The Fourth Ecumenical Council: Chalcedon
The Fourth Ecumenical Council was held in Chalcedon, an important city in Bithynia, during the reign of Emperor Marcianus and Pulcheria in the year 451 after Christ. The number of Fathers attending it was 630, the most notable of whom were Anatolius of Constantinople, Paschasinus and Lucinsius, bishops, together with Boniface and Basil presbyters, and with these were also Bishop Julian, Maximus the Bishop of Antioch, and Juvenal the Bishop of Jerusalem, acting as legates of the most holy Leo, Bishop of Rome. They condemned and consigned to anathema unfortunate Eutyches, an archimandrite, and his aid Dioscorus, who had become the Bishop of Alexandria after Cyril. For these men, having fallen into the error which was the opposite of that of Nestorius, shared also the latter’s fate, and went to perdition like him. For Nestorius had divided the one Christ into two persons and two substances, while these men boldly confused the two natures of Christ, the divine and the human, of which He is composed and in which He is known and adored, and conflated them into one single nature, the fools failing to understand that this recusant belief led to the conclusion that Christ was not of the same nature as the Father and of the same nature as human beings, but of some other and different nature. Hence this holy Council, following the Creed of the First Nicene Council and that of the Second Constantinopolitan Council and the letter of Cyril of Alexandria, which is the same as saying the definition laid down by the Third Council, held in Ephesus, but indeed also the letter of the most holy Leo of Rome, left unaltered the common Creed of the First Ec. Council, held in Nicaea, and of the Second one, held in Constantinople, and it anathematized those who might dare to add anything to or to subtract anything from it; and it made it its own definition of the Orthodox faith, which runs as follows (Act 5): “Pursuantly therefore to the divine Fathers we all consonantly join voices in teaching outright that we confess one and the same Son or Lord Jesus Christ, perfect the same in divinity, and perfect the same in humanity. Truly a God, and truly a human being the same (composed) of a soul and body and one who is at the same time of like essence with the Father as respecting divinity, and of like essence the same with us as respecting humanity, in all respects like us, apart from sinfulness. Though begotten before the ages out of the Father as respects divinity, yet in latter days born out of Mary the Virgin and Theotokos, as respects humanity, the same for us and for our salvation. One and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten (composed) of two natures unconfusably, inconvertibly, indivisibly, inseparably identifiable, there being nowhere anything removed or annulled in the difference of the natures on account of the union, but rather on the contrary the peculiarity of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one person and one substance. Not being divided or parted into two persons, but (forming) on the contrary one and the same Son and only-begotten God Logos, Lord Jesus Christ, precisely as the Prophets formerly had prophesied concerning him and as he himself, the Lord Jesus Christ, did explicitly teach us, and the Symbol (i.e., Creed) of the Fathers has imparted the matter to us.” On the other hand, this Council annulled and invalidated the Latrocinium (or Robber Synod) which had previously been assembled in Ephesus A.D. 448, at which Dioscorus presided, and spoke in defense of Eutyches, but the legates from the Bishop of Rome were not listened to, while St. Flavian of Constantinople, after being kicked and beaten with many whips, died. In this Council (Act 8) blessed Theodoret said: “Anathema to Nestorius, and to whoever refuses to call Mary the Holy Theotokos and whoever divides the one and only-begotten Son.” In addition he also anathematized Eutyches, and every heresy, and after subscribing to all that had been decreed and adopted by the Council, he was justified and took the seat assigned to him in the Council, and undertook the representation of his province. Besides all these matters, the present Council also issued and promulgated the present thirty Canons, which are to be found in its Act 15, ratified and confirmed by name and definitely by c. II of the Sixth, and indefinitely by c. I of the Seventh; which Canons are necessary for the decorum and constitutional organization of the Church. As for the Minutes of the present Council, they are divided into three volumes. The first volume contains various letters and the transactions endorsed in Constantinople by Flavian, and those endorsed in Ephesus by the Latrocinium (or Robber Synod). The second volume comprises the sixteen Acts of this same Council which was held in Chalcedon. The third volume contains various letters of the Council and of the Emperors, and some other matters which were done after it was held and which related to it. (See Dositheus, from p. 331 to p. 397; and the second volume of the Conciliar Records.)
 Marcianus was a brother-in-law of Theodosius the Little by the latter’s sister Pulcheria, whom he took as his wife but with whom he had no intercourse. For she lived as a virgin to the end of her life, according to Evagrius (book 2, ch. 1 of his Ecclesiastical History). Not only did Marcianus, but also Pulcheria too, along with him, take å ia too, along with him, tafcepains to assemble the present Council. Present at this Council were both of those who at the Sixth Council sat upon the thrones in front of the chancel.
