Sunset - Larnaca

Sunset - Larnaca

Friday, 30 October 2015

St Maximus the Confessor - The Divine Liturgy

Saint Maximus the Confessor writes his commentary on the Liturgy in order to stress the importance of it for monastic life, to correct a trend which had little use for Eucharistic piety. His commentary remains an important source for reflection on the Byzantine Divine Liturgy.

Saint Maximus approaches the liturgy on two levels. The ‘γενικώς’ (general) and the ‘ιδικώς’ (particular). The general level refers to the mystery of salvation to the whole cosmos. This method is typological, and refers the Liturgy to each individual analogically. An example of this, is the Holy Church of God, where the Liturgy takes place, being ‘a figure and image of the world, which is composed of visible and invisible things. ‘It’s sanctuary is the world above, allotted to the powers above’ reminding us of of the sky. Saint Maximus makes the Church building symbolic of the individual, on this ‘Journey to the Kingdom’ as Fr Vassilios Papavassiliou writes, where Heaven and Earth meet. Similarly, St Maximus’ interpretation of the first procession, with the Gospel, the Bishop and his clergy, is that the Hierarch’s entrance into the Sanctuary represents the first coming into the world of Christ, the Son of God. Again, we see his two-fold understanding of the central act of worship. The reading of the Gospel, the descent of the bishop from the throne, and the expulsion of the catechumens symbolise the second coming of the Lord. Therefore, on the ‘particular’ level, the Liturgy shuts off the visible world, ‘getting rid of thoughts which will incline towards the earth, turning the mind to a vision of spiritual things.’ The Great Entrance of the Holy (but un-consecrated) Gifts, emphasises that these are indeed a foretaste of the Kingdom. Hence the clergy sing ‘May the Lord God remember all of you in His Kingdom.’


For Saint Maximus the Confessor, the ‘general’ history of salvation becomes, through the Liturgy, a ‘particular,’ or mystical history. ‘Each soul expresses the saving plan of God. Thus the Eucharist represents the mystical ascension of the soul, to contemplation of God, and so to union with Him.’ Maximus (unlike Dionysius) pays particular attention to the economy of salvation, as he sees the Divine Liturgy as representing all salvation history, from the incarnation to the world yet to come. It is certainly a timeless, unifying, mystical communion and connection, between Heaven and Earth, between the living and the dead. If the Church is communion in Christ, then the Liturgy is the central act of the Church. 

‘Man is what he eats’ Fuerbach famously writes. That cannot be more true for Orthodox Christians, celebrating, and partaking in, the Liturgy. Through the Divine Liturgy we become one with Christ, the source of love and life. We can pray to the Lord, read, write and use other forms of worship to connect with the Divine, however the Liturgy is unique in that God is fully , physically present, as we, the Church, partake in Him, in communion with our fellow Christians. As Alexander Schmemann writes, the Eucharist is divine love made food, made life for man.’ O taste and see how gracious the Lord is!’ (Psalm 34:8) Therefore the Λειτουργία unites the Church in love - in communion. 

The Divine Liturgy, described by Saint Maximus, is best understood as a journey or procession. It is the journey of the whole Church, into the dimension of the Kingdom. It is a separation from the world. We often think that Christianity should be more appealing and contemporary, and should reflect the cultural and musical tastes of our time, however Maximus would highlight that in accepting this view, we forget that Christ and His Kingdom is ‘not of this world’ (John 18:36). The early Christians realised that in order to become the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19-20) they must ascend to Heaven with Christ; with this ascension being ‘the very condition of their mission in the world, of their ministry to the world.’ The Divine Liturgy is therefore an ascension, and once Christians have participated in it, their aim is to share and reflect this Heavenly and eternal worship, glorifying the Triune God, through joyful, loving and self-sacrificial acts.

