Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Basis of the Acceptance of the Tome of Leo (Fr. John Romanides)


By Rev. Dr. John Romanides

Returning to Leo's Tome it is important to point out that at Chalcedon it was accepted only as a document against the heresy of Eutyches, in spite of the fact that both Leo and his legates believed it to be a good statement against Nestorius also. It is even more important to keep in mind that during its reading at Session II [of the Fourth Ecumenial Council] the three now famous Nestorian sounding passages were each one challenged as the document was being read. During each interruption it was attacked and defended by the use of parallel passages from Cyril. After what must have been a somewhat stormy and long debate, bishop Atticos of Nikopolis in Old Epirus, Greece, made the motion that time out be taken to give the assembly the opportunity to carefully compare Leo's Tome with the Twelve Chapters of Cyril in order to make sure of what they were approving. The imperial representatives chairing the meeting gave the bishops five days in which to do this and suggested the formation of a committee under the presidency of Anatolius, Patriarch of Constantinople. The committee reported back at the fourth session, at the beginning of which the imperial and senatorial representatives declared the unswerving faith of the emperor in the expositions of Nicaea, Constantinople, and Ephesus with its approval of the two canonical letters of Cyril, i.e., the Second and Third to Nestorius. This profession of the imperial faith had been made also at the end of Session I, and now in anticipation of the committee's report on the question of Leo s agreement with Cyril's Twelve Chapters it was repeated. The committee report was included in the minutes in the form of a listing of the individual opinions of its members, all of whom expressed their belief that Leo's Tome agreed with Nicaea, Ephesus, and the letter of Cyril. Most of the bishops mentioned the (one) letter of Cyril, which cannot be any other than the Twelve Chapters since this was the one the Illyrians and Palestinians were concerned about as is clear from the motion of the Illyrian Atticos which initiated the careful comparison of Leo's Tome with the letter of Cyril. Some of the members mentioned their belief that the Tome agreed with the two letters of Cyril, dearly referring to the ones of Ephesus mentioned as part of the imperial faith. It is extremely interesting to note that among the similar individual opinions given by the rest of the Assembly and recorded in the minutes is that of none other than Theodoret of Cyrus, who claims that he finds the Tome of Leo in agreement with the letters of Cyril and the Council of Ephesus, certainly a tremendous leap from his position just before the Council. In the light of his strong hesitation at Session VIII to anathematize Nestorius, a hesitation which infuriated the assembly, one wonders about his sincerity, especially since he tried to defend his former acts by an exposition of how he never taught two Sons. He was interrupted by shouts of "Nestorian".

The acceptance of Leo's Tome in the light of and in subordination to the letters of Cyril is also clearly contained in the Chalcedonian definition itself. It is declared that the Council accepts the Synodical (the Third letter to Nestorius is titled synodical, or since this is in the plural it could be a reference to the two of Ephesus, which in the minutes are called canonical, plus the one to John) letters of Cyril to Nestorius and to those of the East, "and to which (epistles) it reasonably adapted the letter of Leo ... (epistolas... hais kai ten epistolen tou Leontos... eikotos syncrmose...)." This is not a balance between Cyril and Leo, as many scholars would have us believe. Leo became very sensitive about the doubts raised about his tome, and especially disturbed did he become over determined opposition in certain quarters like Palestine where Juvenal was deposed for accepting the Tome. In a letter to Julian of Cos (cxvli, 3) in which he shows much concern with accusations of heresy against himself, he writes that,..."if they think there is any doubt about our teaching, let them at least not reject the writings of such holy priests as Athanasius, Theophilus and Cyril of Alexandria, with whom our statement of the faith so completely harmonizes that anyone who professes consent to them disagrees in nothing with us." No one can doubt the sincerity with which Leo wanted to be in agreement with those Alexandrine Fathers, but his defense of Theodoret compromised him. In a letter to the now restored Bishop of Cyrus he chides Theodoret for the tardy way in which he anathematized Nestorius (cxx, 5), yet in his opening remarks of this very same letter he speaks of "the victory you [Theodoret] and we together had won by assistance from on high over the blasphemy of Nestorius, as well as over the madness of Eutyches." Dioscoros relationship to Eutyches may have some parallels.

The Chalcedonian definition also speaks of itself as preserving the order and all the decrees concerning the Faith passed by the Holy Synod held formerly at Ephesus.... From Ibas ad Marim Persam and from the minutes of the Johannine Council of Ephesus, we learn that the Antiochenes rejected the Cyrillian Council of Ephesus and damned Cyril because the heretical Twelve Chapters had been accepted. In this same letter Ibas (as were many of Cyril's friends and Theodoret) was under the impression that Cyril abandoned his Ephesine position in his reconciliation with John in 433. However, Ibas stated at his trial in Byretus in 449 that Paul of Emessa had accepted the Alexandrine bishops interpretation of the Twelve Chapters as Cyril had accepted the confession of the Easterners. It is in the light of this that one should read the letter of John to the bishops of Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople (the order of the letter) in which he announces Antioch's acceptance of Nestorius excommunication and the Council of Ephesus. It is impossible to accept the opinion of many that Cyril laid aside his Twelve Chapters for the sake of a reconciliation with John. As an individual he had no authority whatsoever to modify the decisions of an Ecumenical Council and there is no evidence to substantiate this supposition. Although the Endemousa Synod of Constantinople seems to have overemphasized the Cyrillian allowances of 433, it accepted the Twelve Chapters as part of Ephesus which it approved in toto.

In the light of the evidence it is clear that Cyril's Third letter to Nestorius, including the Twelve Chapters, was not repudiated by Chalcedon as many claim. On the contrary, the Twelve Chapters were used as the very basis of the Council's attitudes toward Nestorianism and Leo's Tome. It is too bad that the Chalcedonians themselves present at the Council of 531 in Constantinople did not fully realize the crucial role played at Chalcedon by Cyill's Twelve Chapters. Their answer to Severus accusation that the Twelve Chapters were laid aside in 451 was that it was accepted and approved as part of Ephesus I. This, of course, is incontestable, but not anywhere near the reality of the matter. The significance of the use made of the Twelve Chapters at Chalcedon should be obvious enough to those who claim that they fail to find the terms characteristic of Cyrillian Christology in the definition. Groundless also are the theories (brought forward by many Protestant and Roman Catholic scholars embarrassed by the Cyrillianism of the Fifth Ecumenical Council) concerning an alleged Neo-Chalcedonian movement which was supposed to have put Leo's Tome aside and returned to the Twelve Chapters of Ephesus I, especially to the twelfth anathema. The truth of the matter is that in pronouncing anathema on those who do not accept the Twelve Chapters of Cyril, the Fifth Ecumenical Council of 553 is simply repeating what was done at Ephesus in 431 and again at Chalcedon in 451.

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