February 17, 2016

Photios the Great and the Eighth Ecumenical Synod (5 of 7)

Emperor Basil I the Macedonian (867-886)

c) The Primacy of the Pope

Previously we showed how the West expressed the Primacy of the Pope. He was not viewed as having primacy of honor, but as the Primate of the Pentarchy system, a primacy of jurisdiction, with the attempt of the Pope to impose his views throughout the Church, considering himself to have canonical management and responsibility over it.

The legates of the Pope at the Synod tried to pass on the view that only the Apostle Peter and his successors have received the authority from Christ to "bind and loose", and they have the primary responsibility over the entire Church. Within this perspective the Pope is the only source of the priesthood, and this is why Patriarch Photios had no authority as a pontif, unless it came from the Pope. In the Minutes of the Synod it shows that the Pope viewed himself above the Synod, and he was the one to specify the decisions and ratify them. Even in the letter which the Pope wrote in Latin addressed to the Synod to put forward the issue of Photios, he gave a mandate for Photios to ask forgiveness for the problems he created in the Church, and in this way the Pope truly put himself above the other Patriarchs.

This concept of Papal Primacy, which was developed in the first millennium by the Pope, did not pass in the Eighth Ecumenical Synod. Photios the Great had crystallized his views based on the canonical teachings of the Church and this was the decision that was passed in the Synod.

Patriarch Photios had acknowledged the primacy of honor that belonged to the Pope, which is why he called him brother, co-liturgist and spiritual father. But this primacy of honor is not over the Church, nor over the synodical system of the Church. The primacy of the Pope is one of ministry to bring unity to the Church and this is expressed through self-emptying sacrifice, just as we see in the work of the incarnation of Christ.

Indeed in the 1st Canon that was drafted at the Eighth Ecumenical Synod, during its Fifth Session, there is mention of the privileges of the Church of Old Rome: "Nothing, however, shall affect the seniority due to the most holy throne of the Church of the Romans, nor shall anything redound to the detriment of her president, as touching the sum-total of innovations, either now or at any time hereafter."

Thus, while acknowledging the primacy of the Bishop of Old Rome, this must function within the Church as a primacy of ministry and honor, and not as a primacy of jurisdiction and which is above the Synod. Even in this case we must apply the 34th Apostolic Canon. And this of course means that the western "Church" will return to the Orthodox Church after having eliminated all its heretical teachings and other innovations.

d) The Filioque

In the Sixth Session of the Synod the doctrinal issue of the Filioque was discussed.

It is known from other analyses that the Filioque, the view that that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son, was introduced by the Franks and even the Popes of Old Rome initially resisted it. It is also known that the Frankish missionaries in Bulgaria, along with liturgical customs, introduced the addition of the Filioque into the Symbol of Faith. During this Ecumenical Synod we are studying (879-880), this doctrinal issue was also discussed.

This issue was suggested by Emperor Basil on the ground that they had to come together "in harmony and deep peace", and they had to read the horos with an ecclesiastical mindset "not with something new and private, but as it was established by the Holy and Great Synod of Nicaea." Here he speaks of the new and private horos of the Filioque by the Franks in the Symbol of Faith. The Fathers of the Synod agreed with this proposal, the representatives of Old Rome and Patriarch Photios.

Then the Symbol of Faith was read, as established by the First and Second Ecumenical Synods. And after the reading the entire "holy gathering cried out":

"Thus we think, in this confession of faith we were we baptized, through this the one word of truth proved that every heresy is broken to pieces and canceled out. We enroll as brothers and fathers and coheirs of the heavenly city those who think thus. If anyone, however, dares to rewrite and call Rule of Faith some other exposition besides that of the sacred Symbol which has been spread abroad from above by our blessed and holy Fathers even as far as ourselves, and to snatch the authority of the confession of those divine men and impose on it his own invented phrases and put this forth as a common lesson to the faithful or to those who return from some kind of heresy, and display the audacity to falsify completely the antiquity of this sacred and venerable Horos (Rule) with illegitimate words, or additions, or subtractions, such a person should, according to the vote of the Holy and Ecumenical Synods, which has been already acclaimed before us, be subjected to complete defrocking if he happens to be one of the clergymen, or be sent away with an anathema if he happens to be one of the lay people."

Then Patriarch Photios proposed - if it so pleased the Fathers of the Synod - that the Emperor sign, seal and ratify "all the synodical acts and ordinances". The Fathers then all cried out that not only were they pleased by this, but they also beseeched and entreated the Emperor that through his signature he would accept and seal all that was done at this Holy and Ecumenical Synod.

From this we can clearly see that this Synod of Photios the Great in 879-880 had all the characteristic features of an Ecumenical Synod. This is indicated mostly by the fact that the themes and decisions were doctrinal and ecclesiastical, the dominant figure was Photios the Great, who was a man moved by the Spirit, as is shown in his other writings, and present were all the representatives of the Patriarchates and of Old Rome, who also signed the decisions, while also it was convened by the Emperor, who ratified the Minutes of the Synod.

When one studies the Minutes of the Eighth Ecumenical Synod, they will find that the issues it addressed were doctrinal, such as the Filioque, and it ratified the decisions of the Seventh Ecumenical Synod; they were ecclesiastical, such as the primacy of and appeal to the Pope, the non-election of Bishops from the class of laymen, and the canonical jurisdiction of the province of Bulgaria. In other words, they were issues that dealt with the unity of the Eastern and Western Churches and the peace between the Churches. It also addressed various canonical issues.

At the same time, from the discussions that took place during the Eighth Ecumenical Synod, there appeared the difference between Eastern and Western Churches, which was the primary issue. That is, the Eastern Church sought to resolve serious theological issues, namely the unity between the Church and the condemnation of the Filioque, while the Western Church, which had become secularized, sought to resolve external issues, namely the recognition of the primacy of and appeal to the Pope, the removal of the "all at once" whereby a Bishop is ordained from the class of a layman, and the acquisition of canonical jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical province of Bulgaria. And it is obvious that the representatives of the Pope could not pass any of their positions, because this Synod was completely dominated by the ecclesiology of the Eastern Church, as we stated above.

Translated by John Sanidopoulos.