Why would Saint Maximus be writing this to monastics in particular? The Mystagogia reveals the eschatological meaning of human existence. As Fr Ciprian Streza writes, ‘The Mystagogia keeps a perfect balance between liturgical life, dogmatic expression and ascetical experience of the Church.’ Maximus succeeds in giving monastic ascesis a liturgical connotation, by recommending the liturgical worship of the Church to the monks as a basis for mystical ascension. Thus, St. Maximus portrays the Eucharistic celebration as the ongoing accomplishment of eschatology, that can be experienced in all its depth only by those who have prepared themselves through ascesis and transformed themselves into the image of Christ through grace. Only by personal, sacramental and ascetic realisation,  and participation in the Liturgy can man open himself through love, the sum of all virtues, towards God and towards his neighbour. The Liturgy, for Maximus, is the fulfilment of the purpose of man’s existence; ‘Offering you your own from your own - in all things and for all things.’ (Prayer of Consecration)

Sources:
 - St Germanus of Constantinople, On the Divine Liturgy - St Maximus the Confessor (New York:SVS, 1984) 39.
 - R.Bornert, “L’anaphore dans la spiritualite liturgique de Byzance: le temoignage des commentaires mystagogiques du vile au xve siècle” Eucharisties d’Orient et d’Occident (Paris,1970) 245.
 - Alexander Schmemann, The World as Sacrament (London: DLT, 1965) 17.
- Alexander Schmemann, The World as Sacrament (London: DLT, 1965) 32.


Monday, 26 October 2015

Saint John of Damascus on the Veneration of Icons

'Veneration [προσκύνησης, proskynesis] is a symbol of submission and of honour. And we recognise different sorts of it – first, that by way of worship [λατρεία,latreia], which we present only to the God who is by nature to be worshipped; then that which is presented because of the God who is by nature to be worshipped to his friends and servants -- as an angel was venerated by Joshua the son of Nun and by Daniel – or to places that belong to God – as David says, ‘Let us venerate this place, where his feet have stood’ – or to things dedicated to him...'

Saint John highlights that we only worship God (Luke 4:8) , but venerate, revere and honour His holiness through His blessed people and creation. In the same way, Saint John stresses the importance of Iconography; as a means of worshipping our Lord and God, through the icon, depicting our Saviour, or one of His Saints. It is of course important to remember that each time we venerate a Saint, asking for their intercessions, we are glorifying Christ, our Saviour and the fulfiller of all. By recognising and venerating the holiness of a human person, we acknowledge our Lord's magnificence, mercy and the gifts He has bestowed upon His people. The Church, always points us to Christ - and one of the ways it does so, is through its icons and Saints. If we read the daily hymns, commemorating the Saints, Martyrs and Apostles of Christ's Holy Church, we find that the words always flow back to Him Who is the source of sanctification and of love, which has been acquired by the specific saint of God;

'..Holy one, great Martyr Demetrios, invoke Christ God for us, that He may grant us His great mercy.' (Todays Apolytikion, commemorating the Great Martyr, Saint Demetrios)


'The genuine friend of Christ, Porphyrios, O Faithful, let us honour, who was filled with all the gifts of Grace from childhood ...Glory to Him Who gave you might, Glory to Him Who sanctified you, Glory to Him Who operates through you, healings for all.' (Apolytikion of Saint Porphyrios, recently numbered among the Saints) 


Saint John describes how the incarnation of God has truly blessed man and all of creation, meaning we can worship our Creator through reverencing His 'matter,' as it was through God's very incarnation (becoming matter) that salvation is offered to mankind:

'When God has appeared by means of flesh and dwelt with human beings, I image that of God which is seen. I do not worship matter, but I venerate the creator [demiourgos] of matter, the one who became matter for my sake and undertook to dwell in matter and through matter worked my salvation.'

Christ, through His incarnation, dwells among us, within matter, and acts through the human person to bless, forgive and save. In a similar way, the Gospels for example, are made of text, however we look through the text and words in order to understand the Theology, the meaning and truth of the passages.  Saint John emphatically writes:

'The ink and all-holy book of the Gospels – are they not matter? Or the life-bringing table which supplies us with the bread of life – is it not matter? Or the gold and silver from which crosses and pyxes and chalices are fashioned – are they not matter? Or, before all these, the body and blood of my Lord – are they not matter?' 

Therefore, our Creator and God clearly works through matter. In fact, 'the invisible things of God are perceived, being understood from the creation of the world by means of the things that have been made,’ (Rom 1:20) and so, as St John writes, 'we see images in created things that signify to us dimly reflections of the divine.' The holy icons of Christ, His Mother and Saints, are a reflection of, and window into, the divine Kingdom. Icons, just as the Risen Christ is witnessed and seen transfigured, make the incomprehensible comprehensible. By bowing down before an icon, we are doing so before our very Lord, as it reminds us of Him, and brings our attention and prayerful selves to Him:

'Images were put there for remembrance – not being honoured as gods, but rather being honoured as bringing a remembrance of the working of God.'


