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The Fundamental Principles and main Characteristics of the Orthodox Church

The Question of the Priesthood of Women (part 1)

The Question of the Priesthood of Women (part 2)

The Orthodox Church as seen by the Roman Church

Neohellenic Theology at the Crossroads

Incarnation and Salvation - an ecclesiological approach

The Reciprocal Relation between doctrinal and historical factors in the Separation of the Oriental Churches from the Ancient Catholic Church

Chalcedonians and Monophysites after Chalcedon

The Ebionites as Depicted in the Pseudo-Clementine Novel

Byzantium, Iconoclasm and the Monks

Uniatism: A Problem in the Dialogue Between
the Orthodox and Roman Catholics

The reply of saint photios to the structure and logical dynamics of the filioque

Chalcedonians and Monophysites after Chalcedon

J. Meyendorff, The Greek Orthodox Theological Review,
wint. 1964-1965, n. 2, pp. 16- 30

 

The circumstances of the great schism which divided the Eastern Church in connection with the Council of Chalcedon are generally better known than the various efforts which were made later by the Byzantine emperors and the Byzantine Church to heal the schism. As a matter of fact, throughout the sixth and seventh centuries, right until the Arab conquest of the Middle East, the problem of the schism dominated Byzantine religious policy in the East, and many contemporary attitudes of ours find their roots in the positive or negative steps taken in those times. It is relatively easy for us today to appreciate at their real value, the monumental mistakes made, and also the crimes committed, every time that the Emperors tried to solve the dispute by force. For us, today, there is no doubt about the fact that the military repression of Monophysitism in Egypt, and in other places; the imposition of a Chalcedonian hierarchy by Byzantine police; the frequent exile of the real, popular leaders of the Church of Egypt played a decisive role in giving to the schism the character of a national resistance to Byzantine ecclesiastical and political control of Egypt, Syria and Armenia. For centuries, the Orthodox Chalcedonians were considered as "Melchites" - the "people of the Emperor" - by the non-Greek Christians of the Middle East. And Chalcedonian Orthodoxy itself tended, more and more, to identify itself exclusively with the cultural, liturgical and theological tradition of the Church of Constantinople, losing contact and communion with the venerable ancient traditions of Egypt and Syria.

The historical circumstances, which made possible all these mistakes in the past, do not exist any more. No empire is in a position to impose union between Monophysites and Dyophysites. No one envisages this union otherwise than through unity of faith, and every opportunity is given to us to settle our difficulties with no other reference than Love and faithfulness to revealed Truth. It is therefore time for all of us to look back on our respective traditions in order to see clearly the real issues, to isolate what we consider as Holy Tradition from all human attachments and prejudices, however venerable they may be, and to recognize that divine Truth may often be expressed in different ways without the unity in Christ being broken.

The purpose of my paper is to examine briefly the theological work which was performed by Byzantine theologians in the sixth century in order to meet the Monophysite objections to Chalcedon, and to try to find whether the wisdom of the past could not help us in solving the problems of today.

 

