The title of this essay may startle many who assume that union of the Orthodox with the Non-Chalcedonians (the historic Coptic, Ethiopian, Eritrean, West Syrian (Syriac/Jacobite), Armenian, and Indian (Malankara) churches) is imminent. Such an assumption is due to ignorance among many Anglophone Orthodox of the criticism to which eminent Orthodox theologians in other countries have subjected the dialogue between the Orthodox and Non-Chalcedonians. This ignorance is not the fault of the many simple believers and parish clergy who have received the idea of reunion between long-separated brethren with sincere and innocent joy. It is due rather to the dearth of critical voices in the West (i.e. outside traditionally Orthodox lands) and especially in the English-speaking world. In what follows I will attempt to contribute my small part to remedying this “media blackout,” as the French Orthodox theologian Jean-Claude Larchet has called it.[1. “La question christologique. À propos du projet d’union de l’Église orthodoxe avec les Églises non chalcédoniennes : problèmes théologiques et ecclésiologiques en suspens,” Le Messager orthodoxe 134 (2001): 11–200; republished in his Personne et nature. La Trinité – Le Christ – L’homme. Contributions aux dialogues interorthodoxe et interchrétien contemporains (Paris: Cerf, 2011), 65–158; mention of a media blackout (he uses the English word) in western Orthodox media on p. 68.] Of course I will not be able to cover everything, but I hope that my essay might serve as a wake-up call and an incentive to further investigation on the part of readers.
A brief history of the dialogue
The dialogue between the Orthodox and Non-Chalcedonians[2. I will not be using the politically correct “Eastern Orthodox” and “Oriental Orthodox.”] began with four unofficial consultations in Aarhus (1964), Bristol (1967), Geneva (1970), and Addis Ababa (1971). Major theologians from each side attended at least some of these, such as Frs. Georges Florovsky, John Meyendorff, and John Romanides, as well as Prof. John Karmiris from the Orthodox side, and Bp Paul Verghese and Fr. V.C. Samuel from the Non-Chalcedonian side. This was succeeded by an official dialogue starting in the late 1970s and culminating in two agreed statements in 1989 and 1990. These were then submitted to the respective local churches on both sides to be approved as a sufficient theological basis for reunion; it was intended that the complicated details of the actual process would be worked out in subsequent meetings, as well as on a local level. The basis for union was asserted as the recognition of each other’s theology as Orthodox, despite terminological differences, and the agreement that both sides could retain their respective enumeration of councils, saints, and local traditions.
There appear to have been no official meetings after 1998, probably because of the controversy that the agreed statements raised, on both sides, but especially among the Orthodox. Some resistance was more muted and passive, such as the Russian Orthodox Church’s tabling of the agreed statements for further study, but some was more active and vociferous, such as the joint statement of the Athonite monastic community opposing the plans for reunion on the basis of the agreed statements.[3. The memorandum of the Sacred Community of Mt. Athos (the official representative body of the twenty ruling monasteries) can be consulted in English here. For an alternative view, see the article by Bp. Alexander Golitzin, who was tonsured on Mt. Athos.] The latter have been supported by a stream of literature from the Athonite monastery of St. Gregory (Grigoriou), led by its abbot, the Archimandrite George Kapsanis of blessed memory. But protest has not been limited to monastic circles. Academic theologians such as Athanasy Yevtić (formerly bishop of Zuma and Herzegovina and currently professor at the Theological School of Belgrade), Fr. Theodore Zisis (professor at the University of Thessaloniki), and the aforementioned Jean-Claude Larchet, have also weighed in.
Clearly a considerable intra-Orthodox dialogue concerning this issue has taken place since the early 1990s. Yet it is assumed by many, especially laypeople and parish clergy but also including bishops, that union has been all but achieved. Consequently there has been a rush to realize it on a practical level. The most egregious example of this is the policy of eucharistic intercommunion under a broad range of circumstances that was established synodally by the synod of the Orthodox patriarchate of Antioch with their Non-Chalcedonian counterparts in 1991. Although the agreement appears to have never been fully implemented because of fear of the potential reactions of other local Orthodox churches, it has created much confusion regarding the Orthodox position. In any case, tacit intercommunion is very common on a parish level in the Middle East and the United States. There is also frequent cooperation in practical areas such as education, both at seminaries and in youth groups. This has had some beneficial effects in helping the Non-Chalcedonians rediscover the patristic tradition, both in its pre-Chalcedonian roots and its Chalcedonian fruits, but it has generally taken place in a relativistic campus culture (at least in U.S. seminaries) that already accepts the Non-Chalcedonians as fully Orthodox.
Enthusiasm for union is certainly understandable. In the case of the Non-Chalcedonians, it is felt especially strongly because of the obvious similarities between Orthodox and Non-Chalcedonians in liturgy and asceticism. Anyone who has spent time at Non-Chalcedonian churches and monasteries (as I have in the U.S. and in Damascus, Jerusalem, and Wadi al-Natrun, ancient Scetis, in Egypt) cannot but appreciate the beauty of their worship and the seriousness of the devotion that one finds there. Such observations often lead to a perception that the Orthodox are in fact much closer to the Non-Chalcedonians, despite their rejection of Chalcedonian theology, than to other Chalcedonian churches such as the Roman Catholics, whose Christology is formally in accord with Orthodox dogma but whose liturgy and spirituality often feel quite alien. The feeling of familiarity and sympathy is reinforced by the common lot of the Orthodox and Non-Chalcedonians in the Middle East, where both have long been oppressed by Islamic political and social hegemony and now face extermination at the hands of jihadists. Another element, it must be admitted, is the fascination many Orthodox have for such Non-Chalcedonian churches as those of Ethiopia and India (Malankara). Given that the Orthodox Church is, in practice, overwhelmingly “white,” the presence of ancient, indigenous, and allegedly Orthodox communities in Africa and the Subcontinent seems to empirically reinforce Orthodoxy’s claims to be the Catholic Church, which contains believers from all under heaven. Yet understandable as these motives are, they cannot suffice where real theological agreement is lacking.
A priori objections to the results of the dialogue
Unfortunately, the dialogue until now has papered over the substantive problems rather than frankly tackling them. Before addressing some specific Christological issues, I will mention some red flags that ought to be immediately raised for any Orthodox on perusing the recommendations for reunion.
Firstly, given the ecclesiological presuppositions of Orthodoxy, it should be troubling that the dialogue seems to have assumed that the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church has been visibly divided for 1,500 years. This seems to imply a “branch theory” that sees all churches as branches of one invisible Church. Such a “branch” or “invisible church” theory is denied in the foundational texts outlining Orthodox participation in the ecumenical movement (such as the Toronto and the Oberlin statements), but has it slipped in the back door in the case of the dialogue with the Non-Chalcedonians?[4. The text of the Toronto Statement of the WCC Central Committee meeting in 1950 (which was drafted by Fr Georges Florovsky) can be read here. Especially significant is the following statements: “(IV.4) The member churches of the World Council consider the relationship of other churches to the Holy Catholic Church which the Creeds profess as a subject for mutual consideration. Nevertheless, membership does not imply that each church must regard the other member churches as churches in the true and full sense of the word.” Unfortunately this is vitiated somewhat by the previous paragraph, which is debatable (at least) from an Orthodox point of view: “(IV.3) The member churches recognize that the membership of the Church of Christ is more inclusive than the membership of their own church body.” The Oberlin statement, which was formulated for the North American Faith and Order Study Conference of 1957 and in which Florovsky was also involved, can be found here.]
Closely connected to this is the second objection. If the Non-Chalcedonians are not required to accept the Fourth Ecumenical Council (Chalcedon) and the subsequent three, and to not accept the Fathers whose theology played a key role in formulating the councils’ definitions, what does that imply regarding Orthodox theological epistemology, given that Orthodoxy believes itself to be the Church of the Seven Councils and of saints such as Savas the Sanctified, Maximus the Confessor, and John of Damascus, who were dedicated opponents of the Non-Chalcedonians of their time?
Sometimes participants in the dialogue have argued that these figures (and their opposite numbers, the fathers of Non-Chalcedonian theology such as Dioscorus, Philoxenus, and Severus) were blinded by contemporary polemics and politics. It is alleged, or at least implied, that we are now able to approach each other with greater love and understanding today because those circumstantial factors have been removed. But can we easily admit that such great saints—one of whom, St. Maximus, composed a magnificent set of Four Centuries on Love and exemplified its principles during his persecution by the monothelete imperial authorities—were prevented by the Zeitgeist of the late antique Roman Empire from understanding and expressing the will of God in such an important matter? Do we have the self-assurance (not to say audacity) to claim that we excel in the virtue of love more than such holy people? And even if one or another Father may have sometimes erred, as has admittedly occurred in the course of church history, their concord, expressed ultimately in the dogmas of the ecumenical councils, is considered decisive and binding for Orthodox belief.
The theological record, briefly
When we actually turn to the Church’s theological record on the positions of the Non-Chalcedonians we see an apparently insuperable obstacle to union on the terms agreed by the dialogue. The Monophysites (also designated by patristic writers as Severans, Akephaloi, etc.) are condemned not only by the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, but also by all of the subsequent ecumenical councils, as part of their refutation of monophysitism itself or later heresies that were perceived to have stemmed from it, such as monotheletism and iconoclasm. The more-or-less concise definitions of the councils were informed and supported by the detailed polemical writings of such luminaries as Maximus the Confessor and John of Damascus, already mentioned, as well as others who are less well-known outside specialist circles, such as John the Grammarian, Leontius of Jerusalem, Leontius of Byzantium, St. Anastasius of Sinai, and Theodore Abu Qurrah (the last-named was the first Orthodox theologian to write in Arabic, in the early ninth century).
These decisions were confirmed routinely by later councils and fathers, most authoritatively in the Synodicon of Orthodoxy which is appointed to be read out on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, though in practice often only a brief excerpt is recited, which does not name any specific heresies. There were certainly later attempts at rapprochement and dialogue with a view to reunion between the Orthodox and Non-Chalcedonians (most notably the attempts at reunion with the Armenians by St Photius in the ninth century— which succeeded in bringing a large part of the Armenian people back to Orthodoxy—and under emperor Manuel Comnenus in the twelfth), but always on the basis of the conciliar and Patristic tradition. This tradition has been followed by such newer saints as Nectarius of Aegina (a considerable theological writer in his own right) and the recently canonized elder Paisius of Mt. Athos.[5. St. Nectarius of Pentapolis and Aegina discussed the issue in his book on the Ecumenical Councils, Αἱ οἰκουμενικαὶ σύνοδοι (Thessaloniki 1972), 134ff. The views of St. Nectarius on dialogue with heterodox are summarized in Greek by the late Metropolitan Meletius of Preveza and Nicopolis here. St. Paisius’ views are summarized in Hieromonk Isaac Atallah of Stavronikita, Βίος Γέροντος Παϊσίου του Ἁγιορείτου (Mt. Athos 2004), 690–91. (I cite the Greek because I do not have the English translation at hand).] Furthermore, at least two of the giants of Orthodox theology in the twentieth century, Georges Florovsky and Dumitru Staniloae, after initial enthusiasm, voiced concerns about the direction the dialogue was taking.[6. For Fr. Staniloae see Met. Methodius of Axum (now Pisidia), «Τό ἔργον τῆς Διορθοδόξου Θεολογικῆς Ἐπιτροπῆς διά τόν διάλογον τῶν Ὀρθοδόξων καί τῶν Ἀρχαίων Ἀνατολικῶν Ἐκκλησιῶν» in Abba Salama 7 (Athens 1976), 206 (non vidi), and for Fr. Florovsky see below.]
The declared basis for reunion as a result of the Dialogue has been the claim that the millennium-and-a-half-long separation was not caused by actual divergence in content between the two sides, but by verbal misunderstanding and stubbornness. This is largely based on academic theological research conducted over the past century or so. Beginning with Joseph Lebon’s monograph Le Monophysisme sévérien, many scholars have distinguished between the extreme monophysitism of the Constantinopolitan archimandrite Eutyches (the main figure condemned at the Fourth Ecumenical Council, whereas his protector Dioscorus, patriarch of Alexandria, was formally condemned only for canonical transgressions) and the moderate monophysitism of Severus of Antioch, which is followed up till today by the Non-Chalcedonian churches. This distinction is unobjectionable as such (and was recognized already by many ancient Fathers) but the further claim that this moderate monophysitism is only verbal—simply a dogged faithfulness to the terminology of St. Cyril of Alexandria—and hence substantively orthodox, has not won the same general acceptance. It has led to the new and solecistic term “Miaphysites” to denote the Non-Chalcedonians in a way that they do not find offensive: the point is supposed to be that they believe in one nature from two natures after the union in Christ, but not a single nature. The mental acrobatics involved in this justification of the euphemism are obvious.
As a result of this assumption of concord in content, the joint agreements issued by the Dialogue read like a modern rewriting of the Henoticon, the notorious edict of union issued by the emperor Zeno in the late fifth century, which tried to sweep Chalcedon under the rug and rewind Christology back to the days of St. Cyril, creating an artificial union based on agreeing to disagree. In today’s agreements, as in the case of the Henoticon, the Orthodox give up more than they gain[7. Needless to say, dialogue about dogma should not be conducted as a process of compromise and barter anyway!]. The Non-Chalcedonians have successfully resisted all attempts to make recognition of the Ecumenical Councils 4 through 7 obligatory, and have not been seriously challenged by the Orthodox participants as to their objections to such doctrines as the two energies and wills of Christ and even the Orthodox understanding of deification.[7. St. John Damascene’s articulation of the doctrine of deification was criticized by the late V.C. Samuel, one of the eminent Indian participants in the dialogue, in the last chapter of his book The Council of Chalcedon Re-examined (Madras 1977, repr. Kent, UK 2005). The late Coptic pope Shenuda III was very hostile to it as well: see the postscript in Stephen Davis, Coptic Christology in Practice: Incarnation and Divine Participation in Late Antique and Medieval Egypt (Oxford 2008), 271–78. The opponents of Shenuda on this issue, the late abbot of the Monastery of St. Macarius in Wadi al-Natrun, Matthew the Poor, and his monks, have been influenced in their theology by reading Greek and Russian Fathers. Their encounter with the Chalcedonian tradition has been part of the reason for the revival of monastic and lay spiritual life in Egypt over the past decades, and is cause for some optimism regarding the trajectory of contemporary Non-Chalcedonian theology, but up to this point it has led to confusion regarding their own tradition rather than critique and clarification.]
The heresy of Severus, according to the Fathers (again, briefly)
One patristic citation that is used and abused to support the results of the Dialogue is John of Damascus’s statement that the “Monophysites . . . are orthodox in everything . . .” As the ellipsis suggests, there is more to this quotation than meets the eye. I translate the whole passage[8. Ch. 83 of John’s On Heresies.] in order to supply what is lacking:
Egyptians, also called Schematics[9. Some editors wish to emend this to “Schismatics,” but the manuscript tradition supports the reading above.] and Monophysites, who on the pretext of the composition of the tome at Chalcedon have gone into schism from the Orthodox Church. They are designated Egyptians because it was Egyptians who first began this schema[10. See previous note.] in the reign of Marcian and Valentinian the emperors, but they are orthodox in everything else. These, out of attachment to Dioscorus of Alexandria, who had been deposed at the Council of Chalcedon as an ally of the doctrines of Eutyches, became hostile to the Council and at that time they made up innumerable charges against it, which we sufficiently dismissed earlier in the present book, showing those people to be crooked and empty-headed. Their leaders were Theodosius the Alexandrian (whence “Theodosians”) and Jacob the Syrian (whence “Jacobites”). The advocates and guarantors and allies of these are Severus, the corrupter of Antioch, and the futilely toiling John the Tritheist,[11. In Greek this is a pun on the epithet by which John was known, “Philoponus,” which means “hard worker” and has a positive connotation; John calls him “Mataioponus” instead.] who deny the mystery of the common salvation. They wrote many things against the god-inspired teaching of the 630 at Chalcedon, and they placed many stumbling blocks by the wayside for those who were ruined by their destruction, and by expounding particular essences they confuse the mystery of the economy.
Without the ellipsis, John can hardly be cited in support of the approach taken by the Dialogue.[12. The passage is misrepresented in the volume edited by Fr Thomas Fitzgerald, Restoring the Unity in Faith: The Orthodox–Oriental Orthodox Theological Dialogue (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross, 2007), 20: “those who did not accept the terminology of Chalcedon were nevertheless Orthodox in all things”; available online here (in the sentence previously linked to fn. 3).] It is clear that, for him, the Monophysites are orthodox in everything except their Christology—and that is not a minor exception, since it leads them to “deny the mystery of the common salvation.”[13. Meaning, the atonement wrought by Christ for all people, subject to the freely-willed response of each.] This can be confirmed by reading the rest of his Christological works. Even in his Against the Jacobites, which is sometimes cited as recognizing an “ideological” orthodoxy in Non-Chalcedonian doctrine because of its more irenical tone, he in fact draws out all the heretical implications of the teachings of Severus and his followers.
It is precisely this phenomenon that makes many people uncomfortable with the polemical works of the Fathers in general, and particularly those directed against the Non-Chalcedonians. The most common polemical tactic of the Fathers is the reductio ad absurdum, starting from the premises of their opponents and taking them step-by-step to their logical conclusion, which is shown to be something repugnant to Christian common sense. In Against the Jacobites, John shows how a refusal to accept two natures in Christ can lead to excluding Him from the common nature of the Trinity—and that is just one of the possible absurdities to which Severan doctrine can lead. St. Maximus, in some of his writings, uses the technique to show how Severan Christology leads to monoenergism and monotheletism (not a very difficult task, since Severus taught these doctrines explicitly) and is based on the same premises as Nestorius (a little less obvious, the point being that they both began with a confusion of nature and hypostasis, and then drew opposite but equally blasphemous conclusions). To us today, educated in different forms of argumentation, this tactic may feel unfair, but such a nebulous sentiment cannot negate the fact that it is perfectly logical, and has a long pedigree going back to ancient Greek mathematics and philosophy, whence it passed into the toolbox of patristic argumentation. We cannot deny it without throwing out most of patristic polemical literature. And we should recognize that, in its Christian context, it is intended to help us “speak the truth in love,” by showing the dangerous consequences to which seemingly innocuous first principles can lead.
When it comes down to it, Non-Chalcedonian Christology, as represented pre-eminently by Severus, stumbles due to its denial of the full reality and concreteness of Christ’s human nature. Expressing the patristic line of argumentation in terms that are more comprehensible by modern man, Fr Georges Florovsky wrote:
The followers of Severus could not speak of Christ’s humanity as a “nature.” It broke down into a system of traits, for the doctrine of the Logos “taking” humanity was still not developed fully by Monophysitism into the idea of “inter-hypostasis-ness.” The Monophysites usually spoke of the Logos’ humanity as οἰκονομία. It is not without foundation that the fathers of the Council of Chalcedon detected here a subtle taste of original Docetism. Certainly this is not the Docetism of the ancient Gnostics at all, nor is it Apollinarianism. However, to the followers of Severus the “human” in Christ was not entirely human, for it was not active, was not “self-motivated.” In this contemplation of the Monophysites, the human in Christ was like a passive object of Divine influence. Divinization, or theosis, seems to be a unilateral act of Divinity without sufficiently taking into account the synergism of human freedom, the assumption of which in no way supposes a “second subject.”[14. The Byzantine Fathers of the Fifth Century, Collected Works Vol. 8 (Liechtenstein: Büchervertriebsanstalt, 1987).]
