The Byzantine Fathers Of the Sixth to Eighth Century icon

The Byzantine Fathers Of the Sixth to Eighth Century

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The Deposing of Pope Vigilius by the Fifth Ecumenical Council.

The Constitutum by Pope Vigilius referred to above is his Constitutum of May 14, 553 which was rejected by Justinian because it was not explicit enough in its condemnation of the Three Chapters. Vigilius finally satisfied the imperial will by a new Constitutum in February of 554. It is clear that from the date of Justinian’s “minute” [formam] Pope Vigilius was considered deposed by the council. That his name was removed from the diptychs certainly constitutes deposition and may well be interpreted as excommunication. Whether the Fifth Ecumenical Council considered this deposition only and not excommunication is subject to controversy. It is, in any event, highly unlikely that the removal of Pope Vigilius’ name from the diptychs constituted a break of communion from the Roman church. There was still a distinction made between the person of the bishop of Rome and the Roman see — non sedem sed sedentem. Ultimately, however, approval was given to the Fifth Ecumenical Council by Pope Vigilius — whether this approval was forced or insincere is not the issue.


The Earlier Years of Pope Pelagius and His Ultimate

Recognition of the Fifth Ecumenical Council.

The Fifth Ecumenical Council was also affirmed by Pope Vigilius’ successor Pope Pelagius I (556-561), who had also accompanied Pope Agapetus to Constantinople and who, of course, had strong ties with Constantinople, for he had participated in the council of 536 and had served in the capital as Pope Vigilius’ apocrisiarius.

Pelagius had also been sent to Constantinople by Totila to negotiate a peace with Justinian, a mission in which he was unsuccessful. But he stayed in Constantinople with Pope Vigilius. When Vigilius attempted his second escape — from the papal residence to the church of St. Euphemia in Chalcedon — Pelagius was with him (December, 551). He returned to Constantinople from Chalcedon with Vigilius in February of 552 and was strongly influential in supporting Vigilius’ firm stand. He contributed to the composition of Vigilius’ first Constitutum and strongly advised Pope Vigilius not to attend the Fifth Ecumenical Council. After the council condemned and deposed Pope Vigilius, Pelagius left Vigilius’ company when it became apparent that Vigilius was going to succumb to the imperial will. Pelagius — and the deacon Sarpatus — were excommunicated by Vigilius which rnnted Pelagius to write a Refutatorium against Vigilius. Pelagius sent a copy to Justinian, who did not react favorably to a that condemned the emperor and the council. Justinian arrested and imprisoned in different monasteries. It was here in confinement that Pelagius wrote his In defensione rium capitulorum, patterned after a similar work by Facundus of Ηermiane. The In defensione trium capitulorum was also a futation of Pope Vigilius’ second Constitutum, the work by Vigilius which finally condemned the Three Chapters. Pelagius accused Vigilius of succumbing to the imperial will, of betraying Pope Leo I, of betraying the Council of Chalcedon, and of condemning unjustly Theodore, Theodoret, and Ibas. When the news of Vigilius’ death reached Constantinople, Justinian released Pelagius and reached an understanding with him which resulted in Pelagius’ return to Rome as the successor to Vigilius, an act which caused further scandal in the Latin Church — described by Facundus in his De fide (Patrologia Latina 67, 867-868). A schism was created in the Latin Church which lasted until 698 with Aquileia. Pope Pelagius I had schismatic problems with the northern Italian bishops of Tuscany, Liguria, and Venetia, as well as with Istria. The exchange of letters between Pope Pelagius I and Sapaudus, the papal vicar and bishop of Aries, give a vivid account of Pelagius’ views. In one of his letters to Sapaudus he explains the difficulties he had in Constantinople in keeping the true faith. Now that an ecumenical council had spoken there was no further resistance, he writes. He explains his own change of view as the recognition of one’s mistakes which is the correct attitude according to both Scripture and the tradition of the fathers — he mentions specifically St. Augustine. In a letter to the bishops of Istria Pope Pelagius I maintained that no local council could judge an ecumenical council — he claimed, somewhat exaggeratedly, that four thousand bishops had accepted the Fifth Ecumenical Council.


The Result of the Fifth Ecumenical Council and a Glimpse at Its Sessions.

