By Fr. John Romanides
I. The cure of the sickness of religion and the Nine Roman Ecumenical Councils
and the General Church Councils since 1453.
1. Religion is a neurobiological sickness with a specific cure which has been handed down by the prophets and apostles of the Old and New Testaments and preserved by the Fathers of the Church whose tradition of cure was defended by the Nine Roman Ecumenical Councils. These Councils were convened by the Roman Emperor, beginning with Constantine the Great, in coordination with the Roman Patriarchates of Elder Rome, New Rome, Alexandria, Antioch and finally Jerusalem by 451. These Councils are (1) Nicea 325, (2) Constantinople 381, (3) Ephesus 431, (4) Chalcedon 451, (5) Constantinople 553, (6) Constantinople 680, (7) Nicea 786/7, (8) Constantinople 879 and (9) Constantinople 1341. We have here Eight Ecumenical Councils which were promulgated as Roman Law by the signature of the Emperor after their minutes had been signed by the Five Roman Patriarchates and their Metropolitans and bishops. Then we have the Ninth Ecumenical Council of 1341, whose minutes were signed by only Four Roman Patriarchates and countersigned by the Roman Emperor. Gone was now the Patriarchate of Elder Rome which had been forcefully captured by the Franks, Lombards, Germans and with the help of the Normans. This struggle began in intensity in 983 and was consummated in 1009-1046. After 1045 the Popes of Rome, except for Benedict X (1058-9), were no longer Romans, but members of the Franco-Latin nobility who enslaved the Roman population. At the time of the Revolution of 1789 the Gallo-Roman slave population of France was 85 % of the total.
2. The leadership of the Roman Empire had come to realize that religion is a sickness whose cure was the heart and core of the Christian tradition they had been persecuting. These astute Roman leaders changed their policy having realized that this cure should be accepted by as many Roman citizens as possible. Led by Constantine the Great, Roman leaders adopted this cure in exactly the same way that today’s governments adopt modern medicine in order to protect their citizens from quack doctors. But in this case what was probably as important as the cure was the possibility of enriching society with citizens who were replacing the morbid quest for happiness with the selfless love of glorification (theosis) dedicated to the common good.
3. The current idea among many Orthodox that an Ecumenical Council becomes finally official when it is recognized by a subsequent Ecumenical Council has no basis in Roman Law. Each such Council became Roman law the moment when its minutes were signed on the spot by the participating Patriarchal and Metropolitan Synods and countersigned by the Emperor himself. Heretics and their heresies were condemned on the spot and not at a subsequent Ecumenical Council. Their Creeds and Horoi became Roman law on the spot. The Creed of 381 became the Orthodox Creed on the spot in 381 and not in 431 which simply repeated the Creed of 381 as did each subsequent Ecumenical Council.
4. The Emperor convened these Ecumenical Councils in conjunction with the Five Roman Patriarchates of a) Elder Rome, b) Constantinople New Rome, c) Alexandria, d) Antioch to which e) Jerusalem was added in 451. But between 1009 and 1046 the Franco-Germans created a serious crisis in this Roman tradition when they captured and took over the Patriarchate of Elder Rome during a struggle which began in 983 and was consummated in 1009. The Patriarchate of Constantinople New Rome was obliged to take the place of Elder Rome in the order of "Seniority of Honor" which she held legally anyway since 451 "equally with and after Rome," having become New Rome in 330.
5. There are no primacies nor primates according to Roman Orthodox Canon Law, but only bishops with "Seniority of Honor" since all bishops are doctrinally equal. The Franco-Latin and Protestant translations of "Seniority of honor" by "primacy of honor" is theirs, not ours.
II. Charlemagne condemned the Roman Empire as heretical and Greek in 794 and 809. His so-called Greek Empire was made over into a Byzantine Empire by the British, French and Russian Empires as part of their plans for Balkanization of the European part of the Ottoman Empire still being called ‘The Land of the Romans’ i.e. Roumeli.
