphically put it, 'the whole world groaned and discovered to its surprise that it had become Arian.'

4. The First Council of Constantinople

Page depicting Constantinople in the Nuremberg Chronicle

From the middle of the fourth century on, Arianism was divided into three factions: the radical Anomoeans, who laid emphasis on the dissimilarity of the Son with respect to the Father; the Homoeans, who regarded the Son as homios — that is, 'like to' — the Father; and what are called semi-Arians — those nearest Orthodoxy — for whom the Son was 'substantially like' the Father.

The theological work of what are called the Cappadocian Fathers developed the teaching of Nicaea and attracted many supporters of the more moderate tendencies in Arianism, with the result that in a very short time Arianism disappeared from the horizon of the universal Church, surviving only as the form of Christianity professed by most of the Germanic nations who had invaded the empire. The theology of the Trinity was completed at the First Council of Constantinople with the definition of the divinity of the Holy Spirit (in reaction to another heresy — Macedonianism).

Thus, by the end of the fourth century, Catholic doctrine on the Blessed Trinity had been fixed in the form of Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. However, there was one aspect of Trinitarian theology not expressly dealt with in the Creed — the relationships between the Holy Spirit and the Son. This would later give rise to the blasphemous [as in blasphemy of the Holy Spirit] Filioque heresy, which was to become an apple of discord between the Orthodox Christian East and the heretical Latin West.

5. The Humanity and Divinity of Jesus Christ

Once the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity had been defined, theology had to deal with the mystery of Christ, not in relation to the other divine persons, but in regard to the nature of Christ himself. The basic problem was this: Christ is perfect God and perfect man; but how do divinity and humanity combine in man? On this question, the two great theological schools of the east took opposite sides.

The Alexandrian School laid emphasis on the perfect divinity of Jesus Christ: his divine nature so penetrates his human nature — like fire heating an iron — that an internal unity results, a kind of 'mixture' of natures taken to extreme formulations. The Antiochene School stressed, instead, the perfect humanity of Christ: the unity of the two natures in him is only external or moral in such a way that rather than speak of 'incarnation' it would be more correct to speak of the 'indwelling' of the Word, who 'dwells' in the man Jesus as inside a garment or a tent.

This Christological problem came out in the open when Nestorius, the Bishop of Constantinople, who belonged to the Antiochene school, preached in public against the divine maternity of Mary, refusing to give her the title of Theotokos, 'God-bearer,' Mother of God; she was, he said, only the Christotokos, 'Mother of Christ.' This led to popular demonstrations and the denunciation of Nestorius' doctrine by St Cyril, the Patriarch & Pope of Alexandria. Pope Celestine I asked Nestorius to retract his innovation and error, which he refused to do.

The Council of Ephesus (431), now summoned by the Emperor, Theodosius II, had a very rough passage due to rivalry between Alexandrine and Antiochene bishops; but eventually agreement was reached and a profession of faith was composed for which was formulated the doctrine of the 'hypostatic union' of the two natures in Christ and Mary was acknowledged as Mother of God, ie THEOTOKOS. Nestorius was deposed and sent into exile; however, groups of his followers continued to exist in the near east forming a Nestorian church which carried out a great deal of missionary work, over a number of centuries, primarily in Central Asia but as far East as Mongolia and China.

6. The Council of Chalcedon

By the first half of the fifth century the Patriarchate of Alexandria had grown in power and many of its bishops took an active part in the internal affairs of the Church of Constantinople itself. It also happened that after the death of St Cyril extremist tendencies gained the upper hand in Alexandria. The Alexandrian theologians were unhappy about the Ephesus teaching on the two natures in the one person of Christ, due to their understanding two natures as being equivalent to two persons: they claimed that there was only one united nature in Christ, because in the incarnation the human nature had been absorbed in the divine.

When this doctrine — monophysitism — was preached in Constantinople by the Archimandrite Eutyches, Flavian the patriarch deprived Eutyches of his office. The Patriarch of Alexandria, Dioscorus, then intervened, with the support of Emperor Theodosius II. An robber council was held at Ephesus (449) under the presidency of Dioscorus; the Patriarch of Constantinople was deposed and exiled; a dogmatic letter sent to Flavian by the Pope, by the hand of two papal legates, was prevented from being read, and the doctrine of the two natures in Christ was condemned. The Pope, Leo the Great, gave this council a name which was passed into history — the 'latrocinium of Ephesus.'

As soon as Emperess Pulcheria and Emperor Marcian succeeded Theodosius II, Pope Leo asked that a new ecumenical council meet: this, was the Council of Chalcedon (451). This council adhered unanimously to the Christological teaching contained in Leo the Great's letter to Flavian: 'Peter has spoken through the mouth of Leo', the fathers proclaimed. Chalcedon's profession of Faith recognized that there were two natures in Christ 'without their being any confusion or division or separation between them.'