In a little less than one month the Fifth Ecumenical Council reached its decisions. It is not wholly accurate to see in this council simply an attempt to paciiy the Monophysites. Indeed, the [jasic problem was that the definition of the Council of Chalcedon α been crying out for clarification — what many regarded as a self-contradictory council had to be resolved.

It is clear that most of the time of the first two sessions was consumed by attempts to bring Pope Vigilius to the council. At the third session a confession of faith was made which was based on the introductory speech by Justinian. To this there was added an anathema against anyone who separated himself from the Church — it is obviously Vigilius to whom they refer. The fourth session examined seventy excerpts from the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia and condemned them. In the fifth session the problem of condemning someone posthumously was discussed and it was decided to condemn both the writings and the person of Theodore of Mopsuestia. At this same session the writings of Theodoret against St. Cyril were examined and the council expresses surprise that the Council of Chalcedon had exonerated Theodoret — he was “rehabilitated” only after his explicit repudiation of Nestorius. At the sixth session the reputation of Ibas of Edessa was discussed, along with the infamous Letter to Maris. The decision was that Ibas was not the author of the letter and that his exoneration by the Council of Chalcedon was valid. The seventh session is the one which contains Justinian’s description of his dealings with Pope Vigilius. At the eighth session a doctrinal statement and fourteen anathemas were accepted. The Fifth Ecumenical Council was not acceptable to the Monophysites — especially the eighth anathema which clearly delineated the boundary between Monophysitism and a Cyrillian interpretation of the Council of Chalcedon.


The Firm Resistance to Justinian’s Stunning Edict
of 564 Proclaiming Aphthartodocetism Orthodox.

Whatever his own personal interpretation of Christology might have become, Justinian did nothing overtly to foster his own developing position — nothing, that is, until 564. Suddenly he stunned the Church with an issuance of an edict which was an expression of the extremist position within Monophysitism, a position that had been condemned by Monophysite theologians such as Philoxenus — Justinian decreed Aphthartodocetism to be orthodox, the belief that the humanity our Lord assumed was incorruptible and hence unlike our humanity, the doctrine of Julian of Halicarnassus. Justinian’s advisor on theological matters had been Theodore Askidas but when the latter died in January of 558 an unnamed bishop from Joppa in Palestine succeeded Theodore, referred to in the sources as a “stupid” man. Immediately Patriarch Eutychius of Constantinople refused to sign the edict. Justinian had Eutychius arrested and deposed a week later by a council.

Eutychius was celebrating the liturgy when Justinian’s police A Aetherius came to arrest him — he was permitted to complete the liturgy before being led away. After his quick condemnation by a council, Eutychius was sent to the island of Prinkipo. Eutychius spend the next twelve years in exile — though he was later permitted to serve his exile on his own estate and in his own monastery at Amasea. The other patriarchs of the East resisted also — Apolinarius of Alexandria, Anastasius of Antioch, and Macarius of Jerusalem. Indeed, Anastasius of Antioch had the imperial edict condemned by a council in Antioch. It is true that at first Anastasius did not reject the edict outright, declaring that he would accept it if “incorruptible” were to be the equivalent of “impeccable.” When Anastasius’ requested interpretation was rejected, Anastasius responded by declaring that if the humanity of Christ was not consubstantial with our humanity, then the Incarnation was devoid of all meaning. He was ready for his deposition when news arrived that Emperor Justinian had died. His successor, Emperor Justin II (565-578), revoked the edict at once.


The Twilight of Justinian’s Reign.

The last twelve years of Justinian’s reign saw a reversal of his achievements in the “miraculous” year of 553. In that year the long war with the Goths was finally won by the general Narses, Vigilius had finally given in, and the empire had succeeded in regaining much territory in Visigothic Spain. All was to be lost in the remaining years of Justinian’s reign. Illyricum would also be lost — the Avars, Lombards, and Slavs would penetrate the imperial borders. Still, at the time of the death of Justinian few would have imagined that the Monophysite Christians would later become so disenchanted with “Chalcedonian” imperial rule that they would somehow prefer the Arab invasions.

