Ephesus and Chalcedon
Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
True to their native tendency
of philosophizing the faith, theologians in the East were not satisfied with
the plain orthodoxy of Nicea. Arianism had by no means disappeared, even after
the death of its great supporter, the Emperor Constans (350 A.D.), although
its main thrust was shifted to the West and Northwest and continued to harass
the Church for centuries through the Arian hordes of Goths, Vandals, and Lombards.
Preoccupied with the question,
"What think you of Christ?" Eastern speculators directed their attention
from Christ as God (vindicated at Nicea) to Christ as man. They asked themselves:
if Christ has two perfect natures, human and divine, how is He only one person?
If He is only one individual, it seemed to some of them that at least one component
part was perfected by the union. Since it could not be His divinity, it must
have been His humanity. Christ had to lack something as man, which His divinity
Among the answers given, the theory of
Apollinaris has made history. Apollinaris (or Apollinarius) lived somewhere
between 310 and 390 A. D., was a close friend of Athanasius and a staunch defender
of Nicea against the Arians. In his zeal to refute the Arians, he developed
a theology of the Incarnation that created such a stir in Asia Minor that he
was finally driven from Laodicia, where he was bishop after condemnation at
Rome (374 to 380 A.D.) and the Second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople.
Following Plato's theory
of three elements that constitute man--body, soul and spirit--Apollinaris thought
he found the key to the problem of Christ's personality by substituting the
Logos for the Savior's spirit or rational principle of life. In his system,
Jesus was formed of a conjunction of Body (material element), Soul (principle
of animal life), and Logos (the Son of God) who replaced the rational
part of Christ's human nature.
What added to Apollinaris'
conviction that the divinity should substitute for Christ's rationality was
the impiety, as he felt, of saying that the Redeemer had a finite principle
of moral and intellectual activity. Were this so, He could then be charged with
ignorance and the possibility of sin.
As a result, the Apollinarian
Christ was, indeed, consubstantial with the Father because He was true God,
but not consubstantial with us because he was missing what most makes us men,
our human intellect and will.
Pope Damasus I (366-384
A. D.) was urged to condemn Apollinaris, and at the same time anathematize two
correlative errors: the doctrine of Diodorus of Tarsus (died 390 A. D.) whose
reaction to Apollinaris led him to exaggerate the duality in Christ, and the
old Monarchian heresy which held that the human nature of Christ was somehow
less than human.
Damasus demanded that Apollinarius subscribe to the doctrine that
the Son of God assumed a complete human nature, "body, soul, senses, that
is, the whole Adam and, to be still clearer, our complete inherited manhood
(corpus, animam, sensum, id est, integrum Adam, it, ut expressius dicam,
totum veterem nostrum sine peccato hominem)." When he refused to submit,
he was formally condemned, and promptly broke with the Church.
Not unlike Nicea, the emperor
entered the controversy and quite on his own summoned a council at Constantinople
in May, 381, that was over by July. Originally 186 bishops, all from the East,
assembled for the conclave. But once the Arian party learned in what direction
the council would go, thirty-six bishops left and the remainder proceeded to
publish a series of anathemas that add almost nothing to Nicea. However, Apollinarianism
In a single sweeping censure, all the
prevalent Christological heresies came under censure. "We anathematize
every heresy," the Council declared, "especially that of the Eunomians
or Anomians, of the Arians or Eudoxians, of the Madeconians or those who resist
thy Holy Spirit, or the Sabellians, Marcellians, Photinians and the Apollinarians."
Of special significance
was Canon 3 of the council, which gave the bishop of Constantinople precedence
over all the Catholic episcopate, with the exception of the bishop of Rome.
Creed, usually ascribed to the first two general councils was actually the baptismal
formula of Epiphanius which we have seen slightly altered to include the passage,
referring to the Holy Spirit, "Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from
the Father, who is adored and glorified in the same way as the Father, who has
spoken by the prophets." At Chalcedon, the Creed was recited by the assembled
Fathers, and after I Constantinople was recognized by Rome as ecumenical, this
profession of faith became standard in the Church. The additional clause, "and
of the Son (Filioque)," was first heard of in Spain and later approved
by Rome. It became the bone of contention that still rankles church relations
between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.
Nestorius and the Council of Ephesus
It is not difficult to
trace the intellectual lineage of Nestorianism, which provoked the Council of
Ephesus and advanced the theology of the Incarnation beyond Nicea and I Constantinople.
Cyril of Alexandria (died 444 A. D.), chief opponent of Nestorius, held that
error began with Diodorus, bishop of Tarsus; it was expanded and clarified by
Theodore of Mopsuestia, and openly propagated by Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople
(died 451 A. D.).
Characteristic of the Antiochene school
of exegesis, Theodore favored dividing Christ and sharply distinguishing between
His two natures, over against the Alexandrian school which favored a unification.
According to Theodore, the union of the Logos with Christ's human nature
consists of an indwelling, not of God's being (ousia) but of His good
pleasure or special approval (eudokia). God is everywhere and so is His
influential power. Hence absolutely speaking, there is no more of God dwelling
in one creature than in another. But His approval or complacency may rest more
on one created being than on some other. His love, as it were, terminates with
different influence on different personswhich explains why people are so different
What distinguishes Christ,
then, is simply that God's love set a much higher approval on the person of
Jesus Christ. In that sense, He might even be accorded divine honors as one
specially appealing to God.
Moreover, the two natures
of Christ thus understood, are not literally fused into one thing. They are
at most joined together to form a closely cooperative combine. As Theodore
explained it, this conjunction began with the first formation of the humanity
in Mary's womb, and in later life showed itself in a ready practice of virtue
and a determined avoidance of sin. Yet all the while Christ was two entities
conjoined with one another, and not a united entity to form one individual.
All this is true Nestorianism,
and would have passed out of history without notice except for his disciple,
Nestorius, who rose steadily from monk, to priest, to patriarch of Constantinople.
Nestorius was a native of Germanicia in Syria Euphratensis. An able preacher
and outspoken critic, he had two faults that led to his conflict with orthodoxy.
He was a pliant tool of political authority, and, once convinced of something,
nothing could change his opinion. His accession to the See of Constantinople
was a court appointment, signalized by the letter he wrote to Theodosius II
on being consecrated bishop, "Give me, O Emperor, a land cleansed of heretics,
and I will help you in your wars with the Persians." A zealous promise,
but conditioned on Nestorius' concept of heresy, and weakened by looking to
the crown for help in governing the Church.
Not long after, Nestorius'
chaplain began to preach the strange doctrine that Mary was not to be called
the Mother of God. "Let no man," he said, "call Mary Theotokos.
For Mary was only a woman, and God cannot be born of a woman."
People were scandalized
because the title had been accorded Mary for generations. Origen, Alexander,
Athanasius and Eusebius of Nicomedia had all used it. But the chaplain, Anastasius,
denounced the appellative and appealed to his bishop for support. Nestorius
elaborated and gave reasons why Mary cannot be called Mother of God. "They
ask," the bishop replied, "whether Mary may be called Theotokos.
Has God then a mother? In that case we must excuse the pagans, who spoke of
mothers of the gods. Paul is not a liar when he affirms that the Godhead in
Christ is without father or mother or geneology of any kind. Mary did not give
birth to God. A creature cannot deliver her creator, but only a man who is the
instrument of the divinity. I honor this garment which He uses, for the sake
of Him who is hidden within and that cannot be separated from the vesture it
wears. I separate the two natures, even while I unite my respect. See what it
means. The one who was formed in the womb of Mary was not God Himself, but God
assumed him, and because of Him who assumes, the one assumed is also called
A violent controversy broke out, with
Nestorius finding himself challenged by the bishop of Alexandria, St. Cyril,
whose role in the succeeding events can be compared with that of Athanasius
at Nicea. Seeing that nothing could be settled by simple dialogue, both sides
appealed to Rome, to Pope Celestine I. Among the few surviving statements of
Nestorius is his letter to Celestine, in which he sought to clear himself of
the charge of heresy. This letter is preserved in the Latin version of the Acts
of the Council of Ephesus, it begins with an inquiry about the Pelagian refugees
at Constantinople--which at once led Celestine to suspect Nestorius of disingenuousness,
since he professed to need information about a matter that was
already well known--and then gets down to the real topic: Nestorius has his
troubles with heretics too. In spite of its poor preservation in a somewhat
confused translation, the letter is of value as a good brief statement of Nestorius'
own ideas on the union of God and man in Christ. The only kinds of union of
such different entities he could admit were conjunction and mixture; rejecting
the latter, as producing some kind of demigod, he was forced back on the
We ought indeed to enjoy
brotherly converse with each other, that we might, together, in harmony and
concord, fight against the devil, the enemy of peace. Why this prelude? A certain
Julian and Orontius and Fabius, saying that they are bishops from the West,
have often approached our most pious and glorious emperor and bewailed their
case, as orthodox men who have suffered persecution in an orthodox age. They
have often addressed their laments to us and as often have been rejected, yet
do not cease to repeat the same, but continue day by day filling the ears of
all with their expressions of woe.
We have spoken to them
as is fitting, though we do not know the exact truth of their business. But
since we need a fuller knowledge of their case, so that our most pious and most
Christian emperor may not continue to be annoyed by them; and that we may not
be uncertain about the proper measures to take in this business, being ignorant
of their complaints, please give us information about them, so that people may
not cause trouble (showing them) improper consideration through ignorance of
the true justice in the matter, nor, may expect something else after canonical
sentence of Your Blessedness, given against them, I suppose, on account of religious
divisions. For the rise of divisions calls for serious measures from true pastors.
