The Third Ecumenical Council: Ephesus
The Third Ecumenical Council was held in Ephesus, a city situated in Asia, in the large church of that city which is called Mary Theotokos, in the reign of Emperor Theodosius the Little (i.e., Theodosius II), in the year 431 after Christ, numbering upwards of 200 Fathers. The “hegemons” (i.e., principal actors) therein were St. Cyril, the bishop of Alexandria illustrious among Fathers, who, acting in the place of the bishop of Rome Celestine I at first, was attending the meeting for the latter, but afterwards legates of Rome were sent from the West, namely, Arcadius, and Projectus, both of whom were bishops, and Philipp the presbyter, and Juvenal of Jerusalem, and Memnon of Ephesus. The Council was convoked against Nestorius, who hailed from the town of Germaniceia in Antiocheia, according to Theodoret, and by divine concession had ascended the throne of Constantinople. For, after quaffing and absorbing the muddy and heretical water from the outpourings of Diodorus and of Theodore of Mopsuestia, the wretch became wrong-minded in regard to the Mystery of the Incarnate Economy; for he divided the one Christ into two persons and substances, remolding Him into a mere human being with a humanlike substance, apart from the conjoined Logos, and a God only by stretching a point, destitute of the assumption of humanity. That is to say, he divided the one Son into two sons, calling one of them the Son of God, and the other the son of the Virgin. Wherefore he was unwilling to call the Virgin, who was His mother with respect to the flesh, a Theotokos (a Greek word meaning “she who has given birth to God or to a God,” and much used in the Orthodox Church as a designation of the Holy Virgin). So, therefore, this holy Council anathematized Nestorius on account of these views, and drew up its own definition of faith, wherein it dogmatized Christ to be one with respect to substance, a perfect God the same, and a perfect human being the same, not another, and another, but one Son, the same, above motherless out of a Father, but below fatherless out of a mother. But it has delivered and handed down through all later generations the sacred injunction to the effect that His ever-virgin Mother is properly and truly to be called the Theotokos, on the ground that she truly and properly speaking gave birth in the flesh to God. For when the exarch of this Council, I mean Cyril of Alexandria, proclaimed therein the following: “We are not preaching a deified human being, but, on the contrary, we are confessing a God become incarnate. He who was motherless with respect to essence, and fatherless with respect to economy on the earth, subscribed to His own handmaid as His Mother.” In the letter to Nestorius, on the other hand, which this Third Council made a definition of its own (as Dositheus says, and as is made manifest by the minutes of the Fourth Council, on p. 61 of the second volume of the Conciliar Records), which commenced as follows: “They spend their time in idle twaddle, as I learn. The same Cyril says the following: To become incarnate and to assume a human personality (called in Greek ensarcosis and enanthropesis respectively) betokens the Logos derived from God; since it was not that the nature of the Logos was transformed into flesh, but neither that it was changed into a whole human being consisting of a soul and body. Rather it is to be said that the Logos united to Himself, with respect to substance and substantiality flesh animated by a rational soul, and in an incomprehensible and inexpressible manner He became a human being, and actually lived as a son of man, not merely with respect to will and volition or complaisance, but neither as in an assumption of a personality alone; and that the natures conjoined for the purpose of unity were different, but from both there resulted one Christ and Son, not because the difference of the natures was eliminated or abrogated on account of the union, but rather that the two natures formed for us the one Lord and Christ and Son, of divinity and of humanity, through and by virtue of the inexpressible and ineffable concurrence for unity.... And again, if we forego the union with respect to substance either as unattainable or as having no attraction, we fall into the error of asserting that there were two Sons.... And again, this is professed everywhere by the words of the exact faith. Thus we shall find the Holy Father to have believed. Thus they have had the courage to call the Holy Virgin a Theotokos, not as the origin of the nature of the Logos, or, more specifically speaking, of His Godhood, as having received being from the Holy Virgin, but as having been the source out of which His holy body was begotten and furnished with a rational soul, to which body having become united with respect to substance, the Logos is said to have been begotten with respect to flesh.” (See this letter also in the second volume of the Conciliar Records on p. 436 thereof.) And the bishop of Cyzicus at that time in the great (or large) Church, Proclus, while Nestorius the heresiarch was sitting there, retorted in the following fashion: “We have been called together here by the holy and virgin Theotokos Mary, the untarnished jewel of virginity, the rational Paradise of the second Adam, the workshop wherein was wrought the union of the two natures, the panegyris of the salvatory exchange, etc.” After ordaining that no one may dare compose or write any other Creed than the one issued by the First and Second Ecumenical Councils, or even add anything thereto, or subtract anything therefrom, and anathematized all who might violate this command. In addition, this Council confirmed the condemnation of Pelagius and of Celestius, which they had received from many local synods and regional councils, and especially from the Council held in Carthage. Besides all these things, it also promulgated the present eight Canons, and published this letter to Pamphylia in its seventh and last act. These are necessary1 to the discipline and constitution of the Church, and they were confirmed indefinitely in c. I of the 4th, and by name and definitely in c. II of the 6th and in c. I of the 7th.