Justinian had lived long enough to put another patriarch on the throne of Constantinople, John of Sirmium, known as John ocholasticus. For the duration of Justin II’s reign and through the reign of his successor, Tiberius II (578-582) the Chalcedonians and the non-Chalcedonians were still on speaking terms and therewas still the hope of the possibility of some type of reconciliation. The head of non-Chalcedonian Egypt was still Theodosius, still residing in Theodora’s monastery for exiles in Constantinople. Letters to Theodosius were addressed to him as “ecumenical patriarch.” Justin II did nothing to alter this — indeed, Justin II would receive him with all the honor that belonged to a patriarch, and Justin II’s wife, Sophia, the niece of Theodora, was thought to be a follower of Theodosius.


The Actions of the Exiled Monophysite
“Patriarch” Theodosius in His Last Days.

About 567 Theodosius, knowing that his death was approaching, began to initiate new steps to regulate the affairs of his church. He had also begun to distrust Jacob — something had happened in Egypt, the precise nature of which is not reported something apparently caused by Jacob. Theodosius, the very person who had previously commissioned Jacob with the authority to act as his representative even in Egypt, now in essence began to rescind this authority. Theodosius began to give authority to Paul “the Black” of Antioch to ordain priests and deacons for Alexandria and to ordain Longinus as bishop for Nubia. Egypt, which during the times of St. Athanasius and St. Cyril had’ approximately more than one hundred bishops, now had only a handful. In his final episcopal letter Theodosius underscored the desperate need for bishops, something he had postponed because of his continued hope that he would return to Alexandria where he himself could ordain bishops. Now, however, all must obey Paul as they had obeyed him, and Paul would supply them with bishops. It is reported that he died just as he had finished dictating the letter and before he could affix his seal — he died in June of 566. Athanasius, a monk, delivered the funeral oration, an oration which Michael the Syrian in his Chronicle (10, 1) describes as condemning Chalcedon.


Justin II’s Convocation of the Monophysite Conference of 566.

The non-Chalcedonian movement had now become a separate church within the empire. In 566 Justin II made an attempt to reconcile the Monophysites with the Chalcedonians. He convoked a conference at which even Jacob was present — indeed, it appears that the initiative for the convocation of this conference had come from Sophia. In Constantinople, under the oversight of Patriarch John Scholasticus, the Chalcedonians met with two groups of non-Chalcedonians. Similar meetings took place between monks and clergy. It appears as though a temporary reconciliation took place between two Monophysite factions. Michael the Syrian relates that the Monophysites proposed a compromise which, it accepted, would have restored a unity between them and the Chalcedonians. Yet, if one takes this compromise seriously, then lear that it was in reality no compromise. Rather, it proposed that the Chalcedonians capitulate. The proposed compromise isted of the following: the expression “out of two natures” would have to be accepted; “not of two natures” would have to be added to “not two sons, not two persons, not two hypostases;” St. Cyril’s Twelve Anathemas must be declared canonical; the Henotikon, interpreted in Severian terms, would suffice as ondemnatory of Chalcedon; and Severus’ name would have to be restored to the diptychs. This was more akin to unconditional surrender than to compromise. What is surprising, however, is that the Monophysites claimed that they were willing, provided these terms were accepted, to be in communion with Anastasius of Antioch — indeed, this would have meant that they were ready to circumvent the recently ordained bishop and patriarch, Paul “the Black.” What may account for this willingness is the fact that Paul “the Black” was not on good terms with Justin II, whereas Anastasius, although a Chalcedonian, remained on good terms personally with most of the non-Chalcedonians and in his work against John Philoponus he was already using the term of “one energy” in Christ.


The Monophysite Conference at Callinicum.

Justin II empowered the comes orientales and Patrician John to continue with the dialogue in Callinicum on the Euphrates. The meeting, which probably took place in 568, was attended by numerous monks and clergy. What John brought with him was an edict that based the faith on the Council of Nicaea, claimed that Christ was “out of two natures, one hypostasis,” contained an anathema against the Three Chapters, abolished the edict against Severus, and all anathemas starting from the time of St. Cyril. The text of this edict is contained only in the source by Michael the Syrian — his Chronicle (10, 2). Again this was not compromise but capitulation. Although the bishops present seemed optimistic, the monks began to clamor. They allegedly ripped up the edict, created a riot and walked out of the talks. The events, as related by Michael the Syrian, give an interesting glimpse at Jacob. Michael, a Monophysite Patriarch, was not opposed to Jacob. If the source were written by a Chalcedonian, one would have to be more sceptical. The bishops were infuriated with the unruly monks. John wanted to continue the dialogue despite “the anger of a few ignorant monks.” Michael the Syrian relates that Jacob offered to attempt to persuade the monks to return.