We also have found no slight
corruption of orthodoxy among some of those here, which we have treated with
both sternness and gentleness (as demanded). It is no small error, but similar
to corruption of Apollinaris and Arius, blending together the Lord's appearance
as man into a kind of confused combination. So much so that certain of our clergy,
some from inexperience, others from heretical error long kept concealed, as
often happened even in the times of the apostles, err like heretics, and openly
blaspheme God the Word consubstantial with the Father, as if he took his beginning
from the Christ-bearing Virgin, and grew up with his temple and was buried with
(it) in the flesh; they even say that his flesh after the resurrection did not
remain flesh, but was changed into the nature of Godhead.
To speak briefly, they
refer the Godhead of the Only-begotten to the same origin as the flesh joined
(with it), and kill it with the flesh, and blasphemously say that the flesh
joined with the Godhead was turned into deity by the deifying Word, which is
nothing more nor less than to corrupt both. They even dare to treat of the Christ-bearing
Virgin in a way as along with God, for they do not scruple to call her theotokos,
when the holy and beyond-all-praise Fathers at Nicea said no more of the holy
Virgin that that our Lord Jesus Christ was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and
the Virgin Mary--not to mention the Scriptures, which everywhere, both by angels
and apostles, speak of the Virgin as the mother of Christ, not of God the Word.
I presume that rumor has already informed Your Blessedness what conflicts we
have endured for those things, and you have also learned that we have not struggled in vain, but many of those who had
gone astray have by the grace of the Lord repented, learning from us that what
is born is properly consubstantial with the parent, and that it was to the creature
of the Lord's humanity, joined with God, (being) of the Virgin by the Spirit,
that what was seen among men was committed. If anyone wishes to use this word
theotokos with reference to the humanity which was born, joined to God
the Word, and not with reference to the parent, we say that this word is not
appropriate for her who gave birth, since a true mother should be of the same
essence as what is born of her. But the term could be accepted in consideration
of this, that the word is used of the Virgin only because of the inseparable
temple of God the Word which was of her, not because she is the mother of God
the Word--for none gives birth to one older than herself.
I suppose that rumor has already told you of these things,
but we expound what has been happening to us, in order to show in fact that
it is in a brotherly spirit that we wish to know about the affairs of those
whom we mentioned before; not out of mere importunate curiosity--since we tell
you of our affairs as among brothers, sharing with each other the facts of (these)
divisions, so that the beginning of this letter of mine may be indeed correct--for
I said as I began this letter that we ought to enjoy brotherly converse with
I and those who are with me greet all the brotherhood
in Christ which is with you.
On receipt of Nestorius'
letter and the complaints against him, Celestine called a council at Rome in
August, 430, where Nestorianism was condemned. Cyril was commissioned by the
pope to pronounce sentence of deposition against the bishop of Constantinople
if he would not retract.
In November of the same
year, Cyril took action and on December 7, 430, delivered his sentence into
Nestorius' hands by legates sent to Constantinople. Meanwhile, Cyril had been
in correspondence with Nestorius, and the two patriarchs exchanged a series
of letters unique in the annals of the Church. Each tried to convince the other
of the error of his ways, and each appealed to the need for preserving the true
difference in their respective approaches was that Cyril based his position
on the teachings of the ancient Church, while Nestorius argued from what he
called the logic of the faith. Cyril said that dividing the person of Christ
undermined the Redemption and cut away the bulwark of Christian tradition which
always held that Jesus Christ was God Incarnate. Nestorius claimed that the
opposite was true: God did not become man but only dwelt in the man Jesus as
in a temple.
What sparked the controversy
into a conflagration was the strong devotion of the Eastern people to the Blessed
Virgin. They instinctively sensed that if Mary was denied the dignity of divine
motherhood, their faith was dissolved and all they believed about her divine
Son was in doubt.
These popular sentiments along with Cyril's
insistence that Nestorius be brought to task, led Emperor Theodosius to summon
a general council at Ephesus. St. Augustine had been invited to the council
and would almost certainly have presided, but he died after receiving the emperor's
personal invitation and before he could leave Hippo for Asia Minor.
As a result, Cyril of Alexandria
took over as president of the council which proclaimed the hypostatic union
of the two natures of Christ. This was read and approved by the prelates, together
with citations from the Fathers of the Church and twenty passages from Nestorius.
Thereupon sentence was pronounced against the patriarch.
Presently forty-three bishops
of the Antioch party, favorable to Nestorius, arrived on the scene and proceeded
to form a council of their own. They excommunicated Cyril and the local bishop
of Ephesus. They also justified themselves to the emperor, and were jubilant
to learn that he sided with them.
The Anti-Nestorian bishops
met in six more sessions, the last being on July 31, held once more in the church
of the Blessed Virgin. At this session, the council approved six canons directed
against Nestorius and his party. A circular letter informed the absent fathers
of all that had been done.
Theodosius had a change
of heart. He confirmed the deposition of Nestorius, but also deposed Cyril and
Memnon (bishop of Ephesus). Like Constantine before Nicea, he thought there
was too much wrangling over nothing. So he ordered eight representatives from
each side to appear before him and give their reports. This done, he changed
again--this time permanently. He disavowed Nestorius whom he had banished finally
to Upper Egypt. The members of the synod were allowed to return to their dioceses,
including Cyril to Alexandria. On the papal side, Sixtus III (432-440 A. D.)
confirmed the Council of Ephesus and, to commemorate the occasion, adorned the
triumphal arch of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome with mosaics glorifying
the Blessed Virgin as Mother of God.
The extant documentation
of Ephesus consists mainly of two items, both taken from the writings of St.
Cyril and both originally in Cyril's letters to Nestorius in which he tried
to dissuade the patriarch from dividing Christ and asserting that in the Savior
there were two personalities, one human and the other divine.
Ephesus thereby canonized
the positive teaching of Cyril on the Incarnation, as found in his second letter
to Nestorius. Its later confirmation by Rome made this epistle part of the Church's
Now the holy and great Synod (of Nicea) said that the
Only-begotten Son Himself, by nature begotten from God even the Father, Very
God from Very God, Light from Light, through whom the Father made all things,
came down, was incarnate, lived as Man, suffered, rose the third day, and ascended
into heaven. These words and doctrines it behoves us to follow, recognizing
what is meant by the Word who is from God being incarnate, and living as Man.
For we do not say that the Nature of the Word
was changed and became flesh, nor that He was transformed into a complete human
being, I mean of soul and body; but this rather, that the Word, having united
to Himself in His Own Hypostasis, in an ineffable and inconceivable manner,
flesh animated with a rational soul, became Man, and was called Son of Man;
not being united merely as a result of will or good pleasure, not yet by His
assumption of a single (human) person; and that while the Natures which were
brought together into this genuine unity were different, yet of them both is
the One Christ and Son, not as though the difference of the Natures was abolished
by the union, but rather the Godhead and the Manhood, by their ineffable and
unspeakable concilience into unity, perfected for us the One Lord and Christ
Although He had His existence
and was begotten from the Father before the ages, He is spoken of as begotten
also after the flesh from a woman; not as though His Divine Nature received
its beginning of existence in the holy Virgin, nor yet as
though a second generation were necessarily wanting for its own sake after that
from the Father, for it is altogether ridiculous and stupid to say that He,
who existed before every aeon and is co-eternal with the Father, had need of
a second beginning of existence. But when for our sakes and for our salvation
the Word, having united humanity to Himself hypostatically, came forth from
a woman, He is for this reason said to have been born after the flesh.
It was not an ordinary
man, who was first born of the holy Virgin, and upon whom afterwards the Word
descended, but Himself, united to humanity from the womb itself, is said to
have undergone fleshly birth, as making His own the birth of His own flesh.
Thus we say that He both suffered and rose again; not meaning that the Word
of God, in His own proper (Divine) Nature, suffered either stripes or the piercing
of the nails or any other wounds at all; for the Divinity is impassible because
it is also incorporeal. But when that which was made His own body suffered,
He Himself is said to suffer these things for us; for the Impassible was in
the suffering body.
After the same manner,
too, we conceive of His dying. For the Word of God is by nature immortal and
incorruptible and life and life-giving; but when His own body "by the grace
of God tasted death for every man" He Himself is said to have suffered
death for us; not meaning that He experienced death at all insofar as touches
His (Divine) Nature--for it were sheer madness to say or think that--but that
His flesh tasted death.
Thus again, too, when His
flesh was raised the resurrection is spoken of as His; not meaning that He fell
into corruption, certainly no, but that it was His body that was again raised.
Thus we acknowledge One
Christ and Lord; not worshipping a man along with the Word, lest a semblance
of division might secretly creep in through the use of the words "along
with," but worshipping One and the Same (Lord), because the Word's body
wherein He shares the Father's throne is not alien to Himself; in this case
again not meaning that there are two Sons in co-session, but One (Son), by reason
of His union with His flesh. But if we reject this Hypostatic Union as impossible
or as unseemly, we fall into saying "two Sons," and then there will
be every necessity for drawing a distinction, and for speaking of the one as
properly a man honored with the title of "Son," and again of the other
as properly the Word of God, having naturally the name and possession of Sonship.
Accordingly we must not divide into two Sons the One
Lord Jesus Christ; for it will in no way assist the right expression of the
faith so to do, even though some promise to admit a Unity of Prosopa.
For the Scripture hath not declared that the Word united to Himself a man's
person, but that He hath become Flesh. Now the Word becoming Flesh is nothing
else but that "He partook of blood and flesh like us," and made His
own body which was taken (from us), and came forth a man from a woman; not laying
aside His being God and His generation from God the Father, but even in His
assumption of flesh remaining what He was.
This (teaching) the statement of the
correct faith everywhere sets forth. Thus we shall find the holy Fathers have been
minded. Accordingly, they confidently called the holy Virgin Theotokos;
not meaning that the Nature of the Word or His Godhead received its beginning
from the holy Virgin, but that, inasmuch as His rationally animated body to
which the Word was hypostatically united was born of her, He is said to have
been born after the flesh.