As Saint John concludes, 'We venerate your image. We venerate all that is yours -– your servants, your friends, and, before them, your mother the Theotokos.'



- All quotes from St John of Damascus, First Discourse against those who slander the holy images unless quoted otherwise.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Christ - Revealing True Humanity

From an essay presentation given to the 'Theological Anthropology' class of the University of Edinburgh. As a preview to a forthcoming post, this summarises the key points; and the main essay shall be posted by the end of November. 


What place should Christology have in the articulation of a theological anthropology?

Christ is perfect man, Who lives perfectly, showing us what it means to be human. Not only does He reveal God to us; he also reveals humanity to us.

I will argue that Christology should be central to Theological Anthropology, as Christ rebuilds the bridge between humanity and divinity. He not only reveals God to us, but also simultaneously reveals what it means to be human. In arguing this, I will concentrate on the writings of St Maximus the Confessor, St John of Damascus and other Patristic writings, highlighting the fundamental link between Christology and the salvation and understanding of man. Furthermore I will highlight how the Christology of the Church, affirmed in the Ecumenical Councils, has always been central to our understanding of what it means to be human. 

Orthodox Christian Theology highlights, as Saint Athanasius, Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria proclaim, that ‘God became man so that men might become gods.’ In other words, the incarnation of the Word, God descending down to humanity, dying on the cross, raising from the dead and granting us life, is essential in understanding that the goal of man is to have complete unity with God, being in His image and likeness.

From a Patristic point of view, we cannot separate anthropology with Christology. Our faith in the Θεάνθρωπος, Who is fully God and fully man, leads to a fuller understanding of who we are. In Christ, we have anthropophany - the revelation of humanity. The Christian Church has always emphasised the fact that our existence depends on communion and relationship with God. As John Zizioulas, Metropolitan of Pergamon writes, ‘man exists truly in unbroken relationship with God.’ 

In Christ we see the first true human being - not broken or fallen, but without sin. Pontius Pilate says, when condemning the Lord to death, ‘Behold the Man’ (John 19:5)  In this way, we could then conclude, that Jesus Christ is the true image of God. ‘If man is the image of the divine nature and if the divine nature is free, so is the image’ St Maximus writes. Here we find a direct link with Christ our God, the perfect image of man, and us as human beings, striving to unite with Jesus Christ.

Man possesses a natural will, and that will for St Maximus is known as ‘η κατα φήσιν αυτοεξουσιότης’ , a freedom of nature. This is in conformity with divine freedom and unable to lead to anything but the good. Again, we see that the human being is truly bound to Christ, the source of our Freedom, and goodness. As Meyendorff writes in his well known book ‘Christ in Eastern Christian thought,’ when discussing Saint Maximus: 

 ‘Man is inseparable from God, and since he thus possesses a particular relationship with the Logos he reflects the latter’s cosmic role.’  

Finally, throughout my essay I will discuss how the doctrine of the salvation of man, fully relies upon the doctrine of Christ. St Maximus explains this as a double movement; a divine movement toward man consisting of making God partakable of by creation, and a human movement towards God, willed from the beginning by the Creator and restored in Christ. The hypostatic union of these two movements in the incarnate Word constitutes the essence of Maximus’ Christology; two natures imply two energies or wills meeting one another. This links to what St Basil says, that ‘ God’s energies descend to us.’


To conclude, I will argue that Christology should be central to Theological Anthropology, as Christ rebuilds the bridge between humanity and divinity, granting man salvation and union with Him.

Monday, 19 October 2015

St Daniel the Stylite

Having been born in 409AD, and raised in Mesopotamia, Daniel accepted his call to monasticism at a very young age. Although there was reluctance from his Abbot, he was tonsured by the age of twelve due to his insistence and thirst for asceticism and solitude. 

St Daniel followed the example of his spiritual guide, Simeon the Stylite, who in the fifth century set the model for a somewhat strange form of penitential asceticism. With Syrian asceticism concentrating on solitude, rather than a shared common life in a monastery, the aim was to subdue to the passions of man's flesh, remaining stationary in a particular location or cell. Like Athonite and other ascetics of today, some would stand all night keeping vigil, and some would continuously stand in prayer for hours and days on end. 

Saint Simeon the Stylite lived upon a pillar, where he would pray, prostrate, and repent endlessly, with very little food or sleep. Daniel, after coming into contact with Simeon, knew he was being called to this specific way of life, devoted to Christ. 

