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Discussion about Father John Romanides’ Paper “One Physis or Hypostasis of God the Logos Incarnate”

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One Physis or Hypostasis of God the Logos Incarnate

Discussion about Father John Romanides’ Paper

FATHER MEYENDORFF: I am glad that Father Romanides speaks this time in this positive way about the Tome of Leo, and I hope the non-Chalcedonians will read him in this light. The praises of Leo in the Acts of Chalcedon should be seen as a conciliatory move in the light of the anti-Roman bias of the Chalcedonian Canons.

FATHER ROMANIDES: It is my opinion that the adoption of Trinitarian terms in Christology was in the beginning rather accidental. At the Council of Alexandria in 362, presided over by St. Athanasius the Great it was decided to adopt the Cappadocian manner of distinguishing between hypostasis and ousia When speaking about the Holy Trinity. No decision was made concerning the term physis which, until the Cappadocian distinction hypostasis and ousia. The outcome of this was that the Cappadocian tradition ended up by equating physis with ousia, while the Alexandrian tradition equated physis with hypostasis. The accidental nature of this equating of pbysis with either hypostasis or ousia must be taken seriously into consideration in order to understand the history of the Christological debates between 448 and 451 as described in my paper. In the self-justifying heat of polemics after 451 each side claimed a monopoly of understanding of the precise meaning of the term physis which from the point of view of the history of dogma is untenable. Failure to realize this can only lead us back to the ridiculous debate concerning the superiority of one s own Fathers over the Fathers of the other side. We must be very clear about the fact that the Chalcedonians means two ousiai when they speak of two physeis after the union, whereas the non-Chalcedonians, as pointed out very clearly by Father Samuel’s paper also, do not mean one ousia when they speak of one physis after the union.

FATHER MEYENDORFF: Physis was seen by all as signifying concrete being. The Antiochene Christology insisted upon the idea that the concrete actions of Christ can be variously ascribed to humanity and divinity, the subject being one-the Christ.

FATHER ROMANIDES: But Cyril would attribute everything to the Logos in the flesh, not simply to the Christ as is done by the Nestorianizers and pointed out in my paper.

FATHER VERGHESE: What do we mean by Christ being in two ousiai after the union ?

FATHER ROMANIDES: In both the Cappadocian and Alexandrian traditions the ousia of God is beyond all categories of thought in a radical manner and therefore not only beyond definition of any kind, but also beyond the predication of any name whatsoever, to such an extent that God is hyper-onymos, hyper-ousios and even hyper-theos. Within this Biblical tradition the ousia of man also remains a mystery. Only the energies and rowers of both God and man can be known. In this sense the term ousia is used not in the Greek philosophical sense of the definable and knowable immutable inner reality of a thing, but as concrete unknowable reality known only in its acts. In contrast to the Antiochene and Latin tradition (the Augustinian one), the term ousia as applied to the Holy Trinity by the Cappadocian and Alexandrian Fathers is neither a platonic superstratal genus, nor an Aristotelian substratal material in which the hypostases or persons of the Holy Trinity participate. Therefore, Christ being in two ousiai could only mean that our Lord, the Only-Begotten Son of God, exists in two concrete, yet undefinable and perfect and complete realities, each of which is by nature proper to Himself and distinguishable in the union in thought alone. The term in two natures is of Latin provenance and was translated by the Cappadocian oriented Fathers of Chalcedon by the phrase in two physeis. Under more normal conditions the Alexandrians might have accepted the term in their own theological language as in two ousiai. It is only in this anti-Eutychian sense that the non-Chalcedonians must understand the term in two physeis whose only intent is to preclude one ousia after the union.

FATHER SAMUEL: I am quite pleased with this paper of Father Romanides from several points of view. First, I am pleasantly surprised that Theodoret is not defended by the paper. Secondly, Ephesus (449) is not condemned outright. The paper is much fairer at this point than most Western church historians. Some difficulties remain for anyone reading the minutes of the Council. They do not give me the same impression as they give Father Romanides. Take, for instance, the Third Letter of Cyril to Nestorius with the Twelve Anathemas. At Chalcedon it was not read. The imperial commissioners referred to the two canonical letters of Cyril read and approved at Ephesus in 431. But the letters of Cyril read at Chalcedon were only his Second Letter to Nestorius and his Letter to John of Antioch, or the Formulary of Reunion of 433. So from the point of view of reading, the Third Letter with the Anathemas was passed over in silence. There were two references to it at Chalcedon. One: the intervention of Atticus of Nicopolis who wanted to compare the Tome of Leo with the Twelve Anathemas. And two, the Chalcedonian Formula includes it, by implication, among the documents of the Faith.

How, then, can Father Romanides say that the Twelve Chapters of Cyril were in the mind of the Council when it accepted the Tome of Leo?