Where does that leave us? The arguments presented above are of course not intended to deny to our Non-Chalcedonian brethren their fervent devotion to Christ, which they have maintained courageously in harrowing circumstances past and present. Nor do I mean to deny the real beauty of their ancient liturgy and monastic practice. To point out the flaws in their theological inheritance is not to gloat over them triumphalistically, but to invite them to a closer study of the common tradition from before the schisms of the fifth and sixth centuries.[15. Cf. the principle enunciated in the Toronto Statement quoted above: “(IV.5) The member churches of the World Council recognize in other churches elements of the true Church. They consider that this mutual recognition obliges them to enter into a serious conversation with each other in the hope that these elements of truth will lead to the recognition of the full truth and to unity based on the full truth.”] Such tough love is based on the hope that they will acknowledge that the “Cyrillian fundamentalism” which they have inherited from Severus and their other teachers is, in fact, not a faithful development of the ancient tradition, nor even of Cyril himself, because it denies the Reconciliation of 433 that he agreed to with John of Antioch to resolve the schism that resulted from the controversial Council of Ephesus of 431 (the Third Ecumenical Council). There is room for the “one incarnate nature of God the Word,” but only based on the explanation of that term enshrined by the Orthodox Fathers of the Fifth Ecumenical Council, in harmony with Chalcedon.
Nor should dialogue necessarily be ended. But if it is to continue in a truthful and responsible manner, it must be restarted on new foundations. The discussions that began in the 1960s bear the unmistakable spirit of the muddled kind of ecumenism that was then beginning to take over in Orthodox circles at the WCC from the intellectually rigorous and theologically honest kind that had been pioneered by Florovsky earlier (it is significant that he participated only in the first unofficial dialogue, and made only a few laconic contributions, as recorded in the minutes). We must be clear about our ecclesiology: the Una Sancta—the Orthodox, Chalcedonian Church—is the pillar and ground of the truth. We must be clear about our Christology: the Ecumenical Councils—all seven of them—are her indisputable criterion. We must be clear in our terminology: euphemisms such as “Oriental Orthodox” (a distinction not even translatable into most other languages) only serve to muddy the waters of doctrine and confuse the flock that seeks to drink from them. The intercommunion that was synodically approved in Antioch and is tacitly widespread elsewhere should stop, though with due account taken of the pastoral difficulties of the current situation in the Middle East today, in which abrupt moves would be ill-advised. It has always been a basic principle of Orthodox dialogue with the heterodox that communion must be the result of full theological agreement, not the means of creating facts on the ground.
Although grassroots cooperation should continue between the Orthodox and the Non-Chalcedonians on urgent issues such as coordination of philanthropic and political efforts for the resolution, or at least mitigation, of the tragic circumstances of the Middle Eastern crises, we ought to think critically about further steps toward reunion. This will require of us Orthodox more intensive discussion among ourselves, with awareness of critical opinions such as I have summarized here, in order to establish future dialogue on a sound Orthodox consensus. For such an intra-Orthodox discussion to be informed, we need more online literature regarding specific aspects of the Orthodox objections to Monophysite Christology, especially English translations of relevant patristic texts and scholarly studies. In the meantime I hope I have given readers enough material for serious reflection.
Nicholas Marinides hails from Buffalo NY. He holds a PhD from the Department of History at Princeton University, with his dissertation on the topic of lay piety in seventh-century Byzantium. He is also a research fellow in the Department of Theology at the University of Basel in Switzerland, where he currently lives. Some of his published work can be accessed online.
UPDATE: Two follow-up posts have been posted:
Hi, folks. Fr. Andrew here. I’m the editor-in-chief of the Orthodoxy & Heterodoxy weblog, which is a group weblog with multiple authors with varying viewpoints — and we do not always agree with each other, either. I’m adding this note here based on some comments I’ve seen in social media.
First, those who seem to believe that publishing this post on the O&H weblog was a decision of the Ancient Faith leadership, I should just let you know that you’re mistaken.
Second, though, it’s useful to note that, like the O&H blog, Ancient Faith Ministries has published and hosted a variety of different views. If you’re aware of the breadth of what appears on the many Ancient Faith Radio podcasts, in Ancient Faith Publishing books, on Ancient Faith Video, etc., etc., you know that not all the content producers agree with each other on everything. (NB: I am not an official spokesman for Ancient Faith Ministries.)
Third, this is a topic that is subject to a variety of views, both within the Chalcedonian Orthodox community and the Non-Chalcedonian community. We are not currently in communion. It is not controversial to say that that is because there is not a unanimity of opinion on this.
Fourth, and perhaps most importantly for my purposes here, those who are responsible for this piece are 1) the author Dr. Nicholas Marinides and 2) me, as the editor-in-chief of the blog.
Fifth, the purpose of this article is not to create division but honestly to assess what divisions actually exist and have existed. And it’s worth noting that the main emphasis in this piece is on the historical theology of the Non-Chalcedonian churches, which — it may be said — could potentially be at variance with how some of them understand their theology now.
Sixth and finally, in case anyone wants to know my opinion of this piece’s contents, I’ll just say that I haven’t studied this subject enough to be comfortable settling on one. I definitely think that getting more people to talk earnestly about theology is important. And that Fr. Georges Florovsky had significant reservations — even if you may believe that he is wrong — is enough in my mind to say that we should keep talking and that we should be very careful. He was, after all, probably the single most knowledgeable person in the 20th century on the theology of groups that are not in communion with the Chalcedonian Orthodox.
Anyone who would like to interact with Dr. Marinides on his piece is welcome to post respectful comments on the post.
Thanks, Dr Marinides, for a thoughtful article.
Though I don’t agree with everything you’ve said, I think you are well within the mainstream at this point in noticing that there is a great deal of work left to be done. There was tremendous optimism in 1990 about imminent reunion, but upon further reflection most voices on both sides are now calling for more discussion and investigation–you are in very good company. The Joint Commission that produced the 1990 statement is (as I understand it) planning to meet again soon to discuss these and many other substantive objections.
One critique I would offer to your own work here is that I think we must be quite sensitive in distinguishing our theological conversation today from that of the past. We cannot take it for granted that the interlocutors of John the Damascene or Theodore Abu Qurrah etc, believed and taught the same thing as the modern Coptic or Ethiopian Church etc. So, pointing to the objections of someone like John is very important (we need to read and understand them), but we cannot end the discussion there. Even if John’s objections were utterly on point in his era, are they still relevant to what the Non-Chalcedonians believe today? Could something have changed or developed? The argument that “the Fathers know better than us” is perhaps just fine if we are certain that they were talking about the exact same theologies that we are…but can we be certain that no shift or development has occurred in the intervening years?
A question like that only adds support to your own call for further discussion, so I hope you won’t take it as hostile. And, in respect to more discussion, in October we held a conference at the Orthodox School of Theology at Trinity College in Toronto entitled “Healing Chalcedon” in which a number of scholars from both sides (plus some Anglican scholars) discussed the current dialogue. The papers are all available to view online, as a google search should show, and if you and any other readers have not seen them yet, you may wish to check them out. I for one am very glad to see that the dialogue is taking on a new and more patient and subtle form, while also gaining some steam. As you make clear here, our job is much harder than many had thought–so let us double our efforts and keep on working.
With love in Christ,
Trinity College, Toronto
Link for the Trinity symposium:
Calling the christology of the oriental ‘monophysite’ is repeating the misrepresentations of history. The oriental call their christology ‘miaphysite’ as the writer is well aware of. Chalcedonians understand the oriental through the lenses of some individual fathers. And the pre-chalcedonians have understood the chalcedonians through individual fathers. So eastern and oriental have understood and still do through reading historical misrepresentations! Instead of talking to each other.
I find this view of the writer somewhat fundamentalist in nature as the writings of an individual churchfather does not contain the fullness of the church.
The sum of the the lives and writings of the fathers
Not contextualising a given father without tradition could be a form of fundamentalism.
Without claiming that author of this article agrees with my conclusions i come to think of the following article in this context:
Fr. Andrew, there was a series of threads on OrthodoxChristianity.net pertaining to this question. Eastern Orthodox members were shocked at some of the responses, especially those authored by a prominent Oriental Orthodox figure.
While I don’t agree with most of your article, you may find the discussion edifying and, should you be inclined to resurrect discussion the topic, I’m sure we’d all benefit.
Here is the link:
Just FYI, this is not my article. This piece was written by Dr. Nicholas Marinides.
Ah, I see.
That’s an old thread. I can’t remember people being very shocked. Who is the prominent person? All the names are pseudonyms.
Fr. Peter Farrington (FatherPeter).
This is really a quite excellent and well-organized piece, commendable for its theological and ecclesiological rigor as well as its charitable tone and approachable language.
However, I question several of the sentiments expressed in this piece. Dr. Marinides has essentially reiterated the basic arguments of the 1995 Athos Memorandum, which has become somewhat infamous for its intransigence and poorly-supported argumentation. The solipsistic spirit of many Athonite monks has been shown time and time again over the last few decades in their unwillingness to exhibit holy monastic obedience to their episcopal shepherds, and the Memorandum is no exception.
Dr. Marinides begins from a position that does not accord with the mind of the Church. I do not pretend to have some kind of exclusive claim as to what counts as “the mind of the Church,” but it is clear from his rejection of the statement “the membership of the Church of Christ is more inclusive than the membership of their own church body” on the grounds that such a statement implies “Branch Theory” demonstrates that he does not understand Orthodox ecclesiology or, for that matter, the Branch Theory. The Branch Theory, which must surely be rejected by Orthodox, states that not only may individual Christians be part of the catholic Church without necessarily having membership in the Orthodox Church (or in the case of Branch promoters, the Anglican Church), but also that the Church is NOT in fact “one.” It may be Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, but it is not one. That is Branch Theory. This goes far beyond the statement that Marinides rejects as branch theory.
I recommend that Dr. Marinides read “The Orthodox Church” by +Kallistos Ware, which states “Orthodox writers sometimes speak as if they accepted the ‘Branch Theory’, once popular among High Church Anglicans”…but such a theory “cannot be reconciled with traditional Orthodox theology.” Yet elsewhere in the book he utters the famous phrase, first coined in Paul Evdokimov’s book “Orthodoxy,” that “We know where the Church is; we do not know where the Church is not.” This phrase has become something of a “subsistit in” for Orthodoxy, and I would argue that its acceptance has become a part of our phronema.
I don’t have the time to pen a full rebuttal on all the Christological topics under discussion here, and I want to give other commenters (especially those with more theological learning than myself) a chance to have their say as well. I would, however, like to point out that the council of Chalcedon embraced not only a theological point (namely duophysitism), but also a philosophical one (namely the Greco-centric definition of the word physis). All the non-Chalcedonian Christians ask is that they be allowed to retain the traditional Syriac philosophical term “kyana” and the meanings that it implies. In other words, they do not wish to reject the theological content of Chalcedon, but only to request a philosophical “dispensation” to describe this content under their own terminology. To this extent, what they ask is much on the same level as the request for a different liturgical rite.
Furthermore, it is not too much for them to ask that they be allowed to keep venerating their synaxis of saints, who may have been formally or technically heretical but were certainly not heretical in intention given the circumstances. Their Christology was sound in their language as they understood it. Yes, certain councils anathematize this or that theologian, but it would not be impossible for the Church as a whole to decide that “such-and-such has been anathematized under X circumstances, but now that X has been more fully understood, this anathema is formally repealed.” This is exactly what occurred when Patriarch Athenagoras lifted the anathema against the Pope in 1965, swearing to “commit these excommunications to oblivion.”
The most troubling thing about Dr. Marinides’ essay is that if one were to accept what he says uncritically, no ecumenical progress of any kind could be made toward the ending of schism. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment of cautious ecumenism, but the measuring stick of caution must be the possibility of hope. Dr. Marinides’ above essay provides none. I pray that “the God of hope may fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
“the famous phrase, first coined in Paul Evdokimov’s book “Orthodoxy,” that “We know where the Church is; we do not know where the Church is not.” This phrase has become something of a “subsistit in” for Orthodoxy, and I would argue that its acceptance has become a part of our phronema.”
That phrase finds it’s origin in Blessed Augustine, I point those interested to pp. 193-195 of Clark Carlton’s ‘The Way: What Every Protestant Should Know About the Orthodox Church,’ and further I would deny that it is a part of our phronema, as it’s ‘ acceptance’ only came about due to replacing the phronema of the Orthodox Church with the phronema of the World Council of Churches.
Can you please cite Augustine’s use of “I know where the Church is; I do not know where the Church is not”? I don’t believe you’re correct in saying that he used it; else, Evdokimov surely would have included a bibliographic reference and a pair of quotation marks.
As for Clark Carlton, I am aware that he is quite staunchly anti-ecumenical, but I don’t think that gives him any claim to be more a part of the Orthodox phronema than, say, Paul Evdokimov, Georges Florovsky, Kallistos Ware, or John Zizioulas.
Also, if I may be permitted a quizzical plaint regarding your phrase: “a relativistic campus culture (at least in U.S. seminaries)”…
I wasn’t aware that St. Tikhon’s and St. Vlad’s were hotbeds of “relativism.”
You have posted material along these lines before, but this article is particularly disagreeable.
I would like to make the following points in response:
1. The majority of Eastern Orthodox are either ambivalent towards a reunion or are unaware the schism exists; of those who are aware of the schism, the majority, including eminent theologians such as Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, and also the majority of the primates of autocephalous churches, including the Ecumenical Patriarch, support reunion.
2. Reunion is also supported by St. Vladimir’s Seminary, which is the premiere English language seminary and theological school for Orthodox priests, home to luminaires such as Georges Florovsky, Alexander Schmemann and Thomas Hopko, may their memory be eternal, and presently the extremely learned expert on Patristics, Fr. John Behr. At St. Vladimir’s, Eastern Orthodox seminarians study alongside seminarians from the Indian Orthodox Church, and the Armenian Apostolic Church, whose own St. Nerses Seminary operates jointly with St. Vladimirs to provide an MDiv.
3. The vocal opposition to EO-OO reunion comes from a minority of Orthodox who are largely sympathetic, if not formally a part of, the schismatic Old Calendarist movement, and who as a general rule are opposed to any kind of ecumenical reconciliation, whether it be with the Oriental Orthodox, or the Roman Catholics, or any other group; this anti-ecumenical movement is supported by only a minority of Greek and Russian bishops, and of course the Athonites. Among the Oriental Orthodox, desire for reunion is nearly universal, however, there are some Ethiopian monasteries who are opposed to it, and whomrepresent a sort of mirror image of Mount Athos in this respect.
4. Speaking of Mount Athos, there is so,e evidence the tide is changing in the Holy Mountain with a new generation of monks, as recently, some Coptic Orthodox monks toured much of the Holy Mountain and were very warmly received. It should also be noted that Eastern Orthodox monasticism, and indeed all Christian monasticism, in its present form, emerged from the deserts of Egypt; St. Anthony the Great and most of the Desert Fathers were Coptic-speaking Egyptians, and all Coptic-speaking monasteries wound up in the Oriental Orthodox communion.
5. It should be noted that in several cases, the distinction between the Eastern Orthodox, or “Romans” as they are known in the Middle East, and the Oriental Orthodox, is purely along ethnic or tribal lines. Setting aside those who converted to Islam, the small community of Alexandrian Greeks, for example, are Eastern Orthodox, whereas the much larger Coptic ethnic group, is Oriental Orthodox. And there are no Eastern or Oriental Orthodox equivalents of the Eastern Catholic churches; there are no ethnic Romanian parishes in Oriental Orthodoxy, or ethnically Coptic parishes in Eastern Orthodoxy. To the extent any Oriental Orthodox have become “Chalcedonian,” it is because of schisms in which portions their churches, like their Eastern Orthodox counterparts, became a part of the Roman Catholic Church, sometimes under duress or violent coercion, with perhaps, the exception of the Maronites, who broke away from the Syriac Orthodox Parish and then united with Rome during the Crusades. And all of these Eastern Catholic churches, by virtue of their adoption of Roman Catholic theological errors regarding sacramental theology, soteriology, the crypto-Nestorian devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and so on, are both theologically and practically far less Orthodox than any EO or OO jurisdictions.
6. It has furthermore been shown, by many theologians, that there is no actual, matrrial difference between the Miaphysite Christology of the Oriental Church and the Chalcedonian Christology of the Eastern Orthodox. There was an outbreak of crypto-Nestorianism followimg the Council of Chalcedon which was not resolved until,the Fifth Ecumenical Council; this crypto-Nestorianism fanned the flames of the schism, and indeed, there was a heretical schism in the West resulting from its correection by St. Justinian, that being the Three Chapters Controversy. The Oriental Orthodox were historically confused with a different group, the Monophysites who followed Eutyches, who were actual heretics and who were tritheists, blasphemously believing each prosopon of the Holy Trinity to have a distinc essence. Most Patristic polemics, such as those of St. John of Damascus, that appear to criticize the Oriental Orthodox actually criticize the Monophysites, who the Oriental Orthodox have always anathematized.
7. It must be stressed that since some Eastern Orthodox confused the Oriental Orthodox with the heretical Monophysites, followers of Eutyches, and some Oriental Orthodox confused the Eastern Orthodox with the Nestorians, the anathemas contained in EO/RC ecumenical councils against certain Oriental Orthodox saints, and the equivalent anathemas in various Oriental Orthodox synods, are null and void. In like manner, since the Oriental Orthodox Christological doctrine has been shown to be functionally identical to the Chalcedonian as refined by the Fifth Ecumenical Council, the main difference owing to a confusion among non-Greek speakers regarding the meaning of the very complex theological term “hypostasis,” there is no need for the Oriental Orthodox to accede to the Council of Chalcedon, since the Christology of the Oriental Church is in fact Orthodox, albeit worded differently.
8. There is likewise no need for the Oriental Orthodox to formally accept the other three councils; the fifth dealt with the crypto-Nestorianism that followed Chalcedon, primarily in the Western Church, the sixth dealt with Monothelitism, a disastrously failed attempt at ecumenical reconciliation that involved the Monophysite sect more than the Oriental Orthodox, and which is at odds with the theandric, miathelite Christology of the Oriental Church, which is once again functionally equivalent to the Chalcedonian position; the Seventh Ecumenical Council dealt with the tragic and horrible heresy of iconoclasm which nearly consumed the Church of Constantinople. To the credit of the Oriental Prthodox, they never embraced iconoclasm; when a minor outbreak of iconoclastic sentiment occurred in Armenia, it was swiftly suppressed by the bishops some time before the Second Council of Nicea. In like manner, the Oriental Orthodox have never used the filioque, or subscribed to any number of other theological errors of the Western Church. One could argue that in some respects, the Oriental Orthodox perhaps managed to do a slightly better job at comtaining and preventing heresy than their Eastern brethren.
9. Reverting again to Chalcedon, it must also be stressed that the most ardent opponents of the early Oriental Orthodox church were in most cases undoubtably crypto-Nestorian; their primary objectiom was to theopaschitism, which has since been recognized as foundational to Eastern Orthodoxy, in that both the Eastern and Oriental churches now agree that God, in the person of Jesus Christ, died for us in according to Hus assumed humanity, while remaining impassable and immutable according to His uncreated Divinity. Such a statement was unacceptable to the early criticis of the Oriental Church; hence their calumny of Peter Fuller and his modification of the Trisagion (which in the Oriental churches has always been understood to be Christological, rather than Triadological, much like the Russian Old Rite understanding of the Sign of the Cross); in this respect their theology is frankly indistinguishable from that of Mar Babai, the Fifth Century Nestorian theologian who is regarded as the author of the current Assyrian Christology.
10. Most schisms in the history of the Church have been resolved; ROCOR was in schism with the rest of Eastern Orthodoxy for decades; before that, one can think of the Bulgarian schism, and numerous other transient schisms dating back to the Meletian schism. The EO-OO schism has been of unusual duration, but it is practically over at the parish level in the Alexandrian and Antiochian churches, and indeed I have heard reports even of ROCOR priests communing Oriental Orthodox. And in the 19th century, the Coptic and Greek churches of Alexandria tried to unite, but were thwarted by the khedive on the basis of divide et impera.