 For, were there but one nature in Christ, it would have to be either divine or human, or else neither divine nor human, but something else than either. Accordingly, if it were divine, where was the human? But if human, how could it be claimed that those saying this were not deniers of the divinity? Or, on the other hand, if it were something else than either, how could it be said that Christ was not being reformed of a different nature than the nature of the Father; and of a different nature than the nature of human beings? Than which could there be anything more recusant or more foolish? Than their saying, in other words, that the God Logos became a human being only to corrupt His own divine nature and assume the human nature? These things are what Photius says in opposing the recusancy of the Monophysites in the case of the Fourth Ec. C.
 This holy St. Leo (whose memory the Church celebrates on February 18th) sent this letter to St. Flavian of Constantinople against the Monophysites. They say, moreover, that after composing it he placed it upon the tomb of the holy Apostle St. Peter, and with fasting and while keeping vigil, and with a prayer he begged St. Peter if there were any mistakes in the letter to correct it. The Apostle then appeared to him in person and said to him, “I have corrected it.” The excerpt from that letter which treats theologically of the two natures of Christ and of the one substance of Christ in a manner at once exact and sublime, reads as follows, word for word: “For each form operates with the concurrent communion of the other, which had the characteristic peculiarity of the Logos functioning to bring about that which is of the Logos, while the body executes that which is of the body. Accordingly, the one of them shines through in miracles, whereas the other succumbed to abuse, when ill treated and insulted. Accordingly, just as the Logos is inseparable from the Father’s glory, so and in like manner His body did not let go and give up the nature of our human genus. For truly it may be said that He is one and the same Son of God, and one and the same son of man. He is a God in this respect, to wit, that in the beginning He was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God; while He is a human being, on the other hand, in this respect, to wit, that the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us.” Hence when this letter was read aloud at the present Council, the Fathers shouted: “That is the Faith of the Fathers; that is the Faith of the Apostles. St. Peter uttered these things through Leo.” That is why it also called that letter a pillar of Orthodoxy. Sophronius of Jerusalem also writes about this letter to the effect that Bishop Theodore (whose bishopric was in Libya), who was cubicularius of the Patriarch of Alexandria Eulogius, beheld in his sleep a tall man deserving much honor and reverence, who told him, “Convey word to Pope Eulogius that the Pope of Rome Leo has come in order to meet him in person.” Theodore lost no time in hastening to the Patriarch, and told him what had been said. Thus, then, the two Popes met each other and exchanged greetings; and in a short while Leo said to Eulogius: “Do you know why I came? I came in order to thank you because you very well understood my letter and interpreted it correctly. Know, then, that you did me a great favor, and not a favor to me, but also to the chief Apostle Peter.” Upon saying these words, he disappeared and vanished. In the morning Theodore recounted this fact to Eulogius; and the latter, weeping, thanked God, who had made him a preacher of the truth (Dositheus, p. 527, of the Dodecabiblus). This man Eulogius lived during the reign of Emperor Mauricius.
But inasmuch as the Papists (i.e., Roman Catholics) wrongly conclude from this letter that the Pope is entitled to be the monarch of the whole world and to have charge of all ecclesiastical councils and synods, we retort as follows. First, that although this letter is in truth a most orthodox epistle, yet it was not accepted by this Council simply as it happened to come to notice, but was first examined as to whether it was in agreement with the Creed of the First and Second Councils, and with the transactions adopted by the Third Council under the chairmanship of Cyril; and only after it was found to be in complete agreement therewith was it signed by the prelates in the fourth act of the present Council. Secondly, that just as this letter was called a pillar of Orthodoxy in the Fourth Ec. C., so and in like manner at the Seventh Ec. C. the letters sent to Tarasius by the prelates of the East were described as a column of piety, while the letter of Tarasius to the Easterners was called a definition of Orthodoxy (Act fourth of the Seventh Council). But a pillar of Orthodoxy, a column of piety, and a definition of Orthodoxy are simply designations of one and the same thing. I need scarcely say that Leo’s letter was not called simply a pillar, but a pillar of Orthodoxy, since there are also other pillars of Orthodoxy: the letter of Tarasius was called simply a definition of Orthodoxy; and the letters of the Easterners were called simply a column of piety. Thirdly, that just after Leo’s letter was read aloud the Council shouted, “That is the faith of the Fathers,” so and in like manner after the minutes of the First and Second Councils were read aloud, they shouted, “That is the faith of Orthodox Christians; thus do we all believe.” And when Cyril’s letter was read aloud, the Council said: “Leo and Anatolius believe thus, and we ourselves believe thus. Cyril believes thus; blessed be the memory of Cyril.” And I have to add also this fact too, that after the letter of Leo was read aloud the Council also added this: “Cyril believed thus. The Pope has thus interpreted it.” And again: “Leo taught, Cyril taught thus. Leo and Cyril taught the same things alike.” Fourthly and lastly, that the Third Council made Cyril’s letter to Nestorius a definition of its own; and see in the Preface to the Third Ec. C. But the Fourth Council did not make Leo’s letter a definition of its own, in spite of the fact that the legates of Rome made strenuous efforts to this end; instead, it said that there could be no other definition. The definition confirmed the letter. All that was added to the definition from the letter was merely the assertion that the two natures are united indivisibly and unconfusably in Christ. Hence as a result of all these facts the imagined monarchical office of the Pope is demolished and refuted, and it is shown that the Pope, even when his beliefs are strictly Orthodox, can be judged and examined by an Ecumenical Council, which is the final and supreme judge in the Church. Concerning this see the first Footnote to the Prolegomena of the First Ec. C.