1. Chalcedon Challenged

The Great Assembly of 451, which appeared to be by far the most numerous and the most representative of all the previous councils of the Church, was however rejected by large Christian bodies, which stood for a Christology affirming that Christ had one nature, and not two. It is to be understood that by the technical term "monophysite" is designated not the Eutychians but all those who, after 451, continued to consider the Cyrillian formula mia physis tou Theou Logou sesarkomene as the best way of expressing the Christological mystery, and who accepted the leadership of such prominent theologians as Philoxenos of Mabbug or Severus of Antioch. As modern research has shown, "the monophysite doctrine of the Incarnation, especially in the scientific form which was given to it by Severus, is nothing else than Cyrillian christology" (1). The main concern of the Chalcedonians, who also claimed faithfulness to Cyril, will therefore consist in proving that the definition of 451 is nothing but a new expression of Cyrillism, aimed at answering the problems raised by the Eutychian heresy. The Emperors, interested in reaching a quick and final reconciliation, often pushed this tendency to the extreme, and tried to "forget" Chalcedon completely. The Henotikon issued in 482 by Emperor Zeno is the most famous example of these attempts; it did find some acceptance among moderate Monophysites only, and alienated the entire Christian West. The repeated failures of this purely formal and political approach to the problem led the theologians to elaborate a philosophical justification for the Chalcedonian formula, while giving full credit to the central intuition of St. Cyril of Alexandria that Christ was essentially one single Being. Thus they found it possible to maintain the validity of both terminological systems - that of Cyril and that of Chalcedon - on condition that they were not considered as contradictory in their meaning. This tendency found its ultimate expression in the Fifth Ecumenical Council (553) and thus committed the Orthodox Church as a whole. It seems to provide the only possible direction of solving the schism which divides Eastern Christians among themselves since the fifth century.

In general, this tendency, baptized "neo-chalcedonian" by modern critics, is not very popular in the "West. We know how difficult it was for Justinian to obtain the endorsement of the Council by Pope Vigilius. And even today many consider the whole development of Byzantine Christology in the time of Justinian as a capitulation before Monophysitism. It is clear, therefore, that the issue is much wider than a simple discovery of a union formula between Dyophysites and Monophysites: it raises the problem of Christology as a whole and touches upon questions arising between Christian East and Christian West, and also those arising within each of them. All this gives to our consultation a broader ecumenical significance, which we must responsibly realize.

The main and essential innovation of the Chalcedonian definition was to apply to Christology the concepts used in the doctrine of the Trinity by the Cappadocian Fathers. In God there are three Persons, or hypostases, and one essence, or nature: thus the term hypostasis designates the particular and the individual, while "essence" or "nature" indicates the common deity. In Christ, one single Person being both God and man, it is necessary to say that there are two natures in one hypostasis.

It is doubtful whether or not the Council was conscious of the difficulties which would soon arise from this necessary terminological innovation. Thus, when John the Grammarian published between 514 and 518 a learned Apology of the Council based upon the Cappadocian terminology, he in fact offered to Severus of Antioch new arguments to justify his opposition to Chalcedon. According to the Council, Christ is "consubstantial (homoousios) with the Father according to his Divinity and consubstantial (homoousios) with us according to his humanity." But since the divine substance (ousia), according to Athanasius - whose doctrine the Cappadocians admitted by identifying ousia and physis - is a concrete reality, in a platonic sense (there is indeed one God in three hypostases), it appeared to many that the Council was affirming the incarnation of the entire Trinity. For the Sonand the Father are but one God. And since Christ is "consubstantial with us" as he is consubstantial with the Father, one should be able to say that he is "one man" with us. On the other hand, is it possible to conceive concretely the humanity of Christ without saying that his human nature is also a human hypostasis?

These are the difficulties which prevented the great theologians of sixth century moderate Monophysitism to accept Chalcedon. Thus Severus of Antioch formally distinguishes ousia from physis, and gives to ousia an abstract sense: for him, "essence" is an Aristotelian deutera ousia (2). He admits in Christ two "essences" (ousiai) , but united into one single concrete reality, called hypostasis, or physis, while rejecting the doctrine of the extreme Eutychians or "synousiasts" who considered that there was in Christ one single "essence." It is clear, therefore, that Severus considers the Cappadocian Trinitarian terminology as radically inapplicable to Christology.

Facing his challenge, the Dyophysite theologians will develop a more precise and elaborate conception of hypostasis, following a direction which was already initiated by the Cappadocians, and going beyond both Aristotelianism and Platonism. These new precisions will, in fact, lead to new developments in the trinitarian theology itself.