FATHER ROMANIDES: Father Samuel is correct in saying that the Third Letter of St. Cyril to Nestorius containing the Twelve Chapters was at first passed over in silence. However, after the reading of Leo’s Tome the successful demand, was made that it be compared with the Twelve Chapters of St. Cyril in order to see whether or not it was Orthodox. We should not overlook the fact that the overwhelming majority of bishops at Chalcedon were Cyrillians and so were able to force the issue of the Twelve Chapters as the criterion of Leo’ s faith. After Chalcedon even Leo attempted to calm his enemies with the claim that he himself was absolutely Cyrillian (see e.g. his Ep. cxvli, 3). I think one should simply check the references to the minutes in my paper for documentation of the evaluations made.

FATHER SAMUEL: I am glad to hear you say that the Twelve Chapters were accepted by Chalcedon, though this is far from clear in the minutes. In the matter of lbas, for instance, the Roman delegates said that they had read his letter to Maris the Persian and that in spite of it they considered him Orthodox.

FATHER ROMANIDES: But Ibas was reinstated on the basis of his formal acceptance, sincere or not, of the Twelve Chapters.

FATHER SAMUEL: Besides, if l may continue, there is no basis for the statement that Dioscorus accepted Eutyches into communion if by this a serious charge is intended to be made against Dioscorus. There are several difficulties here. In the first place, we have to clarify the meaning of the word “communion’ or koinonia. It can mean either Eucharistic communion or simply friendship and support. What is to be proved, if it can be raised as a charge, is that between the Home Synod of Constantinople in 448 and the second Council of Ephesus in 449 Dioscorus offered Eutyches Eucharistic communion. Do we have any evidence for it? Secondly, in none of the petitions against Dioscorus presented to the Council of Chalcedon was this mentioned. The only reference to it is found in the declaration against Dioscorus made by the Roman delegation. They said that Dioscorus had offered koinonia to Eutyches before the latter was rehabilitated at Ephesus in 449, without specifying what they meant by the word koinonia. Thirdly, while stating why Dioscorus had been condemned, Anatolius of Constantinople did not mention this as a charge against Dioscorus. Thus if at all one has to take the words of the Roman delegation seriously, they mean only that Dioscorus supported Eutyches.

But we appreciate your paper and its general trend.

FATHER ROMANIDES: In this regard the only point I wish to make in my paper is that Dioscorus supported Eutythes as one who accepts the double consubstantiality of the Only-Begotten Son of God. Only this can explain why Dioscorus Orthodoxy was upheld at Chalcedon. On the other hand, Dioscorus was deposed for excommunicating Leo and also for acting uncanonically. I was not concerned specifically with the type of support Eutyches received from Dioscorus, although this is in itself of great importance.

BISHOP SARKISSIAN: In our new effort which aims at a deeper and more adequate understanding of the Council of Chalcedon than what we have been accustomed to in the past, we must not overlook the whole emotional, psychological climate in which the Council evolved and the political factors and tensions which were operative elements in the course of the Council. As the great majority of the bishops were Cyrillians in their theological thinking, it was strange that the Tome of Leo was taken as a standard formulation of Christology. There are several other aspects in the minutes of the Council which need to be taken into consideration in a well-balanced presentation and evaluation of the spirit and the content of the Council. In this paper, some important aspects, such as the, role of Leo’s Tome, the rehabilitation of Theodoret and Ibas are overlooked and only the positive elements and aspects have been taken into account. We need a fuller evaluation of the Council as a historical event.

FATHER ROMANIDES: I am surprised at some of the claims of oversight, since much of my paper is devoted to the role of Leo’ s Tome, the Christology of Theodoret and its relation to Leo’ s Christology, and the manner in which Theodoret and Ibas were rehabilitated at Chalcedon. I am also amazed that at this point in our conversations Leo’ s Tome is still referred to as a standard formulation of Christology at Chalcedon. It is easy for you to use the Latin interpretation of Chalcedon as a stick against us, but if we are to get anywhere you will have to take the Greek Chalcedonian interpretation of the place of Leo’s Tome at the Fourth Council more seriously.

DR. KHELLA: In interpreting the Acts of Chalcedon it is unrealistic to expect agreement on our two sides. This paper is historically more or less accurate in, what it says, but the data have been chosen from a particular perspective. As Bishop Sarkissian said, we need a more balanced study of the Acts. As for a few inaccuracies, e.g. on page 83, it is not true to say that Severus was the first to agree on two natures “in thought.” Timothy Aelurus was just as correct in this regard, also Peter the Iberian and others. On pages 87-90, I feel that the role of Leo at Chalcedon should be clarified. The numbers given of bishops at Chalcedon are often legendary. Perhaps there were more than 360 bishops in fact, of whom only 7 were from the West. Two North Africans who were fleeing from the invasions were by accident at Chalcedon. There was also the Apocrisarius of Leo in Constantinople. Two others from the West spoke no Greek. These were the ones who wanted the Tome of Leo to be read.

The letter was read in a smaller committee in which only 23 bishops were present. Latin Acts have different numbers from the Greek Acts; but the Tome was not read in the second session. The session of l3th October is difficult to regard as a full session.