In summary, there is no material theological or Christological difference between the Eastern and Oriental churches; the only differences are ethnic and liturgical. Both communions are unique in that they have preserved the Apostolic faith without modification. The schism, which is now in the process of being healed, was a mere accident of history resulting from the evil of Nestorius and Eutyches and a miscommunication regarding the proper resolution of these heresies, and a case of ecclesiological mistaken identity. Attempting to keep the schism alive does nothing to help Orthodoxy; it only harms the faith, by keeping us divided for purely arbitrary reasons, which I myself regard as a mix of nostalgia and an excessive, almost fundamentalist devotion to the wording of later Ecumenical Councils, which ignore the actual theological meaning thereof.
This is excellent. God bless you!
Thank you. Please pray for me, a sinner.
There’s quite a few serious historical misconceptions in this comment, the main one being that “the distinction between the Eastern Orthodox, or “Romans” as they are known in the Middle East, and the Oriental Orthodox, is purely along ethnic or tribal lines.”
In Syria prior to the Arab conquest, the split between pro-Chalcedonians and anti-Chalcedonians can’t really be said to have been along ethnic or linguistic lines. The vast majority of people in both camps would’ve been Syriac speakers, while the intellectuals mostly wrote in Greek (with a smaller number of authors on both sides writing in Syriac). Both communities used both languages in the liturgy, with Syriac naturally predominating the further east one goes. The process by which the anti-Chalcedonian party in Syria came to be closely identified with the Syriac language is pretty fascinating, actually, and has received a fair bit of scholarly attention in the past several years, particularly from Fergus Millar.
Severus in particular can’t be read as having been influenced by Syriac terminology and it seems pretty unlikely that he would’ve known any Syriac at all, as he was a native of Pisidia and spent the vast majority of his life in very Hellenic environments in Alexandria, Beirut, Palestine and Antioch. The unfortunate loss of most of the Greek originals of his works is part of why reading Severus can be so maddening, as you almost have to make yourself a little chart to fall back on for which technical terms in the Syriac translation correspond to what he was actually thinking in Greek.
Which is to say, especially when you get to the figures of the early Arab period– John of Damascus, Anastasius the Sinaite and Abu Qurra– you can’t say that they didn’t understand their interlocutors, as they were living in the same space and of the same culture as them. Abu Qurra, being from Edessa, was almost certainly a native Syriac speaker, from a region where Chalcedonians were the minority.
Nor, if you actually read their criticisms of non-Chalcedonian language, did they think they were dealing with Eutychians. The issues are far more subtle than this. Generally speaking, they considered Severians to be closer to Nestorians, because both groups’ theology suffer from the inevitable problems and incoherencies you run into when you refuse to distinguish “person” and “nature”.
An illustration: if you say “one physis from two physeis” and hold either that phyis is equivalent to hypostasis (or even that each physis requires a hypostasis), saying “one hypostasis from two hypostaseis” puts you with a model of the incarnation that shares its starting-point with the Nestorians, not with the Orthodox. That is, if you absolutize Cyrillian language, you wind up with a decidedly non-Cyrillian Christology.
Spot on yet again. W.H.C. Frend exposes the falsity of the commonly held view that the schism began along cultural lines in his work “The Rise of the Monophysite Movement”:
“There could be no greater mistake than to try to see the Monophysites as Donatism in Egyptian or Syrian form. Chalcedon was followed by a schism of hearts and minds throughout the whole of the east, but no ‘altar was set up against altar’ as it had been in Africa in 312. No formal break occured until a very considerable number of Christians throughout the east came to feel that it was intolerable to receive sacraments at the hands of one who was not strictly orthodox, especially when in some areas in the east these were received once a year. It was not until the time of Severus of Antioch, and due largely to his ‘strictness’ (akribeia) in relation to the reception of sacraments from Chalcedonians that permanent division between supporters and opponents of Chalcedon was rendered inevitable, and even then the organization of a rival Monophysite hierarchy took a very long while. For the generation following the council this step was not even considered, a fact which must influence any assessment of the nationalist or particularist and indeed any non-theological element in Monophysitism. (Chap. 2 The Emperor and His Church, pg. 62)
Reading your article, I don’t see anything new from the earlier polemical writings of the Pro-Chalcedonian Orthodox against the Non-Chalcedonian Orthodox.
As a result, almost everything in your post that purports to reflect what Non-Chalcedonian Orthodox believe is entirely inaccurate. For example, consider the quotation from Fr. Georges Florovsky on the Holy Patriarch St. Severus. The Coptic Orthodox Church, in which I am a presbyter, does not believe, as Fr. Georges wrote, “the ‘human’ in Christ was not entirely human, for it was not active, was not ‘self-motivated.'” Nor do we believe that “human in Christ was like a passive object of Divine influence” with no true synergy between our Lord’s Divinity and Humanity. In fact, had you done some basic research, you would have seen that, at the end of every Divine Liturgy, before the Distribution of the Mystery, the celebrant Coptic Orthodox priest exclaims,
“I believe and confess that this is the Flesh of Your Only-Begotten Son, our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ, which He took from our Lady, the Holy Theotokos Mary. He made it one with His Divinity without mingling, without confusion, and without alteration. He confessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate and gave it up for our salvation of His own will for us all… Truly I believe that His Divinity parted not from His Humanity for a single moment nor a twinkling of an eye…”
This simple prayer, uttered at the end of every Divine Liturgy in the Coptic Orthodox, makes it clear that we do not believe as Fr. Georges wrote, nor did the Holy Patriarch St. Severus.
There are many more issues like this in your article.
What we need to continue the dialogue between the two families of Orthodox Churches is not the “tough love” that you purport to offer, but rather, a mutually respectful and loving dialogue as we had throughout the last century.
This was extremely well-written. God bless you!
The article states in the conclusion “There is room for the “one incarnate nature of God the Word,” but only based on the explanation of that term enshrined by the Orthodox Fathers of the Fifth Ecumenical Council, in harmony with Chalcedon.” Good grief, St. Cyril was clear and did not need and explanation enshrined by Chalcedon.. Fact is you are indeed MIAphysite, as we are… Understanding the One Nature is the person of Christ. Or as our fathers teach that there is “one son”. Let me quote to you your own council…
“If anyone uses the expression “of two natures,” confessing that a union was made of the Godhead and of the humanity, or the expression “the one nature made flesh of God the Word,” and shall not so understand those expressions as the holy Fathers have taught, to wit: that of the divine and human nature there was made an hypostatic union, whereof is one Christ; but from these expressions shall try to introduce one nature or substance [made by a mixture] of the Godhead and manhood of Christ; let him be anathema.”
In his first letter to Succensus St. Cyril reiterates his contention that in the Incarnation “two natures come together with one another, without confusion or change, in an indivisible union” (Ep. 45.6). He then makes the following important statement:
“The flesh is flesh and not Godhead, even though it became the flesh of God; and similarly the Word is God and not flesh even if he made the flesh his very own in the economy. Given that we understand this, we do no harm to that concurrence into union when we say that it took place out of two natures. After the union has occurred, however, we do not divide the natures from one another, nor do we sever the one and indivisible into two sons, but we say that there is One Son, and as the holy Fathers have stated: One Incarnate Nature of The Word.
As to the manner of the incarnation of the Only Begotten, then theoretically speaking (but only in so far as it appears to the eyes of the soul) we would admit that there are two united natures but only One Christ and Son and Lord, the Word of God made man and made flesh.”
St.Cyril restates this argument in his second letter, in response to a criticism of his one-nature formulation:
“This objection is yet another attack on those who say that there is one incarnate nature of the Son. They want to show that the idea is foolish and so they keep on arguing at every turn that two natures endured. They have forgotten, however, that it is only those things that are usually distinguished at more than a merely theoretical level which split apart from one another in differentiated separateness and radical distinction. Let us once more take the example of an ordinary man. We recognize two natures in him; for there is one nature of the soul and another of the body, but we divide them only at a theoretical level, and by subtle speculation, or rather we accept the distinction only in our mental intuitions, and we do not set the natures apart nor do we grant that they have a radical separateness, but we understand them to belong to one man. This is why the two are no longer two, but through both of them the one living creature is rendered complete.
And so, even if one attributes the nature of manhood and Godhead to the Emmanuel, still the manhood has become the personal property of the Word and we understand there is One Son together with it. The God-inspired scripture tells us that he suffered in the flesh (1 Pet. 4.1) and it would be better for us to speak this way rather than [say he suffered] in the nature of the manhood, even though such a statement (unless it is said uncompromisingly by certain people) does not damage the sense of the mystery. For what else is the nature of manhood except the flesh with a rational soul? ”
“Cyril is happy,” Fr. John McGuckin explains, “to accept the notion of ‘two natures’ but feels that this needs qualification if it is to avoid a tendency towards the kind of separatism that has been advocated by Nestorius. He wishes to speak of a concurrence to unity ‘from two natures’ but does not posit a union that abides ‘in two natures’. For Cyril, to abide in two natures means to abide in an ‘un-united’ condition that can only be theoretically applied before the incarnation takes place; the incarnation itself is the resolution to union of the two natures” (Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy, p. 355, n. 6).
Fr. John McGuckin elaborates upon the importance of the MIA physis for St. Cyril:
“For Cyril, if the christological union means anything it means that there is only one reality to be affirmed henceforth. This concrete reality (physis) is what stands before the christian observer; it is a single concrete reality enfleshed before us: Mia Physis Sesarkomene. What is more, that concrete, fleshed-out reality, is that of the Word of God, none other. In short, by using the phrase Cyril is attributing the person of the Word as the single subject of the incarnation event. He does so in a phrase which is highly succinct (a good rallying phrase for his party), provocatively robust (using concrete physis terms as opposed to the semantic word-plays of Nestorius), and radically insistent on the single subjectivity of the divine Word (the direct personal subject of the incarnate acts). “(p. 209)
Fr. Moses Samaan,
Hunh!?! That’s a very interesting prayer and Coptic priests recite it said towards the end of every Divine Liturgy. Wow! In your understanding, is this prayer in line with Chalcedonian theology?
Perhaps you could explain how it isn’t.
“I believe and confess that this is the Flesh of Your Only-Begotten Son, our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ, which He took from our Lady, the Holy Theotokos Mary. He made it one with His Divinity without mingling, without confusion, and without alteration.” doesn’t read like something a Monophysite would say that’s for certain.
More in line with Neo-Chalcedonian theology 😀
Care to elaborate on what’s causing your “Hunh!?!” and your “Wow!”? I’m not following. I read Fr. Moses’ post several times and being a Coptic parishioner myself I’m familiar with the prayer he cites but I don’t quite see the problem you’re seeing in it.
Dear Gregory and Avram,
Forgive if the post caused confusion. Feelings are hard to convey over social media. My post was only a response of wonder, primarily to ask Fr. Moses’ my question. It was meant without any criticism. God Bless you!
Beloved Fr. Alexis,
While I don’t think this Confession was written with conformity to Chalcedon in mind, I do wholeheartedly believe that it reflects the essence of our Non-Chalcedonian Christology. The fact that you seem surprised by its closeness to Chalcedonian Christology underlies a fact that Dr. Marinedes’ article tried to disprove without any basis in fact: our Christology is indeed the same, albeit expressed differently using terms and concepts that were more familiar to the Alexandrine school of interpretation as opposed to the Antiochene interpretation, which Chalcedon forced.
Indeed, scholars like Dr. VC Samuel see Chalcedon as an unfortunate enterprise in which everyone demanded something at the expense of the Holy Patriarch of Alexandria, Dioscorus: Marcian and Pulcheria wanted to exalt the city of Constantinople over Alexandria (worldly ambition); Leo of Rome wanted to assert his leadership over the Church (ironically, the bishops at Chalcedon were indistinguishable from the papists they later renounced after the Great Schism); and the bishops wanted to exalt the Antiochene interpretation of the Formulary of Reunion, even though, as they later admitted, it wasn’t entirely in line with the Christology of St. Cyril of Alexandria.
This is how we see the tragedy of Chalcedon why I am personally exasperated by posts like that of Dr. Marinedes, which is simply inaccurate.
Dear Fr. Moses,
Thank you for your response! The totality of it though, I feel we might discuss some other place (at least in my case).
If you ever have occassion to visit St. Augustine Coptic Orthodox Church in Augusta, GA, please look me up!
I am priest in charge at Holy Resurrection Orthodox Mission in North Augusta, SC (OCA). God Bless you!
Thank you, Fr. Alexis, I would be honored to come and receive the blessing of your mission!
You may find it of further interest that this prayer which seems news to you isn’t only something prayed toward the end of the liturgy, it is indeed the last thing prayed, to focal point, before partaking of communion.
Dr. Marinides is wrong is saying Fr. Georges Florovsky only participated in the first unofficial dialogue. He participated in the first three unofficial dialogues (that’s a very significant number), and passed away in 1979, 6 years before the first official dialogues took place. By the end of the third unofficial dialogue, he signed his name on the agreement that even issues of wills and energies of Christ is theologically agreed upon. I find it very intellectually dishonest to use Fr. Florovksy pre-1979. Who knows what he would have believed post-1985. We have an example in Fr. John Romanides who indeed evolved in his views, even his views of ecumenical councils concerning the Oriental Orthodox (OO) later on in one of the official dialogues he signed his name under.
Perhaps a better research is to examine Fr. Florovksy’s letters between 1971 and 1979 to see if his views also evolved.
There is a lot of easily refutable stances in this article. Even the issue of “deification” is easily refuted. Fr. VC Samuel had an issue with John of Damascus in not giving enough information to confess the full reality of Christ’s humanity; he never mentioned anything against deification. Pope Shenouda had issues with deification because of his ignorance. The monks of St. Macarius did not use “Chalcedon” to affirm deification, but St. Athanasius and St. Cyril of Alexandria. We have anti-Chalcedonian theologians that affirm the doctrine of deification in very clear terms all the way up to the 13th century. It was because of the Arabic language and Islamic scholasticism that ALL the Arabic-speaking churches (whether Chalcedonian or non-Chalcedonian) lost the doctrine of deification (among other doctrinal and ritual issues). One example was a Chalcedonian deacon (keep in mind, Chalcedonian) who in translating the Cappadocians into Arabic translated “theosis” into “contemplation of God”, a more “politically correct” phrase for Arabs. The Russian Church also had its own dark theological times of extreme scholasticism that denied deification as well, and they were not even under the yolk of Islam.
It wasn’t until much later from the neo-Patristic movement when Palamas was rediscovered by the Chalcedonians. Then, this movement rediscovered pre-Chalcedonian fathers who were no less clear. OOs are also in a moment of rediscovery as well after brutal centuries of extreme persecution. Therefore, Pope Shenouda was a man of his time, and the monks of St. Macarius were brought by God to bring us back to the intention of the anti-Chalcedonian movement, which was the soteriological component of “mia physis”. If Christ is not “mia physis”, how can man be deified? That is the important take-away in all of this.
In a nutshell, I’d expect more from a PhD in his research, but apparently Dr. Marinides has taught us that we begin with a presupposition and fish for data to strengthen that presupposition, rather than the “intellectually rigorous and theologically honest kind that had been pioneered by Florovsky”, which the author sadly called “ecumenism”.
Lord, have mercy!
Greetings friend. If anyone is prepared to discuss or write about this subject with you involved, they better have done their homework! Although I wholeheartedly agree with the main points of this piece, I must admit that you raise some good points (as always) that should give us pause and help us to be more consistent with our criticisms of contemporary Non-Chalcedonianism.
Thanks for your comments. I addressed them partially in my first general response that I posted yesterday. I’d just like to note that I found the unofficial agreed statements to which you referred: http://www.coptic.net/articles/orthodoxunitydialog.txt
You are correct that Fr Florovsky signed the three first statements and I apologize for my error in the original article. I will indeed have to investigate what Florovsky had to say on this issue between 1971 and 1979.
For the issue of deification, I am aware of the “ways of Middle Eastern theology” to which you refer (to paraphrase the title of Florovsky’s famous book on “pseudomorphosis” in Russian theology). On this issue I defer to Sam Noble, who has commented here, because his Arabic is much better than mine and he has investigated the dispute between Pope Shenouda and Fr Matta al-Meskeen in some depth.
Considering the fact that the Coptic Orthodox Church celebrates, as one of its seven minor feasts, the Circumcision of our Lord Jesus Christ, it can hardly be labeled as “monophysite” or even adhering to a “discreet docetism”! Why would a Church that doesn’t believe in the full and complete humanity of our Lord celebrate such a feast? What is there to circumcise if his flesh and full humanity isn’t real?
Furthermore, there are many Coptic icons of our Lady, St. Mary, breastfeeding the child Jesus. What is St. Mary breastfeeding if there isn’t a real human flesh?
Its quite ironic, when one looks at the history, with a clear and pure conscience, that the heresy that the Coptic Church was so called alleged to believe in, was one that they time and time again refuted. Yes, there were real monophysites in Egypt, and elsewhere, but the official stance of the Church was Cyrillian Orthodoxy. From Dioscorus to Timothy to Theodosius, and Severus, all actually fought and wrote against the real monophysites, and those who didn’t believe in the full humanity of Christ. This is a fact that can’t be denied.
Thank you Dr. Marinides and Fr. Andrew for this article. I must admit that I have been quite concerned about the dialogue/inter-communion with non-chalcidonian Christians.
For this Chalcedonian Orthodox, one of the great logical problems I see in affirming that Non-Chalcedonians are a part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, is this: According to Eastern Orthodox theology, as I understand it, The one true Church is the Church of the SEVEN ECUMENICAL Councils. If the Non-Chalcedonians are a part of that Church, then by definition Councils 4,5,6 and 7 were never Ecumenical. Which means that the Church of the seven council does not and has never existed.
What about Jesus and the Apostles and all the saints who died before 787 AD? Are they not part of the Orthodox Church because the Orthodox Church must be restricted to the catchphrase, “the Church of the 7 Ecumenical Councils”?
Please, let’s not be reductionist. Unity does not come from reductionism, it comes from understanding and investment in one another.
Dear H. Ian Attila,
Does that mean that you would exclude half of Eastern Christianity out of a desire to maintain the exact number of seven Ecumenical Councils? That sounds very similar to the Pharisees chastising our Lord for healing people on the Sabbath. They focused on the legality of the Sabbath and not the mercy and wonder of the healing.
I’ve been thinking of the number of councils and reunification. I have seen it mentioned that there would be no need for the non-Chalcedonians to affirm the last four councils, but thats just not true. If there were to be a reunion, then each side must be satisfied of the Orthodoxy of the other. It’s all well and good if the Chalcedonians decide that the non-Chalcedonians are Orthodox and have no need to prove it by accepting the last four councils, but what about the other way around? How could the non-Chalcedonians be convinced of the Orthodoxy of the Chalcedonians unless they examine the last four councils to be sure that the decisions are in accord with Orthodoxy? They would have to be able to affirm the decisions of these councils if there is to be a reunification.
In order to make an educated decision about that period and Chalcedon, one should look at all of the details and facts, not just one side. Fr. Shenouda M. Ishak’s book is a thorough and detailed account, Christology and the Council of Chalcedon.
I commend you for this excellent post.