Apollinarius of Laodicea seems to have been first to apply the word hypostasis to Christology (3) , in order to designate the unity of the Word with the flesh in one single reality. As is well known, Apollinarius was condemned for not recognizing that Christ was fully man, but many of his writings circulated in the fifth century under the pseudonym of St. Athanasius. This led many theologians to ascribe Apollinarian expressions to the great champion of Orthodoxy against Arianism. Cyril was one of the most prominent victims of the forgery; he adopted the expression "unity according to hypostasis" as the formula par excellence designating the unique being of Christ, and accepted also another obviously Apollinarian expression - "one nature of the Word of God incarnate" - as a subsidiary description of the Christological mystery (4). The second, only later, became a point of contention between Chalcedonians and Monophysites, while the first was accepted by the Council itself. This acceptance should, in fact, have sufficed to wash away Chalcedon from every accusation of Nestor-ianism, for hypostasis did indeed have, in the fifth century, a strong and concrete meaning. Its adoption by Chalcedon meant a great concession to Cyrillism on the part of both the Westerners and the Antiochians, for it undoubtedly evoked in Antiochian ears the ever-feared Apollinarian confusion of divinity and humanity.

What made their acceptance of the Chalcedonian formula possible was that the formula "two natures" was also included. The Council therefore adopted a system which implied that Christ was really "one" and really "two."

Since their semi-arian past, the Cappadocians were also accustomed to understand hypostasis as a concrete reality, and it took a serious effort on their part to accept the Athanasian homoousios and to overcome the Arian temptation of completely separating the Father, the Son and the Spirit (5). The very originality of their system was that neither ousia nor hypostases were considered as abstractions and that God was viewed as really one and really three: this paradox implies, of course, that the categories of Greek philosophy were overcome from inside - even if the terms remained Greek - and justifies the Christological use of the system at Chalcedon.

Thus the notion of hypostasis finds itself at the very centre of the Christological debates which followed the great Council of 451; its clarification required all the laborious dialectics of Byzantine theologians striving to reconcile Cyril and Chalcedon. It is difficult to find many exciting figures among them: their manner of handling the issue was often formal and scholastic, and the writings of contemporary Monophysites like Severus and Philox-caus represent much more of the soteriological freshness of the great Alexandrian theology, that of Athanasius and that of Cyril, than the refinements of Byzantine theology cultivated in Constantinople. However, the survival of Dyophysitism in the East is essentially due to the work of Byzantine "grammarians," and also, of course, to the Chalcedonian firmness of the Church of Rome.

2. Leontius of Byzantium

Among the Byzantine theologians of the age of Justinian, Leontius of Byzantium deserves a special mention. His contribution to Christology resides in his doctrine of hypostasis, which will later be integrated in the mainstream of Byzantine theology by Maximus the Confessor and John of Damascus.

In his apology of Chalcedon, Leontius was obliged to explain why hypostasis and "nature" (physis) were no more to be considered as synonymous. If ousia and physis designate what in Christ is common with the Father on the one hand and with humanity on the other, what is the particular meaning of hypostasis? In St. Basil, hypostasis was distinct from the "essence" by the respective "peculiarities" of the Father, the Son and the Spirit, while "essence" represented their common Being. The Cappadocian Fathers could also speak of the hypostasis as "modes of existence" of the one single divine essence. However, they never considered the hypostases as simple expressions of the essence: for St. Gregory of Nazianzus, the hypostases "possessed" Divinity (ta hon he Theotes) ; Divinity was "in them" {ta en hois he Theotes) (6). Hypostasis is therefore not only a particular and concrete reality, it is the subject who possesses and reveals the Being of God. The "hypostatic characteristics" describe it and define it, but they do not constitute it.

The personalistic aspect of the Cappadocian theology is applied by Leontius to christology. From all eternity, Divinity was "in the Son." It was "enhypostasized" in Him. At the Incarnation, humanity also entered "in Him." The Son exists not only as God, but also as man. Hypostasis therefore is not only distinct from divine nature but it is capable of assuming another nature. It is not a simple "mode of existence" of a nature, but the very principle of any existence, and, in the case of Christ, the very personal Object of our encounter with the God-Man. Hypostasis is that which exists by itself (kath' heauto), which designates somebody (ton tina deloi). Nature is a pure abstraction when it is not "enhypostasized" (ouk esti physis anhypostatos) ; in fact, it is what Leontius calls an enhypostaton, a reality which does not exist by itself, but in a hypostasis.