6. Charlemagne condemned the Romans as heretics on the question of Icons and as "Greeks" (the latter meaning pagan at the time) at his Council of Frankfurt in 794, indeed in the presence of the legates of Pope Hadrian the staunch supporter of the Seventh Ecumenical Council on Icons. Charlemagne repeated his condemnation of the Romans, now being called "Greeks," and still meaning pagan since 794, at his Council of Aachen in 809. Believe it or not, this illiterate barbarian had the gall to condemn the Romans as heretics for refusing to accept his Filioque which he had added to the Roman Creed which had been composed at the Roman Second Ecumenical Council by some of the greatest Fathers of the Church in 381. At the time Charlemagne’s so-called specialists knew not one Father of an Ecumenical Council. They knew only the writings of Augustine who had never studied a Father of an Ecumenical Council. However, the Filioque of Augustine, like that of Ambrose, is in any case Orthodox. But it cannot be used in the specific creed of 381 because there the term ‘procession’ means the hypostatic individuality of the Holy Spirit, whereas in the West Roman Orthodox Filioque ‘procession’ of the Holy Spirit from the Father and Son means ‘communion’ of the uncreated common essence. In the Creed of 381 the term ‘procession’ means only ‘hypostatic individuality.’
III. Roman Orthodoxy after 1453
7. After the Roman Emperor and Empire fell in 1453 the Four Roman Patriarchates of Constantinople New Rome, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem continued to convene Church Councils which continued the tradition of the Ecumenical Councils. The only reason why these Councils are not called "Ecumenical" is simply that this title means "Imperial" since the decisions of these Ecumenical Councils became part of Roman Law. In other words the decisions of the Roman Councils after 1453 are part of Church Law, but no longer part of Imperial law. There was no longer a Roman Empire and Roman Emperor to enact Roman law. So these Nine Ecumenical Councils are at the same time both Church Law and Roman Law. The Councils convened after 1453 are part of Church Law and with no less authority than Ecumenical Councils, except in the imagination of modern Orthodox misled by the Russian Orthodoxy of Peter the Great.
8. So there are now Orthodox who even called themselves the Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. Most Orthodox are in a state of limbo about the Eighth and Ninth Ecumenical Councils. The Eighth Ecumenical Council of 879 simply condemned those who either "add to" or "subtract from" the Creed of 381 and also those who have not yet accepted the teaching of the Seventh Ecumenical Council about Icons. The Franks condemned were not mentioned at the time in order to allow them to reconsider.
9. The Ninth Ecumenical Council of 1341 condemned the Platonic mysticism of Barlaam the Calabrian who had come from the West as a convert to Orthodoxy. Of course the rejection of a Platonic type of mysticism was traditional practice for the Fathers. But what the Fathers of this Council were completely shocked at was Barlaam’s claim that God reveals His will by bringing into existence creatures to be seen and heard and which He passes back into non existence after His revelation has been received. One of these supposed creatures was the Angel of the Lord Himself Who appeared to Moses in the burning bush. For the Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils this Angel is the uncreated Logos Himself. This unbelievable nonsense of Barlaam turned out to be that of Augustine himself (see e.g. his De Tinitate, Books A and B) and of the whole Franco-Latin tradition till today.
10. The legal acts of Ecumenical Councils were taken within the context that religion is a sickness with a specific cure. The political aspect of the decisions of Church Councils can be compared to what modern states are doing with medical science and related fields. Within such a context heretics are to be compared with quack doctors who promise cure but do not produce. From this perspective heretics are simply quack doctors. The reason that Catholics and Protestants do not understand this Roman tradition is that they are quack doctors themselves like most Orthodox today. For these three groups heresies are supposedly teachings which are not biblical simply because they do not agree with their prevailing Augustinian understanding of Scripture and Tradition. Unfortunately this is true about many, if not most, Orthodox so-called Biblical scholars today.