FATHER BOROVOY: I was afraid of this entry into the jungle of details from which there may be no easy way out. I wanted rather to count on my fingers the achievements of this day. Father Meyendorff’ s last two points in his paper are a definite achievement. When I heard Father Samuel saying “we are not monophysites,” this was another achievement. When Bishop Sarkissian spoke of the communicatio idiomatum this was another achievement again. When finally I heard Professor Karmiris I felt we were very close to each other. It seems we should be able on this basis to find a uniting formula. Perhaps we are too enthusiastic and we should speak a little bit as Professor Florovsky did (as advocatus diabolus). I would continue in that negative line. Is there a dialogue here, or a dual monologue? We sincerely accept the defense of our non-Chalcedonian brethren for their past. Our side can also present a similar defense. If we take this line, the next step will be polemics. We say we are individual theologians. I consider myself as such. My Church sent me here to speak on her behalf- not for polemics, but for unity. I am here to find the common ground as suggested in Professor Karmiris paper. All contributions on the Chalcedonian side bear an ecumenical spirit. They seek a meeting point, and even perhaps went further. The spirit of Cyril is strong. We are not against him. But we are the Church, but not the church of Cyril or Leo or Theodoret or anybody else. The Church is above them all. We need not accept everything of Cyril. His fundamental Christology is important; but no need to reject Leo and Theodoret in their positive contributions.

Historically, we should not seek to defend our own sides. History has no angels of light, nor purely dark devils. In history we find men acting, holy men, to be sure, but still men. Even in Nestorius there are many positive aspects. We must recognize both the merit and the weakness of both sides. The Holy Spirit works in the Church as a whole.

We must look for the ground of unity. The details can be worked out by a commission.

PROFESSOR ROMANIDES: There is no doubt, as Bishop Sarkissian and Professor Khella point out, that my paper is written from a certain point of view. It only happens that this point of view is that of the overwhelming majority of the Council which accepted Leo’ s Tome only in the light of St. Cyril’s Twelve Chapters. That this should be the normal outcome at Chalcedon cannot be surprising when one takes seriously the historical fact that the Latins and Antiochenes, who were the only ones who unconditionally supported the Tome, were a small minority at the Council.

I am very happy to hear that Severus was not the first one on the non-Chalcedonian side who could accept two natures tei theoriai monei after the union. There are no indications from the minutes of the Ephesine Council of 449 that Dioscoros could accept this. Nevertheless, I should like to point out that I was not asked to write a book on Chalcedon, but only ten pages which became seventeen. The purpose of the paper did not include any discussion of such technical problems concerning the number of sessions, bishops, etc. I Cannot accept the idea that Session II could have debated Leo’ s Tome without it having first been read. The cruciality of the debate over Leo’ s Tome at Session II can be seen in the fact that the bishops were given five days in which to examine St. Leo’ s faith in the light of St. Cyril’s Twelve Chapters. Session IV continue the discussion and the acceptance of Leo’s Tome only in the light of St,. Cyril is clearly seen in the recording opinions of the bishops and reflected in the Chalcedonian definition itself. These are incontrovertible facts and no manipulation of the minutes can mitigate their importance.

I think a very basic difficulty which we Chalcedonians of the Greek tradition face is that there is a peculiar theological alliance between the Latin (including Protestant) and non-Chalcedonian scholars in regard to Chalcedon. For the same reasons that the Westerners can accept Chalcedon, the non-Chalcedonians reject Chalcedon. Both sides try to prove that Chalcedon rejected the Twelve Chapters of St. Cyril and accepted Leo’ s Tome either as a correction (so say the Westerners) or as a distortion (so say the non-Chalcedonians) of Cyrillian Christology. Contrary to both these approaches (which do not represent the central tradition of Chalcedon) the Chalcedonian Greeks read the documents of Chalcedon in the light of Ephesus I (431) and Constantinople II (553). The usual Latin and non-Chalcedonian picture whereby our Illyrian, Thracian, Asian, Pontian, Cappadocian, Palestinian, and Egyptian Fathers are presented as capitulating before a few Latin and Antiocliene bishops is caricature and not history.

In regard to the welcome remarks of Father Borovoy I would like to add that my paper is not a defense of Chalcedon, whose short comings I try to indicate, nor is it a defense of the non-Chalcedonian position. Rather it is an attempt to understand how the two traditions survived the complexities of history while always maintaining essentially the same Orthodox faith. Such a study so obviously calls for the tracing in history of the common central intuition of faith and doctrine which could not be distorted by the tragedies of our respective histories. This fact is living testimony to the meaning of continuity in truth which is not imposed by any external authority but which is the fruit of communion with the source of truth. To try to avoid the complexities of history when dealing with each other can lead only to a false sentimentalism which can never and will never lead to unity and can be no more effective than an ostrich burying her head in the earth to solve her immediate problems. Whether we like it or not we are christologically the Church of Cyril because Cyril’s Christology is that of the Bible, the Fathers, and the Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Ecumenical Councils. The anti-Cyrillian works of Theodoret on Christology were condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Council and Leo’ s Tome was never accepted as a definition of faith. Cyril’s Twelve Chapters are definitions of faith.


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