Leontius' theology undoubtedly has the appearance of dryscholasticism, based upon Aristotelian terminology. One must realize, however, that the issue between Chalcedonians and Monophysites was essentially a terminological one, and that it was precisely a terminological elaboration which was needed. And in general one can say that theology, inasmuch as it is a means of communication, must be a science of precision and accuracy... And there cannot be any doubt about the fact that Leontius elaboration of the notion of hypostasis, as the personal being and the "being-in-itself," is alone able to secure the possibility of transferring the Cappadocian terminology into Christology (7). For if one defines hypostasis simply as the individual existence of a generic nature, or as the internal expression of an essence, it would be inevitable to recognize in Christ two hypostases, two individuals, two persons. This is precisely what Severus of Antioch saw in the Chalcedonian definition, since he refused to distinguish between hypostasis and nature. The Chalcedonian Christ thus appeared to him as a synthesis of two distinct beings. On the other hand, the existence in Christ of a distinct human nature signified for Severus that the Son of God had assumed an individual of the human race, and not human nature as such. The whole soteriological intuition of Cyril thus seemed to disappear.

However, there cannot be any doubt about the fact that both the Council of Chalcedon and Leontius of Byzantium remain essentially faithful to that intuition. Christ, for them, is one being, and this is signified precisely by the notion of hypostatic union. Hypostasis alone gives reality to both natures, but without destroying their characteristics. They exist in hypostasis, but they exist really. Divinity and humanity are thus distinct not only "in the mind" (kata ten epinoian), as Severus was ready to admit, but in act (te energeia) (8) , each preserving its own "energy" (9). However, their common subject is the same hypostasis of the Logos, which is not limited by its own nature and can really assume and make hers another nature. The Logos, being "in the flesh," possesses the full reality of human life: he is born, he dies, he istempted, he is hungry, he is ignorant as a man. Thus the notion of hypostatic union leads to the idea of the "communication of idioms" (10) on the one hand, the Logos acts according to humanity which He assumed, and, on the other hand, humanity, "enhypos-tasized" in Him, "becomes itself and through Him the source of all the gifts of the Logos" (11). Thus, the human "energy" is as sumed by the Logos, and the flesh of Christ, to which all those who are "in Christ" participate, assumes a divine energy, for it is the Logos itself who acts in it. This is the Christological foundation of the patristic doctrine of "participation" and "deification" which will later be further developed in Byzantine theology.

 

3. The Fifth Ecumenical Council (553)

A supreme effort of reconciliation with the Monophysites was made during the reign of Justinian and culminated with the Council of 553, which reaffirmed the total faithfulness of the Byzantine Church to the theology of St. Cyril of Alexandria and condemned previous theological writings contradicting him in any way.

We have seen that the doctrine of hypostatic union implied the notion of "communicatio idiomatum." Chalcedon itself had incorporated the word Theotokos in its Christological definition: this word alone, by reaffirming the decision of Ephesus condemning Nestorius, implied that Christ was one single Person - God the Word - of Whom Mary was the Mother. However, since Chalcedon sounded "Nestorian" in the ears of the Monophysites, in spite of its acceptance of Theotokos, it was necessary to accentuate the other implications of the hypostatic union. The so-called "theopaschite" formulae, encouraged by Justinian and formally endorsed by the Council of 553, will tend to this end: these formulae affirmed the notion that God Himself suffered death on the Cross, and not an "assumed man" only "united with God" as Nestorian theology would put it. And indeed, was it not necessary that the Son of God made human death really His own in order to destroy it? To speak of the "death of God" seemed, of course, rather shocking, and, strictly speaking, the theopaschite formulae were incomplete as long as it was not specified that this "death of God" could occur only "in the flesh," that is, in Christ's human nature; but they were undoubtedly correct, for a real death couldonly be "somebody's" death: for only somebody - a hypostasis, a person - can die, not a nature, and in Christ there was no other person, no other hypostasis than that of the Son of God incarnate (12). To speak of the "death of God" in the flesh was, in fact, not uncommon since the time of Ignatius of Antioch {Pathos tou Theou, Rom. 6:3), and the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed itself affirms explicitly our faith in the "Son of God... incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary... crucified for us under Pontius Pilate."

