September 21, 2021

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

 Homilies on the Ecumenical Synods

The Sixth Ecumenical Synod (680-681 A.D.)

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou 

When one reads Church history, beloved brethren, one realizes that there are living spiritual organisms, that is, members of the Church, as were the great Fathers, who lived the mystery of theosis, which means that they participated in various stages of the uncreated purifying, illuminating and divinizing energies of God. At the same time there were other contemplative theologians who tried to theologize in a philosophical way. This created a big problem for the Church.

Also, what one sees is that, unfortunately, politics enters the Church in different ways, which is why some emperors tried to reconcile things, to find some way with a few phrases to unite the Orthodox with the heretics. This was what we might call ecclesiastical and theological diplomacy.

After the Fifth Ecumenical Synod, at which Monophysitism was condemned, that is, the Christians who did not accept the decisions of the Third and Fourth Ecumenical Synods and formed their own communities, the emperors of the Roman Empire sought ways to unite all the Christians, with the purpose of cutting off the Arabic onslought. That is, the emperors believed that if they reconciled with the Monophysites of Egypt and Syria, they would defend themselves against the Muslim Arabs, instead of surrendering without battle because of the differences in their faith with the Orthodox.

Thus, at first, Emperor Heraclius wanted to reconcile things and consulted with the Patriarch of Constantinople Sergius, who argued that in Christ there are two natures, which are united "inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably" in one person, as was decided at the Fourth Ecumenical Synod, but he added that Christ had one will and energy.

Then, in 638, Emperor Heraclius issued a decree, called the "Ekthesis", which imposed this teaching, that in Christ there is one energy, one will, and at the same time forbade any discussion on this issue.

The Patriarch of Jerusalem, Saint Sophronios, then reacted to this heretical teaching, and then Saint Maximus the Confessor. The Orthodox teaching on this subject is that every nature has both its own energy and its own will, therefore it cannot be argued that while there are two natures in Christ, nevertheless there is one will. This means that the will is an appetite of nature and not of the hypostasis-person. Thus, the Church spoke of a natural will and not of a hypostatic will. Of course, the will is expressed through the person, but it is natural and not hypostatic.

Emperor Constans, in order to stop the reactions, issued another decree, in 648, which was called the "Typos" by which he forbade talking about one or two wills in Christ, and thus canceled the "Ekthesis" of Heraclius, where he imposed one will and forbade any discussion on this issue. However, this theological problem could not be limited to diplomacy and silence.

That is why the Sixth Ecumenical Synod was convened by Emperor Constantine the Bearded in Constantinople in the year 680-681, which was presided over by Patriarch George of Constantinople and present were representatives of the Pope of Rome. This Synod condemned Monoenergism, that says in Christ there is one energy, and Monothelitism, that says in Christ there is one will. Thus, according to the Orthodox teaching, in Christ as there are two natures united in one person, there are two energies and two wills, divine and human, which do not oppose each other, since they act in the same person, but the human will follows and submits to the divine and almighty will.

This teaching is a consequence of the experience of the Apostles and the Fathers, who know that Christ is the God-man, who has two natures and consequently has two energies and wills. His human energy is created, because human nature is created, and His divine energy is uncreated, because the divine nature is uncreated. Thus, in Christ the created was united with the uncreated, but one is the person of Christ.

This will be analyzed even more later by Saint Gregory Palamas and the Hesychast Fathers, who confessed from their experience that people participate in the uncreated energy of God and not His nature.

This fact shows that theological issues are the fruit of spiritual experience and cannot be trapped in diplomacy and politics. The Fathers of the Church, as Saint Maximus the Confessor did in this matter, fought to the death, with imprisonment and abuse, in order not to accept the entry of diplomacy into the Church and into Orthodox theology.

We owe them much and thank them for their teaching, their work, and their sacrifices.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.