Saint Daniel grew strongly in faith, wisdom and love for Christ, through his own ascetic struggles on the pillar. Like his predecessor Saint Simeon, he would be visited by many Christians, asking for his blessing and wisdom. There was only one instance where he decided to descend from the pillar, travelling to the Great Mother Church in Constantinople to confront the emperor regarding an issue with the faith. It was through Daniel's counselling, guidance and faith that this issue was sorted, and Orthodoxy was affirmed and secured.

It became abundantly clear to the Emperor, and Hierarchy of the Church that Daniel was a gifted, holy monastic and ascetic, as well as an example to all. His chosen form of asceticism, living on a column for thirty-three years is of course radical and rare, however it is the way in which he found his own path to sanctity, holiness and unity with God. 

In Daniel's life and example, we are able to see the importance, and significance of holiness, sainthood and asceticism within the Byzantine Empire throughout this period. Since the Early Church and its teaching, Christianity has been the faith that is not of this world. The Christian does not belong to a specific city or country, but awaits the coming of the renewer, restorer and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Christian's life should reflect the Lord's Kingdom, rather than this world. The Gospel clarifies that evil rules this world and its cares, with 'the ruler of this world cast out' (John 12:31) having 'no power over me.' (John 14:30) One way of going against the evil of this world is through the practice of asceticism, with much of the Byzantine world looking to this with wonder and admiration, as is still the case today in the Orthodox Church.

Saint Paul writes, 'I discipline my body and keep it under control' (1 Cor 9:27) 'for if you live according to the flesh you die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you live.' (Rom 8:13) The task of the ascetic Saint, such as for Saint Daniel, is to be constantly reminded of this calling, to transcend the deeds and passions of the flesh. This is the 'good fight' (1 Tim 6:12) fought by Saint Mary of Egypt, Saint Anthony, the Great Desert Father, and all the Saints of the Church. This is nothing less than acquiring complete freedom from sin, and is what we are called to. 

'While we bear in mind our holy father's spiritual counsels let us do our utmost to follow in his steps and to preserve the garment of our body unspotted and to keep the lamp of faith unquenched, carrying the oil of sympathy in our vessels that we may find mercy and grace in the day of judgement from the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and henceforth and to all eternity, Amen.' 
- The Life and Works of our Holy Father St Daniel the Stylite


Main Source:
 - Three Byzantine Saints: Contemporary Biographies of St Daniel the Stylite, St Theodore of Sykeon and St John the Almsgiver, trans. Elizabeth Dawes, and instructions and notes by Norman H.Baynes, (London:1948) 

Thursday, 15 October 2015

How do we understand God in the Old Testament?

From a presentation titled 'Divine Attributes' given to the 'Old Testament Theology' class of the University of Edinburgh.

Isaiah 1:10-20
This passage emphasises the fact that God will not accept false piety, but will truly forgive when we are concerned with cleansing our sin and evil, before asking for His help and blessing. This of course highlights that the God of the Old Testament accepts the sacrifice of ‘a broken and humbled heart’ as we read in David’s 51st (50th) Psalm, rather than that of a proud, unrepentant person. We could conclude from this that our Creator desires our humility, and our self-sacrifice for Him. Of course the context of the passage, and the general theme of the book of Isaiah is that the Holy One of Israel, Yahweh, punishes His unrepentant people but will later redeem them. Man’s role is one of faith in response to God’s holiness and will. 

The New Jerome commentary calls this passage a call to attention, as instruction to the faithful. Isaiah is telling the faithful that God will not accept mere worship and sacrifice from those who oppress and mistreat. God is indeed Just, desiring fairness and peace among His people, desiring a good relationship with them. 

The Interpreters Bible Commentary similarly emphasises the two options given freely to man; repentance or destruction. However the question we must ask ourselves is whether this destruction takes place as a direct consequence of our own sin and distance from God, or whether it is simply God’s decision. 



Psalm 50
Firstly it is important to note that Psalm 50(51) is the only psalm recited in its entirety, at every Orthodox Divine Liturgy. It was written by the Prophet King David after he acknowledged and confessed his sin before the Prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12). David’s sin was a two-fold sin. He committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, with Bathsheba becoming pregnant and David sending for Uriah, who was with the Israelite army at the siege of Rabbah, leading to lies, concealing the identity of the child’s father, and finally, murder. 