Along with accepting Cyril's statement
of positive doctrine, the Council of Ephesus also approved his list of twelve
anathemas. They were intended by him to summarize Nestorian teaching and thereby
bring out the orthodox position. In the process of formation, Cyril's anathemas
became the subject of counter-anathemas by Nestorius.
As we go through the dozen condemnations
of Ephesus, borrowed from Cyril, we shall briefly place them into context, to
see what the Council meant and how Nestorianism was alien to the Church's authentic
doctrine on the personality of Christ. We may note, in passing, that the Cyril-Ephesian
language was yet to develop and be further clarified by Chalcedon; and also
that the main drive of Ephesus was to safeguard Christ's individuality, whereas
Nestorians were preoccupied with Christ's duality.
Cyril and the Council begin by affirming
that, "If anyone does not profess that Emmanuel is truly God, and that
the holy Virgin is, therefore, Mother of God, for she gave birth in the flesh
to the Word of God made flesh," he should be anathematized. Behind this
statement stands the implication that, since the child born of Mary was a divine
Person, Mary was mother of the one she bore. Mothers give birth to individuals,
i.e., a person, and thereby become bearers of the person to whom they give birth.
specifically, Mary is truly Theotokos in two ways: she contributed everything
'to the formation of Christ's human nature that every other mother contributes
to the fruit of her womb; and she conceived and bore the Second Person of the
Trinity, not of course according to the divine nature but according to the human nature which the
On a more technical level, those are
condemned who do not profess that "the Word of God the Father was hypostatically
united to flesh and that Christ is one having His own flesh, that is, one person
who is both God and man." The word hypostatically became as crucial
as homoousios at the Council of Nicea. It meant that the two natures
in Christ were united personally, in such a way that while the terminus
from which the union was effected was two distinct natures, which remained essentially
unchanged, the terminus in which the union was completed was one individual,
which individual was divine.
Furthermore, in reference to the one
Christ, it is forbidden to make "a division of the hypostases after the
union, joining them in a mere association of dignity, or of authority, or of
power, and not rather, in a real physical union." Cyril (and Ephesus) here
identify physis (nature) and hypostasis (substance). Such use,
here and elsewhere suggests that the two terms were then considered synonymous.
Chalcedon would distinguish the terminology, without changing the basic doctrine.
Coming into sharper focus, the council finds
fault with those who take words spoken by Christ of Himself, or by others about
Him, and divides them into two different categories, "as between two persons
or hypostases, attributing some of them as to a man, properly understood in
contrast to the Word of God, and the rest to the Word of God the Father exclusively,
on the grounds that they are proper to God alone." The concern is obvious.
If such expressions as, "the Father and I are one," refer exclusively
to Christ as God; and such statements as "learn of me for I am meek and humble
of heart" refer exclusively to Christ as man, then Christ is divided.
He becomes two persons, one juxtaposed along side the other, and not one person
who is at the same time God and man.
However, the terminology was still fluid at Ephesus,
where sometimes hypostasis and sometimes physis is called "person."
The ambivalence was not completely removed until Chalcedon, which crystallized
the use of hypostasis to mean "person," in contradistinction
to ousia or physis to mean "substance" or "nature" respectively.
One of the favorite phrases
of Nestorius was to call Christ Theophoros = God-bearer. Accordingly
Cyril and the council held that no one may say that "Christ is man bearing
God within him and not, rather, that He is truly God as He is the Son of God
by nature, inasmuch as the Word was made flesh and is a sharer like ourselves
in flesh and blood." Nestorius kept insisting that anything more than God
dwelling in Christ would be to make the divinity change at the Incarnation.
To which Ephesus replied that no change in the Godhead is implied, but Theophoros
might be applied to any saint in whom God dwells, while Christ was no mere saint,
He was God in human form.
From another angle, Nestorians claimed
that the First Person was Lord of Christ--to bring out their theory that Christ
was two distinct personalities. Ephesus reacted by condemning those who assert
that "the Father is God or Lord over Christ and does not, rather, profess
that He Himself is both God and man, because the Word was made flesh according
to the Scriptures." In other words, there is no dualism of individuals
in the Savior. Being one divine person, he cannot be God and Lord of a human
person associated with Himself, which involves an erroneous dualism. The dualism
is that of being God and Lord of His own human nature.
In the same spirit, the Nestorians spoke
of the man Jesus as actuated by God the Word, and that "He was invested
with the glory of the Only-begotten, as though the man Jesus were someone other
than the Word." This, too, was outlawed on the score that Christ was not
actuated or energized (energesthai) from the outside. He claimed the Resurrection
as His own work (John 2:19), and it was in His human nature that He was glorified.
For the first time in theological history, we meet the term energized
and its cognates, which became technical in the later Monophysite and Monothelite
An issue that would arise centuries later in the adoration
of Christ's humanity and His Sacred Heart, was anticipated
in the anathema against Nestorians who insisted on using the prefix "co-"
every time they spoke of giving Christ divine honors. Thus no one may say that
"the man assumed ought to be co-adored with God the Word, and co-glorified
and co-named God, as one person in another--for this is the interpretation
that the constant addition of co--will lead to--and does not, rather,
adore Emmanuel with one adoration and apply to Him one doxology, inasmuch as
the Word was made flesh." Very simply, such bifurcation would mean there
was a human personality side by side with the divine.
Another facet of Nestorianism was its
peculiar notion of the Holy Spirit. The action of the Third Person on Christ
was equated with His action on other holy men, no more and no less. Hence the
rejection by Ephesus of anyone who says that "the one Lord Jesus Christ
was glorified by the Spirit as though through the Spirit Jesus exercised a power
not proper to Himself, and as though He had received from Him the ability to
act against unclean spirits, and to work miracles among men." Contrarily, believing
Christians must affirm that "the Spirit by which He worked the miracles
was His very own."
The crux here was to clarify the relationship
of the Second and Third Persons. The Spirit was Christ's own, for although He
proceeds from the Father He is not alien from the Son. Moreover since "all
the Father has" belongs to the Son, too, therefore the Spirit is also His.
Christ worked the miracles because He was united in Trinitarian intimacy with
Father and Spirit.
Christ's priesthood was also challenged.
According to St. Paul, Christ became the highpriest of the new covenant, and
offered Himself up to God as our sacrifice on the cross (Hebrews 3:1). But
the Nestorians weakened this concept out of existence by urging that not the
Logos in human form but "another man, distinct from Him, who was
born of woman," and who made the oblation of Calvary. From another angle,
they held that Christ offered the sacrifice of Himself not only for our sins
but also for His own, on the principle that the human nature of Christ (not
being hypostatically united with the Second Person) was sinful and therefore
in need of redemption.
Nestorius undercut the salvific work
of Christ by denying that His humanity was the channel of redemption. As he
put it, "The flesh of the Lord is not life-giving because it, does not
belong to the very Word of God. Rather it belongs to someone else than God (who
is a human person) and who was linked with God by dignity, and in whom the Godhead
had a divine indwelling." Ephesus rejected this position because it destroyed
the cardinal notion of Christ's meritorious passion and death, and reduced to
a metaphor the Church's teaching that Christ is our eternal high-priest whose
human nature (present in the Eucharistic sacrifice) is daily offered to the
Father for our salvation.
Against this removal of Christ as the
great sacrament of the New Law, the council declared that His "flesh is
life-giving because it was made proper to the Word who has power to give life
to all things." The Savior as God is the creator of supernatural life,
and as man (united with the divinity) He is the unique instrument by which
this life is communicated to mankind.
Finally in the Nestorian system only
a man suffered and died. Ephesus countered by insisting that "the Word
of God suffered in the flesh, and was crucified in the flesh. and experienced
death in the flesh, and became the first-born from the dead, inasmuch as He
is, ad God, both life and the giver of life." This was a summation of Nestorian
theology and harked back to what we have seen among the Gnostics that were challenged
in their day by Ignatius of Antioch and John the Evangelist. Nestorius was
not a Gnostic in that he admitted the Scriptures and claimed he believed in
Christ's divinity. But he was in the best Gnostic tradition when he outlawed
the union of God and man in Christ to the point of refusing to say that God
underwent trials and the agony of death, or that God rose from the grave.
After Ephesus passed its judgment, the
followers of Nestorius, headed by John of Antioch, had second thoughts about
supporting the bishop of Constantinople. Forty bishops were involved and Cyril,
for all his intransigence, was moved by the spectacle of so many prelates denying
an article of faith. He made overtures to the recalcitrants, and they in turn
sent a delegation to Alexandria.
Bishop Paul of Emesa headed the delegates
and presented to Cyril a formula drawn up at Antioch that would hopefully tide
over the division. Paul was received amicably, preached in Cyril's presence
on Christmas Day, and early the next year (433 A. D.) Cyril confirmed the reconciliation
by his letter to John of Antioch. He accepted the Antiochene statement, without
quite making it his own. Antioch still preferred to speak of the unconfused,
Alexandria of the undivided union of God and man, and Antioch still suspected
Cyril of Apollinarism, i.e., of watering down Christ's truly human nature by
some kind of substitution of His rational soul by the divine Logos.
As an effort toward explaining himself
more clearly, and bringing the Nestorian sympathizers back to the fold, Cyril
wrote his famous Formula of Union, a masterpiece of charity joined to theological
clarity. Without giving up an iota of what Ephesus defined, he restated the
council's teaching to make it palatable to the unhappy bishops, and found his
efforts rewarded by a mass reconciliation. Cyril's document is a permanent witness
to the type of ecumenism needed in modern times, which seeks to present the
Church's unchangeable doctrine in terms that are intelligible and (hopefully)
acceptable to Christians who are not Roman Catholic.
