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Archive for October 4th, 2005

Orthodoxy, Chalcedonian and Non-Chalcedonian

Many Christians are familiar with the East-West Schism symbolically dated to A.D. 1054. Many are not familiar with the earlier separation of brethren over the heresy of Monophysitism (that Christ had only one nature) and the Chalcedonian Council with its definition of Christ having two natures.

As is being recognized, and has for some time, the Monophysite schism was one of misunderstanding and not one of substance. That is to say, the non-Chalcedonians do, in fact, understand the Person of Christ in the way the Church has always taught, but that hesitation and misunderstanding over some of the terminology has wrought not insignificant harm.

To assist in understanding some of the issues involved, take a look at the website Orthodox Unity – Supporting the Joint Commission and especially the First Agreed Statement of 1989:

We have inherited from our fathers in Christ the one apostolic faith and tradition, though as Churches we have been separated from each other for centuries. As two families of Orthodox Churches long out of communion with each other we now pray and trust in God to restore that communion on the basis of the common apostolic faith of the undivided church of the first centuries which we confess in our common creed. What follows is a simple reverent statement of what we do believe on our way to restore communion between our two families of Orthodox Churches.

Throughout our discussions we have found our common ground in the formula of our common Father, St. Cyril of Alexandria : mia physis hypostasis (he mia hypostasis) tou Theou Logou sesarkomene, and in the dictum that “it is sufficient for the confession of our true and irreproachable faith to say and to confess that the Holy Virgin is Theotokos” (Hom : 15, cf. Ep. 39).

Great indeed is the wonderful mystery of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one True God, one ousia in three hypostases or three prosopa. Blessed be the Name of the Lord our God, for ever and ever.

Great indeed is also the ineffable mystery of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, for us and for our salvation.

The Logos, eternally consubstantial with the Father and the Holy Spirit in His Divinity, has in these last days, become incarnate of the Holy Spirit and Blessed Virgin Mary Theotokos, and thus became man, consubstantial with us in His humanity but without sin. He is true God and true Man at the same time, perfect in His Divinity, perfect in His humanity. Because the one she bore in her womb was at the same time fully God as well as fully human we call the Blessed Virgin Theotokos.

When we speak of the one composite (synthetos) hypostasis of our Lord Jesus Christ, we do not say that in Him a divine hypostasis and a human hypostasis came together. It is that the one eternal hypostasis of the Second Person of the Trinity has assumed our created human nature in that act uniting it with His own uncreated divine nature, to form an inseparably and unconfusedly united real divine-human being, the natures being distinguished from each other in contemplation (theoria) only.

The hypostasis of the Logos before the incarnation, even with His divine nature, is of course not composite. The same hypostasis, as distinct from nature, of the Incarnate Logos, is not composite either. The unique theandric person (prosopon) of Jesus Christ is one eternal hypostasis Who has assumed human nature by the Incarnation. So we call that hypostasis composite, on account of the natures which are united to form one composite unity. It is not the case that our Fathers used physis and hypostasis always interchangeably and confused the one with the other. The term hypostasis can be used to denote both the person as distinct from nature, and also the person with the nature, for a hypostasis never in fact exists without a nature.

It is the same hypostasis of the Second Person of the Trinity, eternally begotten from the Father Who in these last days became a human being and was born of the Blessed Virgin. This is the mystery of the hypostatic union we confess in humble adoration – the real union of the divine with the human, with all the properties and functions of the uncreated divine nature, including natural will and natural energy, inseparably and unconfusedly united with the created human nature with all its properties and functions, including natural will and natural energy. It is the Logos Incarnate Who is the subject of all the willing and acting of Jesus Christ.

We agree in condemning the Nestorian and the Eutychian heresies. We neither separate nor divide the human nature in Christ from His divine nature, nor do we think that the former was absorbed in the latter and thus ceased to exist.

The four adverbs used to qualify the mystery of the hypostatic union belong to our common tradition – without commingling (or confusion) (asyngchytos), without change (atreptos), without separation (achoristos) and without division (adiairetos). Those among us who speak of two natures in Christ, do not thereby deny their inseparable, indivisible union; those among us who speak of one united divine-human nature in Christ do not thereby deny the continuing dynamic presence in Christ of the divine and the human, without change, without confusion.

Our mutual agreement is not limited to Christology, but encompasses the whole faith of the one undivided church of the early centuries. We are agreed also in our understanding of the Person and Work of God the Holy Spirit, Who proceeds from the Father alone, and is always adored with the Father and the Son.

Take a look, also, at this article, “Monophysitism Reconsidered” by Fr. Matthias F. Wahba of St. Antonius Coptic Orthodox Church. From the text:

It is evident that both the Chalcedonians and non-Chalcedonians agree on the following points:

1- They all condemn and anathematize Nestorius, Apollinarius and Eutyches.

2- The unity of the divinity and humanity of Christ was realized from the moment of His conception, without separation or division and also without confusing or changing.

3- The manhood of Christ was real, perfect and had a dynamic presence.

4- Jesus Christ is one Prosopon and one Hypostasis in real oneness and not mere conjunction of natures; He is the Incarnate Logos of God.

5- They all accept the communicatio idiomatum (the communication of idioms), attributing all the deeds and words of Christ to the one hypostasis, the Incarnate Son of God.

I have very much to learn.

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