For those who completely misunderstand and underestimate Fr. Florovsky, he is not saying that the Monophysites believed that the humanity of Christ is not physical. So pointing out how the Circumcision is celebrated truly misses his whole point. For Fr. Florovsky, a very nuanced thinker, Severian christology was analogous to Augustinian soteriology:
“To a certain extent, there is a similarity between Monophysitism and Augustinianism — the human is pushed into the background and, as it were, suppressed by the Divine. What St. Augustine said about the boundless activity of grace refers in Monophysite doctrine to the God-Man “synthesis.” In this regard one could speak of the “potential assimilation” of humanity by the Divinity of the Logos even in Severus’ system. In Severus’ thought this is proclaimed in his muddled and forced doctrine of ‘unified God-Man activity’ — this expression is taken from Dionysius the Areopagite. The actor is always unified — the Logos. Therefore, the activity — ‘energy’ — is unified too. But together with this, it is complex as well, complex in its manifestations — τα αποτελέσματα, in conformity with the complexity of the acting nature or subject. A single action is manifested dually and the same is true for will or volition. In other words, Divine activity is refracted and, as it were, takes refuge in the ‘natural qualities’ of the humanity received by the Logos… The belated epilogue to the Monophysite movement will be the tragic Monothelite controversy.” (The Byzantine Fathers of the Sixth to Eighth Century, Chap. 2: The Spirit of Monophysitism)
He explained this line of thinking further during the theological discussions with the Non-Chalcedonians:
“There are, in fact, two different kinds of dyophysitism — I call them respectively: symmetrical and asymmetrical. Nestorianism is a symmetrical dyophysitism: there is strict and complete parallelism of two natures which lead inevitably to the duality of prosopa or subjects, which may be united only in unity of function — this is the meaning of the Nestorian prosopon tes henoseos, which coordinates the two ‘natural’ prosopa. The dyophysitism of Chalcedon is, on the contrary, an asymmetrical dyophysitism: there is but one hypostasis, as the subject of all attributions, although the distinction of Divine and human natures is carefully safeguarded. The duality of prosopa is emphatically rejected… Again, one may develop two basic conceptions of man, which I use to denote as anthropological maximalism and anthropological minimalism. The obvious instances are: Pelagius, on the one hand, and Augustine, on the other. The “high” conception of man leads inevitably to low Christology: man needs but a pattern of perfection and example to follow. This is precisely the line of Nestorius. On the other hand, a pessimistic anthropology requires a “maximalist” Christology. In this case man needs, in the phrase of St. Gregory of Nazianzus, “God Incarnate” as his Savior.
…Chalcedon was clearly for asymmetrical dyophisitism. The humanity of Christ is proper to the humanity that the Divine Logos fully and atreptos assumed. There is, however, a certain dissimilarity between humanity in general and humanity of Christ as the Divine Logos, because this humanity is sinless and incorruptible. You can say that Christ was free from the necessity to die. The Augustinian position seems not to pay so much attention to this dissimilarity and the Monophysites risk also keeping this dissimilarity in a consistent way by slipping to the position of absolute ontological consubstantiality which denies in Christ the full qualities of humanity in general. (Aug. 12th, 1964 Discussion on the Paper “Chalcedonians and Monophysites After Chalcedon” by The Rev. Professor J. Meyendorff. Morning Session)
Aloys Grillmeier helped me to really understand why the Monophysites rejected ‘two natures’:
“The parting [between non-Chalcedonians and followers of Chalcedon] begins with ‘in two natures’, which, however, is nothing but the consequence of the Cyrillic ‘perfect in divinity’, ‘the very same One also perfect in humanity’ or ‘One and the same consubstantial with the Father according to divinity’ and ‘consubstantial with us according to humanity’. Why does Timothy [II Aelurus, non-Chalcedonian Patriarch of Alexandria, d. 477] energetically reject the application of the word and concept physis to the ‘complete humanity’ of Christ? He seems to have various reasons for this, and they cannot all be reduced to a common denominator:
(1) To speak of nature means to assert of a subject what belongs to it necessarily and unrelinquishably from birth. To the divine Logos, however, belongs from eternity necessarily and unrelinquishably only the divine essence. To assert of Him a second ‘nature’ would mean that being human belongs to the one and only Son of God just as originally and necessarily as being divine. The Incarnation is rather a deed of the ‘oikonomia’, that is, of the free assumption of human form in time:
‘He is not that which He was not through a metamorphosis or a transformation (conversion); rather, He remained entirely God, consubstantial with the Father Who begot Him; because of the oikonomia [God’s free arrangement of salvation] and not because of His nature, He became human for us and our salvation.’ (Timothy Ael., Contra eos dicunt duas naturas [CPG 5475])
(2) If one must apply to the humanity of Christ the designation ‘second nature of the God Logos’, then one would have to make the same assertions about it as about the divine essence of Christ; what cannot be said of the divine nature must be also be withheld from the human nature:
‘It is impossible to call the life-giving flesh of our Lord the second nature of the God Logos or His second essence. Indeed, it is written that He Who was crucified, the Lord of glory [cf. 1 Cor. 2:8], suffered in His flesh. No one can say that the Lord of Glory suffered in His nature or essence [i.e., in His divinity]. But if the God Logos appropriated Himself another nature, that is, united Himself with a perfect human being, and if Christ is of two natures, as He seems to be for those who speak of two natures, then it follows that they say that He suffered in His nature [i.e., in His divinity] — which is a godless assertion — and that they assert that the divine nature is capable of suffering. For the nature of Christ is only divinity, which also became flesh without transformation for our salvation and so that He might appear in the flesh, according to the Scriptures [cf. 1 Tim. 3:16]…’ (Timothy Ael., op. cit., fol. 19vb)
It was precisely this consequence that Chalcedon sought to avoid through its distinction between hypostasis and nature. With the text just quoted, Timothy shows that he did not understand this basic idea. As long as he kept his concept of nature, he was right in rejecting the two-natures formula. But his two objections against the application of the nature concept to the humanity of Jesus are contradictory. (1) To assert the ‘nature’ of the incarnate Logos can mean only what belongs to Him from eternity as the Son of the Father. To have humanity as a ‘second nature’ would mean that Christ would also have to have been preexistent as a human being, and indeed in the form of God. This, however, would make humbling and exalting, as described in Phil. 2, impossible:
‘If those who assume two natures say that the voluntary kenosis, the humbling and the exalting belong to the human nature [of Christ], then how can it be that He was in the form of God (Phil. 2:6) and renounced His greatness, He Who is worshipped by all in the glory appropriate to God [cf. Phil. 2:11]? How can one say that He took on the form of a slave if He already was one? How has He become like human beings and been found in human form (Phil. 2:7), this human being Who was already this by nature, according to the statements of those who speak of two natures? Then He would have become like God through robbery. But He humbled Himself (Phil. 2:8)…’ (ibid., fol. 18vc)
This original meaning of physis, which the Syriac kyana also contains, is thus to be considered: it means ‘innate essence’. For the Logos of the Father, creaturely humanity can never be ‘innate’, that is ‘nature’. There is absolutely no place for a ‘duality’, for the nature of the Logos is simple. And to a ‘simple’ being one cannot accord a ‘natural duality’ [cf. ibid., fol. 19rb, where Timothy declares it impossible to accord ‘two natures to simple beings’]. Timothy’s rejection of the nature concept for the humanity of Christ is best understood on the basis of this fundamental idea of his. (2) Following this immediately, yet secondarily, is a further determination of nature: it is entirely, completely, with all its characteristics, what Timothy interprets with the words hypostasis (qenōma) and person:
‘There is no nature that is not also hypostasis and no hypostasis that is not person (parsōpā). Thus if there are two natures, there are also with all necessity two persons and even two Christs, as the new teachers proclaim.’ (thus in the 9th refutation of the definition of Chalcedon, fol. 41rc)
In order to escape the Nestorian division into two natures or persons, Timothy reserves the term nature solely for the God Logos, the mia physis tou theo logou (one nature of God the Word), and expresses the humanity only with the sesarkomene. He wants to hold exclusively to the Nicean schema, in which for him the entire doctrine of the Incarnation is expressed — not in a static view, as seems characteristic of Chalcedon, but in the spectacle of the historical event. We will summarize his teaching again with a section of the petition that he sent to Emperor Leo:
‘But I believe that God has put into the mind of your Serenity to set right the statements in this letter, which are a cause of stumbling to the believers; for these statements are in accord, and agreement, and conjunction with the doctrine of Nestorius, who was condemned for cleaving asunder and dividing the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, in respect of natures, and persons, and properties, and names, and operations; who also interpreted the words of Scripture to mean two, which are not contained in the Confession of Faith of the 318. For they declared that the Only-Begotten Son of God, Who is of the same Nature with the Father, came down, and became incarnate, and was made man; and suffered, and rose again, and ascended to Heaven; and shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And natures, and persons, and properties were not mentioned by them, nor did they divide them. But they confessed the divine and the human properties to be of One by the dispensation. Accordingly, I do not agree with the transaction of Chalcedon, because I find in them divisions and cleavage of the dispensation.’ (Zacharias Rh., HE IV 6)
Thus the number ‘two’ cannot be applied at all to Christ as long as the assertion concerns Christ Himself. One cannot speak of two natures or persons or characteristics or names or activities. Similar formulations are found in the History of Dioscorus, but there they exhibit a more advanced form, which belongs to the time of Severus. Thus Dioscorus is supposed to have written to Emperor Marcian:
‘How can the rebellious [Pope] Leo have dared to open his mouth and blaspheme the Most High by saying: we must confess in the Messiah two natures and two characteristics and [two] activities, since the holy church confesses one nature of the incarnate God without mixing or change; [even in death] the divinity of my Master was not separated from His humanity, not even for a moment; but this horrible, this stupid, this accursed Leo, who wanted to separate the soul from the body of our Lord, must immediately and without delay be thrown into utter darkness.’ (F. Nau, JA X 1, p. 254 [with Syriac text on p. 36] cf. Grillmeier, CCT II/1, pp. 136-137: The above-mentioned Logos separation is, however, also rejected by Leo.)
Similarly, Dioscorus is supposed to have written to Juvenal of Jerusalem, still at Chalcedon:
‘Cursed by anyone who assumes two natures in the Messiah after the indivisible unity…! Cursed be anyone who assumes in the Messiah two properties and two activities.’ (ibid., 278 (Syr. p. 64)
…This introduces the main themes of the Monophysite controversy with the followers of Chalcedon. (Christ in the Christian Tradition, Vol. 2. Part 4. ‘The Church of Alexandria with Nubia and Ethiopia after 451, pp. 31-34)
Dioscoros’ quote above leads to the heresies of monothelitism and monergism, therefore, if Christ’s humanity, unable to be called a nature or to be ‘counted’, and possessing no inherent activity… then in that sense, it’s not real.
Fr. Florovsky reasons exactly like St Maximus the Confessor : “Therefore the Economy would be a mere fantasy, if He merely had the shape of flesh. But if, as Severus said, he did not have, as man, a natural will, the Word Incarnate would not fulfill the Hypostatic Union with flesh, endowed by nature with a rational soul and intellect. For if He was truly, as man, lacking a natural will, he would not truly have become perfect man. And if He did not truly become perfect man, he did not become man at all. For what kind of existence does an imperfect nature have, since its principle of existence no longer exists? The purport therefore of Severus, and his followers, is by a certain natural diminishment to expel the assumed nature in the ineffable union, and to cover themselves with the defilement of Mani’s fantasy, Apollinaris’ confusion, and Eutyches’ fusion… For the doctrine of Severus, when examined is opposed both to theology and to the economy.” (Opuscule 3)
Aelurus’ symmetrical christology demonstrated in his quote above actually uses the same philosophical rules as the Nestorians. The Nestorian Paul of Nisibis confirms this with a similar statement he made in debate with St. Justinian: ‘If Christ possesses subsistence in His Divine nature, and subsistence in His human nature, then a subsistence plus a subsistence makes two subsistences.’ Since the Nestorians affirmed the truth of two natures, Christ must be necessarily be two persons; Aelurus and the Monophysites, however, affirmed the truth of a single hypostasis, consequently, He must necessarily have only one nature. Orthodoxy, treads the royal way between these two. The confusion between these two misunderstandings (heresies) may appear to be polar opposite, but they end up in the same place according to St. Maximus. Fr. Demetrios Bathrellos demonstrates why the Confessor reasoned this way:
“For Maximus, the distinction between person/hypostasis, on the one hand, and nature/essence on the other, is indispensible for the articulation of a proper Christology. Severus’ fatal mistake consists precisely in his refusal to distinguish between them, because, without this distinction, it is not possible to denote unity and and distinction in a satisfactory way. Maximus argues that by identifying hypostasis with nature, Severus confuses divinity and humanity. By the same token, by arguing that there is a distinction in the natural qualities too, because, since nature and hypostasis are the same, ‘natural qualities’ equals ‘hypostatic qualities’; thus, for Maximus, Severus falls into Nestorianism (Ep. 15, 568D)” (Byzantine Christ, pg. 101)
Fr. Staniloae also points out the weaknesses of Non-Chalcedonian theology utilizing the theology of the Sixth Council and St Maximus:
“The Orthodox had a lot of reasons for not admitting a composite nature in Christ, the parts of the composite nature combine to form a being in which each part depends upon the other, objected St. Maximus the Confessor (Epistle 19). Can we admit that the divine nature can combine with the human so as to form one single nature with the human?
Apart from that, the recognition of two natures in Christ’s single hypostasis is necessitated by the fact that His human nature continues in Him in its entirety, not in an inorganic form, but as an organic structure in a way through a reciprocal conditioning of its parts. The human in Christ, the distinctively psychological whole, which neither dissolves itself nor admits an extraneous element into its natural synthesis. Only in this way does it continue in its human ontological status (as the Sixth Ecumenical Council says). Only in this way can the human be the specifically human vehicle for manifesting the divine hypostasis: only thus can the deifying action of the godhead live in a human way. …The expression “one hypostasis in two natures” takes account of these two different unities in Christ and does not confuse them. It expresses the quality of these different unities more adequately than the expression “a composite nature” or than the identifying of nature with hypostasis (The Christology of the Synods, p. 130-137)
Lastly, there is one other important little-known historical fact about the word ‘Orthodox’ and it’s application:
“The term ‘Orthodox’ originally came into popular usage in the Eastern Christian world as a descriptor of the church communities in the sixth century, to distinguish those who accepted the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon (451 ad) from those who refused them. It grew up as a party term, therefore, meant to distinguish the Byzantine Christians (and the Latins along with them) from those dissenting from the Christological settlement of Chalcedon.” (Fr. John McGuckin: The Orthodox Church pg. 24)
An Ethiopian Tewahedo Christian even told me that some of their famous elders had a vision wherein it was revealed to them that the recent Miaphysite appropriation of the term is part of an ecumenical plot to make the Ethiopian Church sway from it’s faithful path of resistance to Orthodox/Chalcedonianism. For myself, I call Miaphysites ‘Orthodox’ in the same way that I call those in communion with the Roman Pope, ‘Catholic’. However, there is but one Catholic Church with Orthodox faith, unfortunately, neither of them are in communion with Her. We are called to repent and enter into communion with Her, no matter what other group we may identify with. God grant it!
If this be conceded to the Severans, then, taking advantage of this concession, they will say, not unreasonably, “We do not say ‘one nature’ from an evil disposition or cunning, but because we wish, just as you do by the expression ‘one will’, to manifest the Supreme Union [of God and man in Christ].” For those who say what thou has just said lend weapons to them that oppose them, after the manner of David and Goliath. (The Disputation with Pyrrhus, 74-75)
Fr. Georges Florovsky:
…[W]e should never believe that dogmatic terminologies of the past are simply temporary formulations without continuing significance. There cannot be a fruitful discussion on dogmatical differences without careful reference to historical terminology. We are bound to use the terms; through these we confess the truth, guided by the Holy Spirit in the Church. We are not imprisoned by terminologies; but we are bound by the spirit, if not the letter, of the Fathers and their understanding of Christian truth.
I do not think our separation [with Non-Chalcedonians] is due only to historical misunderstandings about the terms physis, hypostasis, ousia, prosopon, etc. These terms have taken a definite sense in the effort of the whole undivided Church to voice the one truth of the revelation of God. (Aug. 12th, 1964 Discussion on the Paper “Chalcedonians and Monophysites After Chalcedon” by The Rev. Professor J. Meyendorff. Morning Session)
I am very familiar with the important work of Grillmeier, Unfortunately, as scholars have described in recent years, he completely failed to understand the Cyrilline and therefore non-Chalcedonian Christology. He is of great use in his comprehensiveness, but he is deeply mistaken in almost all his conclusions.
Thank you for the clarification in your editors note. But maybe you don’t see the tiny subtleties that you have written can be construed divisive, at least from my humble understanding. “this is a topic that is subject to a variety of views, both within the Chalcedonian Orthodox community and the Non-Chalcedonian community” You may refer to us as the Non-Chalcedonian “Orthodox” community. Yes we are not in communion but this is who we are and how we refer to ourselves, mutual respect is key to dialogue.
Also, “And it’s worth noting that the main emphasis in this piece is on the historical theology of the Non-Chalcedonian churches, which — it may be said — could potentially be at variance with how some of them understand their theology now.” This is not how we understand “our theology now” it’s how we have always understood our theology, why the assumption then if you state ” in case anyone wants to know my opinion of this piece’s contents, I’ll just say that I haven’t studied this subject enough to be comfortable settling on one. “.
I’m glad to see constructive dialogue is taking place. I used to believe that their would be unity in my lifetime with the progress that has been made, truthfully I’m not so sure anymore but continue to pray for it. But I will defend my Coptic Orthodox faith to the last breath. Forgive me.
Wishing you a Blessed and Holy Lent
1. Stating that there is a variety of opinion on all this is not divisive. Indeed, an honest assessment of differences is really the only path to unity.
2. Whether the various churches of the Oriental communion do indeed believe as Severus, etc., did and even whether they teach the same things as each other is very much part of what is at debate. Even internally to one of the churches, there is the controversy between Pope Shenouda and Matthew the Poor, as well as the objections of people like George Bebawi. All this is controversial. I’m simply observing that the controversy exists.
A personal controversy between two modern members of the Coptic Orthodox Church does not excuse the publication of polemics filled with error. The fact that Pope Shenouda and Matta el Meskeen had a personal difference does not at all equate with misrepresenting the beliefs of an entire communion and categorising them as heretics. Those of us who do know what our own Fathers teach are quite competent to reflect on whether we share their faith. I am a disciple of St Severus and have been for 20 years and have written much about his Christology. I am not alone. It is not reasonable to suggest that we do not know what we believe and that therefore we should be fair game for any accusations that someone who has not done the necessary research should choose to cast at us.
A personal controversy between two modern members of the Coptic Orthodox Church does not excuse the publication of polemics filled with error.
That’s not the context under which the controversy between Pope Shenouda and Matthew the Poor was brought up (doctrine was in play, too, not just personal differences). Rather, the point being made is that there are theological controversies ongoing. It is not divisive to make that observation.
I am not alone. It is not reasonable to suggest that we do not know what we believe and that therefore we should be fair game for any accusations that someone who has not done the necessary research should choose to cast at us.
But that’s not what’s being asserted, either. Please try to keep things a bit more honest here — no one is saying that anyone is “fair game for any accusations.” And FWIW, just because someone “does the necessary research” doesn’t mean that he’s going to agree with someone else who has done the same research. Not every disagreement is attributable to ignorance (nor to malice or stupidity, either, it should be added).
You said: “Not every disagreement is attributable to ignorance…”
That actually could be the theme of a Orthodox/Non-Chalcedonian theological conference.
In Chalcedon and the Armenian Church, Karekin Sarkissian, Catholicos of Armenian Church 1995-1999 states that the Armenian rejection of Chalcedon was willful and reasoned with all the necessary facts:
‘Then, we think, it will NOT be difficult to conclude that if the Armenians rejected the Council of Chalcedon it was not because:
(a) They were deceived or misled.
(b) They were unable to understand the doctrine of Chalcedon.
(c) They were compelled by the Persians.
(d) Their language was inadequate for an accurate rendering of the intricate meaning of the formularies.
(e) They were victims of a false and unfortunate identification of the Chalcedonian doctrine with Nestorianism.
(a) Their attitude was primarily religious and theological, not political.
(fe) The rejection of the Council of Chalcedon did not happen suddenly or accidentally. There was a struggle within the Church before it took place.