First Cyril stated his conviction that
the recent controversy had been unnecessary; then he quoted verbatim the profession
of faith of the erstwhile Nestorian prelates, who were now willing to accept
the title Theotokos. Once they were ready to call Mary the Mother
of God, Cyril was all meekness about accepting their orthodoxy.
That the division which arose between the Churches
was entirely superfluous and unjustified, we are now thoroughly convinced,
since my lord the most God-beloved bishop Paul has produced a paper containing
an unimpeachable confession of the faith, and assures us that this was drawn
up by Your Holiness and the most devout bishops there. The document is as follows,
and it is incorporated word for word in this letter of ours:
"We must necessarily state briefly what
we are convinced of and profess about the God-bearing Virgin, and the manner
of the incarnation of the unique Son of God--not by way of addition but in the
manner of a full statement, adding nothing at all to the Creed of the holy Fathers
put forth at Nicaea. For, as we have just said, it is sufficient both for the
whole knowledge of godliness and for the repudiation of all heretical false
teaching. We speak, then, not as daring things impossible, but by the confession
of our own weakness shutting out those who wish to reproach us in that we look
into things that are beyond man.
then, our Lord Jesus Christ, the unique Son of God, perfect God and perfect
man, or a reasonable soul and body; begotten of the Father before (the) ages
according to the Godhead, the same in the last days for us and for our salvation
(born) of Mary the Virgin according to the manhood; the same consubstantial
with the Father in the Godhead, and consubstantial with us in manhood, for a
union of two natures took place; understanding of the unconfused union we confess
the holy Virgin to be theotokos, because God the Word was made flesh
and lived as man, and from the very conception united to himself the temple
taken from her. As to the evangelical and apostolic phrases about the Lord,
we knew that theologians treat some in common, as of one person, and distinguish
others, as of two natures, and interpret the God-befitting ones in connection
with the Godhead of Christ, and the humble ones of the manhood."
In certain ways, the foregoing retractation was unsatisfactory
in language and tendency. Always the Antiochene school stressed the twofold
nature of Christ, which was not in dispute, while understressing His oneness
as an individual, which was seriously in question. They also repeated the familiar
Nestorian terms, "the temple taken from her," and "unconfused
union." But Cyril read enough valid faith in their profession to excuse,
the semantics once the essentials were recognized.
On reading these holy phrases, and finding
that we ourselves are also thus convinced--for (there is) one Lord, one faith,
one baptism--we glorified God the Savior of all, rejoicing together that both
our Churches and yours have a creed agreeing with the God-inspired Scriptures
and the tradition of our holy Fathers. But since I learned that some of those
who, are accustomed to be fond of finding fault were buzzing around like fierce
wasps and were spitting out evil words against me, as if I said that the holy
body of Christ came down from heaven and was not of the holy Virgin, I thought
it necessary to address a few words to them about this.
How did you pervert your thinking so
far, and fall sick with such folly? For you must surely clearly understand that
almost all our fight for the faith was connected with our declaring that the
holy Virgin is theotokos. But if we say that the holy body of Christ
the Saviour of us all was from heaven and not of her, how could she be thought
of as theotokos? For whom indeed did she bear, if it is not true that
she bore Emmanuel after the flesh?
But since God the Word, who descended
from above and from heaven, emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and
is styled Son of Man, while remaining what he is, that is, God--for he is unchangeable
and unalterable by nature--now being thought of as one with his own flesh, he
is said to come down from heaven, and is called (the) man from heaven, being
perfect in Godhead, and the same perfect in manhood, and thought of as in one
person--for (there is) one Lord Jesus Christ, although the difference of the
natures is not ignored, out of which we say that the ineffable union was effected.
As to those who say that there was a
mixture or confusion or blending of God the Word with the flesh, let Your Holiness
stop their mouths. For some
probably report this about me, as though I had thought or said so. But I am
so far away from thinking thus that I think they are out of their minds who
can at all suppose that a shadow of turning could occur in connection with the
divine nature of the Word. For he ever remains the same, and is not altered;
nor indeed could he ever be altered or subject to variation. In addition we
all confess that the Word of God is impassible, though in his all-wise dispensation
of the mystery, he is seen to attribute to himself the sufferings undergone
by his own flesh. So the all-wise Peter spoke of Christ suffering for us in
the flesh, and not in the nature of the ineffable Godhead.
Cyril concluded by reaffirming his acceptance
of Nicea and fidelity to the memory of Athanasius. He repeated his faith in
Christ's unqualified divinity, which the Nestorians accused him of weakening,
while complimenting the bishops on their zeal--which led them into previous
error. The letter is one of the earliest examples of how carefully teachers
and churchmen have to distinguish between legitimate pluralism and doctrinal
perversion. Preoccupation with one aspect of Christ's being--as a composite--had
obscured the Nestorian vision of Christ as a single individual.
The Apollinarists had solved the problem
by conjuring up a humanity minus human intellect and freewill. The Nestorians
solved the same problem by going to the other extreme and fabricating a humanity
that had not only mind and liberty, but also complete personality. Both wanted
to safeguard Nicea and repudiate Arianism. But where Apollinaris "saved"
Christ's divine nature by reducing the humanity to an irrational shadow, Nestorius
tried to protect the divinity by making Christ's human nature a distinct and
Eutyches and Chalcedon
When the moderate Antiochene bishops
came to terms with Cyril in 433 A. D., the "compromise" ostensibly
settled the controversy and Ephesus joined Nicea as an expression of the Church's
belief on the twofold nature of the Founder. Before long, however, the germ
of another deviation latent this time in Alexandrian theology began to bear
fruit. If Alexandria had emphasized Christ's unity against those who would divide
Him, it also carried the impediment of ambiguous language which less orthodox
Christians would use to their own advantage. The most prominent such exploiter
was Eutyches (378-454 A.D.), archimandrite of a large monastery at Constantinople.
Eutyches' keen opposition to Nestorianism
led him to maintain that after the divine nature had been united to the human
in the person of Christ, His human nature was merged in the divine, so that
from the moment of His "incarnation" only a divine nature remained.
This theory came to be known as Monophysitism from the Greek monos =
one, and physis = nature.
In 448 A.D., when he had been a monk
for more than sixty years, Eutyches was accused by Eusebius of Dorylaem, his
former friend, of Apollinarist tendencies. The patriarch of Constantinople,
Flavian, called a synod of some thirty bishops and summoned Eutyches to clear
himself. When he finally came, his statements were too vague to be meaningful,
until faced with the direct question: "Do you confess the existence of
two natures even after the Incarnation, and that Christ is consubstantial with
us? Eutyches replied, "I confess that before the union (of the Second Person
and human nature) Christ was of two natures, but after the union I confess only
Pressed to conform to traditional teaching,
he protested that for the sake of peace he would agree but that personally he
was sure the Church was wrong. He could not find the idea of two distinct natures
anywhere in the Bible or the writings of the Fathers. Thereupon he was deposed
At this point the emperor stepped in.
Eutyches appealed to Theodosius through his friend, the eunuch Chrysaphius,
and set to work placarding the city with signs denouncing Flavian and defending
his own Christology. To get more support, he wrote to Alexandria, Jerusalem,
Ravenna and Rome, with special urgency to Pope Leo I that he might decide in
Leo waited to hear the other side. When
Flavian submitted the case against Eutyches, the pope wrote his classic Dogmatic
Letter to Flavian, which has made theological history. More popularly called
"The Tome of Leo," it confirmed the decision of the bishops
under Flavian and condemned Eutyches.
Suppressed at Ephesus,
the Tome was approved at Chalcedon, and is thus the one representative of Western
theology in the official documents of the ecumenical councils recognized by
all Christendom. It is a fine specimen of the straightforwardness and clarity
of the Latin mind--as also of the Western approach to the mysteries of Christianity
from the facts of faith rather than the speculation of philosophy. Basically,
the pope tells the old monk that he should go back and read his Bible. In some
ways, Leo's assertion of the gospel of God and man in Christ stopped short where
Greek speculation on the subject began. But essentially he had stated the common
faith. Not unnaturally, the doctrine here stated is further expounded in Leo's
sermons for the Christmas feast, which has commonly been more central in Western
piety than in Eastern. Leo could cheerfully have sung Charles Wesley's Christmas
hymn, or joined in the words of a seventeenth century poet and convert to Catholicism.
Welcome, all wonders in one sight!
Eternity shut in a span!
Summer in Winter, Day in Night!
Heaven in Earth, and God in Man!
Great little one! whose all-embracing birth,
Lifts Earth to Heaven, stoops Heaven to Earth!
The Tome is preserved in collections
of the Acts of Chalcedon as well as in those of the Letters of Leo. The first
critical edition of the works of Leo was that of the Jansenist Quesnel in 1675.
This unorthodox association led Benedict XIV to encourage the improved, and
still standard, edition of the brothers Ballerini in 1753-1757. There are several
translations, of which that by William Bright seems to come closest to reproducing
in English the style, both influenced and influencing the then young tradition
of the Roman Liturgy. Bright's version is here reprinted with some changes in
capitals and punctuation.
The full text of Leo, which follows,
is given without apology but with some explanation. Although the longest citation
in the book, it says everything that the author of this volume wants to communicate
to his readers. Leo's Tome is at once a witness to the Church's clear knowledge
of the Savior's person and mission, and evidence of the primacy--needed in the
fifth century to discover the truth in a welter of contradictory opinions and
needed today to sift the conflicting ideas of an ecumenical age.
Leo is theological but warm. His lucid
exposition is still a model for teachers and preachers of the Word, who know
how to be deep without losing themselves in scholastic terminology. It is the
finest summation of Christology, and, incorporated into the teachings of Chalcedon,
is the Church's most authoritative statement in extenso about Jesus Christ.
