September 17, 2021

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

  Homilies on the Ecumenical Synods

The Third Ecumenical Synod (431 A.D.)

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou 

Since the first two Ecumenical Synods were convened, beloved brethrens, and drafted the Symbol of Faith and normally the issues should have ended, but various philosophical theologians raised various theological issues and therefore this Synod took place in Ephesus in 431 AD by decision of Emperor Theodosius the Younger, with Saint Cyril of Alexandria as President of the Synod.

This Synod dealt with the heresy of Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, who argued that the Panagia should not be called Theotokos, but Christotokos, considering that the term Theotokos, like the phrase "Mother of God", have pagan origins. Therefore he would say that the Virgin Mary gave birth to the human Christ, while God "came forth from", "passed through" or "went through" her, but He was not bron from her as God. Nestorius said that it is wrong to say the Panagia is Theotokos, because she is not a goddess who gave birth to God.

This heretical view of the Panagia came from his heretical view of Christ. Nestorius, following other earlier heretics, was unable to accept that Christ is God and man, while being Himself one. He considered that the union of the two essences-hypostaseis is "relative" and not real, as two planks are joined together and separated, or, as it happens according with the example of two spouses or two friends. Thus, he considered that the Son of God was one person, and the son of the Virgin was another. This had serious Christological consequences, for thus Christ is merely a godly man, as the Prophets were, and not God. Therefore it was a man who suffered and ascended and is worshiped and glorified with God the Word, among other things.

Saint Cyril of Alexandria recognized this heretical deviation from the revealed truth, realized the terrible consequences of such a point of view and resisted with force, refuting these points of view. The Third Ecumenical Synod condemned these views as heretical, and also condemned Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, who was absent from the Synod because he refused to appear, despite the fact that he had been summoned three times.

Two years later, and specifically in 433 AD, an orthodox teaching on these matters was agreed between Saint Cyril of Alexandria and John of Antioch. It is the so-called "Ekthesis of Reconciliation", in which the dogmatic decision on this issue was set, so that an agreement could be reached.

Through the "Ekthesis" it was confessed that the One Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is perfect God and perfect man, was born of the Father before all the ages according to His Divinity, and in the latter days was born of the Virgin Mary for our salvation according to His humanity; is homoousios with the Father according to the Deity and homoousios with us according to humanity. We confess one Christ, one God, one Lord, in whom a union of two natures took place, and in the sense of the unmixed union we confess the Holy Virgin Theotokos.

The important thing is that with this decision the confession in the God-man Christ and the Most Holy Theotokos was ensured, who as Virgin did not give birth to a simple man, but to the Word of God, and therefore Christ is the God-man, who saves mankind.

This is what the Fathers said, because they relied on the revelation of Christ, as recorded in the Gospels, but also on the experience of the Prophets and Apostles. The Disciples of Christ sometimes were found worthy to see the glory of the Deity of Christ, which protruded from His body; they saw the risen and ascended to heaven Christ; the Protomartyr Stephen saw the glory of God and "Jesus standing at His right hand", he saw Christ standing in the glory of His Divinity; the Apostle Paul saw Christ in the Light, which he considered brighter than the created light of the Sun, and he knew this truth empirically.

This was stated in the decisions of the Third Ecumenical Synod and in the so-called "Ekthesis" between Saint Cyril of Alexandria and John of Antioch. This is the faith of the Orthodox Church. This can be seen in the doctrine, but mainly in the experience of the glory of the Deity of Christ. From then on, the teaching of the Church regarding the Most Holy Theotokos began to develop further. What the Church lived was formulated in an orthodox manner and all the Feasts of the Mother of God were successively determined. This truth is the glory of the Church and our salvation.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.