(c) The Armenians did not confound Nestorianism with Chalcedon; but the two only became closely associated and Chalcedon only became of vital importance for the Armenian Church when the Nestorians themselves took it as a source of strength and as a vindication of the orthodoxy of their doctrinal position.
(d] The rejection was a very natural and reasonable act, closely consistent with their doctrinal position, when seen in the context of their historical and theological tradition.
These are the main points which will come up in the course of the present study and which we will try to substantiate by the ex- isting historical and theological evidence. (Chalcedon and the Armenian Church, pp. 20-21)
Please start at 17:50… theosis is rejected, again the speaker is not ignorant.
Indeed. And toward the end, he accuses the EO of not believing in the resurrection of the flesh or the inspiration of Scripture.
For those of you sharing this video, a “An Oriental Orthodox Perspective on Chalcedon,” by Brother Antonios, please note that his presentation does not speak for Oriental Orthodox Christology. Without saying more than this, let me be clear that he speaks not for the Coptic Orthodox Church in this presentation.
Reiterating what Mina Soliman said earlier, the so called problem with theosis is one of ignorance. Much of the problem as is painted by Maximus isn’t really that big of a problem. What is theosis? if its union with God, growing into the likeness of Christ by grace, then this is taught in Coptic Orthodox Churches. Practically speaking, how is one deified? by participating of the divine nature and partaking of the Holy Eucharist. Please name me one Coptic Church that doesn’t celebrate the Eucharist. This is not to say that knowledge isn’t important but Egyptians tend to be incredibly stubborn and thick headed and this word was alien to our ears for a very long time.
Pope Shenouda’s problem with theosis was in retaliation with perceived wrong teachings of Father Matthew, who in describing theosis, sometimes went over board and crossed the lines of the essence and energies distinction. Pope Shenouda would imply the doctrine of theosis many times in his writings, and is said to have changed the way he did theology and patristics towards the end of his life. In fact the word in arabic, which admittedly does sound a little funny, is whats opposed, and not the concept and theology behind our glorification and union with God. Theosis, the word, as understood by Pope Shenouda sounded like the mormon doctrine of becoming Gods! Which of course, no one believes that our nature changes into divinity. There are lots of great theologians in the Coptic Church today who are properly explaining the patristic and biblical doctrine of theosis.
Below is a quote by Pope Shenouda regarding the concept of theosis:
“My brother, what could be more amazing than for it to be said of you that you are a “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4)? Even more amazing is that the Lord rebukes us with this saying: “I say, ‘You are gods, and you are all sons of the Most High'” (Psalm 81:6). What a great witness this is! Can we sin after this? Is it proper for a god to sin, to indulge in filth and dirt?
When you sin, are you partner in the divine nature? Certainly not; you are a partner to Satan, for the bible says: “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning….In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest” (1 John 3:8,10). When we sin, we forget our great glory and lose our rank. For after God says to us, “You are gods,” He continues: “But you die like men, and fall like one of the princes” (Psalm 81:7). Who is this prince who fell? It is Satan, who previously was an archangel!
The person who sins does not know his capabilities. It has been said that the sinner is ignorant. We are amazed that after he ate from the tree of knowledge, he became ignorant! For he sought knowledge far removed from God, knowledge which further separated him from God. So he knew neither himself nor God, nor the relationship between them. My brother, get to know yourself and who you are, so that you will not sin.”
H.H. Pope Shenouda III- The Life of Repentance and Purity.
I think what is being led on here, that “Copts don’t believe in theosis” is an incredibly unfair and erroneous assessment.
Brother Antonious is totally out of his depth in that video. He is wildly ignorant of the doctrine of Theosis and the writings and teachings of Sts. Maximus the Confessor and Gregory Palamas. And if what he says reflects Coptic belief (and it largely does not), then the Eastern Orthodox have every right to accuse Copts of heresy.
Pope Shenouda’s writings against theosis and his doctrine of the eucharist weren’t “a personal controversy”. They were a public scandal.
I think H.H. Pope Shenouda was trying to follow St. Cyril in regards to Eucharist theology. St. Cyril says: “But WE eat, not consuming the Godhead (away with the folly) but the Very Flesh of the Word Which has been made Lifergiving, because it has been made His Who liveth because of the Father.” (Tome IV Against Nestorius). We too say that we eat the flesh of God, that was his whole point. Again, another issue that would have been easily solved when properly understanding the Essence/ Energy distinction.
Please refer to my earlier statement regarding the issue of theosis.
As for Pope Shenouda’s doctrine of theosis, this is what he wrote about St Athanasius’ famous maxim:
Did God become man so that man might become God?!
If this expression is taken literally, then the point of the Incarnation would be the divinization of man!! But it is universally recognized that God became man to redeem man and not to divinize him. This is very clear in Saint Athanasius’ On the Incarnation and it is also clear from when the Apostle says of the Father “He sent His Son as propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
Therefore, I think we should say, “God became the Son of Man so that man might become a son of God,” which preserves redemption as the fundamental reason for the Incarnation.” (al-Bida3 al-Haditha, p. 167. My own translation.)
They also claim participation in the divinity [al-sharika fi al-lahut]!! Is this not part of what our Muslim brothers call ‘associating with God [al-shirk bi-llah]’?! (p. 159)
The entirety of his pamphlet against theosis goes on with this, rejecting any possibility of ontological communion between God and man… He also took up this theme elsewhere in his pamphlets on the eucharist, even rejecting the phrase of “partakers of the divine nature” in a manner demonstrating the serious problems with non-Chalcedonian theological language.
Samuel, I quoted Pope Shenouda referring to us as partakers of the divine nature! Mina Soliman and I had already explained why the word theosis was seen as problematic to Pope Shenouda and other arabic speaking Christians. To him, the word suggested a change in nature! that is all, there really isn’t a controversy here unless you want to read controversy into it.
http://www.svots.edu/content/beyond-dialogue-quest-eastern-and-oriental-orthodox-unity-today …… this is a must read….from Svots…
fyi st. john of damascus is a saint in the Ethiopian orthodox church ( it always surprises the copts) …. Ethiopian teologians explain this by saying that early Ethiopian saints knew there was no teological difference after reading some of thw eastern writing and of course many Ethiopians used to visit greek
Do the OO concede that Christ had a Human Mind and a Divine Mind in one person?
Do the OO concede that Christ had a Human Will and a Divine Will in one person?
They confess this, they do not concede it, although one might find it expressed in accord with St. Cyril, as a theandric will and a theandric mind, perfectly human and perfectly divine, from a human nature and a divine nature.
For a full explanation of how Chalcedonian and Oriental Christology are fully compatible, I reccommend Orthodox Christology, by Fr. Peter Farrington.
An editorial note:
We’ve gotten many very angry comments submitted on this post. Comments like that are not going to be published.
It’s fine to disagree, but please do so respectfully without accusations against the character of others (which just undermines your points).
Father; I agree entirely; ad hominems are not helpful as they represent logocal fallacies. I think some lf the frustration however may ste, from the numerous factual errors in the article published; with all due respect to both you and Dr. Marinides, Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy as a blog has flourished largely because of a repuation for well-researched, high wuality content devoid of obvious factual error. Indeed, this was the great strength of the first edition of your book of which this blog is a continuation; as a carefully-researched, factually unassailable modern day equivalent of the Panarion of St. Epiphanius of Salamis or St. Irenaeus against heresies; equally thorough and equally exhaustive.
I personally find heresiology to be the second most interesting field of theological study, next to liturgiology and liturgical theology (and I view them as two sides of the same coin; I believe in a unified, visible Orthodox Church, united in a common celebration of the Eucharist, so I on the one hand take great pleasure from stufying that as the obverse end of a coin, whereas the reverse is most certainly heresiology, a study of the doctrinal, liturgical, practical, or in many cases, political causes that prevent Eucharistic communion from occurring.
One thing I appreciated about your original book is the manner in which it dealt with the Oriental Orthodox, the Assyrian Church of the East, the Old Calendarists, the Russian Old Believers, and to a certain degree the Eastern Catholics, where these entities are the subject of active ecumenical dialogue, and I very much hope your revised edition takes the same approach. I wish, to a certain extent, that your blog might also avoid these subjects; there are so many heresies intruding upon the church, including the recent unhealthy obsession of some Orthodox clerics with apocatastasis and the rise of universalism, which you have very properly addressed, and I would like to very respectfully suggest that this area is of greater importance than polemics that run contrary to the current ecumenical efforts of your own jurisdiction (which if anything have been strengthened recently owing to solidarity due to the war in Syria, for example, the continual prayer in both churches for the safe return of the Syriac and Antiochian Metropolitans of Aleppo who were abducted in 2013).
In the specific case of Dr. Marinides, I respect his point of view; Indisagree with it, but he is piously expressing a view common to some sectors of the Greek Orthodox intelligentsia, particularly those connected with some of the more traditional monasteries on Mount Athos and those hoping for some form of reconciliation with the Old Calendarist. However, I would propose his article might well have been better received had it not been for the numerous factual errors that have been pointed out, or indeed, the polemical tone.
For that matter, I would appreciate it if Dr. Marinides does feel compelled by his sense of devotion to Holy Orthodoxy to critique the non-Chalcedonians, that in the interest of fairness, he spend at least an equivalent amount of time addressing the Assyrian Church of the East. I have a number of friends in that church, including a priest formerly of your jurisdiction, however, the Assyrian Church presents a number of theological stumbling blocks which have the effect of suggesting actual Nestorianism; for example, their official Christology as outlined by Mar Babai the Great precludes any form of theopaschite expression of the sort commonly found in Eastern Orthodox hymnography, especially from Holy Thursday through Pascha; the Assyrians continue to reject “Theotokos” in terms of “Christotokos” and, distressingly, despite rubrics in their service books requiring the presence of an icon of our Lord on their altars, such icons are nowhere to be found.
I would propose that if any non-Chalcedonian church engaged in ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox is to be subject to increased scrutiny, in all fairness, it should be the Assyrians, for the Oriental Orthodox are at least committed in principle to a precose adherence to the formula used by St. Cyril (and Dr. Marinides has elsewhere made a well-articulated argument that in fact, Chalcedon represents the fulfillment of Cyrillian theology, and the OO position does not properly express the views of the Alexandrian saint; I disagree, but that article at least was devoid of the factual errors and the somewhat polemical tone that characterize this article). I believe furthermore Dr. Marinides and I can certainly agree that the Oriental Orthodox at least try earnestly to follow St. Cyril; at worst, if Dr. Marinides is right, one could simply lament that the Oriental faith was predicated upon a misinterpretation or overly literal exegesis of the Christology of St. Cyril and of the Council of Ephesus.
Whereas in the case of the Assyrians, they venerate Nestorius, who I believe we can regard as being ultimately responsible for both schisms, with his heavy handed, despotic approach to governing the Constantinopolitan church, as a confessor of the faith, and even celebrate a liturgy bearing his name; they regard St. Cyril as a heretic, and they reject Theotokos. What is more, in recent years, the Chaldean and Syro Malabar Catholic Churches have been encouraged to a large extent to reappropriate the theological work of Mar Babai the Great, and now will very often explain Christology using Mar Babai’s formula; what is more, they have also resumed the use of the Liturgy of Nestorius and the Liturgy of Mar Theodore the Interpreter (Theodore of Mopsuestia), which had previously been suppressed. It seems to me that if the Roman Catholic Church is to actively allow Nestorianism or crypto-Nestorianism to be practiced in its sui juris churches of the East Syriac tradition, this is something you might well consider adding to your list of severe errors within the Roman church that must be corrected before full communion with the Orthodox is restored.
It would be nice to see Dr. Marinides focus some of his attention on the Assyrians, where there is such a pressing theologocal difference (and indeed, in many respects, there are striking similiarities between the Church of the East and the later Calvinists). I believe a more balanced approach on his end, combined with more rigorous fact checking, would result in an improved reception for articles of this sort.
Interesting points, though I’d note that critiques which essentially include “Your article would have been better if it had been about something else,” while common online, are not really helpful. Yes, it may well be the case that there is much more to focus on when dealing with the Assyrians, but that doesn’t mean we should also stop talking about the Oriental communion.
Part of the usefulness of the blog format is that any number of subjects can be addressed. If an [Eastern] Orthodox writer were to submit an article critiquing Assyrian Christology, we would certainly consider publishing it. But that doesn’t preclude the many other subjects we can also discuss. I myself published a piece here on Pentecostal speaking in tongues on the same day we published this post. Which is more important? I don’t know, but I don’t see why we can’t cover both topics — and many more, to boot.
And, if there are errors, let’s address them! No need to treat them as personal attacks. They’re not.
Indeed; I don’t believe Dr. Marinides intended any personal attacks, and I think several members of both communions have addressed and documented these errors in a non-polemical way.
I am Eastern Orthodox by the way, a member of ROCOR, although a bit in the left field of ROCOR in that I tend to be rather more supportive of ecumenical reconciliation than is the norm. The simple fact is I happen to like the way they do liturgics. 🙂
I might well be interested in contributing an article on the Assyrians, although if I did write such an article, I expect it would take the form of an appeal to the Assyrians to venerate St. Cyril instead of Nestorius and to embrace the Orthodox faith, as opposed to a polemic discouraging Eastern Orthodox from considering ecumenical dialogue with them. Their late Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV apparently rescinded some of the more overtly Nestorian aspects of their church, according to his official biography, but it does not go into detail; my thought is if we reach out to the Assyrians with love, we might well be able to persuade them to become the Assyrian Orthodox Church and to finally reject the last vestiges of Nestorianism.
Thank you for writing this article, Dr Marinides, and thank you for publishing it, Fr Andrew. Is there any way to get the article in a downloadable PDF format?
I knew from the moment I saw the headline that there would be a lot of flack about it, and I wasn’t wrong. The “media blackout” is absolutely real. The idea that Orthodox and non-Chalcedonians share the same faith has been taught so pervasively in the west, that some people honestly do not realize that there is even a debate on the issue, much less recognize that the non-Chalcedonians are not Orthodox.
We don’t republish our pieces as PDFs. This post isn’t going anywhere, though, as far as I know.
On this point, I would reject emphatically the idea that there is any kind of “media blackout.” The ‘Net and various Eastern Orthodox theological publications, particularly in the Church of Greece and in the Russian language, and also among North American converts, are full of articles criticizing OO-EO reunion and reconciliation. Metropolitan Kallistos Ware supports this reconciliation, but plenty of other prominent figures have opposed it. And to my knowledge there has been no censorship whatosever of dissenting views against reconciliation within either communion.
The reality however is simply that most people outside of the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Church aren’t aware of the schism, and so when one encounters articles authored by Western Christians, frequently they do nit refer to the schism or gloss over it our of ignorance, or alternately assume on the basis of the joint ecumenical statements, the writings of Merropolitan Kallistos Ware, et cetera, that its full healing is a fait accompli, which alas, it is not yet, although it is certainly a work in progress, and God willing, one we will see finished in our lifetime.
Wow lots of words. With all the killing in the middle east of Christians, I wonder how our Lord and Savior would feel about us arguing like this. I believe that we can have “moral” certaintude that those who die confessing Christ at the hands of the “other” will be numbered among the saints. The blood of the martyrs is the true baptism of the Holy Spirit. Sure, one could say, which/whose Lord/Spirit/Christ. However, I will be thankful for the prayers of our Holy Martyrs who pray for us fools (or at least me, fool).
Hi, Garabed! It seems that your point is that bloodshed in the world means that theological arguments are out of bounds. I can’t agree. After all, no less than St. Mark of Ephesus wrote this while knowing fully of the suffering and danger of his brethren in the East at the hands of the Ottomans:
We need investigation and conversation in matters of theological disputation so that compelling and conspicuous arguments may be considered. Profound benefit is gained from such conversation, if the objective is not altercation but truth, and if the motive is not solely to triumph over others. Inspired by grace and bound by love, our goal is to discover the truth, and we should never lose sight of this, even when the pursuit is prolonged. Let us listen amicably so that our loving exchange might contribute to consensus.
If I might address this point specifically, Imwould propose this is not an apples to apples comparison.
The Council of Florence was Rome offering the Byzantine Empire a lifeline in return for ecclesiastical submission to the Pope. Most bishops thought this was a good idea, but St. Mark of Ephesus bravely reasoned that the horrors of Turkocratia would be preferrable to the loss of the Orthodox faith. Interestingly the Oriental Orthodox had themselves largely made a similiar decision centuries earlier by not supporting the Byzantines in the face of the conquering Islamic caliphates, although I believe their choice was misguided, driven by the erroneous belief that the Eastern Orthodox are Nestorians, which is in my opinion wrong, just as I believe it to be an error to call the Oriental Orthodox monophysites or Eutychians, given that they always have anathematized eutyches, and reject the monophysite label.
At present, what is happening in the middle East is that both Orthodox communions are suffering together, and I would note that many Antiochian churches in North America were praying in their litany for the return of both the Amtiochian and Syriac Metropolitans of Aleppo. It is a common experience of suffering which is strengthening the ecclesiastical ties already in place.
In contrast, the Council of Ephesus was Rome attempting to exploit the imminent collapse of what was left of the Roman Empire (which they themselves had, two centuries earlier, severely weakened in the Fourth Crusade), to secure, in exchange for Western European military reinforcement of Byzantium, an Orthodox capitulation to the theological and ecclesiological demands of Rome; a communion with the Pope which would have proven to be the same as the communion of the Eastern Catholics with the Pope; Papal Supremacy would have been enforced, and in the ensuing centuries, the Greek Orthodox Church would have been Latinized in the same manner in which the Byzantine Rite Catholics were Latinized. And it is probable that the disaster of the Protestant schism would have erupted in the East with the same violence with which it erupted in the West in response to Papal abuses.
In short, the position of Rome at the Council of Florence was a protection racket; it was extortion, pure and simple. Whereas nothing like that is occurring here, in the course of the close friendship between the suffering Eastern and Oriental Orthodox in Syria, Egypt and elsewhere.
There was, disturbingly enough, however, an eerie Florentine echo in the actions of the current Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon (who has perhaps the most inappropriate title of any Christian bishop); unlike his predeccessor, who I somewhat admired, I am not a fan of the new Patriarch, as he is not by any means a traditionalist, but rather very much of the “Spirit of Vatican II” mentality. He proposed a Florentine style reunion between the Assyrian and Chaldean churches, in the interests of solidarity against ISIL; the Assyrian bishops to their credit wrote a brave and eloquent reply in which they politely refused such a false union.
On the other hand, any reconciliation between the EO and OO churches will be a “merger of equals;” this reconciliation as I see it is the inevitable outcome of a process of ecumenical reconciliation that is already in progress, reflected in the formal agreements between the Antiochian and Syriac churches, between the Alexandrian and Coptic churches, and the increasingly warm relationship between the Patriarch of Jerusalem and his Oriental counterparts (to the extent that there is an amusing photograph depicting him having fallen asleep, inadvertantly dozing on the shoulder of his Armenian counterpart at a joint planning meeting with the Israeli authorities). The only ing that has yet to happen has been a full liturgical concelebration between our bishops and their bishops, and when that happens, the reunification will be complete, with the Oriental churches joining the list of autocephalous Eastern jurisdictions.
Of course, I would expect that not all Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions would immediately recognize the inclusion of their OO brethren. Russia probably would for political reasons, and I expect the EP, Romania, Bulgaria and the OCA would as well, and certainly, a full reconciliation could be counted upon between the neighboring churches of Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria; on the other hand, Georgia, Serbia, the Church of Greece, Cyprus, and ROCOR would probably not immediately the Oriental churches. But I doubt this would cause a schism; if it did, it would most likely comprise only a partial schism of the sort that presently exists between Antioch and Jerusalem over a boundary dispute. Likewise, it is quite possible that the Ethiopian church for their part might not immediately recognize the reconciliation. But this is to be understood as a gradual process to be undertaken in a spirit of love and forebearance as opposed to be something imposed from the top down, that involves a forcible capitulation to the demands of the Roman Pope (who, while he failed at Florence, did succeed at Brest-Litovsk and in many other instances, successfully creating schisms, often on the basis of what amounted to extortion, and then imposing upon the Eastern Catholics Latinizations which have only recently been rescinded).