Having read Your Affection's letter, the late arrival
of which is matter of surprise to us, and having gone through the record of
the proceedings of the bishops, we have now, at last, gained a clear view of
the scandal which has risen among you, against the integrity of the faith; and
what at first seemed obscure has now been elucidated and explained. By this
means Eutyches, who seemed to be deserving of honor under the title of presbyter,
is now known to be exceedingly thoughtless and sadly inexperienced, so that
to him may apply what the prophet said, "He refused to understand that
he might act well; he meditated unrighteousness on his bed." What, indeed,
is more unrighteous than to entertain ungodly thoughts, and not yield to persons
wiser and more learned?
Into this folly do they fall who, when hindered
by some obscurity from knowing the truth, have recourse, not to the words of
the prophets, not to the letters of the apostles, nor to the authority of the
Gospels, but to themselves; and become teachers of error, just because they
have not been disciples of the truth. For what learning has he received from
the sacred pages of the New and Old Testaments, who does not so much as understand
the very beginning of the Creed? And that which, all the world over, is uttered
by the voices of all applicants for regeneration is still not apprehended by
the mind of this aged man.
Analysis of Monophysitism. If, then, he knew
not what he ought to think about the incarnation of the Word of God, and was
not willing, for the sake of obtaining
the light of intelligence, to make laborious search through the whole extent
of the Holy Scriptures, he should at least have received with heedful attention
that general confession common to all, whereby the whole body of the faithful
profess that they "believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ
his only Son our Lord, Who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary."
By these three clauses
the engines of almost all heretics are shattered. For when God is believed
to be both "Almighty" and "Father," it is found that the
Son is everlasting together with himself, differing in nothing from the Father,
because he was born as "God from God." Almighty from Almighty, Coeternal
from Eternal; not later in time, not unlike him in glory, not divided from him
in essence; and the same only-begotten and everlasting Son of an eternal Parent
was "born of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary. (21)
This birth in time in no way detracted from,
in no way added to, that divine and everlasting birth; but expended itself wholly
in the work of restoring man, who had been deceived, so that it might both overcome
death, and by its power "destroy the devil who had the power of death."
(22) For we could not have overcome the author of sin and of death, unless he
who could neither be contaminated by sin nor detained by death had taken upon himself our nature
and made it his own. For, in fact, he was "conceived of the Holy Ghost"
within the womb of a virgin mother, who bare him, as she had conceived him,
without loss of virginity.
But if he [Eutyches] was
not able to obtain a true conception from this pure fountain of Christian faith,
because by his own blindness he had darkened the brightness of a truth so clear,
he should have submitted himself to the evangelical teaching; and after reading
what Matthew says, "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son
of David, the son of Abraham," (23) he should also have sought instruction
from the apostolical preaching.
After reading in the Epistle
to the Romans, "Paul, a servant of God, called an apostle, separated unto
the gospel of God, which he had promised before by the prophets in the Holy
Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was made unto him of the seed of David
according to the flesh," (24) he should have bestowed some devout study
on the pages of the prophets; and, finding that God's promise said to Abraham,
"In thy seed shall all nations be blessed," (25) in order to avoid
all doubt as to the proper meaning of this "seed," he should have
attended to the apostle's words, "To Abraham and to his seed were the promises
He said not, 'and to seeds,'
as in the case of many, but, as in the case of one, 'And to thy seed,' which
is Christ. " (26) He should also have apprehended with his inward ear the
declaration of Isaiah; "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which is, being interpreted, God with
us"; and should have read with faith the words of the same prophet, "Unto
us a child has been born, unto us a son has been given, whose power is on his
shoulder; and they shall call his name Angel of Great Counsel, Wonderful, Counselor,
Strong, Prince of Peace, Father of the Age to Come." (27) And he should
not have spoken idly to the effect that the Word was in such a sense made flesh,
that the Christ who was brought forth from the Virgin's womb had the form of
a man, but had not a body really derived from his mother's body.
Possibly his reason for
thinking that our Lord Jesus Christ was not of our nature was this: that the
angel who was sent to the blessed and ever-virgin Mary said, "The Holy
Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee,
and therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called
Son of God" (28) as if, because the Virgin's conception was caused by a
divine act, therefore the flesh of him whom she conceived was not of the nature
of her who conceived him. But we are not to understand that "generation,"
peerlessly wonderful, and wonderfully peerless, in such a sense as that the
newness of the mode of production did away
with the proper character of the kind. For it was the Holy Ghost who gave fecundity
to the Virgin, but it was from a body that a real body was derived; and "when
Wisdom was building herself a house," "the Word was made flesh, and
dwelt among us," (29) that is: in that flesh which he assumed from a human
being, and which he animated with the spirit of rational life.
Christ Has Two Distinct
Natures. Accordingly, while the distinctness
of both natures and substances is preserved, and both meet in one Person, lowliness
is assumed by majesty, weakness by power, mortality by eternity; and in order
to pay the debt of our condition, the inviolable nature has been united to the
passible, so that, as the appropriate remedy for our ills, one and the same
"Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus:" (30) might from
one element be capable of dying, and from the other be incapable. Therefore
in the entire and perfect nature of very Man was born very God, whole in what
was his, whole in what was ours, (By "ours" we mean what the Creator
formed in us at the beginning, and what he assumed in order to restore); for
of that which the deceiver brought in, and man, thus deceived admitted, there
was not a trace in the Saviour; and the fact that he took on himself a share
in our infirmities did not make him a partaker in our transgressions.
He took on him "the
form of a servant" without the defilement of sins, augmenting what was
human, not diminishing what was divine; because that "emptying of himself,"
(31) whereby the Invisible made himself visible, and the Creator and Lord of
all things willed to be one among mortals, was a stooping down of compassion,
not a failure of power. Accordingly, the same who, remaining in the form of
God, made man: was made Man in the form of a servant.
For each of the natures
retains its proper character without defect. As the form of God does not take
away the form of a servant, so the form of a servant does not impair the form
of God. The devil was glorying in the fact that man, deceived by his craft,
was bereft of divine gifts, and, being stripped of this endowment of immortality,
had come under the grievous sentence of death.
Amid his miseries, Satan had found a sort of consolation in having a transgressor
as his companion, and that God, according to the requirements of the principle
of justice, had changed his own resolution in regard to man, whom he had created
in so high a position of honor. There was need of a dispensation of secret counsel,
in order that the unchangeable God, whose will could not be deprived of its
own benignity, should fulfill by a more secret mystery his original plan of
loving-kindness towards us, and that man, who had been led into fault by the
wicked subtlety of the devil, should not perish contrary to God's purpose.
Meaning of the Hypostatic
Union. The Son of God, descending
from his seat in heaven, yet not departing from the glory of the Father, enters
this lower world, born after a new order, by a new mode of birth. After a new
order, because he who in his own sphere is invisible became visible in ours.
He who could not be enclosed in space willed to be enclosed. Continuing to be
before times, He began to exist in time. The Lord of the universe
allowed his infinite majesty to be overshadowed, and took upon him the form
of a servant. The impassible God did not disdain to become passible, and the
immortal one to be subject to the laws of death.
Born by a new mode of birth,
because inviolate virginity, while ignorant of concupiscence, supplied the matter
of his flesh. What was assumed from the Lord's mother was nature, not fault;
and the fact that the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ is wonderful, in that
he was born of a virgin's womb, does not imply that his nature is unlike ours.
For the selfsame who is very God is also very Man: and there is no illusion
in this union, while the lowliness of man and the loftiness of Godhead meet
As "God" is not
changed by the compassion [exhibited], so "Man" is not consumed by
the dignity [bestowed]. For each "form" does the acts which belong
to it, in communion with the other; the Word, that is, performing what belongs
to the Word, and the flesh carrying out what belongs to the flesh. The one of
these shines out in miracles the other succumbs to injuries.
As the Word does not withdraw
from equality with the Father in glory, so the flesh does not abandon the nature
of our kind. For, as we must often be saying, he is one and the same, truly
Son of God, and truly Son of Man: God, inasmuch as "in the beginning was
the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"; Man, inasmuch
as "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." God, inasmuch as
"all things were made by him, and without him nothing was made"; Man
inasmuch as he was "made of a woman, made under the law." (32)
The nativity of the flesh is a manifestation
of human nature: the Virgin's child-bearing is an indication of divine power.
The infancy of the babe is exhibited by the humiliation of swaddling clothes
the greatness of the highest is declared by the voices of angels. He whom Herod
impiously designs to slay is like humanity in its beginnings, but he whom the
Magi rejoice to adore on their knees is Lord of all. Now when he came to the
baptism of John his forerunner, lest the fact that the Godhead was covered with
a veil of flesh should be concealed, the voice of the Father spoke in thunder
from heaven, "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased."
He who, as man, is
tempted by the devil's subtlety is the same to whom, as God, angels pay duteous
service. (34) To hunger, to thirst, to be weary, and to sleep is evidently human.
But to feed five-thousand men with five loaves, and to bestow on the woman of
Samaria that living water, to drink of which can secure one from thirsting again;
to walk on the surface of the sea with feet that sink not, and by rebuking the
storm to bring down the "uplifted waves," is unquestionably divine.
As then--to pass by many
points--it does not belong to the same nature to weep with feelings of pity
over a dead friend and, after the mass of stone had been removed from the grave
where he had lain four days, by a voice of command to raise him up to life again;
or to hang on
the wood and to make all the elements tremble after daylight had been turned
into night; or to be transfixed with nails and to open the gates of paradise
to the faith of the robber, so it does not belong to the same nature to say,
"I and the Father are one," and to say, "The Father is greater
than I." (36) For although in the Lord Jesus Christ there is one Person
of God and man, yet that whereby contumely attaches to both is one thing, and
that whereby glory attaches to both is another: for from what belongs to us
he has that manhood which is inferior to the Father; while from the Father he
has equal Godhead with the Father.