Opposition to all forms of the communicatio idiomatum and to the theological expressions which implied it - such as Theotokos, or "death of God" was, in fact, the essential characteristic of Nestorianism, and their acceptance constituted, in the sixth century, the meeting ground on which Chalcedonians and Monophysites could unite in a common faithfulness to the memory of St. Cyril of Alexandria. For it is on this ground that Cyril had opposed Nestorius, affirming not only that Mary had to be called Theotokos, but also that one was obliged to say that "God had tasted death in the flesh" (thanaton geusamenon sarki, Anath, 12).

Since Leontius of Byzantium had given the possibility of using these formulae in a non-Apollinarian sense and without contradicting Chalcedon, Justinian accepted them as a criterion of Orthodoxy and as a bridge between the Chalcedonians and the Monophysites. The expression 'One of the Holy Trinity has suffered,' used at first by the so-called Scythian monks, was thus included in the preamble of Justinian's Code Laws (528), in the hymn Monogenes Huios, composed by Justinian himself, which became a sort of Christological confession of faith, and was included in the Byzantine liturgy, and in all the doctrinal statements of the time. The formula was accepted even in Rome (534). Its significance is to affirm the unity of Christ's being: Christians recognize only one Saviour, the incarnate Son of God, who was born of a Virgin and died for us, and not two: the Son of God and the man Jesus.

The same one was born of all eternity from the Father, and became, in time, the Son of Mary; the same is immortal in His divine nature and died for us according to the flesh.

The clarification of these major Christological issues seemed to bring fruit, and serious hopes for a reunification of Eastern Christendom arose in the beginning of Justinian's reign. The question which remained unsettled was of a rather formal nature and concerned several canonical decisions of the Council of Chalcedon. Thus, at a consultation held in Constantinople in 533, one of the major objections raised against the Council was that it had accepted into the communion of the Church two Antiochene theologians, Theodoret of Cyrus and Ibas of Edessa, who in the past had openly opposed Cyril of Alexandria and rejected the 'theopaschite' formulae. Both were, just as their friend Nestorius, the disciples of the great master of the Antiochene exegetical school, Theodore of Mopsuestia, whose Christology was reputed to be that of two hypostases in Christ. Of course, Theodoret had to anathematize Nestorius in Chalcedon, but his writings still included polemics against the great Cyril, whom the Monophysites considered the only safe authority in Christology. Thus the so-called affair of the "Three Chapters" became the issue which would lead to the Fifth Ecumenical Council.

In 544, Justinian published a decree anathematizing each one of the "Three Chapters," that is:

•  The person of Theodore of Mopsuestia.

•  The writings of Theodoret directed against Cyril of Alexandria and the Council of Ephesus.

•  The letter of Ibas to Maris the Persian which presented the reconciliation of 433 between Cyril and the Antiochenes as a capitulation of the latter before the evidence of Antiochene terminology.

Historically, the whole issue of the "Three Chapters" may appear to us as strange in many respects. Was this anathema against men who died in communion with the Church at all necessary? Modern historians, often sympathetic to Nestorianism, generally condemn it as futile and morbid, and consider the policy of Justinian as a capitulation before Monophysitism. It seems to me, however, that both its theological meaning and its "ecumenical" dimension can be of great use to us.