I have to disagree with you William, and take Fr. Andrew’s side on this. My position is in line with C.S. Lewis’ “Learning in War-Time,” where he argues that “merely academic” discussions are in fact of MOST importance during times of violent conflict. After all, we do not fight wars so that we may simply live, except in an accidental sense. We fight wars so that we may protect a way of living, a way of believing.
The situation is somewhat different in the Middle East today, where Christians are being slaughtered and displaced by the thousands (Lewis wrote in the context of fighting Nazism). However, the reunion of Christians must be based on truth, not on tragedy.
Now, I happen to believe along with +Kallistos Ware and others that the reunion of EO and OO Churches is the direction most in service of truth.
However, I do not believe that the mere presence of violence is enough to necessitate reunion. Otherwise, why not just unite with ISIS? I’m sure Patriarch John would be open to the suggestion.
I will say, though, and maybe this is closer to what you meant (if you were misunderstood by Fr. Andrew): the presence of violence and other global troubles does necessitate the acceleration of a dialogue of truth and love. If Christians continue to live in separation, even in the face of rampant secularism, materialism, and fundamentalism in all parts of the world, then they will all “hang separately” in the words of Ben Franklin.
To clarify, I do not believe that the violence in Syria or Egypt neccessitates reunion; on the cintrary I agree with you and Fr. Andrew is that now is not an idea time.
Rather, my point is that the shared experience of martyrdom and persecution is strengthening the bond of love between the churches and is bringing them closer together than ever before.
Ideally though, full and formal reunion will occur at some point after the end of major hostilties; it would be ideal if His Beatitude John X Yazigi and His Holiness Mor Ignatius Aphrem II Karim can concelebrate the liturgy together in Damascus in perfect safety.
Dr. Marinedes’ article is spot on, and the media blackout is indeed a reality for which we American Orthodox are responsible. No one reads the dogmatic sources or their own Saints, it’s rather easier to reason with speculative “we don’t know where the Church is” arguments whilst paradoxically declaring exactly where they think it is. And all of this apart from and in opposition to the decisions of successive Ecumenical Synods.
For some to say that the author this post does not have the mind of the Church (!!), when he cites recent Saints like Sts. Nektarios and Paisios is utterly ridiculous. Likewise reasoning outside the mind of the Church (and Christ) are brilliant scholars like St. John of San Francisco, Fr. Florovsky, Met. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Protopresbyter Zizis. The Athonites are outside the pale too, even though it has been suggested that they’ve recently reversed course simply because they were kind enough to host Coptic monks! Perhaps they have also reversed course in regards to Roman Catholicism and Protestantism too since they regularly host them too. They even hosted 60 Minutes, perhaps they endorse journalism school. Archimandrite Placide Deseille, a Roman Catholic monk become Athonite monk, is a witness to Athonite hospitality:
“The monks of Mount Athos are often criticized for their opposition to ecumenism, and are quite happily accused of sacrificing love for truth. We readily saw, from the time of our first visit when we were still Roman Catholics with no thought whatever of becoming Orthodox, how well the monks knew how to combine a gracious and attentive love towards other people, whatever their religious convictions and allegiance, with doctrinal intransigence. As they see it, moreover, total respect for the truth is one of the first duties that love for the other requires of them.” (Stages of a Pilgrimage. The Living Witness of the Holy Mountain: Contemporary Voices from Mount Athos trans. By Hieromonk A. Golitzin, pp. 86-90)
Dr. Marinedes didn’t quote the English for St. Paisios, but for those who are interested it reads thusly:
“Regarding the Monophysite’s sympathizers and their fervent supporters among the Orthodox, he observed, ‘They don’t say that the Monophysites didn’t understand the Holy Fathers — they say that the Holy Fathers did not understand them. In other words, they talk as if they are right and and the fathers misunderstood them.’ He considered proposals to erase from the liturgical books statements identifying Dioscorus and Severus as heretics to be a blasphemy against the holy fathers. He said, ‘So many divinely enlightened holy fathers who were there at the time didn’t understand them, took them the wrong way, and now we come along after so many centuries to correct the holy fathers? And they don’t take the miracle of Saint Euphemia into account? Did she misunderstand the heretics’ tome too?’ (Hieromonk Isaac: Elder Paisios of Mount Athos; 2012 For the English Language by the Holy Monastery of St. Arsenios the Cappadocian , pp. 659-660)
Has any recent Saint had a revelation of the new phronema? Plenty of them have the old phronema consistent with what has been revealed for 1500 years. St. Paisios refers to the Great-Martyr’s miracle mentioned in the writings of Sts. Leo the Great and Sophronios of Jerusalem:
For it was God who worked, and the triumphant Euphemia who crowned the meeting as for a bridal, and who, taking our definition of the Faith as her own confession, presented it to her Bridegroom by our most religious Emperor and Christ-loving Empress, appeasing all the tumult of opponents and establishing our confession of the Truth as acceptable to Him, and with hand and tongue setting her seal to the votes of us all in proclamation thereof. (Letter 98.3)
And the fourth gathering, full of divine wisdom, after the three only in time, was assembled with 639 Fathers, worthy of praise and torch-bearers of the faith. It held its godly convocation by God in Chalcedon and the martyr Euphemia sharing its labors (the one who also up to the present fights on behalf of their definition of faith and speaks unceasingly and mightily about their far-famed and very great assembly). It dispatched that unhallowed pair, I mean Eutyches and Dioscorus, and blocked up their malevolence, hostile to God, which flowed as if from the spring of Apollinaris… (Synodical Letter 2.5.1)
Dr. Marinedes also pointed out how people regularly quote St. John of Damascus out of context in his post; no disrespect intended, but Fr. John Erickson certainly did so in his ‘Beyond Dialogue’ paper and his podcast with Kevin Allen on AFR. That ‘orthodox in every way…’ or something similar, is commonly used by the holy Damascene when writing about heretics and schismatics. If anyone really cared to read ‘On Heresies’, they could observe how St. John writes:
Heresy 70. The Audians… pursue a well-ordered way of life and profess a faith which is in every respect like that of the Catholic Church…
Heresy 87. The Hicetae are ascetics and in everything orthodox…
Heresy 94. The Ethnophrones… are Christians in all other respects…
Heresy 100. The Autoproscopatae, while they are orthodox in every respect…
After the qualification the Saint proceeds to detail the problems with these groups. No matter how similar they were, the Saint never speculated to say ‘they are in the Church’, or ‘the Councils condemned them unjustly’, etc.
Fr. J. Erickson also wrote about St. John the Almsgiver: ‘Another noteworthy figure is John the Merciful, Chalcedonian patriarch of Alexandria, who is honored as a saint by both sides because of his even-handed charity.’
But when I read his Life it’s written: ‘To help this glorious man towards attaining his purpose which was indeed wholly divine, the Lord sent him John and Sophronius, [Sts. John Moschos and Sophronius of Jerusalem] who were wise in the things of God and worthy of perpetual remembrance. They were really honest counselors, and the Patriarch gave unquestioning ear to them as though they were his fathers, and was grateful to them for being most brave and valiant soldiers in the cause of the true faith. For trusting in the might of the Holy Spirit they engaged in a war of dialectics, setting their own wisdom against that of the mad followers of Severus and of the other unclean heretics who were scattered about the country; they delivered many villages and very many churches, and monasteries, too, like good shepherds saving the sheep from the jaws of these evil beasts, and for this reason above others the saintly Patriarch showed special honor to these saintly men. (Leontius of Neapolis, Life of St. John the Almsgiver, 32)
Dr. Nicholas made yet another important point that really, really resonated with me. He addressed the desire for many to be in communion with Ethiopians and Indians. This is truly the longing of my heart as a Black convert. I see very many blogs of Black Orthodox converts wherein Orthodoxy and Miaphysitism is subtly mixed. The Holy Fathers sacrificed much to purify our Faith of even the tiniest impurity and none should take liberties with it out of desire for familiar skin tones. The Orthodox Faith is what overcomes the world and our Church is the fullness of Him that fills all. Pre-colonial Black Christianity and acquaintance with one’s roots does not save in and of itself, these quests must be joined with truth. I feel quite comfortable with serious Orthodox persons no matter what race they are. I want the fullness of the Seven Synods along with those who fervently confess them, not phyletism. If that makes me a rarity due to my skin color, then so be it.
The claim that St John the Almsgiver is a saint in both communions is probably a mistake. I think I first encountered it in Fr Meyendorff’s Imperial Unity and Christian Divisions, and followed his footnote, which I think was to W.H.C. Frend, but the cited passage in Frend didn’t have anything to do with John the Almsgiver. In the Coptic Encyclopedia there is a St John the Merciful, a Non-Chalcedonian patriarch of Alexandria from the later 7th century, so perhaps the confusion stemmed from this homonymy.
I don’t get it. What media are you talking about? Jurisdictional publications? Maybe, but beyond that there is no way a group as small as the American Orthodox are capable of orchestrating a media black out. If the story had legs it would be reported, but the media is about money and a story about the discussions on possible reconciliation between two churches that are mostly on the other side of the world just isn’t going to sell advertizing.
I wasn’t being literal. Basically, the media (mass of communication) is our Orthodox dogmatic sources: The Scriptures, the Synods, the Divine Services and the writings of the Saints. What do they say? St. Gregory Palamas says that Orthodox piety lies in our conformance to the aforementioned sources. The blackout pertains to the pervasive lack of familiarity and apathy when it comes to these sources. Instead of pointing us to the sources, people go by AFR or Met. Kallistos’ quote of Evdokimov. We are ignoring the ancient dogmatic sources and opinions of contemporary holy persons venerated and glorified for how they lived and taught the Faith for nebulous arguments based upon yet another Agreed Statement (they are legion), misquotes of St. John Damascene, Athonite hospitality or about “where the Church is not”. That’s a blackout to me and it makes no sense to me at all to defend any belief based upon such things. Seriously, I’m not trying to insult anyone by my comments.
I think Dr Larchet was referring more to the lack of awareness, in “Western” Orthodoxy, of voices critical of the dialogue. This is due partly to language barriers (and the critics bear some responsibility for that — they could have made a more vigorous effort to have their writings translated into English and other Western European languages), but also partly to a refusal, on the part of many of the proponents of the dialogue, to engage seriously and respectfully with the critics. This takes the form of either ignoring their opinions, or brushing them aside, especially evident in the response by some to the Athonites, that they should basically shut up and obey the bishops. Fr (now Bp) Alexander Golitzin’s article, which I cited in my footnotes, is a rare exception (he was tonsured on Mt Athos), although I think it is still somewhat condescending. The recent attempt to revamp the dialogue may indicate a more productive approach
“He [Metr. Emmanuel of France, Chalcedonian co-chair of the Joint Commission] called for a systematic evaluation of all the theological critiques on the proposals of the Joint Commission and for a theological defense against all prejudices and polemical arguments.”
He also called for “well-prepared meetings of monks from both families” — although I hope that “well-prepared” does not mean “fixed.”
As Maximus has noted the Athonites are generally hospitable regardless of confessional differences. The late Archimandrite George of Gregoriou Monastery held a two-and-a-half-hour meeting with Bp. Bishoy at the monastery’s metochion (dependency) in Athens in 2003 to discuss the dialogue. The report of the Gregoriou monks expresses their admiration for the monastic piety and humility of Bp. Bishoy but expresses dissatisfaction with his explanations of the agreed statements.
I think the strong reactions to my piece show that I have touched on a sore spot, which needs to be probed further rather than shielded by nice platitudes or angry attacks. I’d like to thank those who responded substantively to the post, especially those who did so with an irenical and fair-minded tone, and did not accuse me of dishonesty or folly.
I may have made errors on one or two points of fact, for which I ask pardon. For example, one reader claimed that Fr Florovsky in fact participated in more of the unofficial dialogues and agreed to their provisional results. That reader may well be correct. I obtained most of my information on Fr Florovsky’s views:
(1) from his book on the Byzantine Fathers, a paragraph of which I quoted near the end; admittedly, this is an early work of Florovsky’s, but it does provide a careful and subtle critique of the Severan form of (moderate) monophysitism.
(2) from his participation in the first unofficial dialogue in 1964, some of which was quoted by the commenter Maximus; again, this was fifteen years before Florovsky’s death, and so may not reflect his later views.
(3) from conversation with the late Fr Matthew Baker, who as many visitors to this site will know, was one of the world’s experts on Fr Florovsky. He’s the one who reminded me of the reservations expressed by Florovsky at the 1964 meeting. For the record, Fr Matthew was more optimistic about the dialogue than I am. Unfortunately he was no longer alive for me to discuss it with him in detail.
That said, I would appreciate it if the reader who identified this error would please provide references to accessible texts of the relevant dialogues or reports of them. I believe some of them were published in a hard-to-find Greco-Ethiopian periodical. I am not making this request as a defiant challenge to the reader, but simply in order to follow up on his correction.
As for a few other issues. First of all, the names of eminent modern theologians are being cited to support the dialogue. I respect (most of) their opinions, but neither they nor the theological committees that met at the dialogues are any less open to critique and challenge than the ancient Fathers – far more so, I would say, since they haven’t been canonized yet, despite some here having cited Metr. Kallistos Ware or Paul Evdokimov or others as pillars of the phronema of the Church. In fact, apart from some solid scholarly works on the historical theology of the ancient period, most of the contributions at the actual dialogues (as found in the official publications) will strike any impartial reader as superficial and hasty.
I have also been accused here of patristic fundamentalism, as if I accepted every single statement by a Chalcedonian Orthodox Church Father as an infallible dictum. As a scholar of ecclesiastical history I certainly do not hold such a view. What I am pointing out instead here is the consistent message of a broad swathe of holy Orthodox fathers across time, what is commonly called the consensus patrum.
Furthermore, I agree with the sentiment of Florovsky, helpfully quoted by one of the commenters, that the terminology of the formative patristic period is not obsolete and expendable, but provides a perennial criterion for genuine Orthodox dogmatic theology. I am also familiar with the prayer at the end of the Coptic liturgy, cited several times here, but as others have already pointed out, it does not address any of the real questions at stake. No serious student of the theology of the Non-Chalcedonian churches doubts that they believe Christ had a physical body (which is all that, strictly speaking, the prayer states). The problem, when you get down to it, is the more “psychological” attributes of energy and will, which the prayer does not address (nor would I expect it to; the liturgy is generally not the proper place for technical dogmatics except for a few traditional places like the anti-Arian homoousion in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed).
On a related note, it has been claimed by many of the Non-Chalcedonian responders (and some Chalcedonian too) that the ancient theologians did not really understand what the Monophysite theologians were saying, e.g. they equated Severus with Eutychus tout court. While sometimes they did rhetorically equate the two, in more detailed discussions they recognized the differences, as is clear from the fact that St John of Damascus has separate chapters on the Eutychians and the Monophysites in his On Heresies. Others have claimed that it doesn’t matter what the ancient Non-Chalcedonians believed, we now agree the same. This is a perilous method for reaching agreement, and I think more thoughtful Non-Chalcedonians would not be so hasty to disassociate themselves from their own “patristic” past. As for the issue of the doctrine of deification in the Non-Chalcedonian churches, that is a complicated issue, connected to the “Arab Captivity” of Christian theology in the Arabic world for many centuries. I certainly did not do full justice to it, but simply pointed it out as something that needs to be addressed.
Lastly, some have associated me, implicitly or explicitly, with extreme parties within the Church of Greece or on Mt Athos, some part of the Zealot (“Old Calendarist”) movement. I would agree that there are such groups there, and that they tend to generate more heat than light, and furthermore that they operate on the basis of a reductionist ecclesiology (what is often called “Nicodemite,” from St Nicodemus of Athos) that does not take proper account of the ecclesiological breadth of the Fathers, especially on the issue of rebaptism. Even the more moderate voices in Greece and on Athos tend to work from the same ecclesiology, and I recognize that this is a problem. But ecclesiology is in fact the great dogmatic question of our age, in my opinion, so that’s a much larger question. However, one can agree with their objections to the course of the dialogue with the Non-Chalcedonians without necessarily adopting all of their premises. And I am certainly not for shutting down ecumenical dialogue between the Orthodox and the Non-Chalcedonians – I just wish to help re-establish it on a more solid basis. As I was at pains to point out in the piece, I have real live experience of the deep piety of the Copts and other Non-Chalcedonians, and have nothing but good memories from my visits at their churches and monasteries, which is precisely what urges me to “speak the truth in love.”
I’m hoping the author of this article can help me. I have a dear EO friend (a monk) who lovingly warned me of the monophysite heresy of the OO. He directed me to a respected EO website, where I found articles about the events that transpired at Chalcedon and sober warnings of the heretics.
What I did not find is actual citations from OO fathers or Patriarchs – preceding or after Chalcedon – that support the charge that OO are MONO-physite, meaning they do not believe that Christ is fully God and fully man, (not divided as Nestorius, nor mingled as Eutychus) but as clarified by St. Cyril about Christ making His Flesh “…one with His Divinity without mingling, without confusion, and without alteration.”
It would be helpful if someone could simply provide examples of this heresy being taught by the OO fathers (other than the council) and their references so I may read them in context. I’m counting on your graciousness. The reason I’m asking for quotes from “outside” the event of the council is because, I’m confident, if this is truly a heresy held by the OO for 1500 years, history has to be rife with the mis-teaching.
Thank you in advance for your help.
In fact, the Coptic Orthodox Divine Liturgy has a Confiteor Ante Communionem similiar to the Pre communion prayers in the Byzantine Rite (“I believe and I confess”) which has the effect of positively refuting the Monophysite heresy. Eutyches has always been anathematized by the Oriental Orthodox. They simply use the exact terminology of St. Cyril.
I recently encountered a layman online, who is a personal friend, by the way, who provoded an unsourced translation attributed to a contemporary Armenian Apostolic Archbishop in which the Archbishop appeared to promote a Christological interpretation which came across as Eutychian; as it turns out however, the translation was grossly inaccurate and the archbishop never said anything like what was attributed to him.
Yes William we do. I believe you are referring to the prayer that is said by the believer before approaching the the Eucharist and not the confession that the Rev. Fr. Moses Samaan stated earlier.
The believer prays the following before and after partaking of the Eucharist :
A PRAYER BEFORE PARTAKING OF THE EUCHARIST
(Of St. John Chrysostom)
I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly Christ, the Son of the Living God, Who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. And I believe that this is truly Thine own immaculate Body and that this is truly Thine own precious Blood. Wherefore I pray Thee, have mercy upon me and forgive my transgressions both voluntary and involuntary, of word and of deed, of knowledge and of ignorance; and make me worthy to partake without condemnation of Thine immaculate Mysteries, unto remission of my sins and unto life everlasting. Amen.
A PRAYER AFTER PARTAKING OF THE EUCHARIST
(Of Saint Basil the Great)
O Lord, Christ our God, King of the ages, and Creator of all, I thank Thee for all the good things which Thou hast bestowed upon me, and for this communion of Thine immaculate and life-giving Mysteries. Therefore I entreat Thee, O Good One Who lovest mankind: keep me in Thy tabernacle and under the shadow of Thy wings; and grant that, with a pure conscience, even unto my last breath, I may worthily partake of Thine holy Things, unto the remission of my sins and unto life eternal. For Thou art the Bread of Life, the Fountain of all holiness, the Giver of good things; and unto Thee we ascribe glory, O Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the age of ages. Amen.