Communication of Attributes
in Christ. On account of this unity
which is to be understood as existing in both the natures, we read, on the one
hand, that "the Son of Man came down from heaven," (37) inasmuch as
the Son of God took flesh from that Virgin of whom he was born; and, on the
other hand, the Son of God is said to have been crucified and buried, inasmuch as he
underwent this, not in his actual Godhead, wherein the Only-begotten is coeternal
and consubstantial with the Father, but in the weakness of human nature.
Wherefore we all, in the very Creed, confess
that "the only-begotten Son of God was crucified and buried," according
to that saying of the apostle, "For if they had known it, they would not
have crucified the Lord of majesty." (38) And when our Lord and Savior
himself was by his questions instructing the faith of the disciples, he said,
"Who do men say that I the Son of Man am?" And when they had mentioned
various opinions held by others, he said, "But who do you say that I am?"
that is, "I who am Son of Man, and whom you see in the form of a servant,
and in reality of flesh, who do you say that I am?" Whereupon the blessed
Peter, as inspired by God, and about to benefit all nations by his confession,
said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." (39)
therefore, was he pronounced blessed by the Lord, and derived from the original
Rock that solidity which belonged both to his virtue and to his name, who through
revelation from the Father confessed the selfsame to be both the Son of God
and the Christ; because one of these truths, accepted without the other, would
not profit unto salvation, and it was equally dangerous to believe the Lord
Jesus Christ to be merely God and not man or merely man and not God.
But after the resurrection
of the Lord--which was in truth the resurrection of a real body, for no other
person was raised again than he who had been crucified and had died--what else
was accomplished during that interval of forty days than to make our faith
entire and clear of all darkness? For a while he conversed with his disciples,
and dwelt with them, and ate with them, and allowed himself to be handled with
careful and inquisitive touch by those who were under the influence of doubt.
This was his purpose in entering in to them when
the doors were shut, and by his breath giving them the Holy Ghost and opening
the secrets of Holy Scripture after bestowing on them the light of intelligence,
and again in his selfsame person showing to them the wound in the side, the
prints of the nails, and all the fresh tokens of the Passion, saying, "Behold
my hands and feet, that it is I myself; handle me and see, for a spirit hath
not flesh and bones, as you see me have. (40) Thus the properties of the divine
and the human nature are acknowledged to remain in him without causing a division,
and we know that the Word is not what the flesh is but confess that the one
Son of God is both Word and flesh.
On this mystery of faith,
Eutyches must be regarded as unhappily having no hold whatever. He has not acknowledged
our nature to exist in the only-begotten Son of God, by way either of the lowliness
of mortality or of the glory of resurrection. Nor has he been overawed by the
declaration of the blessed Apostle and Evangelist John, saying, "Every
spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and
every spirit which dissolves Jesus is not of God, and this is Antichrist."
Now what is to dissolve Jesus, but to separate
the human nature from him, and to make void by shameless inventions that mystery,
by which alone we have been saved? Moreover, seeing he is blind as to the nature
of Christ's body, he must needs be involved in the like senseless blindness
with regard to his Passion also. If he does not think the Lord's crucifixion
to be unreal, and does not doubt that he really accepted suffering, even unto
death, for the sake of the world's salvation; as he believes in his death, let
him acknowledge his flesh also, and not doubt that he whom he recognizes as
having been capable of suffering is also man with a body like ours; since to
deny his true flesh is also to deny his bodily sufferings.
If then he accepts the Christian faith, and does
not turn away his ear from the preaching of the Gospel, let him see what nature
it was that was transfixed with nails and hung on the wood of the cross. Let
him understand whence it was that, after the side of the crucified had been
pierced by the soldier's spear, blood and water flowed out, that the Church
of God might be refreshed both with the Laver and with the Cup. Let him listen
also to the blessed apostle Peter when he declares that "sanctification
by the Spirit" takes place through the sprinkling of the blood of Christ."
Let him not give a mere cursory reading to the
words of the same apostle, "Knowing that ye were not redeemed with corruptible
things, as silver and gold, from your vain way of life received by tradition
from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, as of a lamb
without blemish and without spot.
Let him also not resist the testimony of blessed
John the apostle, "And the blood of Jesus the Son of God cleanses us from
all sin." And again: "This is the victory which overcomes the world,
even our faith;" and: "Who is he that overcomes the world, but he
that believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he that came by water and
blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood, and it
is the Spirit that bears witness, because the Spirit is truth
are three that bear witness, the spirit, the water, and the blood; and the three
are one." That is, the Spirit of sanctification and the blood of redemption,
and the water of baptism; which three things are one, and remain undivided,
and not one of them is disjoined from connection with the others: because the
Catholic Church lives and advances in this faith, that in Christ Jesus we must
believe neither manhood to exist without true Godhead, nor Godhead without true
Looking back at Leo's analysis, we see that he made issue
of four elements of the faith, defending them against Eutyches:
- Christ is only one person.
The Logos and Christ are not two but one individual being. One and the
same person is truly the Son of God and truly the Son of man, born of the Virgin
- In that one person are
two natures, divine and human without confusion or commingling, so that each
remains truly and complete itself.
- Each nature retains its
own properties, although not without bearing on the other nor outside the union
which is permanent. Every action derives from its respective nature as from
an immediate principle of operation.
- Because Christ is one person,
we may invoke the communicatio idiomatum, i.e., the sharing of attributes
in Christ. What is proper to one nature may, in the concrete, be predicated
of the other. That is why we profess in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds that
the only-begotten Son of God was crucified, died and was buried for our salvation.
As happened before, the imperial powers entered the controversy
without invitation from Rome. Theodosius summoned the bishops of the empire
to meet at Ephesus. They exonerated Eutyches, refused to accept the papal legates,
and rejected Leo's Tome against Monophysitism. The pope described the Ephesian
synod as a robbery latrocinium, and urged the emperor to convoke a fresh
council, this time in Italy. Theodosius died without acceding to Leo's demand.
However, Marcian, who succeeded Theodosius II, agreed
to call a council, but not in Italy. On May 17, 451, the council began proceedings
at Nicea, but shortly after was transferred to Chalcedon, on the Bosphorus,
a place which commended itself (over Nicea) because it was close to the imperial
Chalcedon, by any calculation, was the
work of Leo I, whom posterity surnamed the Great. Attended by upwards of six
hundred bishops, it was unsurpassed for grandeur up to the first and second
councils of the Vatican.
When the Nicene Creed and Leo's Tome
were read, the assembled prelates exclaimed, "This is the faith of the
Fathers. This is the faith of the Apostles. This is the faith of all of us.
Peter has spoken through Leo."
Nicea and Leo were enough, but the bishops
wanted to reduce Leo's doctrine to a short summary, with special attention to
the error of "those who try to divide the mystery of the dispensation (Incarnation)
into a dyad of Sons
who think of a mixture or confusion of the two natures
who fancy that the form of a servant which He took of us was of
a heavenly or some other substance, and who imagine two natures of the Lord
before the union but invent one after the union." In a word, Chalcedon
wished to close the doors on anyone who would tamper with the mystery of the
hypostatic union, where two natures remain truly themselves and yet are bound
together in a single divine personality.
Following therefore the holy Fathers, we confess
one and the same our Lord Jesus Christ, and we all teach harmoniously (that
he is) the same perfect in Godhead, the same perfect in manhood, truly God and
truly man, the same of a reasonable soul and body; consubstantial with the Father
in Godhead, and the same consubstantial with us in manhood, like us in all things
except sin; begotten before ages of the Father in Godhead, the same in the last
days for us; and for our salvation (born) of Mary the Virgin theotokos in manhood,
one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, unique; acknowledged in two natures without
confusion, without change, without division, without separation--the difference
of the natures being by no means taken away because of the union, but rather
the distinctive character of each nature being preserved, and (each) combining
in one Person and hypostasis--not divided or separated into two Persons,
but one and the same Son and only-begotten God, Word, Lord Jesus Christ; as
the prophets of old and the Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us about him, and
the symbol of the Fathers has handed down to us.
Since we have determined these things with all
possible accuracy and care, the holy and ecumenical Council has decreed that
no one shall be allowed to, bring forward another Creed, nor to compose or produce
or think out or teach (such) to others.
The Chalcedonian formula says everything
to be said about the Mystery of the Incarnation in a few words.
- Christ is affirmed to have assumed
a real and not an apparent body, for he is "truly man
born of Mary the
- Taking on our nature, He assumed
not only a body but also a rational soul, with intellect and will. He is "perfect
(complete) in manhood
or reasonable (rational) soul and body
with us in manhood, like us in all things except sin."
- The two natures in Christ are hypostatically,
that is joined to each other in one individual, "each combining in one
Person and Hypostasis (eis hen prosopon kai mian hypostasin)." The
official Latin text reads, in unam personam atque subsistentiam concurrente,
where the Greek Hupostasis becomes "subsistence," and the English
"combining" is the Latin concurrente = running together.
- In the hypostatic union, each
of the two natures remains unimpaired, "without confusion - inconfuse,
without change = immutabiliter, without division = indivise, without
separation = inseparabiliter." The first two exclusions were directed
against the Monophysites, the last two against the Nestorians.
- At the same time, Christ
was and remains true God, one with the Father in nature, "consubstantial
with the Father in Godhead
perfect in Godhead
the Word (Logos)." His
divinity is not changed by becoming man, but the world is immensely changed
by the Incarnation, since "in the last days" God entered the world
in human form.
- Even as man, Christ is
absolutely sinless, for He is "like us in all things except sin."
He neither sinned nor could sin because He was God. Only in the Nestorian system,
where Christ was two persons, is sin conceivable to the Savior.