 By way of giving a clearer notion of the two natures inconvertibly and unconfusably united in Christ, it appeared to me advisable to add here the interpretation set forth by Theodore the presbyter of Raithos and included in the Bibliotheca of the Fathers, because it is in truth a most theologically perfect work (Dositheus, p. 469 of the Dodecabiblus). It runs as follows: “Orthodox Christians confess the two natures to be essentially united, the union being one which respects the hypostasis, yet in such a way as to be unrupturable and unconfusable (explanation of the definition). The expression ‘two natures’ denotes the difference in kind and the difference in essence of the two conjoined natures, which are, to wit, the previously existent divinity and the humanity assumed at a later time. The term “essentially” denotes the absence of co-operative good will, or, in less ambiguous words, the fact of not being the result of a special grace, or of some particular activity, or out of consideration of merit or worth, or by way of allotting an equality of honor or recognition of peerage, or the tracing of a relation or establishment of a reference, or the limitation of power, or any other relative union (such as Nestorius used to allege); but, on the contrary, admitting it to be actually and really consubsistent and compositive itself in point of essence and substance in the sense of substratum. The expression “the union being one which respects the hypostasis” denotes the fact that the humanity had not been previously created and molded into shape, and that the divinity had not come after it, but, on the contrary, that at the very point of subsistence of the first principle and beginning of existence it was (already) united to the divinity — (for at the very same time while it was created and molded into shape as flesh, it was also at the same time flesh of the God Logos, according to another theologian). The terms “unrupturably” and “unconfusably” used together signify the fact that the two natures when combined together did not undergo any innovation or modification of any kind on account of the union, but, on the contrary, the union is one which is preserved throughout eternally and alike, and each of the two natures remains undiminished in strict conformity with the essential definition and discourse.” Hence from this interpretation we learn that wherever the fathers call the union of the two natures in connection with Christ a union with respect to nature or a natural union, they are not employing the adjective natural with any implication that the union of the humanity, or human nature, in connection with Christ took place in nature, or in accordance with nature. God forbid! For if this had been the case in reality, there would necessarily have resulted from the two natures a single composite nature, which was the recusant belief of the Monophysites, and not the Orthodox belief of the catholic Church, which dogmatizes that the two natures of Christ were united, not in accordance with nature, or in nature, but, on the contrary, with respect to hypostasis, and in the hypostasis of the God Logos. That is why there is but one hypostasis of Christ composed of the two natures, distinguished as the divinity and the humanity. Instead, with the adjective natural and with the phrase according to nature or with respect to nature, the Fathers make it clear that this union truly and actually and really took place, as the aforesaid Theodore of Raithos interpreted the matter, and in an exceptionally and especially apposite discourse so did superlatively divine Cyril of Alexandria, the clarion interpreter of this inenarrable and inconceivable union. For in his third Anathematization he said: “If anyone in reference to the one Christ divides the hypostasis (or, otherwise speaking, the existential and subsistential natures, or, that is to say, actual natures or real natures) after the union, by conjoining them with a conjunction alone, as depending upon merit or value or worth, or, more specifically, authority or dynasty, and not indeed rather attributing it to the coalescence resulting from a natural union, let him be anathema.” After, I say, he uttered these words, he went to explain in the course of the sequel to this anathematization and in offering an apology (i.e., plea in defense thereof) in reply to the objection of the Easterners, and in his apology in refutation of the argument of Theodoret, and in the three parts together, to the effect that the natural union he had spoken of denotes the true and actual and real union: and in illustration of his meaning he cited that Apostolic saying that “and (we) were by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3), instead of saying “and we were truly children of wrath.” Some other theologians, however, interpret this natural union as being intended to mean a hypostatic, or substantive, union, on the basis of a conception that the word substance or (hypostasis) is also defined to denote essence, and nature together with permanent peculiarities by those discussing theological matters or philosophical questions, and especially by the Seventh Ec. C. in its Act 6.