Dear Anastasia, a very reasonable request. You can get some sense of the thought of Timothy Aelurus, one of the early opponents of Chalcedon, in the quotations given by the commenter Maximus above from the work of Grillmeyer, but these are not in context, so to speak. You can find an early 20th-century translation of a collection of Epistles by Severus on this page:
(it is translated from the Syriac, because most of Severus’ works are preserved only in Syriac translations, though he wrote the originals in Greek).
The same page has works by some of the other major fathers of the Non-Chalcedonian tradition, Dioscorus of Alexandria, Timothy Aelurus, and Philoxenus of Hierapolis, but the ones available there are not so directly relevant to your question. You can also find old editions here:
However, I would caution you that it is not as easy as browsing through the texts and finding egregiously heretical statements. The Non-Chalcedonian leaders often went out of their way to affirm the full humanity of Christ. But the problem is what they mean by it. Severus argues that Christ has a collection of natural human properties, but denies that Christ assumed human nature as an integral whole. This leaves the door open to leaving out things that, according to Chalcedonian theologians, are essential to full humanity, such as a distinct human activity (energeia) and will (thelesis), and indeed St Maximus accused the Monenergists and Monotheletes of his time (who accepted two natures after the union, but denied either the distinct human energy or human will or both) of implicitly falling back into the errors of Severus.
I might be able to patch together a florilegium for you, but would probably then be accused of cherry-picking quotations and taking them out of the context in which their terminology makes sense. In any case, proof-texting, although used by the Fathers, is not the best method for gaining understanding of a complicated question such as this. A good introduction to the problem is Hans van Loon’s The Dyophysite Christology of Cyril of Alexandria, much of which can be read online at Google Books. It is very technical, but sets out the problem of the legacy of St Cyril and his proper interpretation clearly. Van Loon says that he was in fact prompted to write the study by his dissatisfaction with the statements of the official dialogue under discussion here.
Nevertheless we see Pope Shenouda affirming both his divine and human will when he says:
“The complete righteousness which marked the life of our Lord Jesus was due to His Divine as well as His Human will….Thus, the crucifixion was the choice of the Divine as well as the human nature.”
The agreed statements also say that : “human nature, which He assumed at the Incarnation and made His own, with its natural will and energy.”
Nicholas, you seem to be reading heresy into us, as we were always taught that the complete humanity of our Lord is full and real. That which isn’t assumed isn’t healed as our common father St. Gregory said. If Christ had no human will and and energy, like you claim our Non-Chalcedonian Fathers implied, which btw, most of these men lived way before the controversy broke out, and this is doing them great injustice, then our salvation is incomplete and our wills have not been healed.
In his only book on Christology officially published in English, The Person of Christ, Pope Shenouda says:
(p. 45) “We believe in one will and one act.
Naturally, as long as we consider that this Nature is One, the will and the act must also each be one.
What the divine Nature chooses is undoubtedly the same as that chosen by the human Nature [notice the inconsistency here of talking about “one nature” but also about a “divine nature” and a “human nature”] because there is not any contradiction or conflict whatever between the will and the action of both.”
(p. 47) “If there was not unity between the Will of the Divine nature of Christ and and His human nature, this would have resulted in internal conflict, far be it from Him! […] The complete righteousness which marked the life of our Lord Jesus was due to His divine as well as His human will. […] Thus, the crucifixion was the choice of the divine as well as the human nature. Had it not been One Will, it would not have been said that Christ died by His own will for our sake. Since the will is one, he act is necessarily one. Here we do not distinguish between the two natures.”
So, when he uses language of two natures, he’s being incoherent at best. A longer exposition of the Coptic understanding of will is given by Anba Bishoy, in the context of his explanation of the First Council of Constantinople:
“This does not mean that Christ the Lord has two wills, as though He were two persons! However, He submitted His natural will in His human nature to the natural will in His divine nature and united them in His one incarnate nature, without confusion, mixing, change, division or separation. As for His personal will, it was one single will for His one single person.
There is a difference between natural will and personal will. The natural will is like a hungry person’s desire to eat and a thirsty person’s desire to drink. By this we understand the sense of the natural will. That is, the call of nature or desire. As for personal will, it is taking the decision to eat or the decision to drink. He who is hungry and continues to fast has submitted his natural desire to his personal will or has submitted desire to decision.
Because Christ the Lord is one single person (and not compound from two persons), He has one personal will, by which He became incarnate as a human and worked redemption. As for His divine natural will, it united with His human natural will (that is, divine desires and human desires) completely, like the union of the two natures without confusion, mixing, change, division or separation. The divinity did not keep thirst from the humanity, but Christ the Lord worked the will of the Father and fasted for forty days for our sake. The divinity did not keep suffering from the humanity, but Christ the Lord worked the will of the Father and bore the Passion for our sake. He obeyed the Father unto death, the death of the cross.” (my own translation, from here: http://st-takla.org/Coptic-History/CopticHistory_02-History-of-the-Coptic-Church-Councils-n-Christian-Heresies/Al-Magame3-Al-Maskooneya/Encyclopedia-Coptica_Councils_25-Magma3-El-Kostantineya-09-Al-Erada-Al-Khasa-Bel-Saied-El-Maseeh.html )
I’m not convinced that this is completely coherent, but it does rather more approximate the Orthodox understanding of Christ’s will than what I’ve found in any of the medieval Coptic theologians….
Sam, you seem to have a hard time understanding what is meant by “One”. The Word One refers to unity, it doesn’t refer to a single one, either divinity or humanity. St. Cyril even used the language of “One Nature”, this refers to the Natural union. You are looking for theological and terminological exactitudes, which you won’t really find. You have to look for the meaning behind the terminology. One always refers to the union of things, that is the definition of it. Furthermore, I won’t get my Chrisotlogy from a poorly translated book by Pope Shenouda. His books have always had poor translations. For us to say that there are “Two after the union” would easily imply that a union never really took place. To make one of different realities refers to a union. I’m sorry for lecturing you but it seems like you have a hard time understanding what One here refers to.
You are fishing for fish that you won’t find in this pond.
This in my mind goes directly to the heart of the matter, and I think you describe it perfectly.
There are no egregious heresies outright to be found. In my observation this is so from either side.
Rather it is what can be possibly inferred by certain language that is at issue.
As the OO side was defending against a heresy that they feared, and be EO doing the same, it was implications of language of definition that was at the core.
The example you gave of Severus was a prime example. It wasn’t what he said, and as you fairly state, he outright denied the partial humanity, but what could be inferred possibly.
Likewise when the OO read Leo saying “this nature did X and that one did Y” they infer “since natures don’t ‘do’ things, persons do” that one could easily see Leo affirming two persons.
But he flatly rejected this idea in clear terms. Just as Severus did regarding the things he is accused of implying.
Likewise in your assertion of the correct language speaking of distinctly human activity, one could see the implication “natures don’t act. Persons act. Hence if a distinct human action is asserted, it’s a human person distinct from the divine one.”
Of course this isn’t what you mean at all.
This brings me to the heart of the matter.
We are no longer acting in love and charity if we are taking our own considered implications of what the other is saying and ascribing them as the “real” belief, despite clear denials by the other. We are acting in fear. Such fear was well justified by both sides at the time. But we are no longer there.
Rather we can seek to take what he other says charitably and in the “best light”, and basically “take them at their word”.
Honestly, if 99% of either side’s parishioners were quizzed, they’d no doubt speak some form of a heresy inadvertently. So we aren’t so much safeguarding our flocks from straying into the belief of two persons on the one hand or a diminished or blended human/divine nature on the other.
In fact we are now discussing “the best language” to describe the indescribable, to define a paradox, to explain a mystery.
We may well believe our side to offer the best language to safeguard against the feared extreme of the possible implications of the other, but to go further and accuse the other of holding to the implications we perceive as logical ends when they flatly deny it is tantamount to slander. By either side.
This I believe to be at the basic heart of the objections to your piece. It is seen as a straw man.
The cry I hear is “let US define our position!” And I believe both sides did this to one another initially, which is to say, arguing against implications perceived and disregarding flat out clear statements of denial and affirmation. This is in my mind unfair to both sides.
It is one thing to say “I believe my wording most adequate (or least inadequate I believe to be more accurate)” and another to accuse the other of believing X which they flatly deny because I take what they said in my own light and mind and follow it to conclusion X, even though they flatly deny it.
This article was reposted to my group, Eastern and Oriental: One Orthodox Faith. While I hope that my members were not rude or inappropriate in their responses to this article (I can’t tell since you’re not publishing the comments), I apologize if there were any. I do think though that Dr. Marinides might have a bit of an overactive imagination about the state of affairs here in the US. Though to be honest, I would have no clue as to how the Church in the US appears internationally.
I agree that discussion starts with an honest discourse, likewise perhaps some of the actions taken on the early conclusions of the Dialogue were premature. I would like to emphasize that the title of the aforementioned group is less about the state of affairs now but rather the goal we should strive towards. I take great care to ensure that reasonable dissenting views and points of contention are not censured from discourse.
I would also like to emphasize that we should do everything in our power (outside of compromising the Orthodoxy of the church) to heal division and schisms. As St. Basil the Great so eloquently stated:
“Indeed, it would be monstrous to feel pleasure in the schism and divisions of the churches, and not to consider that the greatest of goods consists in knitting together the members of Christ’s body.”
“Those who labor in truth and sincerity for the Lord must endeavor to bring to unity those who have in many ways been divided among themselves”
There are a variance of views among the EO as to how to categorize the Non-Chalcedonians, and those views form a spectrum between outright heresy to schism by happenstance with false attribution of heresy. I would go so far as to say that there may be a divergence between the mainstream Eastern Orthodox understanding of the theology of ecumenical synodology and the understanding of the Oriental Orthodox. Certainly as a recent paper by Metropolitan Hilarion points out ecumenical councils are a complex topic to say the least.
I would also like to quote the following discussion between Fr. Meyendorf, Fr. Romanides, and Fr. Verghese as its relevant to the topic:
“FATHER MEYENDORFF: I am glad that Father Romanides speaks this time in this positive way about the Tome of Leo, and I hope the non-Chalcedonians will read him in this light. The praises of Leo in the Acts of Chalcedon should be seen as a conciliatory move in the light of the anti-Roman bias of the Chalcedonian Canons.
FATHER ROMANIDES: It is my opinion that the adoption of Trinitarian terms in Christology was in the beginning rather accidental. At the Council of Alexandria in 362, presided over by St. Athanasius the Great it was decided to adopt the Cappadocian manner of distinguishing between hypostasis and ousia When speaking about the Holy Trinity. No decision was made concerning the term physis which, until the Cappadocian distinction hypostasis and ousia. The outcome of this was that the Cappadocian tradition ended up by equating physis with ousia, while the Alexandrian tradition equated physis with hypostasis. The accidental nature of this equating of pbysis with either hypostasis or ousia must be taken seriously into consideration in order to understand the history of the Christological debates between 448 and 451 as described in my paper. In the self-justifying heat of polemics after 451 each side claimed a monopoly of understanding of the precise meaning of the term physis which from the point of view of the history of dogma is untenable. Failure to realize this can only lead us back to the ridiculous debate concerning the superiority of one s own Fathers over the Fathers of the other side. We must be very clear about the fact that the Chalcedonians means two ousiai when they speak of two physeis after the union, whereas the non-Chalcedonians, as pointed out very clearly by Father Samuel’s paper also, do not mean one ousia when they speak of one physis after the union.
FATHER MEYENDORFF: Physis was seen by all as signifying concrete being. The Antiochene Christology insisted upon the idea that the concrete actions of Christ can be variously ascribed to humanity and divinity, the subject being one-the Christ.
FATHER ROMANIDES: But Cyril would attribute everything to the Logos in the flesh, not simply to the Christ as is done by the Nestorianizers and pointed out in my paper.
FATHER VERGHESE: What do we mean by Christ being in two ousiai after the union ?
FATHER ROMANIDES: In both the Cappadocian and Alexandrian traditions the ousia of God is beyond all categories of thought in a radical manner and therefore not only beyond definition of any kind, but also beyond the predication of any name whatsoever, to such an extent that God is hyper-onymos, hyper-ousios and even hyper-theos. Within this Biblical tradition the ousia of man also remains a mystery. Only the energies and rowers of both God and man can be known. In this sense the term ousia is used not in the Greek philosophical sense of the definable and knowable immutable inner reality of a thing, but as concrete unknowable reality known only in its acts. In contrast to the Antiochene and Latin tradition (the Augustinian one), the term ousia as applied to the Holy Trinity by the Cappadocian and Alexandrian Fathers is neither a platonic superstratal genus, nor an Aristotelian substratal material in which the hypostases or persons of the Holy Trinity participate. Therefore, Christ being in two ousiai could only mean that our Lord, the Only-Begotten Son of God, exists in two concrete, yet undefinable and perfect and complete realities, each of which is by nature proper to Himself and distinguishable in the union in thought alone. The term in two natures is of Latin provenance and was translated by the Cappadocian oriented Fathers of Chalcedon by the phrase in two physeis. Under more normal conditions the Alexandrians might have accepted the term in their own theological language as in two ousiai. It is only in this anti-Eutychian sense that the non-Chalcedonians must understand the term in two physeis whose only intent is to preclude one ousia after the union. ”
Personally, I would have preferred that Dr. Marinides focused more on the theology in contention rather than anecdotal evidence. If one wishes to claim that the Oriental Orthodox now (or in the past) are at theological dissonance with the allowed interpretation of Cyril according to the Fifth Council, then one ought to show their reasoning for it, instead of calling it merely mental acrobatics. In “Orthodox Christology” by Fr. Peter Farrington (who has also commented on this blog) did a very good job of describing the Oriental Orthodox Christology according to the words of Severus himself and other early Non-Chalcedonian saints, while showing the concordance with the views of Cyril. As is alluded to in the above quoted discussion and has been written about elsewhere. The terms in contention (ousia, physis, hypostasis, and prosopon) have had a variance of meanings among different theological schools over the centuries (themselves being affected by the preexisting local schools of metaphysics). In the Alexandrian school physis is much more closely tied (if not almost equivalent) to what the EO consider hypostasis.
Thomas C. Royko
(Admin at E&O)
“In the Alexandrian school physis is much more closely tied (if not almost equivalent) to what the EO consider hypostasis.”
This issue of equating physis and hypostasis is at the core of most Chalcedonian polemic against the non-Chalcedonians… Thus Anastasius the Sinaite’s game of reading out passages from Cyril while switching the terms to show that you can’t read them as equivalents without creating absurdities.
Moreover, and I apologize for repeating myself, if you understand “one nature from two natures” to mean “one hypostasis from two hypostaseis”, you’re halfway to Nestorianism and in territory that is clearly heretical by the standards of Chalcedonian Orthodoxy. In fact, the great 13th century Coptic scholar al-Safi ibn al-‘Assal says precisely this (“qnum wahid min qnumayn”) in his Brief Chapters on the Trinity and the Incarnation, where he also rightly recognizes that the Melkites (i.e., the Chalcedonians) teach that Christ “is one hypostasis, and that is the divine hypostasis”. (This is translated in Stephen Davis’ Coptic Christology in Practice, p. 326.
Let us consider that the word “physis” for St. Cyril, and the rest of the Alexandrians, meant “concrete reality”. Thus the Alexandrians favored a conception of the Christological union based on the level of “natural union”, and had propagated the term “union from out of two natures”. For us this means that the distinction and properties of the natures are preserved after the union but they are now together in a perfect union without change, mixture, confusion, alteration, or separation. Jesus Christ is indeed one concrete reality from two realities of Humanity and Divinity. This isn’t understood as “One Hypostatic union from Two Hypostaseis”, none of our fathers said this, they indeed reaffirmed that Christ’s union was Hypostatic.
St. Severus says: “I too allow that there is a great difference or distinction between humanity and Divinity. For these things which were named are seen to be other, according to the mode of how they are, and they are not like each other in anything. But when the mystery which is in Christ has come for us into the middle, the principle of union does not ignore the difference but it removes the division; not because it confuses with each other or mixes the natures, but because the Word of God has shared in flesh and blood, thus again the Son too is understood and named as One.”
Again he says: “We confess the difference and the particularity and the otherness of the natures from which Christ is, for we do not quarrel about names, but we confess the particularity which lies in natural quality, and not that which will be set in parts, each one existing independently.”
For an Alexandrian to hear that Christ must be confessed “In two natures”, seems to imply that Christ exists in two concrete realities, and that these realities exist in a sort or parallel existence in the “One Christ”. This would make Christ two subjects instead of one, or at best, make him a bipolar Christ who sometimes acts as God and sometimes acts as man, thus eliminating the Cyrillian doctrine of the unity of Christ. Of course we know our EO brethren don’t believe in such a thing. Christ is at all times fully man and fully God. He does everything as God incarnate.
St. Severus says: “It is not right that we should make a division into an independent diversity, so that they should become separate and apart from each other; rather we ought to bring them together to undivided union. For the Word became flesh, according to the words of John.”
You can see here that he was concerned with those who would name the two natures and set up two independent center of activities.
Again he reiterates how we shouldn’t divide Christ: “When we anathematise those who say Emmanuel has two natures after the union, and speak of the activities and properties of these, we are not saying this as subjecting to anathema the fact of, or naming, natures, or activities, or properties, but speaking of two natures after the union, and because consequently those natures…are divided completely and in everything.”
Even Father John McGukin admits that “there is no doubt that some of the Antiochenes, and perhaps some of the Latins later, did not share the same passionate commitment to emphasizing the unity of Christ that animated Cyril, and were more ready to identify him as a single subject presiding over a bi-polar reality that Cyril cared to do, who felt that the two realities of Godhead and manhood, though distinct, were synchronized by mutual perichoresis far more substantively than such a bi-polarity suggested.” (St. Cyril and the Christological contraversy.”
Perhaps I did not describe myself well. What I meant is that the term traditionally employed among the Oriental Orthodox “covers” (overlaps) both realms of meaning (somewhat but not quite… as the discussion by Romanides alludes to). Hence why the Orientals had such a leg jerk reaction to Chalcedon and had traditionally regarded the EO as Nestorians. They thought we were pushing a Christology where Christ would have two hypostasis (aka the Nestorian view).
As for the issue of Christ solely possessing solely a divine hypostasis, I take issue with that considering that many references in Tradition to Christ having a composite (syntheos) hypostasis.
“Now, however, through His assumption of human flesh possessing intellectual soul, He became the very thing ‘that He was not,’ that is, composite (syntheos) in His hypostasis…” – St Maximos the Confessor
“In Christianity, truth is not a philosophical concept nor is it a theory, a teaching, or a system, but rather, it is the living Theanthropic [Divine-human] Hypostasis: the historical Jesus Christ (John 14:6).” – St. Justin Popovich
“Outside [Christ’s] Divine-human person (hypostasis), the Truth is ontologically impossible.” – St Justin Popovich
“The hypostatic union [hē kath’ hypostasin henōsis] produces one composite hypostasis of the things united [mian hypostasin tōn hēnoumenōn apotelei syntheton] and…this preserves unconfused and unaltered in itself both the uniting natures and their difference as well as their natural properties.”
– St John of Damascus, Philosophical Chapters, Chapter 66
There are many other references as well such as from the festal menaion of the incarnation. Though many of the other quotes will also argue against a united physis. But again, it comes down to how one defines physis in a given usage. To say that Christ has solely a divine hypostasis is incorrect. The logos enhypostasized human nature or more precisely the humanity which is typically enhypostasized by a human hypostasis. His hypostasis is changed, it assumes humanity, and as a result becomes a concrete instance of humanity while like wise still being a concrete instance of divinity. It became Theanthropic.
From what I understand (and I intend to go back and check with a few people on this), to the OO there is no distinction between nature and nature subsisting (hypostasis). I could see how this could easily confound and muddle works, even discussions, and hence why you can’t always translate OO usages of physis to hypostasis.
There are serious problems with assuming that in Cyril or earlier “Alexandrian theology” in general that there is no distinction between physis and hypostasis, though it is true that the Severian tradition does try to do claim this.