- The reason for the Incarnation
was functional. Christ was born into the world "for our salvation"
to undergo the meritorious death that, except for this mortality, would have
- Only the Second Person
became man. It was "the Son and only-begotten God, Word," who assumed
human nature--not the Father nor the Holy Spirit.
- Accordingly Mary is not
only Mother of Christ, but Mother of God, since He was "born of Mary, the
virgin Theotokos," which Ephesus was at such pains to declare.
- The Savior's oneness of
personality presumes that whatever He did or does is done simultaneously by
both natures, although in different ways, as would be further refined in the
controversy with the Monothelites and Monoenergetics who were fascinated by
the Eutychian explanation of how God absorbed the humanity of Christ.
From Chalcedon to the Monothelites
By the time the Emperor Zeno came to the throne in 474
A.D., the Monophysite trouble had reached a climax. Personally drawn to the
Eutychean party, he was conciliatory to the Catholics for political reasons.
He therefore conceived the idea of drafting a compromise document, which he
called the Henoticon or Union Decree. Cleverly written, the Henoticon
praised the first three ecumenical councils, slurred Chalcedon, and judiciously
avoided all reference to Christ's person or natures. Nobody was happy with the
melange, yet Zeno deposed bishops right and left unless they subscribed to the
decree. The result was confusion.
At this juncture, John Talais, the Catholic patriarch
of Alexandria went to Rome to appeal to Felix III for help. The pope sent legates
to Constantinople to get legal recognition for Chalcedon and have the deposed
bishops reinstated. But the emperor would not be moved. Whereupon Acacius, bishop
of Constantinople was excommunicated for supporting Zeno; and Acacius retaliated
by striking the pope's name from the diptychs. Thus began in 484 A. D. the first
of a series of schisms, this one lasting thirty-five years, that finally terminated
in the breech between the East and West. Only in 519 A.D., under the Catholic
emperor, Justin I, was the schism healed when Patriarch John subscribed to the
memorable Formula of Hormisdas in which Chalcedon and Leo were received without
During the Acacian schism another dispute arose over
the term, "One of the Trinity
was crucified." Originally part of the Trisagion, in the Liturgy,
the expression was added by Peter, the Monophysite patriarch of Antioch. His
idea was that the divinity had in some way absorbed Christ's humanity, and that
consequently the agony on the cross directly affected the divine nature.
Three popes were urged by the imperial
prelates who wanted the expression approved. Hormisdas, John II and Agapetus
I refused, not because the formula was heretical--it had been used by Cyril--but
because it was easily susceptible of erroneous interpretation by the Monophysites.
Emperor Justinian received a cordial reply from John II, recalling the faith
of Chalcedon but no formal approval. Thereupon Justinian called for another
general council to effect the union that the peace of the empire seemed (to
him) to warrant.
By this time a cause celebre was
created by the emperor's insistence that three men should be condemned for heresy:
Theodore of Mopsuestia of Nestorian fame, Theodoret of Cyrrhus 390-457 A. D.),
and Ibas of Edussa (380-457 A.D.). The emperor felt that condemning the Three
Chapters, as the citations from TheodoreTheodoret-Ibas came to be called, would
placate the Monophysites who were bitterly anti-Nestorian.
The council convoked to condemn these
three began at Constantinople in 553 A.D., with the agreement of Pope Vigilius.
Then began a sad chapter in papal diplomacy. Vigilius first was against condemning
the Three Chapters. He was promptly seized by the emperor and taken to Constantinople
to break down his resistance. Under pressure, Vigilius retracted his previous
stand and in 458 A.D. condemned the Chapters, namely, 1) the person and works
of Theodore of Mopsuestia, 2) the writings of Theodoret against Cyril of Alexandria,
and 3) Ibas' letter to Maris, a Persian bishop sympathetic to Nestorianism.
Vigilius' action was resented
in the West, so that he withdrew the condemnation and awaited a general council.
The Fifth General Council at Constantinople condemned the Three Chapters in
plenary session, 533 A.D., and a year later Vigilius recondemned the same. Pope
Pelagius I followed Vigilius' example, but in the meantime a grievous schism
had broken in the West over the papal vacillation. Few cases in Church History
better illustrate the evils of Caesaro-papalism, when civil rulers arrogate
to themselves the right to pass judgment in religious matters.
All this was a prelude to the last ecumenical council
to deal with the person of the Savior. Once more the council was occasioned
by heretical teaching, abetted by imperial interference.
Emperor Haraclius was anxious to reconcile
the Monophysites of Syria and Egypt in his war against the Persians and Arabians.
To this end, he was advised by Sergius, partriarch of Constantinople, to expound
the theory of one will in Christ--a concession to the Monophysites. A convert
to the cause of Cyrus of Phasis, who was promptly made patriarch of Alexandria
and set about "converting" large bodies of Monophysites to the Church.
The instrument of conversion
was a list of nine anathemas, notably condemning anyone who denies that "there
is one Christ and one Son, producing all His actions, divine and human, by one
sole theandric operation
the elements of the union being so related that there
is between them only a mental and not a real distinction." This was genuine
Monophysitism, with only a thin disguise.
Monothelites (monos = one, and thelein = to will) were originally
sincere adherents of Chalcedon who for political reasons imprudently toyed with
a risky theology to win the followers of Eutyches back to the Church. Few commentators
on the subject advert to the crisis then facing Christendom and the desperate
need Christians had for unity, on the eve of the Moslem invasion. Monothelitism
was an ill-fated effort to unite at any cost, in view of the imminent peril
In 624 A.D., conferences of the Monophysite
leaders with Emperor Heraclius resulted in producing a formula apparently acceptable
to both sides. As noted above, the only difficulty was that Christ was admitted
to have two natures but only one mode of activity (mia energia). Things
might have stopped there except that the patriarch Sergius found a similar expression
in the writing of Cyril of Alexandria which gave the term a semblance of orthodoxy.
Alert to the danger, Patriarch Sophronius
of Jerusalem vigorously opposed the formula and occasioned Sergius' appeal for
approval from Rome. In two unguarded letters, Pope Honorius (625-638 A.D.) approved
Sergius' conduct and himself used the phrase "one will," which henceforth
replaced the "one energy." The pope's approval was elicited by the
strategy of couching the whole matter in ambiguous terms, but it was enough
to give the Monothelites a handle. Soon after (638 A.D.), preachers were forbidden
by imperial edict to speak of one or two energies and bidden to say that Christ
had only one will (hen Thelema).
Two councils at Constantinople (638 and
639 A.D.) approved the Ecthesis as the royal decree was called, but the
successors of Honorius (Severinus, John IV and Theodore I) all condemned Monothelitiesm.
To obtain religious peace, Emperor Constans II withdrew the Ecthesis
in 648 A.D. replacing it with the Typos which forbade teaching either
position, that Christ had one or two wills. A council at the Lateran in 649
A.D. condemned the Typos and paved the way for the Council of Constantinople
in 680 A.D., confirming a Roman synod on the same subject the year before.
Ominous of the times, the patriarchates
of Alexandria and Jerusalem were already in the hands of the Moslems--with the
tragic reminder that both cities had been strongholds of Monophysitism. Their
bishops did not attend the council.
In many ways, the Third Council of Constantinople
was a harbinger of modern times. Where ancient Christology started from above
with the question, "How did the Son of God become man?" modern Christology
is more likely to ask, "How can we say that this man is God, as Christian
The Monothelite controversy pointed up
the shift in emphasis, raising the problem of Christ, not in being but in action.
Sergius and his disciples asserted that if we postulate two wills or operations
in Christ, we charge Him with imperfection. It was inconceivable in their theory
that the two wills would not be in opposition within Christ.
Historically Third Constantinople has
a special interest for English-speaking Christians as the only ancient ecumenical
council in which the English Church had some part. Pope Agatho's letter to the
Council expresses regret that the Greek archbishop of Canterbury, Theodore of
Tarsus, was unable to come as his representative. But Theodore had secured
a statement from his provincial council on behalf of the doctrine of two wills,
and his unruly suffragan, Wilfrid, "humble bishop of the holy Church of
York," took part in the preliminary council of Western bishops held at
Rome in 680 A.D., One may fairly list these actions as the first participation
of English Christianity, led by the prelates of Canterbury and York, in ecumenical
Whoever drafted the formal Statement
of Faith adopted at Constantinople emphasized in its very form that this council
wished to reassert the teaching of Chalcedon and develop its implications, as
the Fifth Council had reaffirmed the teaching of Ephesus. It begins with a reassertion
of the Creeds of Nicea and Constantinople and the authority of the previous
ecumenical councils, now five in number. The creed should be enough, but the
new error of one will and one operation has arisen which must be met; against
it Pope Agatho and his council have written their letters, documents agreeing
with the Council of Chalcedon and the Tome of Leo.
"Following the holy and ecumenical
five councils, and the holy and approved Fathers, and unanimously defining that
our Lord Jesus Christ, our true God, one of the holy and life-bestowing Trinity,
is to be confessed perfect in Godhead and the same perfect in manhood
Chalcedon definition is then repeated, with the one additional phrase that Mary
is called "genuinely and in truth Theotokos").
"We also proclaim two natural willings
or wills in him and two natural operations, without separation, without change,
without partition, without confusion according to the teaching of the holy Fathers--and
two natural wills not contrary (to each other), God forbid, as the impious heretics
have said (they would be), but his human will following, and not resisting or
opposing, but rather subject to his divine and allpowerful will. For it was
proper for the will of the flesh to be moved (naturally), yet to be subject
to the divine will, according to the allwise Athanasius.