 Note that Eutyches at one time used to say that the flesh of the Lord was not of the same essence, or co-essential, with the Mother, nor with us, while at other times he used to say that before the union, true enough, there were two natures in Christ, but after the union only one. Wherefore they used to say that Christ consisted of two natures, before the union, that is to say, but not also in two natures, after the union, that is to say. And it was for this reason that this Council asserted in its definition above that Christ is of the like (or same) essence with the Father as respecting divinity and of like (or the same) essence with us as respecting humanity. From this Monophysite named Eutyches, as from some many-headed Hydra, there grew up thereafter numerous heresies. For instance: The Theopaschites, who used to say “The one crucified for us is holy and immortal,” of whom the chief leader was Peter Knapheus (concerning whom see c. LXXXI of the 6th). For, according to the Monophysites, humanity was converted into divinity. So the entire Holy Trinity underwent suffering — oh, spare us, O Lord! — since Godhood was but of one nature. That is why the bemused heretics uttered this blasphemy even to the Holy Trinity which is lauded in the Thrice-holy Hymn. From the Monophysites arose the Severians, led by a man named Severus, who was a monk and became Bishop of Antioch. From these heretics sprang a group known as Jacobites, led by a certain man of Syros called Jacobus and of base extraction, named Zanzalus, or Tzantzalos, who also became the leader of the heresy of the Armenians. From them arose the Gaianites, their leader Gaianus being a follower of the heresy of Julian, a bishop of Halicarnassus, by whom he was also ordained Bishop of Alexandria. These heretics used to say that Christ was entirely impassive, or, in Greek, apathes, on which account they styled Apathites, though John Damascene calls them Egyptians, whom the Copts also followed. From the roots of the Monophysites there sprouted thereafter also the heresy of the Monotheletes. For if, according to them, there was but one nature in Christ, it followed as a matter of course that this single nature had but a single will too. From them arose the Agnoites, whose leader was Themistius. These persons used to assert that Christ was ignorant of the day of judgment (i.e., that He did not know precisely when it would be in the future). They had split off, according to John Damascene, from the Theodosian Monophysites. From them came the Tritheites, who in connection with the Holy Trinity were wont to assert a common essence and nature, individualized as in the case of three human beings. Their leader was John Alexandreus the Philoponus. All Monophysites used to be called in a word Acephali, or headless men, in allusion to the fact that they had split off from the Patriarch of Alexandria named Mongus either because, as Leonius says, he did not anathematize the Fourth Ec. C., or because they used to hold various unorthodox assemblies and perform unorthodox baptisms, and used to do other things in the way of innovations and schisms, as Nicephorus Callistus states, or because there arose a schism in their midst between Severus and Julian concerning perishability and imperishability, and some of them followed the one, and some the other leader. Accordingly, it may be said, generally speaking they were called Acephali because of the fact that they did not pay allegiance to any one head, but some to one, and some to another leader, and split into groups differing from one another and from the Church. (See the discussion in Dositheus, p. 470 of the Dodecabiblus, and the discussions by other writers.) All the Monophysites and Theopaschites refused to accept the icon (or picture) of Christ, according to Act 6 of the Seventh Ec. C., because they maintained that the nature therein described and depicted as that of His humanity had been mingled and converted into the nature His divinity. But the criticism made by Alamundarus, the chief of the Saracens, was a joke. For this fellow, after becoming a Christian, seeing that Severus sent two bishops with a view to enticing him into his heresy, wishing to rebuke them, said: “But know ye not that they have sent me letters and therein the writers of them declare unto me that the Archangel Michael died?” The bishops of Severus replied to him that it was impossible for that thing to have happened. Then Alamundarus in reply said: “And if Christ hath not two natures, as you say, how could He have died and have suffered on the Cross? Since His divinity is impassive, and does not die (Dositheus, p. 424 of the Dodecabiblus).
previous | next