First of all, it is to be noted that the condemnation touched only those writings of Theodoret and Ibas which opposed Cyril, and supported the thesis that Chalcedon was incompatible with Alexandrian theology: Justinian's policy was based upon the conviction that they were compatible and complementary. Justinian thus refrained from condemning the Antiochene school of theology as such, with its essential and, for us, unavoidable insistence on the full reality of Christ's human nature and existence. In fact, in Chalcedon, the Council's majority, which was Cyrillian in its doctrinal convictions and theological formation, recognizing the dangers of Eutychian, extreme Monophysitism, had already attempted a reconciliation between Antioch and Alexandria. It admitted the validity of both theologies, by putting them side by side and by providing a tentative, and, in fact improvised, new terminological system of Christology. The theological work done during the age of Justinian, which culminated with the Fifth Ecumenical Council, was in fact a really creative synthesis which showed that Chalcedon and Alexandria, with their somewhat diverging terminologies, could be really true only when seen in the light of each other. In spite of its rather turbulent history, its politically unpleasant background and its unusual and formally controversial result - the condemnation of three men who died more than half a century earlier - the Fifth Council appears to be a good example of how the Tradition of the Church shows its real continuity by putting aside mutually excluding elements and by discovering the Truth which is above all questions of personalities.

Justinian's decree of 544, which was intended to settle the matter, soon appeared to be insufficient for a really catholic acceptance of the imperial policy. It was then followed by an imperial Confession of Faith (551) which, in fact, described the agenda of the future Council. While endorsing Chalcedon, vigorously condemning all confusion (sygchysis) of natures in Christ, and rejecting the Severian reluctance to "count the number" (arithmos) of natures, Justinian proposes Leontius' notion of a "composite hypostasis" (hypostasis synthetos), in which and through which the two natures exist and outside of which they are only abstractions. But he gives credit to Severus in admitting that the two natures are to be distinguished not as "two things," but only "in word and in thought" (logo mono kai theoria) (13). And finally, the imperial Confes formula "one natun "We accept the ex Father [Cyril] use word hypostasis! (14)

Thus, the difference between Cyril and Chalcedon was, according to Justinian, of a purely verbal nature and it was inevitable by the very fact that nobody, in the time of Cyril, say any formal difference of meaning between hypostasis and physis .

The Council of 553 itself confirmed this position of Justinian. It rejected vigorously all attempts to interpret Chalcedon in a Nestorian sense.

Anathema 5: "If anyone shall calumniate the Holy Council of Chalcedon, pretending that it made use of this expression [one hypostasis] in this [Nestorian] impious sense, and if he will not recognize rather that the Word of God is united with the flesh hypostatically, and that therefore there is but one hypostasis or one only Person, and that the Holy Council of Chalcedon has professed in this sense the one Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema."

Anathema 14: "If anyone... shall presume to defend [Nestorianism, or the Three Chapters] in the name of the Holy Fathers or of the Holy Council of Chalcedon... , let him be anathema."

The Council also reiterated forcefully the unity of subject in Christ: an issue which was indeed not quite clear in the Antiochene tradition connected with Theodore of Mopsuestia:

Anathema 3: "If anyone shall say that the wonder-working Word of God is one [Person] and the Christ that suffered another; or shall say that God the Word was with Christ, born of a woman, or was in Him as one person in another, but that he was not one and the same, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, incarnate and made man, and that his miracles and the sufferings which of his own will he endured in the flesh were not of the same [Person], let him be anathema."

"Theopaschism" is endorsed formally by Anathema 10:

"If anyone does not confess that our Lord was crucified in the flesh is true God, and the Lord of Glory, and one of the Holy Trinity, let him be anathema."