 This is stated in the letter of Cyril addressed to the clergy of Alexandria, and in the first act of this Council.
 I said that Nestorius became wrong-minded and blasphemous in regard to the mystery of the incarnate economy, because in the matter of the theology of the Holy Spirit he had not been blaspheming, since he confessed in his Creed: “We do not deem the Holy Spirit either a Son or to have acquired Its existence through the Son, being as It is of the essence of God, not a Son, but being in essence a God, as being of that very same essence that God the Father is of, out of whom It really derives Its essence.” That it was only in regard to the incarnation of Christ that he became blasphemous is manifest: A) from c. VII of this same Council, wherein the Council states that “all bishops and clergymen or laymen that entertain the unholy dogmas or doctrines, of Nestorius concerning the incarnation of the only-begotten Son of God shall forfeit their office.” Do you see that it specifies definitely that it is speaking of the dogmas of Nestorius concerning the incarnation of the Only-begotten? B) from the letter which the same Council sent to the emperors concerning Nestorius, in which it wrote as follows: “After examining the impious dogmas which he (sc. Nestorius) has set forth in writing concerning the incorporation of the Lord Christ, we anathematized those very ones.” But what is there to show that he did not blaspheme in regaid to the theology of the Holy Spirit? Two other facts: A) that, since the theology concerning the Trinity is greater than that concerning the incarnate economy, as is acknowledged by all theologians, how could divine Cyril possibly have taken him to task as concerning the incarnation, yet have maintained silence as concerning the theology of the Holy Spirit, at a time when Chrysoloras denounced Demetrius Cydones by saying, “he that has blasphemed in regard to the Son shall be forgiven, but he that has blasphemed in regard to the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven”? and at a time when, as Macarius the bishop of Ancyra said in ch. 67, that it was the more necessary and urgent to ascertain the matter of the theology first, and that of the economy afterwards? for the former has precedence of the latter. B) It is proved from the pusillanimity and dispute which arose between St. Cyril and blessed Theodoret, and which, though not a fine thing nor anything to be praised, was nevertheless economically allowed by God to occur, in order that the true notion concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit might be conspiciously manifested. For when St. Cyril wrote in his ninth anathematization that the Spirit is something belonging to the Son, Theodoret said in refuting him: “True enough, the Spirit is something belonging to the Son: if he means something of the same nature and proceeding out of the Father, we shall agree with him, and shall accept his utterance as a pious one; but if he means to say that the Holy Spirit is derived from the Son, or that It has Its existence through and by virtue of the Son, we shall reject this notion as blasphemous and as recusant. For we believe the Lord when He says “the Spirit, which proceedeth out of the Father” (page 580 of the first volume of the conciliar records). When Theodoret put the matter thus, divine Cyril offered no objection, but, on the contrary, admitted that what he said was true, and merely explained in what way he had meant that the Spirit belonged to the Son. For he says in the apology (i.e., answer) which he wrote in reply to Theodoret’s refutation: “Though the Holy Spirit does proceed out of the Father, as declared by the Savior, yet It is something not alien to the Son” (ibid.). But what is the meaning of the expression “something not alien to”? Divine Cyril himself undertook to elucidate this further in his conciliar letter to Nestorius, by saying: “It is something not alien to the Son in respect of essence” (which is the same as to say that It is of the same essence, or co-essential. Accordingly, in interpreting the Creed the same saint says: “The Spirit is effused, or poured forth, or, in another word, proceeds, from God the Father precisely as from a wellspring, though It is supplied to creation through the Son.” Wherefore in view of the fact that Cyril had capped this apology as a reply from Alexandria to Antioch with Paul of Ephesus Theodoret wrote to John of Antioch as follows: “What has now been sent is embellished with evangelical nobility. For it is proclaimed therein that God is perfect, and our Lord Jesus Christ is perfect, and that the Holy Spirit is not derived from the Son and does not have Its existence through and by virtue of the Son, but that It proceeds out of the Father, though it is said to belong to the Son, on the ground that It is co-essential, or of the same essence.” So that inasmuch as Nestorius and Theodoret believed aright in regard to the theology of the Holy Spirit, therefore divine Cyril did not censure them, either before they were reconciled with Theodoret or later after they had been reconciled; but then again neither did anyone else besides Cyril do so, nor did this Third Council. That is why Joseph Bryennius as well as Nile of Thessalonica agree in saying that the strongest and most ingenuous proof of the Orthodoxy of us Eastern Christians is the fact that Nestorius wrote in his Creed that the Holy Spirit proceeds out of the Father, and not out of the Son, nor that It has Its existence through or by virtue of the Son, and the fact that the Third Council accepted this Creed and did not object to it in the least. So prattling Aquinas is slandering, yes, slandering the Eastern Church when he describes it as Nestorian because it dogmatizes that the Holy Spirit does not proceed also out of the Son, as the Papists blasphemously assert. For if our Church were indeed Nestorian on this account, divine Cyril would be a Nestorian, the Third Ecumenical Council would be Nestorian, and the subsequent Church too, for all of them have likewise accepted and recognized this dogma, and it was and is a catholic tenet of the Church. But, as a matter of fact, Cyril, and the Third Council, and the subsequent Church were not Nestorian. Hence it is logically evident that neither is the Eastern Church Nestorian, as she agrees with Cyril and all the Church. But if it be objected that the Papists assert that the Creed of Nestorius was condemned in the Third and Fourth Councils, we reply that it was condemned, true enough, but only as pertaining to the incarnate economy, and not as concerning the theology of the Holy Spirit. For divine Cyril wrote to Eulogius that we ought not to eschew and abandon everything that heretics say. And Athanasius the Great stated that the Arians held correct views in addition to their heretical views (see pp. 495-7 of the Dodecabiblus).