Particularly for Christians ,this Psalm is not merely an expression of penitence and self-disgust. It is the overwhelming holiness of God that is the source of profound repentance, and it is particularly related to the coming of the Holy Spirit. The recitation of Psalm 50 is a preparation for the epiclesis, or calling upon the Holy Spirit. David remarkably knows the days ahead are ones of renewal, ones of joy, with no need of sacrifice. Of course this refers to Christ, as He Himself is the sacrifice, making it unnecessary for us to sacrifice any creature. This presence of holiness, and hope within Psalm 50 results in the passage being far from morbid and dark. We are reminded that repentance finds its fulfilment not in looking back on our sins in despair, but in looking forward with hope and faith; not in looking down into the pits of hell, but in looking up to God, witnessing Who He really is.  The Lord is clearly shown to be the source of light, life, and joy. We are called to ‘Be holy, because I am holy’ (Lev. 11:44) - which also highlights God’s desire to unite with mankind, to become one with us. Humanity is bound to God, and He, out of His love for mankind, guides us to His Kingdom.

The Biblical Scholar, Brueggemann, argues that there is a distinct shift in Yahweh’s movements regarding his partners. Firstly it seems God's creation should be gladly obedient to Him, but through man’s free choice, this relationship fails, which fundamentally leads to rehabilitation for a new beginning. Throughout the Old Testament we find that the human person, created in the image and likeness of God, is created for obedience, discernment, and trust; but through mistakes, sin and evil, divine judgement is experienced somewhat harshly - however eventually comes to restoration, and given hope through His love. He is the God of new life, praise and hope. We see here a general pattern of creation-sin-redemption, but I’d argue that the most important factor, or experience of Yahweh is found in the end; the redemption. Of course this pattern also reflects the Christian Tradition, with this forgiveness, and new life granted by the Saviour and Messiah Jesus Christ. While throughout the Old Testament there is of course the sense of brokenness with regards to God’s relationship with man, there is also restoration. 

The Lord is clearly the restorer, the comforter the helper of mankind. We frequently read ‘I cried to you O Lord’ ‘my helper’, the One who brings us out of the pit, as our rock and paraclete. Often, there is an emphasis placed on patience, awaiting the full revelation of the GodHead. But trust is put upon Him. Similarly, at the culmination of Israel’s portrayal of reality, is a certitude and a vision of newness and full restoration - and of course the Christian Tradition would argue this is God leading mankind to the incarnation of Christ, our Saviour and restorer. 

Though we recognise God's attributes within the Councils and Creeds of the Church, it is important we do not worship abstract qualities, rather than worshipping the Trinitarian God and Lord. One question frequently asked is how we relate the Old and New Testaments to each other? 

This question is regarded as an issue mainly for Biblical Theology, rather than for systematic Theology. It is important and appropriate to deal with the Old Testament as God’s way of preparing the world for the coming of His Son. The Fathers and Theologians of the Early Church were vitally concerned with the Old Testament and sought to read its Books as Christian documents. As controversial as it may seem within todays circles of Biblical Exegesis, the Church Fathers believe that the entire Bible is a Book about Christ. They understand it as a coherent whole, pointing and guiding to the Messiah, the Renewer, the Redeemer and Restorer Christ. For this reason, everything must be about our relationship, as the people of God and the Church, with Christ. For example, the Fathers’ interpretation of the Song of Songs is a somewhat knee-jerkingly shocking one for contemporary scholars; the idea being that it is not about human love, but about the loving relationship that exists between Christ and His Church. It is easy for us to dismiss this understanding, however we must not forget that Saint Paul himself explicitly links the husband-wife relationship to Christ’s relationship with the Church ( in Ephesians 5).

For the Fathers, and therefore for the Orthodox Christian Church, the Old Testament undoubtedly reflects upon Who God Is. God’s love for Israel in the book of Hosea for example, from a Patristic point of view, mirrors God’s love for His own Son. After all, Matthew in Chapter 2:15 links these two by quoting from Hosea: ‘Out of Egypt I called my Son’  From these short examples we see that the New Testament indicates that certain events, people and relationships in the Old Testament prefigured greater realities. The Fathers were witnesses to Christ, His Resurrection and His living presence, so for this reason their aim was was to unlock the riches of the Hebrew Scriptures, scouring the Old Testament for hints, prefigurings and fore-shadowings of Christ and His Church.Perhaps in many ways we should take the Fathers examples of interpretation. It is an interpretation which does not stumble upon seemingly controversial, violent or harsh passages, but one that leads to a harmonious, coherent understanding of the Old Testament. Saint Irenaeus writes:

‘All Scripture, which has been given to us by God, shall be found by us perfectly consistent; and the parables shall harmonise with those passages which are perfectly plain; and those statements the meaning of which is clear shall serve to explain the parables and through the many diversified utterances there shall be heard one harmonious melody in us, praising in hymns that God who created all things!’