There cannot be any doubt that the main purpose of the Council was to show that nothing of the Cyrillian position against Nestorius was, in any way, disavowed by Chalcedon. Even the Council of Ephesus, presided over by Cyril himself, did not go as far as confirming everything which Cyril had written against Nestorius. The Fathers of 553 formally proclaimed:

Anathema 13: "If anyone does not anathematize... all those who have written contrary to the true faith or against Saint Cyril and his Twelve Chapters... let him be anathema."

The "Twelve Chapters" of Cyril were indeed often considered as an extreme Alexandrian position, and their endorsement by the Chalcedonians shows how far they were ready to go to meet their Monophysite brethren. The "Twelve Chapters" of Cyril did not contain, however, the famous formula on "one nature," which was made a sort of symbol by post-Chalcedonian Monophysites. This omission shows, in fact, that Cyril did not at all attribute to it the same importance as did some of his later disciples, and that the expression one hypostasis, not one nature, was, for him, the standard Christological expression. However, in 553, since a case was made for the formula "one nature," the Byzantine Church, following Justinian's Confession, accepted it also, with the reservation that it should not be considered an argument whether for Eutyches, or against Chalcedon.

Anathema 13: "If anyone uses the expression 'of two natures' [accepted by Cyril, and by Monophysites as Dioscoros and Severus], confessing that a union was made of the Godhead and of the humanity, or the expression 'the one nature of God the Word incarnate,' and shall not so understand those expressions as the Holy Fathers have taught, to wit: that of the divine and human nature there was made an hypostatic union, whereof is one Christ; but from these expressions shall try to introduce one nature or ousia [made by mixture] of the Godhead and manhood of Christ; let him be anathema."

It is clear, therefore, that the Council of 553 made its own the entire Christology of St. Cyril of Alexandria, which was based upon the intuition that the Saviour could only be One and that this One is God. To appreciate it fully, it is always necessary to discover this soteriological dimension of Alexandrian theology, which, in the case of Athanasius and Cyril, was not at all a speculation, but the reaffirmation of a Biblical fact, so close also today to Reformed "Neo-Orthodoxy," that God alone can save. If it was not God himself, but a man Jesus, only "united with God," who was born of Mary, died and rose again, salvation is not achieved. If it is not God - "One of the Holy Trinity" - who made his own our very death, as the last expression of our entire fallen condition, which He came to repair and recuperate, if He is not himself the subject of the redemptive act in its entirety, nothing is achieved and, even grammatically, the Nicene Creed is nothing but a misunderstanding, for it affirms that "the Son of God... was crucified."

But this Cyrillian theology does have a meaning only if what was assumed by God was the human nature in its full and dynamic entirety. Jesus Christ was fully man in His mind, His soul, in His body; He thought, He felt, He suffered, He ignored, He died, as we do. In nothing of all that are we alone any more, but God is with us. Jesus thus possessed a human nature, but not a human hypostasis, because the hypostasis is not an expression of natural existence, but something which gives natural existence a conscious, autonomous, personal reality. This "something" in the man - Jesus - was God the Word, who assumed humanity. Here lies the inevitable and necessary truth of Chalcedon.

As a matter of conclusion, I would like to stress two points. It seems to me that an agreement on these points is a condition of all practical steps towards union between Chalcedonians and Monophysites today... and we all believe that such a union is possible since, both in the distant and in the recent past, we seemed to have agreed that the difference between us lies rather in terminology than in theology itself.

1. Theological terminology can only partially, and always somehow inaccurately, express the Truth. It is nothing else than a means of communication, an instrument used by the Church to convey its teaching. This is why the Orthodox is not, and has never been, a "confessional" church. It never accepted to be defined- and therefore limited - by the text of a Confession. Neither the Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople, nor the definitions of the Ecumenical Councils can be considered as defining the fullness of Orthodoxy. If the Creed has acquired a permanent value by its inclusion in the Liturgy, the conciliar definitions are essentially ad hoc statements, which can be understood only against the background of the heresy condemned by them. They do, of course, reflect and witness to an absolute and unchangeable Truth, but this Truth is a living One, which exists in the organic continuity of the One Church of Christ. A Council is ecumenical, and its decision is infallible when it has denned something of this permanent and organic Truth, while no human words, and therefore no conciliar definition, can pretend to have exhausted it. Conciliar definitions, while they cannot be simply revoked without the Church ceasing to be Christ's Church, can be complemented and reinterpreted, just as the Fifth Council has complemented and interpreted Chalcedon.