 After recusant Nestorius was anathematized by the present Council, since, instead of becoming quiet, he went on preaching again his cacodoxical heresy, first, according to Theophanes, he was exiled to Thasus, and afterwards to the oasis of Arabia with the co-operation of John of Antioch. While living there the scoundrel experienced afflictions of divine indignation. His tongue rotted, according to Evagrius, and all his body, according to Cedrenus, and Nicephorus (book 14 of his history); and in upper Thebais he met with a fearful and painful death, as told by St. Germanus of Constantinople in what he relates about the holy Councils. For in the reign of Emperor Marcianus, with the co-operation of some of his friends, Nestorius was enabled to receive letters recalling him from exile. After receiving these, then, and upon entering the privy, before sitting down he said aloud, as some listeners standing outside heard “I have shown thee, Mary, that thou gavest birth to a human being.” Thereupon, what a miracle! directly with the utterances of this blasphemy, an angel of the Lord smote him a terrible blow and his entrails exuded into the vessel containing his excrements, and he expired then and there. Because of his delay in coming out of the place and the fact that the imperial magistrate sent with the letters was in a hurry, his servants knocked on the door. As Nestorius failed to answer, they took out the door and they and the magistrate came in and found him dead in the privy in which all his entrails were spilled. Then those who had heard the blasphemy told it to the magistrate, and they all saw that it was solely on account of this that he met with such a death, similar to that of Arius, and they exclaimed: “It was in reference to this man that Isaiah said, ‘Woe unto this man! They shall not weep for him, O Lord. Neither shall they even say to him, Alas, O brother! and, What a pity, O Lord! A burial now he shall not be given, but, after joining those who have croaked, he shall be hurled beyond the gate’” (Jer. 22:18-19). Note, however, that after the heresy of Nestorius became neglected, it was renewed later during the reign of Justinian the emperor by a certain bishop of Nisibis named Barsoumas, who spread it in the East, and on this account there are exceedingly many Nestorians in the East, and especially in the land of the Persians and Assyrians, and in the vicinity of the Euphrates and Nisibis.
 Some say that because it was ordained in the present Council that the All-holy Virgin should be called the Theotokos, as in truth she is the Theotokos (because of the fact that she gave birth to a God), St. Cyril wanted to have this written into the holy Creed of the First and Second Ecumenical Councils, but out of reverence for the Creed he gave up this intention and all that is referred to in the Footnote to c.VII of the present Council in this connection may be found there. Having made a sole definition of their own, the Fathers dogmatized it in that Canon. For though they recognized the unity, with respect to substance, of the God Logos — which is the same thing as to say the one substance of Christ as revealed by the Creed, they did not want to add it therein. For in view of the fact that the Fathers confessed therein the Son of God, begotten out of the Father, come down (out of heaven), and having become incarnate as a human being, it is obvious that they confess one and the same Christ with respect to substance, a real God, and a real human being the same, but not another, and another. The union with respect to substance, however, according to the holy Patriarch of Constantinople Nicephorus, “one with the other one, the two out of which the Savior derives (sc. His two natures), as who should say, the unseen and the seen, the passible and the indefectible. Not another and another, God forbid! But a God the same perfect, and a human being perfect the same” (in the letter he sent to Pope Leo; page 912 of the second volume of the Councils). This is the same thing as saying that the union, with respect to substance, in Christ signifies both the two natures unconflated and the single substance with respect to which these natures were inconflatably united. Concerning union with respect to substance, see also the Footnotes to the Prolegomena of the Fourth Ec. C. But note that the Lord’s human nature (i.e., His humanity as distinguished from His divinity) possessed all the substantial properties that the substances of the rest of men have, except for the total property, according to the said Cyril, which is, that of not really being by itself, like those, but, on the contrary, of having received being in the substance of the God Logos. For this property of substances is, so to speak, the basis and foundation of all their other properties. It is for this reason that it is called the total property, too.