This sort of interpretation is of course troubling to us in our Modern Biblical and Exegetical context, and many of us may brand it as allegorising. However, we should notice two important things about this way of interpretation; 1) Irenaeus and the Fathers do not denigrate the historical accuracy of events, with most fathers affirming the historicity of the narratives meanwhile 2) they see beyond its historicity to its theological, coherent meaning in light of Christ. 



The reason for me suggesting we should perhaps look to this more whole, coherent understanding of the Old Testament is because one of the main claims we make about God, is the fact He is unchanging. He, as God, does not change throughout history and within the Scriptures. Perhaps the ways in which He acts and works within people and societies may differ, but His being, His will, and His attributes do not. To conclude, only through this Patristic understanding and account, can we truly understand our One, Trinitarian God, 'Who is Love' (1 John 4:8) within the Old Testament's context.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Black Theology

'Black Theology' is, in my opinion, completely incompatible with the Gospel. The Holy Scriptures make it abundantly clear that in Christ, there "is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female" for we are all one in Him.(Gal 3:28) Rather than promoting separation, or highlighting our cultural differences, the Church unconditionally unites us, as one body. Not on the condition of race, or ethnicity; but on the basis of our humanity. He forms us out of nothing, granting us 'the breath of life' (Gen 2:7) and from our potentiality we are able to flourish culturally and socially. This diversity however, is a secondary issue - with culture, ethnicity, and background being gifts that should be shared, cherished, respected and appreciated; as opposed to an excuse for division and separation. 
Theology, therefore, as a study of God, as an experience of God, and as a constant search for, and witness to His presence should not be divided by race, ethnicity or culture. It would be absurd to contemplate the idea of dividing Christian Theology, as a universal, unifying search for the knowledge and experience of our Creator and Almighty God.

How do we then tackle issues of oppression, race, and ethnicity? Rachel Dolezal is recently known for lying about her race (claiming to be African American when born to white parents) in order to prove a point. For one to sympathise with, act compassionately towards, and understand the problems and issues of oppressed and marginalised members of society, does not require ones own personal change, from white to black, from male to female, from heterosexual to homosexual. Every human being is given the divine gift, and calling, to place themselves in the others position; taking on our fellow human beings problems and making them our own. Oppression, disease, violence and trauma are unfortunate realities of humanity, which can be understood and tackled by all of humanity; not only certain groups.
I am certain that if we were to ask several African, South-American or Asian Theologians following the Christian faith, about so-called 'black theology' or 'white theology' they would deem it as absurd. Though there are diverse practices (e.g in African Orthodox Churches) the unity of the Faith, and the communion of the Holy Spirit is abundantly clear, and should not be taught, or thought of otherwise. 

Saturday, 3 October 2015

The Fifth Council (553)

The Council’s Aim and Background & The Heresies Involved: 
The Fifth Council took place in order to end the Nestorian and Eutychian heresies, asserting that ‘the two natures of Christ unite to form a single person.’ Nestorianism refers to two separate hypostases in the incarnate Christ, over-emphasising His humanity, insisting on the Virgin Mary’s title as ‘Χριστοτόκος,’ rather than the Orthodox term ‘Θεοτόκος.’ Eutychianism, being a form of monophysitism, refers to the heresy regarding the deified human nature of Christ; therefore exalting the divine over the human, concluding that Christ’s humanity is distinct from that of all other men.



The council determined the Orthodoxy of three bishops: Theodore of Mopsuetia, Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Ibas of Edessa, who had expressed Nestorian opinions in their writings in the time of the Third Ecumenical Council, and had not been condemned at the fourth Ecumenical Council which condemned the monophysites. This council in Constantinople had to then deprive the monophysites of the possibility of accusing the Orthodox Christian Church of sympathising with Nestorianism. Anathema was pronounced against the person and teachings of Theodore of Mopsuetia, however in the case of Theodore and Ibas, the condemnations were confined only to certain of their writings. Due to their repentance, they were spared from anathemas.

