July 15-Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Council


My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,




The Synods (Councils) of the Church

When among the Apostles there appeared a need to appeal to a higher authoritative voice or judgment--this was in connection with the important misunderstandings that arose in Antioch with regard to the application of the ritual law of Moses--the Apostles gathered in a Council at Jerusalem (Acts 15), and the decrees of this Council were acknowledged as obligatory for the whole Church (Acts 16:4). By this the holy Apostles gave an example of the conciliar resolution of the most important questions in the Church for all times.

Thus the highest organ of authority in the Church, and the highest authority in general, is a council of bishops: for a local Church it is a council of its local bishops, and for the Ecumenical Church, a council of the bishops of the whole church.


The Succession and the Uninterrupted of the Episcopate in the Church

The succession from the Apostles and the uninterruptedness of the episcopacy comprise one of the essential sides of the Church. And, on the contrary: the absence of the succession of the episcopacy in one or another Christian denomination deprives it of an attribute of the True Church, even if in it there is present an undistorted dogmatic teaching. Such an understanding was present to the Church from its beginning. From the Church History of Eusebius of Caesarea (Church Historian) we know that all the local ancient Christian Churches preserved lists of their bishops in their uninterrupted successions ("Apostolic Succession").

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons writes, "We can enumerate those who were appointed as bishops in the Churches by the Apostles, and their successors, even to our time." And, in fact, he enumerates in order the succession of the bishops of the Roman Church almost to the end of the 2nd century (Against Heresies, pt. 3, ch. 3).

The same view of the importance of the succession is expressed by Tertullian. He wrote concerning the heretics of his time: "Let them show the beginning of their churches, and reveal the series of their bishops who might continue in succession so that their first bishop might have as his cause or predecessor one of the Apostles or an Apostolic Father who was for a long time with the Apostles. For the Apostolic Churches keep the lists (of bishops) precisely in this way. The Church of Smyrna, for example, presents Polycarp, who was appointed by John; the Roman Church presents Clement, who was ordained by Peter; and likewise the other Churches also point to those men whom, as being raised to the episcopacy by the Apostles themselves, they had as their own sprouts from the apostolic seed" (Tertullian, "Concerning the Prescriptions" against the heretics).

The Fourth Ecumenical Council (of Chalcedon): was convened on July 16, 451 A.D. over The monophysite heresy (held) by Archimandrite Eutyches of Constantinople, Bishop Dioscorus of Alexandria, and others); under Saint Athanasius Patriarch of Constantinople, Saint Leo the Great, Pople of Rome, and Emperor Marcian: number of Fathers 630. Monophysitism (the Heresy of Eutyches)

The heresy of the Monophysites arose among the monks of Alexandria and was a reaction against Nestorianism, which had lessened the Divine nature of the Savior. The Monophysites considered that the human nature of the Savior has been absorbed by His Divine nature, and therefore they acknowledge in Christ only one nature.

In addition to the aged archimandrite of Constantinople Eutyches who gave the beginning of this unorthodox teaching, it was also defended by Dioscorus, Archbishop of Alexandria, who imposed this heresy by force at a council of bishops, thanks to which the council itself received the name of "robber council." The heresy was condemned at the Fourth Ecumenical Council.

Our Holy Orthodox Church honors and commemorates the Holy Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils because Christ has established them as "lights upon the earth," guiding us to the True Christian Faith. "Adorned with the robe of Truth," the doctrine of the Holy Fathers of the Church, based upon the teaching of the Holy Apostles, has established one faith for the Church of Christ. The Ecumenical Synods, are indeed the highest authority in the Orthodox Church. The Synods of the Holy Church are guided by the grace of God the Holy Spirit, and accepted by the Church, are infallible.

The 4th Ecumenical Synod (Council) decreed that "The One Christ, the Son of God...must be glorified in two natures, human and divine.

"In decisive moments of Church History, the Holy Ecumenical Councils promulgated their dogmatic definitions, as trustworthy delimitations in the spiritual battle for the purity of Orthodoxy, which will last until such time, as "all shall come into the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God" (Ephesians 4:13). In the struggle with new heresies, the Church does not abandon its former dogmatic concepts nor replace them with some sort of new formulations. The dogmatic formulae of the Holy Ecumenical Councils need never be superseded; they remain always contemporary to the Living Tradition of the Church. Therefore the Church proclaims:

"The faith of all in the Church of God hath been glorified by men, which were luminaries in the world, cleaving to the Word/Logos of Life, so that it be observed firmly, and that it dwell unshakably until the end of the ages, conjointly with their God-bestowed writings and dogmas. We reject and we anathematize all whom they have rejected and anathematize, as being enemies of Truth. And if anyone does not teach or preach accordingly, let him be anethema" (Canon I of the Council of Trullo).

In addition to their dogmatic definitions, the Holy Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils exerted great effort towards the strengthening of church discipline. (Reference: Orthodox Church in America, and Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Fr. Michael Pomazansky)

(To be continued)


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George