 Note that just as the (the Greek word meaning the same thing as the English) word co-essential was one to which the Fathers were accustomed even before the First Ecum. Council, though the latter sanctioned the use of this word, and imparted it to the whole world, so and in like manner had other Fathers called the Virgin Mary a Theotokos even before this Third Council. But this Council, having sanctioned this sweetest appellative of the Virgin, imparted it as a dogmatic definition to the whole world and handed it down through all later generations. Origen was the first one to call the Virgin a Theotokos, in interpreting verse 33 of chapter 22 of Deuteronomy (pp. 15 and 54 of the first volume of the series of the Fathers (inthe Patrologia); but also Socrates (in Book 7 of his History, ch. 32) says that Origen himself while engaged in a comprehensive examination of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans found out how the Virgin came to be called the Theotokos. Cyril of Alexandria, in writing to Nestorius, says that even Athanasius the Great called Her the Theotokos, and Amman the Bishop of Adrianoupolis concurred, just as Alexander of Alexandria called the All-holy Virgin the Theotokos in writing to Alexander of Constantinople (the one, that is, who presided at the First Ec. C.). Again, Basil, in his discourse on the birth of Christ, says: “The Theotokos never ceased being a virgin, because She would not displease the ears of Christ-lovers.” Those testimonies, I take it, are self-sufficient. But it may be added here that Gregory the Theologian, in his first letter to Cledonius, says: “If there be anyone that does not consider Mary to be a Theotokos, he is destitute of divinity.” And in his first discourse concerning the Son, in addressing the Greeks, he says: “For where among your deities have you known a Virgin Theotokos?” Eusebius, in his Life of Constantine (ch. 43) and Socrates (Book 7, ch. 32) say: “Wherefore indeed the most God-revering Queen (i.e., Helena) with wonderful tombstones gorgeously decorated the Theotokos’s birthplace” (i.e., Bethlehem). Dionysius of Alexandria said to Paul of Samosata: “the one who became incarnate out of the holy Virgin and Theotokos Mary.” St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (or Miracle-worker) of Neocaesarea, in his discourse on the Annunciation, says these following words: “The holy Theotokos, therefore, gave voice to the song of this prophecy by exclaiming, ‘ “My soul doth magnify the Lord” ’ (Luke 1:46). Only the All-holy Virgin is called a Theotokos, according to the explanatory remark of Zonaras in commenting upon some troparion of the canons of the Octoechus of Damascene, by way of contrast with the women among the Greeks who were mythologically asserted to have given birth to their inexistent pseudo gods.
The Virgin is called the Theotokos as having truly given birth to God, the accent being upon the last syllable, and not Theotocus, with the accent on the antepenult, which would signify “having been begotten by God spiritually,” as recusant and man-worshiping Nestorius called her. For in this manner all human beings have been begotten spiritually through and by virtue of baptism. But the Holy Virgin is said to be a Theotokos in two ways. One of these ways is on account of the nature and the substance of the God Logos which was given birth out of Her and which assumed humanity; and the other way is on account of the humanity assumed, which became deified as a result of that union and assumption, and attained to God-hood. (John Damascene, Concerning the Orthodox Faith, book 3, ch. 12, and elsewhere.) The holy and ecumenical Sixth Council proclaimed Her a Virgin (in its act 11 by means of the libellus of the faith of Sophronius of Jerusalem) before giving birth, and in giving birth, and after giving birth: which is the same as saying ever-virgin. Concerning St. Epiphanius (Haer. 78) says: “Who, having said Mary, and having been asked whom he meant, ever failed to answer by adding the Virgin?” And St. Jerome (Dialogue Second against Pelagius) said: “Christ alone opened the closed portals of the Virgin’s womb, and thereafter these remained thenceforth shut (this word “opened” denotes that the Lord fecundated the womb, just as, in the opposite case, the womb is said to be shut in the sense that the womb is barren because of sterility: in accordance with that passage in Genesis saying: “God had shut fast every womb from without” (Gen. 20:18); or it may be said to denote “parted asunder,” but without injury, and not like the rest of infants). She is declared to be ever-virgin also the first Canon of the Sixth Ecum. C., held in the Trullus.