But, once in the company of the monks, that element of his personality and character which had distressed Theodosius in his later years, revealed itself again. Jacob joined the monks and anathematized the meeting and all those participating. John is said to have reported to Constantinople that “it is useless to attempt to reconcile men like this” and broke off the negotiations. He was cursed by the monks as a deceiver and, when he died shortly thereafter, the monks interpreted it as a sign of divine judgment on him.


The Imperial Summons for Another Conference
Among the Monophysites at Constantinople.

Justin, though distressed at the chaotic and unsuccessful meeting, made another attempt to achieve union with the Monophysites. He summoned the bishops to Constantinople for another conference. Jacob, of course, excused himself from attending. The bishops who attended condemned Paul “the Black” of Antioch — for what reason is not specifically known, though it appears to be connected with his work in Egypt. Paul “the Black” had returned to Syria from Egypt in about 566. That next year he was back in Constantinople to participate in the negotiations. Michael the Syrian relates that he and other non-Chalcedonian bishops entered communion with the Chalcedonians in 571 under the belief that the Council of Chalcedon was to be annulled. Now the divisions among the non-Chalcedonians become more apparent, divisions which began much earlier — indeed, they actually begin with the definition of faith by the Council of Chalcedon.


The Varieties of Monophysite Thought.

During the time of Proterius John the Rhetorician combined ideas from both Nestorius and Eutyches to produce the idea that “God the Logos was wrapped in the body as if a seed” and that “if he suffered, then he suffered in his divine nature.” Shortly thereafter Timothy Aelurus wrote from exile to condemn the thought of Isaiah of Hermopolis and a Theophilus of Alexandria -they had taught that “our Lord and God Jesus Christ was by nature different from us in the flesh, that he was not consubstantial with mankind, and was not truly man.”

Then there arose the controversy between Severus and Julian of Halicarnassus and Julian’s followers proclaimed the doctrine of the incorruptibility of the humanity of our Lord and the faction of the Aphthartodocetists came into existence. Often one could find among the former fathers some who taught a similar view. In the case of Julian it must be mentioned that St. Hilary of Poitiers wrote in his De Trinitate (10, 22) that the human soul of Christ could only have come directly from God and therefore could not have been in reality human — “but as he by his own act assumed a body from the Virgin, so he assumed from himself a soul; though even in ordinary human birth the soul is never derived from the parents. If, then, the Virgin received from God alone the flesh which she conceived, far more certain is it that the soul of that body can have come from God alone.” St. Hilary also anticipates to some extent the position of Julian in the same work (10, 23) — “when in this humanity he was struck with blows or smitten with wounds or bound with ropes or lifted on high, he felt the force of the suffering but without its pain ... So our Lord Jesus Christ suffered blows, hanging, crucifixion, and death — but the suffering which attacked the body of the Lord, without ceasing to be suffering, had not the natural effect of suffering. It exercised its function of punishment with all its violence, but the body of Christ by its virtue suffered the violence of the punishment without its consciousness... He had a body to suffer and he suffered, but he had not a nature which could feel pain, for his body possessed a unique nature of its own; it was transformed into heavenly glory on the Mount, it put fevers to flight by its touch, it gave new eyesight by its spittle.” Indeed, Julian was convinced that he was basing his view on the thought of the “fathers.” Writing to Severus, Julian makes his position clear: “Some say that the body of Christ was corruptible. I am certain that you will agree with my rebuttle to them, and I attach what I have written to correct their error. My position is merely that of the Fathers, those holy men who could neither contradict themselves nor each other. And St. Cyril says of the humanity of Christ, ‘corruption could never take hold of it.’” It should be mentioned that there is a distinction between “corruption” never being able to take hold of the humanity of Christ and the doctrine that the humanity of our Lord was always “incorruptible,” a distinction which is precisely ontological. As related previously, the controversy between Severus and Julian, although starting in a friendly vein, became a tumultuous battle, one that broke their friendship and split the Monophysites into two factions. Indeed, Severus wrote to Justinian that Julian was a danger to the “public,” that he had become a Manichee, that he held “the Passion itself as unreal.” The ultimate result of this controversy was that the followers of Julian, with the assistance of Julian, established their own hierarchy which continued to exist separately until approximately 800 with its own patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch.