In his somewhat bloated but extremely useful monograph, The Dyophysite Christology of Cyril of Alexandria, Hans van Loon makes the case that for Cyril, physis works analogously to ousia. That is, in general language, ousia means a universal, not a particular, but in the broadly “Aristotelian” logical tradition that Cyril would have been familiar with, it is possible to talk about a universal (or secondary) and a particular (primary) ousia, and so in certain situations he does use physis in the sense of a particular. This has much more explanatory power for when one sits down to read Cyril than to say that he doesn’t make a distinction between nature and nature subsisting, which is all kinds of icoherent.
I really think Cyril is the answer, and the most nunaced of the definers.
He alone seems to allow for both uses- hypostasis and oussia, by distinguishing “in contemplation”, which means to my thinking “oussia”, an abstract notion, from the concrete reality of Christ, say, doing, in which case it runs synonymous with hypostasis.
He appears to allow for both uses.
The problem for alexandians seems to be in, say, Leo saying”this nature did X, that did Y”, since when we speak of doing we speak implying persons, since natures don’t do, only persons do. Hence to Alexandria this necessitates two persons.
The further problem I see is in not allowing for charity, which at the time was understandable as they respectively sought to protect from differing heresies, which no longer is the threat it once was. Sadly I see the same lack of Christ by some today.
Just as Leo’s clear denial of two persons was not accepted, but rather the perceived implications were responded to, so too this seems to be carried on today.
“His hypostasis is changed” Be careful here… I don’t think you want to press that one.
To say that the hypostasis of Christ incarnate is the hypostasis of the Word is not to say that Christ’s hypostasis is only divine. You’re making the precise category error that’s under discussion. The concept of ‘enhypostasis’ that you mention was developed in order to avoid having to say that the hypostasis of the Word assumed a human hypostasis.
The whole thrust (or, as one scholar put it the ‘intuition’) of Cyril’s Christology is that when the Word assumed flesh, He remained the same person. That is, that He didn’t assume another person.
Your points have been brilliant. People just don’t get it. Symmetrical christology (Fr. Florovsky’s term) is heretical. Case in point:
Non-Chalcedonian Timothy Aelurus: “There is no nature that is not also hypostasis and no hypostasis that is not person (parsōpā). Thus if there are two natures, there are also with all necessity two persons and even two Christs, as the new teachers proclaim.’ (thus in the 9th Refutation of the definition of Chalcedon, fol. 41rc)
Nestorian Paul of Nisibis: ‘If Christ possesses subsistence in His Divine nature, and subsistence in His human nature, then a subsistence plus a subsistence makes two subsistences.’
Revelation trumps philosophical rules.
I find it quite ludicrous that someone would take a sole individual (despite the great sanctity of his life) and use his quotes as the generalized representation of a whole Church’s faith. If that’s how it works, we might as well take any erroneous view of any Chalcedonian Patriarch and hold it against them. But that’s not how it works. Anyone knows if someone wants to know what a Church believes (at least a traditional church), you look at the texts of its liturgical prayers. As for Theosis, one need only take a quick glance at some of our texts:
“He took what is ours, and gave us what is His.” – Friday Theotokia
“You too O Mary, are clothed with the glory, of the divinity” – Sunday Theotokia
“On the change of the bread and wine to the Body and Blood, our souls will change to share in Thy glory, and unite with Thy Divinity…
Thou granted us to eat of Thy Flesh openly, make us worthy to unite with Thee secretly.
Thou granted us to drink Thy Blood openly, grant us to blend with Thy purity secretly.” – Liturgical Fraction of St. Cyril
The repeated usage of the term “monophysite”, when the author is at least fluent in the term “miaphysite” (if not able to comprehend its distinction), serves no purpose other than divisiveness on semantic grounds, which is the position of the author’s opponents. The pointing out that the terms Eastern and Oriental as prefixes are nebulous is a brilliant point that more people should learn. I am interested in knowing the history of the term Orthodox from all sides. Clearly the creed says “one, holy universal and apostolic”. When did any group start using the term Orthodox? How widespread was its usage? Did they use the term in Rome?
Just as a side note, your comment is the 5,000th comment on the O&H blog! Congratulations. 🙂
Both 5 and 1000 are powerful numbers in the holy scriptures. Your side note is appreciated.
Orthodox became a popular term in the 6th cent. used to distinguish the Church of the Chalcedonians from the Non-Chalcedonians according to Fr. J. McGuckin.
My full reply to Dr. Nicholas:
Thank you! I’ll put up a post pointing to your reply. I appreciate your writing it.
Most of your quotes are not showing up.
Sorry about that:
Concerning deification, I would like to quote a few things:
St. Severus of Antioch
The Spirit also descends upon him because of us. Now this Spirit is not one of the ministering spirits, but it is the Spirit of God, the consubstantial Spirit who reigns at the same time with him and with the Father. It is why, indeed, the evangelist himself said in a demonstrative manner: the Spirit of God, this Spirit who had abandoned the human race, on the subject of which the Lord God said: My Spirit will not remain eternally among men, because they are flesh. But this charitable being [Christ], who, by the generosity of his grace, as he himself willed to modify his own decree, abolishing for us this sentence, after also being made flesh without change himself, draws the Spirit upon the flesh, at the moment when he united his divinity with the creature who had been condemned and thus sends grace to all our race.
Bishop Bulus el Bushi (13th Century Coptic bishop), quoted from Michael Christensen’s Partaker of the Divine Nature, in the essay “The Copto-Arabic Tradition of Theosis” by Stephen Davis:
Then He said the greatest thing when He made the statement, “Just as the living Father sent me, and I have life on account of the Father, so too whoever eats Me lives on account of Me.” (John 6:57). He did not need to say here, “whoever eats my body,” because He already established that in the preceding statement. He said first, “the living bread” (John 6:51), and informed us that that bread was truly His body. Then, He said third, “whoever eats me” (John 6:57). He means (here) that He is God incarnate, and His divinity is not differentiated from His humanity. Whoever partakes (of the Eucharist) in a worthy manner and with faith, (God) resides in him and gives him the life that He gave to the body united to Him.
al-Safi ibn al-Assal, 13th Century Coptic intellect (quoted from Stephen Davis’ Coptic Christology in Practice):
The learned scholars have mentioned many reasons for the union, and they fall into two categories.
The First category concerns the Creator. The property on account of which he brought us into existence (namely, his generosity) was also that property on account of which he established contact with our nature, in order to perfect us—that is to say, (to bring us to) the perfection of his generosity. The (First) proof regarding the necessity of the union is the fact that the Creator (may he be exalted!) is the most excellent of benefactors. Now the most excellent of benefactors is the benefactor who bestows the most excellent of essences, and the most excellent of essences is the essence of the Creator. It necessarily follows then that the Creator has generously bestowed his essence upon us, and this took place in his contact with us. A second proof is the fact that his contact with us is possible, for the main objection to that contact is (the supposed) incompatibility (of the two uniting elements). But the Creator is not in fact opposed to his creature, since one opposing party would destroy its opposite, not bring it into existence. In the Torah, God said that he created humankind in his likeness, and this likeness is close to the (idea of) contact. If his contact with us is possible, and if we have the goal of honour(ing him), and if he possesses the perfection of generosity, then there can be no objection to it, apart from (claims that God is guilty of) impotence or greed. These two things are attributes of imperfection, and God is exalted above both of them. Therefore, his contact with us is necessary.
The second category pertains to us. That is, when we fell short of attaining our human perfection, and when the prophets fell short in helping even the smallest number of people attain the First principles of the aforementioned perfection, God became incarnate so that he might cause the greatest number of people to attain the goal of human perfection and (true) existence. The Scriptures give witness to the condition of Christians as compared to the condition of those who came before them, as well to their movement away from the worship of false deities to the worship of God, and away from great licence to the goal of ascetic piety.
The recently canonized saint in our Coptic Church, St. Habib Girgis, from his book “The Mystery of Godliness”, written in 1951:
When a baby wakes up from his sleep and does not find his mother, he cries out because he does not find her beside him, and tries to call her through crying and screaming. His mother then has pity on him when she hears his voice, and runs to wipe his tears and makes him rest in her bosom.
Be like this baby. You will be restless until you have God with you, and He has you with Him. If you cannot reach Him, cry and scream, so that He may have compassion on you. He will relent for your situation more than the mother does for her child.
The bird cannot fly high in the sky without wings, and your human nature cannot allow you to ascend unless you are united fully and truly with the divine nature.
The human nature is sinful, impure, profane, and falls short of everything, but if it unites with God, it will be sanctified and can be raised above its ego. It can be holy and not submissive to the malicious targets.
The more it yearns and aims for God, and uses all its strengths to seek Him, He inclines to it and gets closer until He unites with it and dwells in it; for He is watching over it, and looks at its desires, being acquainted with what it wants.
Seek Him with all your soul, with all your heart, with all your strength, and you will find Him present before you. You will then remove the curtain that covered your mind, and see God clearly, enjoy His beauty, and will be filled by His sweetness.
HG Bishop Youannis, Coptic Bishop of Gharbia (+1987) in a sermon on Heaven in 1974:
The one who meditates on the Holy Gospels finds them full of many expressions mentioned by the Lord of Glory that testify of man’s fundamental relationship with heaven. This is not surprising because the Lord Jesus was the first to link man to God in a clearly strong image that speaks of love and a firm foundation. The Lord Jesus called Himself the “Son of Man,” or the “Son of Mankind,” whereas He called humans, “sons of God.” In other words, He has made God Father to mankind. This is a direct fruit of the mystery of the Divine Incarnation.
Our Church expresses this in the annual Friday Theotokia. The praise says about Christ, “He took what is ours and gave us what is His, we praise and glorify Him, and exalt Him.” He took what is ours, that is the body; He gave us what is His, that is that we may be “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).
Christ taught us when we pray to cry out, “Our Father who art in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). The sonship of God is not a matter of honor or social dignity only, but it is sonship in an actual level. This is obtained by man in his second birth which is blessed baptism (John 3:3-13). Christ has two births: the first is before the ages, “begotten of the Father before all ages”; the second one is temporal. Likewise man also has two births. Christ has come for our salvation and has blessed our nature by uniting God’s divinity with humanity, which Christ has taken from the chaste Virgin Mary. He too (that is mankind) has come to have two births: a physical birth by natural delivery and a second birth from God and the Church, which is of the water and the Spirit, by means of the holy baptism.
HG Bishop Moussa, a Coptic general bishop in a sermon in one of the parishes I attended a long time ago:
We do not take the saying by intellectual power only. We need also the spiritual power of faith. That is why the Lord says His ways are spirit and life. Also this means that we are not going to take the Body of the Lord without the Divinity of the Lord, because we never believe that the two natures are separated in the Lord. Therefore we take both the human and the divine together in one nature, that is Our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is a complete fact and a definite doctrine we no more deal with bread and wine, but the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and we are taking the Lord Himself into our hearts and lives.
HG Bishop Raphael, currently general bishop of the Coptic Church and now secretary of the Holy Synod said this in a recorded lecture on the incarnation in 2011:
We are lucky that we are living not with our own breath, but Christ’s. And for that reason our teacher St. Peter, in his letter says that we are “partakers of the divine nature”. Partakers of the divine nature how? Do we commit no sin? No! Then, what does this partaking mean? The life of God is now in us. This is our partaking of the divine nature. God’s life is in us, received through the communion (Eucharist).
For this reason, the non-Orthodox, with all due respect to them, teach about the faith to the people but not bring up communion, then the story is missing somewhere. It’s not explained, so people wonder why this whole story of salvation?
Some Armenian Church fathers (first two quoted from Council of Chalcedon and the Armenian Church):
“The true faith is this: He descended and mixed [His] Godhead with [our] manhood and the immortal with the mortal, so that He could make us participants in the immortality of His Godhead; thus, when the Son of God, equal to the Father, came with His flesh to the right hand of the Father, He united (lit. “mixed”) us to Godhead.”
St. Gregory the Illuminator of Armenia, 4th Century
“He [Christ] took real flesh for us and sowed in us, by faith, the divinity, and wrought miracles and signs so that we might become faithful believers in His divinity.”
St. Sahak and St. Mesrob Mashtots, 5th Century
Your victory in the battle for goodness,
for a new, immortal life of grace, baptism, resurrection,
for our kinship with you and union with
your Holy Spirit,
for forgiveness, liberation, and enlightenment,
for eternal purity, true bliss,
in communion with the angels, in unfading glory,
is the plea for reconciliation upon our lips voiced by
our Lord on high.
And what is more awe-inspiring,
for it is a monument to your magnanimity: the gift of
divine nature by election of your grace,
uniting us with you, Creator, by partaking of your body
and sharing in your light of life,
the fulfillment of the good promise,
which, in Paul’s words, the Old Law did not have.
You, Savior, came with your father’s bounty,
perfected and fulfilled in perpetuity
our undiminishing hope in you, Redeemer of all.
To you glory with your Father,
with praise and blessings to the Holy Spirit,
forever and ever.
St. Grigori Narekatsi, 10th-11th Century
This is in a nutshell some proof that the Oriental Orthodox Church does in fact confess deification
Here are some references to Theosis in the Oriental Orthodox Liturgical Tradition:
‘Your divine body became the heaven of Life and it deified our entire mass so that it should not be seduced any more into corruption and mortality’
Source: Syrian Orthodox Church, Fenqitho (or Festal Hymnary), Syrian Orthodox Church, Fenqitho (or Festal Hymnary), (v. 447b). Referenced in “Appendix I: Deification in the Syriac and Latin Traditions” in Russell, Norman. “The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition” (Oxford: Oxford Univerity Press, 2004) 323
“‘You became human and deified us’
Source: Syrian Orthodox Church, Fenqitho (or Festal Hymnary), Syrian Orthodox Church, Fenqitho (or Festal Hymnary), (vi. 169b = 455a). Referenced in “Appendix I: Deification in the Syriac and Latin Traditions” in Russell, Norman. “The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition” (Oxford: Oxford Univerity Press, 2004) 323
“‘He gave divinity to Adam as he had previously asked’
Source: Syrian Orthodox Church, Fenqitho (or Festal Hymnary), Syrian Orthodox Church, Fenqitho (or Festal Hymnary), (vii. 454a). Referenced in “Appendix I: Deification in the Syriac and Latin Traditions” in Russell, Norman. “The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition” (Oxford: Oxford Univerity Press, 2004) 323
“Grant to me the grace of your Son,
And make me his true companion.”
Source: The Harp of Glory, Ethiopian Akhathist
“Reconcile me with your Son
An return me to his grace, both now and forever.”
Source: The Harp of Glory, Ethiopian Akhathist
“As Thou did join the body of Thy Son with our body, and Thou did mix the blood of The Messiah with our blood, so put Thy fear in our heart and the beauty of Thy Worship in our mind.”
Source: Anaphora of St Dioscorus, Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Priest’s prayer, Anaphora of St Dioscorus, 63, p162. https://web.archive.org/web/20150118042240/http://www.ethiopianorthodox.org/biography/englishethiopianliturgy.pdf
“Grant us to be united through Thy Holy Spirit, heal us by this oblation that we may live in Thee forever.”
Source: Anaphora of St Cyril, Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Priest & Congregation prayer, Anaphora of St Cyril, 75, p147.. https://web.archive.org/web/20150118042240/http://www.ethiopianorthodox.org/biography/englishethiopianliturgy.pdf
“As with the mixture of this wine with water, the one cannot be separated from the other, so let Thy divinity be united with our humanity, and our humanity with Thy divinity, and let They greatness be united with our humility and our humility with Thy greatness. Lord accept this our offering from us for a memorial of righteousness before Thee.”
Source: Anaphora of John Son of Thunder, Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Priest’s prayer, Anaphora of John Son of Thunder, 92, p70. https://web.archive.org/web/20150118042240/http://www.ethiopianorthodox.org/biography/englishethiopianliturgy.pdf
You made an order for nature to follow, and ornamented the world and all that is therein through all Your saints and the offspring of the Kingdom of heaven.For this, O Lord, You purified our nature and set us free.
Source: Baptismal Liturgy, Coptic Orthodox Church, Supplication for the Mother.
O Master, Lord, God the Pantocrator, the Father of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, we ask and entreat Your goodness, O Lover of Mankind, have mercy on Your servants whose name were presented.
Make them worthy of the grace for which they were brought forward to receive from Your Holy Spirit.
May they be filled with Your divine power and be like Your Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ and become one with Him.
Bestow on them a clean heart and pure mind.Grant unto Your servants protection by the grace of Your Holy Spirit. Guide them into the hope of eternal gifts by Your Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.To Whom is due all glory, honor, and power, together with You and the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life, who is One in Essence with You. Now and at all times and unto the age of all ages. Amen.
Source: Baptismal Liturgy, Coptic Orthodox Church, Prayers for Anointing the Catechumens, Prayer after the name of catechumen is proclaimed for the baptism. Pg 69 http://www.stbishoy.ca/images/preachit/documents/Church%20Rites/Rites_Baptism.pdf
“Priest says the following prayer silently on his own behalf while kneeling down before the baptismal font.
O, Merciful, Compassionate, and Loving God, you scrutinize the hearts and kidneys and You know the inner-most secrets of all human beings, and to You no thing they do is invisible, but rather they are all known and submissive before You.
O God, You know the other things I do, do not detest me and do not turn Your face away from me, but grant that all my sins flee away from me at this hour. O God, who forgive the sins of people and bring them to repentance, wash away the dirt of my body and soul, and cleanse me completely with Your invisible power and Your divine hand, so that if I read an absolution to others who ask me to give it to them, which is the faith made available to us through Your abundant and indescribable Love for Mankind – then I am not myself condemned as a slave to sin.
On the contrary, O Lord, who alone are without sin, who alone are Good and Lover of Mankind, let not Your humble servant return shamefaced, but forgive me my sins. Send Your Mighty Power down from Your Holy Exaltedness, and strengthen me that I perform the service of this great divine mystery.
Grant that the image of Christ be portrayed in those who receive the baptism of the new birth through me a sinner.
Establish them on the foundation of Your apostles and prophets and do not destroy them ever after. Place them like a true vine in Your Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox church that they advance in Your worship and that Your Holy Name be glorified everywhere, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and always and forever and ever. Amen.”
Source: Baptismal Liturgy, Coptic Orthodox Church, (Inaudible) Prayer For Anointing The Catechumens, After Laying on of the Hands.
The celebrant, with outstretched hands, says aloud:
Yea, O Lord, just as they are perfected by Your working grace and Your might, likewise perfect everyone who partakes of them through Your grace and the good pleasure of Your Only-begotten Son and that of Your Holy Spirit, now, always and forever.
Source: Anaphora of St. Severius of Antioch, Syrian Orthodox Church, Anaphora of St. Severius of Antioch, Syrian Orthodox Church. https://web.archive.org/web/20150204031525/http://sor.cua.edu/Liturgy/Anaphora/Severius.html
“You, who united our infirm nature to your unimpaired divinity, and through it joined yourself to our afflictions and healed our infirmities;
Hear us, God our Savior, and bend your ear to us who are assembled in adoration in your holy church, in the likeness of your chosen ones in the holy upper room.”
Source: Prayer to the Son, Prayers of Adoration to the Holy Trinity on the Feast of Pentecost by St. John Chrysostom, Armenian Orthodox Church, Prayer to the Son, Prayers of Adoration to the Holy Trinity on the Feast of Pentecost by St. John Chrysostom, Armenian Orthodox Church, Translated by V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan. https://web.archive.org/web/20150204032355/http://www.stnersess.edu/news/pentecost-in-the-armenian-church-three-pentecost-prayers
I’m going to be shutting down comments on this set of posts now, as they’ve slowed and also because we’re about to enter a very busy time in many of our churches, so I won’t be able to monitor and moderate comments as well as I would like.
Thanks, everyone, for your comments.
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