September 20, 2021

Homilies on the Ecumenical Synods - The Fifth Ecumenical Synod (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

Homilies on the Ecumenical Synods

The Fifth Ecumenical Synod (553 A.D.)

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou 

In the previous sermon, beloved brethren, we saw that the Church, through the Holy Fathers, in order to preserve the truth that Christ is perfect God and perfect man, from heretical theologians who were influenced by philosophy and used terms like essence, nature, hypostasis and person philosophically, with heretical meanings, came to decisions by divine inspiration on these matters with the same terms they used, to which they gave an orthodox meaning.

It is the Church's belief that Christ is perfect God and perfect man, having two natures, divine and human, which are united in one person "inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably". When each nature acted in the person of the Word, it acted in communion with the other nature, without becoming confused, changed, divided, or separated. This is a great mystery.

We see this in the Gospels. When Christ learned of the death of His friend Lazarus, He wept, that is, His human nature wept without being separated from the divine nature. And when He resurrected Lazarus, He resurrected him with His divine nature, without being separated from His human nature. Both natures work together in Christ. Christ is the God-man.

Saint John of Damascus used two examples to express this clearly. A piece of coal that is burning is still coal, but it has fire within it. The coal did not surround the fire, but the fire surrounded the coal from within. The other example is the knife that we put in the fire and it burns. The red-hot knife being still iron cuts, and since it is red hot it burns, but this is done by the red-hot object itself.

The Fathers of the Church determined in the Third and Fourth Ecumenical Synods this truth about the two natures in the one person of Christ.

There were, however, Bishops and Christian theologians, who did not accept these decisions and continued to misinterpret the writings of Saint Cyril of Alexandria and not to accept the phrase of the Third Ecumenical Synod - "of two natures" - thinking that nature here means hypostasis therefore in this way thinking the heresy of Nestorius is expressed. Thus, Emperor Justinian convened the Fifth Ecumenical Synod, in 553 AD in Constantinople, to further clarify these theological issues, in fact to address all these reservations to the previous decisions of the Ecumenical Synods, by Christians living within the borders of the Roman Empire.

The Ecumenical Synod condemned the "Three Chapters", that is, it condemned the texts of three heretics who had cacodox and heretical views. Specifically, it condemned the cacodox teaching of Theodore of Mopsuestia, the anti-Orthodox teachings of Theodoret of Cyrus, who had writings that were directed against Cyril of Alexandria and the Third Ecumenical Synod and supported Nestorius, and it condemned the Epistle of Ibas of Edessa which He sent to Maris and had heretical views.

The Fifth Ecumenical Synod then set out in an accurate manner the Orthodox teaching on the Person of Christ, which had been formulated by the Third and Fourth Ecumenical Synods. Indeed, when one reads the fourteen anathemas of this Synod, one realizes the serious work it has done.

Also, various problems had been created by the Origenists, that is, various Christians who subscribed to some of the views of Origen, which had been formulated by this teacher before the First Ecumenical Synod was convened. That is why the Fifth Ecumenical Synod condemned the cacodoxies of Origen, which had already been condemned individually the previous year. Among the cacodoxies mentioned are those that refer to the pre-existence of the soul, the apokatastasis, and other views.

We understand what a great effort our Holy Fathers made, how much they tried to preserve the revealed truth that the Triune God is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Trinity one in essence and without division; that Christ is true God and true man, of one essence with the Father in His divinity and of one essence with us in His humanity; that He is the Savior of men, and all else that refers to Orthodox truth and the salvation of men.

All this mystery which is incomprehensible to human reason, we live out in the Divine Liturgy, in which we glorify the Triune God, we glorify the incarnation of the Son and Word of God, we commune of the divinized Body of Christ after appropriate preparation, and we confess: "We have seen the true Light, we have received the heavenly Spirit; we have found the true faith, worshiping the undivided Trinity, for the Trinity has saved us."

This is our faith, this is our confession, this is our Church, this is our life.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.