But monophysitism, far from disappearing, put down deep roots in various parts of the east, at times representing vast majorities of the population who upheld its "Orthodoxy", especially in Egypt, where it was used as a secessionist banner against the authority of the empire. The condemnation of monophysitism was taken as an attack on the Orthodox doctrine of Saints Athanasius and Cyril. A Monophysite Patriarchate grew up in Alexandria (supported by the monks and the indigenous Coptic population) in opposition to the Melkite or Imperial Patriarchate, where the Monophysite party severed Communion with the Church in erroneous affirmation of what it believed to be "Orthodoxy".

Mosaic of St. Justinian. Church of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy

This historical context explains why the succeeding emperors strove to find compromise formulas which, without contradicting the Symbol of Chalcedon, would be more acceptable to the monophysites and would thereby assure the loyalty of the population of these areas to the empire. Examples of this were the Henotikon — an edict of Emperor Zeno (482) — and the famous question of the 'Three Chapters,’ proposed unsuccessfully by Holy Emperor Justinian, which produced unfavourable reactions in the West.

At the Fifth Ecumenical Council, the Orthodox Church clarified the meaning of the word "hypostasis" used in the Chalcedonian definition and elucidated that the Ephesian christology of "one nature of the Word Incarnate" uniting "two perfect natures of Christ in one 'person' or 'nature'" was the same as the definition of Chalcedon of "two perfect natures of Christ" in one person. Disagreements and misunderstandings over the use of the term "hypostasis" were reconciled in accordance with the theological formulations of the Cappadocian Fathers. While seemingly reconciling Cyrillian (Ephesine) and Chalcedonian Orthodoxy, the Anti-Chalcedonian camp for the most part still refused to be reconciled with the Orthodox Church, where issues of the Constantinopolitan versus Alexandrian primacy in the East remained unsettled and an era of cultural differentiation and rejection of Byzantine Orthodoxy for Alexandrian (local) antiquity and Orthodoxy poisoned by Imperial persecution destroyed the chances for reconciliation of the Anti Chalcedonian parties. The Fifth Ecumenical Council settled the issues of "Orthodox christology" vis a vis the natures of Christ, which had fuelled the Anti Chalcedonians in their "resistance" and breach of Eucharistic Communion with the Orthodox Church.

A most serious effort in this direction was further backed by Emperor Heraclius, an energetic defender of the Christian East against the Persians and Arabs. Sergius, Patriarch of Constantinople, thought that, without denying Chalcedonian teaching on the two natures, it could be held that, by virtue of the hypostatic union, there was in Christ only one divine-human activity (monoenergism) and that Christ had only one will (monothelitism). Heraclius sanctioned this doctrine by his dogmatic decree Ecthesis (638). But Ecthesis solved nothing, neither in the field of religion nor in that of politics. The monophysites rejected it, and in a very short time Palestine, Syria and Egypt were in the hands of the Arabs, where the Copts of Egypt welcomed their Islamic conquerors as the new rulers of Egypt and fought with them to expel Imperial troops and Orthodox Christian rule.

The Christological debate came to an end when the Third Council of Constantinople (the Sixth Ecumenical Council), on the basis of letters sent by Pope Agatho in affirmation of the Orthodoxy of St. Maximus the Confessor, completed the Symbol of Chalcedon with an express profession of Faith in the two perfect activities and two wills of Christ. Monophysite heresy (or Anti Chalcedonian schism ) still lives on in Egypt and Ethiopia and throughout the Middle East.

The Triumph of Orthodoxy at the Seventh Ecumenical Council

The Seventh Ecumenical Council proclaimed:

"We define that the holy icons, whether in color, mosaic, or some other material, should be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on the sacred vessels and liturgical vestments, on the walls, furnishings, and in houses and along the roads, namely the icons of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, that of our Lady the Theotokos, those of the venerable angels and those of all saintly people. Whenever these representations are contemplated, they will cause those who look at them to commemorate and love their prototype. We define also that they should be kissed and that they are an object of veneration and honor (timitiki proskynisis), but not of real worship (latreia), which is reserved for Him Who is the subject of our faith and is proper for the divine nature. Veneration of an icon is in effect transmitted to the prototype; he who venerates the icon, venerates in it the reality for which it stands."

This reality is veneration of the Divine Prototype, Christ the God-Man, in him who has been deified. Thus it is by Christ that the Saints and Holy Relics, the Gospel, the Cross, etc. are deified and veneration of them is affirmation of the christological reality of our salvation in Christ Jesus.

http://www.earlychristians.org/fathers_church/ecumenical_councils.html

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