During the period when the Monophysites were left somewhat undisturbed by the imperial arm, from 540 until about 570, personal disputes caused further factions. One faction was the Agnoetae — from αγνοέω. They were also known as Themistians, from the founder of their Monophysite faction, Themistius, a sixth century deacon of Alexandria and a student of Severus. Their basic position was in maintaining that the humanity of Christ was “ignorant.” Another group, the Niobites, professed a belief in a distinction of natures after the union but refused to accept the expression “two natures” — the Niobites anathematized the entire Severian party.

A more serious schism was that of the Tritheists, also known as the Cononites from their leader Conon, one of the early associates of Jacob — they were also known as the Philoponists from John Philoponus (d.c. 565). According to the extant sources the origin of Tritheism occurred in a most casual way. In a meeting with the Chalcedonians John Philoponus allegedly asked: “If you speak about two natures, why do you not also speak of two hypostases since nature and hypostasis are identical?” The Chalcedonian response was that they would indeed do so “if we considered nature and hypostasis identical, but as a point of fact we distinguish between the two.” The Chalcedonian reportedly continued by proposing that John Philoponus, if he held nature and hypostasis to be identical, should therefore speak of three natures in the Godhead. His reply allegedly was: “Then, we will do so.” When the astonished Chalcedonian exclaimed that to do so would be to teach Tritheism, John reportedly replied that “in the Trinity I count as many natures, essences, and Godheads as I do hypostases.”

Such a position may appear somewhat flippant and casual but it was a quite serious point by John Philoponus, who was not an ignorant monk but a sophisticated philosopher, a disciple of Ammonius of Hermias. He wrote works on Aristotle, works on Nichomachus of Gerosa, and at least two works on grammar. His works reflect an eclectic philosophical perspective which combines Aristotle, Plato, Stoic principles, and elements of Christian thought. Underlying his thought is a Stoic principle of considering fundamental matter as three dimensional. Pluralism was a cornerstone of his philosophical perspective. In transferring his basic philosophical vision to the Trinity John Philoponus could easily affirm a Tritheism. It is interesting that in his philosophy he viewed created existence as a mere instrumentality of divine causation, a position which would make Monophysitism somewhat natural for him. In none of his works does he, however, explicitly affirm that there are three gods. John Philoponus was also extremely hostile toward the Roman see, attacking directly the primacy of Rome and explicitly calling Pope Leo the Great a Nestorian.

Underlying the thought of the Tritheists was the distinction between hypostasis and nature. Christ was one hypostasis, an indivisible hypostasis, which, though united with God the Father, must be distinguished from the hypostasis of the Father and the hypostasis of the Holy Spirit. But because of the interaction between hypostasis and nature and because of a certain “assimilation” between the two, the individual “natures” had also to be distinguished. The Cappadocian balance between the hypostasis and nature was compromised and the compromise implied a Tritheism. When this thought pattern was presented by a philosopher and ascetic such as John Philoponus, it attracted the attention of some leaders within the Monophysite movement. Sergius, a Syrian from Telia who was ordained patriarch of Antioch in 557 by Theodosius, became enamored by the teaching. The early associates of Jacob, Conon and Eugenius, now working in Cilicia and Isauria fell under the influence of Tritheism. In Constantinople John Asconaghes — his name referred to his slippery type of shoes which in turn referred to his “slippery” character; that is, he was constantly slipping from one faction to another — accepted this interpretation of hypostasis and nature and, through him, an important convert was won from the imperial court: Anastasius, the grandson of Theodora.

For the next twenty years Anastasius was to be a personality to contend with. Michael the Syrian relates that Justinian had hoped to place Anastasius on the patriarchal throne of Alexandria (Chronicle 9, 30). Anastasius brought both money and a certain social prestige to the new faction. Very quickly this new faction had attracted to its cause another bishop, a significant event because this new bishop happened to be the third bishop in the new movement which now allowed them to ordain their own bishops. One of the sources claims that “all their disciples and followers — whoever joined them — they consecrated as bishops.” They established new communities throughout the empire — in Africa, in Rome, in Greece, in Asia Minor, as well as in the traditionally non-Chalcedonian areas of Egypt and Syria. In Constantinople they also established themselves. Indeed, John of Ephesus relates how surprised he was at the number of persons from the court who attended the services of the new faction.