Members of the Council:
In accordance with the imperial command, the synod was inaugurated on the 5th of May, 553, within the Great Church of the Holy Wisdom (Haghia Sophia) and was led by Eutychias, the Patriarch of Constantinople. With around 165 Bishops present, the Patriarchs Apollinaris of Alexandria, Domninus of Antioch, representatives of the Patriarch Eustochius of Jerusalem, and over 140 other metropolitans and bishops, the council confirmed the Church’s teaching regarding the two natures of Christ, and Emperor Justinian confessed the Orthodox faith in the form of the commonly known hymn ‘Only Begotten Son and Word of God’ which is still chanted to this day in the Orthodox Divine Liturgy (or as many recognise it, the Byzantine Liturgy).

Άγια Σοφία - Holy Wisdom
The Council significantly took place in the Great Church of Haghia Sophia. The first and great church on the current site, was built by Constantius II , the son of Constantine the Great. However after riots in 532, it was burned down.  Between then and 537, under the personal supervision of Emperor Justinian the Great, it was built to be the greatest example of Byzantine Christian architecture - and was therefore the most appropriate setting for the Church’s holy synod.

The Three Chapters
The Three-Chapter controversy came out of an attempt to reconcile the Non-Chalcedonian (monophysite) Christians, with the Chalcedonian Church. However, as leading figures of the Lord's body, the clergy had the responsibility of 'taking care of the good seed of faith,' as the Sentence against the Three Chapters states. Nestorian's supporters had been trying to introduce their heretical views into the Church, using Theodore, Bishop of Mopsuestia. 

Writings highlight the severity of the controversy, and the Church's sheer disgust, and eagerness to defeat these heretical teachings. Theodore had been dismissing crucial doctrines such as prophecies about Christ, and accused the divine Word of being nothing but a fable. Cyril reflects the Church's reply and attitude:

'We ought to keep clear of those who are in the grip of such dreadful errors.' 

The Council clearly confirms the doctrine of the person of Christ, highlighting that anyone who does not believe in this doctrine of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church must be removed, and made anathema. Of course the main purpose of the Council, was to achieve unity in attempting to make Chalcedon acceptable to Monophysites. Though some minority groups remained monophysites, it could be said that the Council was a triumph of  Cyrillian Chalcedonianism (with most Christological arguments centred around his writings). With Theodore condemned as a heretic, and Ibas and Theodoret’s writings against Cyril falling under the anathemas, the Ecumenical Council reaffirmed the unity of subject in Christ: The Only Begotten Son of God. Though anathema 13 approves Cyril’s twelve chapters against Nestorius, anathema 8 specifies that when using his formula of ‘one nature incarnated’ the term nature means hypostases. Therefore, monophysites would not be required to reject any of Saint Cyril’s Christology, apart from admitting that Chalcedon was not a Nestorian council.

The Fifth Council also adopted anathemas against Origenism. This was a decisive step in Orthodox Christian Theology, committing itself to the Biblical view of creation, as an anthropocentric universe, with man as a psychosomatic whole, and of history as a continuous path leading towards an ultimate end, and eschaton. In particular, the Holy Council had condemned apocatasasis (the teaching that everyone in the end, will be saved), pre-existence of the soul, animism, and the denial of the physical and real resurrection of the body. 

Eutychias
Having been called by Justinian and Pope Vigilius, the leading Patriarch of the Council, Eutychias, was at the very beginning of his patriarchal ministry. With his guidance, the council successfully refuted and anathemised the heresies. However, after several years, a new heresy arose in the Church: Aphthartodocetism or “imperishability” which taught that the flesh of Christ, before His death on the Cross and Resurrection, was imperishable and not capable of suffering. St Eutychius denounced this heresy, but the Emperor Justinian himself appeared to incline towards it, and turned against the Saint and Patriarch Eutychias. By the Emperor's order, soldiers seized him, removing his Patriarchal Vestments, and sent him into exile to a monastery in 565. 


To conclude, I have highlighted the central aims and theological themes surrounding the Fifth Ecumenical Council, as well as the people involved. The Council certainly succeeded in its assertion that the two natures of Christ unite to form a single person (in hypostatic union), however like other councils, other issues formed - leading to the heresy of Monothelitism (one will) which is condemned in the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680.