"For as his flesh
is called and is the flesh of God the Word, so also the natural will of his
flesh is called and is God the Word's own will, as he himself says: 'I came
down from heaven not to do my own will, but the will of the Father who - sent
me,' calling the will of the flesh his own, as also the flesh had become his
own. For in the same manner that his all-holy and spotless ensouled flesh, though
divinized, was not destroyed, but remained in its own law and principle, so
also his human will, divinized, was not destroyed, but rather preserved, as
Gregory the divine says: 'His will, as conceived of in his character as the
Saviour, is not contrary to God (being) wholly divinized.' We also glorify two
natural operations in the same our Lord Jesus Christ, our true God, without
separation, without change, without partition, without confusion, that is, a
divine operation and a human operation, as the divine preacher Leo most clearly
says: "For each form does what is proper to it, in communion with the other;
the Word, that is, performing what belongs to the Word, and the flesh carrying
out what belongs to the flesh."
"We will not therefore grant (the
existence of) one natural operation of God and the creature, lest we should
either raise up into the divine nature what is created, or bring down the preeminence
of the divine nature into the place suitable for things that are made. For we
recognize the wonders and the sufferings as one and the same (person), according
to the difference of the natures of which he is and in which he has his being,
as the eloquent Cyril said.
"Preserving therefore in every way
the unconfused and undivided, we set forth the whole (confession) in brief;
believing our Lord Jesus Christ, our true God, to be one of the holy Trinity
even after the taking of flesh, we declare that his two natures shine forth
in his one hypostasis, in which he displayed both the wonders and the
sufferings through the whole course of his dispensation, not in phantasm but
truly, the difference of nature being recognized in the same one hypostatsis
by the fact that each nature wills and works what is proper to it, in communion
with the other. On this principle we glorify two natural wills and operations
combining with each other for the salvation of the human race."
The Monothelite intrusion did not die a natural death
with the close of the sixth ecumenical council. It was to haunt the Church for
a long time afterwards. Pope Honorius was the problem.
As we saw, Honorius had written to Sergius,
Patriarch of Constantinople, who inquired about a conciliatory formula on the
person of Christ intended to win over the Monophysite dissidents.
Honorius' reply represents one of the
alleged failures of papal infallibility. He never approved nor condemned. While
insisting that Christ was true God and man, he praised Sergius for dropping
the expressian "one operation" as savoring of Eutychianism, but agreed
with him that no reference should be made to "two operations" either,
as this might be taken for Nestorianism. He stated that "since Christ had
only one principle of action or one direction of will, therefore He must also
have one will." Taken verbally and without explanation, the statement looks
heretical because the Monothelites held that Christ had only one (divine) will,
understanding this to mean physically one will.
Honorius' successor, John IV (640-642
A.D.), promptly wrote to the emperor, explaining how Honorius should be interpreted.
"Our predecessor," he said, "is to be understood in this sense,
that our Savior never had two contrary wills
that there was never in Him,
as in us sinners, opposing wills of the flesh and spirit. Unfortunately some
have twisted his words to suit their fancy and suspected that he taught there
was only one will (in Christ) for both humanity and divinity, which is certainly
After forty years the atmosphere was
still hazy on where the Church stood with regard to Honorius. Then the Third
Council of Constantinople condemned the Monothelites and, for good measure,
included the name of Honorius among those responsible for not checking the heresy.
Taken post factum, therefore,
the Monothelites certainly capitalized on Honorius' ambiguous language in his
correspondence with Sergius. He was not a learned man to begin with, and unduly
irenic besides. Yet we know from his public statements that the only kind of
volitional unity he professed was moral and not physical; in Christ the
human will is perfectly submissive to the divine, and, in that sense, is one
with the will of God. "As regards making a dogma of the Church," he
wrote to Sergius, "we should not definitively state whether there are one
or two operations in the Mediator between God and man, while confessing there
are two natures physically united in Christ."
Accordingly Honorius may be justly reproached
for not taking a stronger position against Monothelitism, but for that very
reason he cannot be charged with formal error and less still with propounding
heresy. In the aftermath, his name loomed prominent in the fifteenth century,
when negotiations were active for re-uniting the Eastern Churches with
Rome, and again during the Gallican controversies of the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries, and finally at the First Vatican Council which defined papal infallibility.
A subtle form of Monophysitism developed in Spain in
the eighth century, when the bishops of Toledo and Urgel tried to convert the
Moors by compromising on the divinity of Christ.
Elipandus, archbishop of Toledo, upheld
a distinction between the Logos, as the natural and eternal Son of God,
and Christ, the adoptive Son, who is Son only metaphorically, because the Word
"adopted" the humanity, thereby attaching the filiation to the nature
rather than to the person of Christ. He was supported by Felix of Urgel, who
recanted, however, at a synod held at Ratisbon in 792 A.D.
Having repeated his abjuration before
the pope, Felix was allowed to return to his diocese, but again fell into error
and was obliged to flee. The Spanish bishops in considerable numbers sided with
Elipandus and tried to prove their case by, appealing to the Bible and the Fathers.
First they wrote to Charlemagne for support, then to the pope. The emperor summoned
a council at Frankfort (794 A.D.) where the prelates attached the Spanish argument
in two documents. These, together with a third drawn up by Hadrian I, were sent
A reply from Felix in favor of the heresy
provoked Alcuin's famous seven books Contra Felicem, and in 799 A.D.
Leo II called a synod at Rome which condemned Felix. After a long dispute, he
once more recanted, but Elipandus remained firm in his Adoptionist position,
whereupon Alcuin wrote another treatise against him. The archbishop died soon
Two documents stand out in this controversy; Pope Hadrian's
epistle to the bishops of Spain and Galicia and the decision of the Council
of Friuli. Hadrian condemned Adoptionisms (793 A.D.) because it was only a more
subtle form of Nestorianism.
In your irreverence and in your ingratitude
for such great favors you do not fear to whisper the vicious suggestion regarding
our Redeemer that he is an adoptive Son, as though a mere man, and one subject
to all human misfortune, and (a disgraceful thing to say!) that he is a slave.
Why are you not afraid, you carping disparagers--hateful to God--to give the
name of servant to Him who freed you from servitude to the devil, a servitude
that you are trying to submit your traitorous selves again of your own accord?
For although in prophetic type he was
termed a servant because of the condition of the servant's form that he received
from the Virgin, as the Scripture says: "Hast thou considered my servant
Job, that there is none like him in the earth?" (Job 1:8), even so, with
St. Gregory we understand that this is meant historically as applied to the
holy Job and allegorically as applied to Christ. The fact that Scripture described
Him typically as a servant in the person of Job is no reason why we should give
Him the name of servant, is it?
The Council of Friuli
(766 A.D.) restated the traditional teaching, while distinguishing
clearly between an adoptive sonship (postulated by Felix and Epilandus) and
the natural Sonship which Christ enjoyed both as God and as man.
"The human and temporal birth was
no impediment to that divine, eternal birth; rather, in the one person of Christ
Jesus there was the true Son of God and the true Son of man. There was not one
Son of man and another Son of God. He was not the putative Son of God, but the
true Son; not adopted, but God's own Son, for he was never separated from, the
Father on account of his assumed human nature.
"The reason why we profess that in each
nature he is God's own Son and not an adopted Son of God is that, after assuming
a human nature one and the same person is, without any commingling and without
any separation, Son of God and Son of man. He is the natural Son of the Father
according to his divinity; but God's own Son in
The trouble with Adoptionists, besides
ignoring the Church's constant tradition, was that they failed to see that sonship
belongs to the person and not to the nature. As there is in Christ only one
divine Person or hypostasis, which proceeds through eternal generation
from God the Father, so too we may predicate only one single sonship of Christ,
the natural sonship of God. Otherwise we split Christ in two, assigning Him
two personalities, as Nestorius did.
A favorite term of the Adoptionists was
the biblical title, "servant of God," which they applied to the person
and thereby created a human personality alongside the divine Person of the Son
of God. Pope Hadrian pointed out that the term must be applied to Christ in
His human nature, which is, indeed subject to God; but it may not be used of
Christ's personality, which is divine and only divine.
Years before Elipandus, St. Augustine
had expressly rejected the idea of an adopted sonship in the Savior. "Read
the Scriptures," he told the Manichaeans, "you will never find it
said that Christ is the Son of God through adoption." Significantly what
prompted the Spanish aberration was the same motive that led the Monothelites
into error. In their laudable desire to win the followers of Mohammed to Christianity,
they sought a via media between the uncompromising faith of the Church
that Christ is one person, and that person is God--and the Moslem teaching,
built into the Koran, that the Messiah is not Allah (God) but only His human
Chapter VII - References
- With reference perhaps to the etymology of "presbyter"--Eutyches does not display the discretion one would expect in an elder.
- Ps. 36 (35): 3,4.
- Leo has quoted from both the Roman Symbol (Apostles' Creed) and the Nicene formula, apparently considering them, not as two different documents, but as two statements of the same faith.
- Heb. 2:14.
- Rom. 1:1-3.
- Gal. 3:16.
- Matt. 1:1.
- Gen. 22:18.
- Isa, 7:14 (Matt. 1:23); 9:6.
- Luke 1:35.
- Prov. 9:1; John 1:14.
- Tim. 2:5, a favorite text of Augustine's (e.g., Confessions, x, 43).
- Phil. 2:7.
- John 1:1,3,14; Gal. 4:4.
- Matt. 3:17.
- Matt. 4:11; Mark 1:13.
- Ps. 93 (92):3,4; Matt. 8:26 (Mark 4:39; Luke 8:24,25).
- John 10:30; 14:28; cf. the similar passage in Gregory of Nazianzus, Third Theological Oration, 17-20, pp. 171-175.
- John 3:13.
- I Cor. 2:8.
- Matt. 16:13-19; Peter derives his solidity from Christ the original rock (Petra Principalis)--cf. I Cor. 10-4.
- Luke 24:39.
- I John 4:2,3.
Conference transcription from a talk that Father Hardon gave to the
Institute on Religious Life
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