During all this Theodosius used persuasion and then excommunication with the new faction. Theodosius rejected any notion of separate natures. He excommunicated John Asconaghes and Patriarch Sergius. He had more difficulty with Conon and Eugenius, both of whom continued to reject and then accept again the position of the Tritheists throughout their lives. Anastasius had created a will that left an endowment to the new faction. He had a falling out with this new faction before his death but had not altered his will, the result of which was a financial source to perpetuate the new faction.

Attempts were made to reunite but nothing came of them ultimately. After mutual excommunication both parties appealed to the emperor. The task of judging two Monophysite groups was delegated to Patriarch John Scholasticus. He was to use the works of Severus, Theodosius, and Anthimus as the guide, the authoritative works from which to judge. The “trial” lasted for four days. Conon and Eugenius represented the Tritheists; Paul “the Black” and Jacob the “conservative” wing of the Monophysites. As could have been anticipated, the decision favored the “conservative” wing. Exile under escort was the decision for Conon and Eugenius. John of Ephesus relates that the head of the escort was the defrocked monk, Photius, the stepson of Belisarius, who was well-known for his cruelty. Indeed, it is related that he liked nothing more than to torture clergy.

This inner quarrel actually played into the hands of the Chalcedonians. The Tritheists had pushed the Monophysite position to an extremity and, in order to answer the Tritheists, the conservative Monophysites were forced to fall back to strictly Severian positions or to positions that pointed in the direction of Chalcedon. Michael the Syrian claims that thousands returned to the Chalcedonian hierarchy, for they believed it far more theologically sound to confess “two natures” rather than have anything to do with a theology that could fall into “three natures in the Trinity.”


The Reign of Terror Unleashed by Patriarch John
Scholasticus Against the Monophysites of Constantinople in 571.

Patriarch John Scholasticus decided to take action against the Monophysites, at least those in and around Constantinople. Justin II was already decomposing in insanity and the patriarch had little difficulty obtaining permission from the emperor to deal with the Monophysites as he deemed best. John of Ephesus relates that the stunning reversal took place on the Saturday prior to Palm Sunday of 571. Suddenly all places of Monophysite worship were forbidden and the few Monophysite bishops in Constantinople were arrested and imprisoned in the firmly Chalcedonian Acoe-metae Monastery. Later they were transferred to cells in the patriarchal residence. A reign of terror was unleashed on all the Monophysite monastic communities in Constantinople, communities which had come into existence as a result of the vibrant life existing in Theodora’s monastery for exiled Monophysites. The non-Chalcedonian sources relate that the imperial police and security forces entered the monastic communities to compel the people to accept the Holy Eucharist from Chalcedonian priests. When they refused, they were dragged to Chalcedonian altars, their mouths forced open, and forced to consume the Holy Eucharist. The more recalcitrant met with severe punishment. The patriarch, the sources relate, went from place to place to proclaim the holy council of Chalcedon — indeed, it is related that the now insane emperor accompanied him, giving out gifts to those who submitted. As many measures as possible were implemented to extirpate Monophysitism in Constantinople — their places of assembly were destroyed, their hospitals were confiscated, and the staff of clerics was dismissed. This was, however, restricted to Constantinople and its immediate surroundings. What caused the most hostile bitterness was the fact that Patriarch John reordained all non-Chalcedonian clergy. Indeed, many of the Chalcedonians were dismayed by the action of the patriarch.

Patriarch John, realizing the importance of Paul “the Black” as a patriarch and the esteem held by John of Ephesus, summoned the two from their imprisonment and proposed as the document of union the very document signed by St. Cyril and John of Antioch — “Let the heavens rejoice.” Paul and Jacob agreed on the condition that the Council of Chalcedon first be anathematized. As John of Ephesus relates, they exclaimed that “before Cyril made peace he had cast Nestorius out of the Church and we must do the same.” Patriarch John refused. It appears that Emperor Jus tin II had a brief period of lucidity, an interlude in his insanity. It was at this time that he proposed union based on both formulae — “one nature incarnate” and “two natures.” The condition laid down by the Monophysites was the anathematization of Chalcedon.