2. Doctrinal statements and definitions are made necessary by the life of the Church in history. One cannot avoid them for the simple reason that the human mind is constantly at work, that it constantly searches, and often errs. The function of the Church resides in giving it some guidance: the doctrinal continuity of the Orthodox Tradition is a witness of the presence in the Church of the Spirit of Truth. Thus, the Chalcedonian definition, just as all the definitions which preceded it or followed it, was not necessary in itself, but because there was a concrete danger of the Gospel of Christ being betrayed. This danger came from the heresy of Eutyches, who ceased to see in Christ a human nature totally consubstantial to us. And, in fact, such a heresy was and is present, explicitly or implicitly, in many aspects of Church life, especially in the East, and Chalcedon is a safeguard against it.

It may be that the same danger could and still can be met with other words in another fashion. Let us find it together. The principle has been admitted already in 553, and our effort to achieve unity today may be served by the experience of the Church's past.


NOTES

 

(1) J. Lebon, Le Monophysisme severien (Louvain, 1909), p. xxi.

(2) J. Lebon, op. cit., pp.354, 376- 388.

(3) M. Richard, "L'introduction du mot hypostase dans la théologie de l'Incarnation," in Mélanges de sciences religieuses, 2 (1945), pp. 5-32, 243-270.

(4) Cf. P. Galtier, "L'unio secundum hypostasim chez saint Cyrille," in Gregorianum, xxxni, 1952, pp. 351-398.

(5) G. L. Prestige, God in Patristic Thought )London, 1952=, p. 242

(6) Poem. dogm. xx, 3 P.G. 37, col 414 A; Horn. 39, 11, P.G. 36, col. 345 D.

(7) On Leontius' christology, see A. Theodoru, "Christologike horologia didaskalia Leontiou tou Byzantiou," in Theologia, 26 (Athens, 1955), pp. 212-222, 421-435, 584-592; 27 (1956), pp. 32-44. S. Verkhovskoy, "Some Theological Reflexions on Chalcedon," in St. Vladimir's Seminary Quarterly, vol. 2, 1958, no. 1, pp. 2-12.

(8) Epilysis, P.G., 86, col. 1932 C.

(9) Contra Nest. et Eutychianos, ibid, col. 132 B.

(10) Epilysis, ibid., col. 1945 C, D.

(11) Contra Nest, et Eutychiartos, ibid., col. 1337 A.

(12) The use of the 'theopaschite' formulae is frequently considered as 'unbearable' by modern Western theologians (cf. for example Ch. Moeller, "Le Chalcedonisme et le neo-chalcedonisme en Orient de 451 a la fin du vi e siecle" in Grillmeier-Bacht, Das Konzil von Chalkedon. i, pp. 637-720). They are admitted as self-evident by Orthodox theologians (cf. for example M. Oksiuk, "Teopaskhitskie spory" in Trudy Kievskoi Dukhovni Akademii, 1913, 1, pp. 529-559; G. Florovsky, Vizantiiskie Ottsy, p. 129). A fresh and more hopeful understanding of the issue is however found in the several works devoted to Cyrillian Christology by F. Diepen.

(13) Ed. E. Schwartz, "Drei dogmatische Schriften Justinians," in Abhandlungen der Müneherner Akad. der Wissenschaften, Neue F. 18 (München, 1939), pp. 72-111; for Severus' position, see J. Lebon, op. cit., pp. 345-368.

(14) Ed. tit., p. 78, lines 5-10.

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