Paul and John were confined in “filthy dungeons” and deprived of any visitation. They were brought out only when the patriarch wanted to engage in a theological conversation. A rumor was deliberately leaked to them that the faithful were blaming their obstinacy for the persecution. John of Ephesus relates that at this time Patriarch John offered a duplicious proposal: “Participate in communion with me just once in order ‘to save my reputation’ and when that is accomplished and the schism is healed, I swear that Chalcedon will be dropped.” Paul and John, worn thin by de -privation and suffering, anathematized Chalcedon while receiving communion twice from Patriarch John. When they asked Patriarch John to keep his word, John replied that he would keep his word if Rome agreed. “Be reasonable. You cannot expect us to offend Rome to please you.” Paul and John swore they would never again communicate with Patriarch John and they appealed to the insane emperor. The imperial reply was that the emperor would investigate the matter at the end of a month, after he had completed his baths. Patriarch John then offered them any see they wanted if they would submit. They continued to refuse.

The imperial court was tired of the entire controversy. It is related that Emperor Justin II, if indeed he was speaking for himself in a moment of lucidity, was angered by the recalcitrant position of the Monophysites and angered by the policy of Patriarch John, a policy accused of having exacerbated the situation rather than to have brought the expected reconciliation. The matter was then referred to the senate, which rendered a decision in favor of the patriarch — John of Ephesus and Paul “the Black” were either to remain in communion with Patriarch John or to be confined.

John of Ephesus was kept for one year in a dungeon, an account of which he has left to us. He was later sent to the island of Prinkipo for another year and one-half. At that time Tiberius, ruling in the place of the insane Justin II, allowed John of Ephesus to return to Constantinople under supervision. Upon the death of Patriarch John, Tiberius gave John of Ephesus his freedom.

Paul “the Black” was confined in the Acoemetae Monastery where he wrote an account of the recent events. His writing was confiscated and shown to Patriarch John who was infuriated. Paul expected to be executed. Finally, as a result of the intervention of friends, an option was given to Paul — to receive communion again from the patriarch. He succumbed. Patriarch John used the occasion for a victory celebration — he invited as many selected persons as possible to attend the celebration. After Paul had communicated with the patriarch, he was allowed certain freedom under surveillance. Paul’s brother was an admiral in the Byzantine navy, a fact which indicates that Paul’s family obviously came from a relatively high social class. The emperor began to solicit Paul’s advice on ecclesiastical matters, a step which angered the patriarch. Patriarch John suggested that Paul should be the bishop of some see of rank. Paul was offered Jerusalem and Thessaloniki but refused both. The patriarch arranged for Paul to escape. Paul seized the opportunity and left Constantinople to seek out Jacob to confess, to repent, and to submit to any disciplinary action as Jacob decreed.

Tiberius refused to permit persecution. John of Ephesus relates that Tiberius responded to Patriarch John’s request by saying “By your own statements they are not heretics. Let them alone.” A few years later Patriarch John died after suffering from a painful illness. When it became clear that Patriarch John would not recover, the Monophysites began to worship in public again.


The Death of Patriarch John and
the Recall of the Exiled Patriarch Eutychius.

With the passing of Patriarch John, his predecessor Patriarch Eutychius was brought out of retirement and again assumed the position of patriarch of Constantinople. Eutychius was welcomed as a confessor and a worker of miracles. He immediately excommunicated the recently departed Patriarch John and removed his name from the diptychs. The apocrisiarius of the Roman see protested — he was deacon Gregory, the future Pope Gregory I (590-604). Patriarch Eutychius let the conservative Monophysites in peace, permitting them to worship freely and allowing those who had been compelled to “convert” to the Chalcedonian faith to “reconvert” to Monophysitism. John of Ephesus relates that those who remained in Chalcedonian places were permitted to receive the Holy Eucharist from their own clergy after the Chalcedonians completed their liturgy. They were not considered heretics but rather dissenters. But Eutychius did persecute the Tritheist faction.

The cessation of persecution did not last long. The cause, however, came this time from a completely different direction. A petition had come to Tiberius while he was still regent, a petition from the Gothic Arian women in Constantinople — their husbands were soldiers in the imperial army and the women petitioned for the use of a church for their Arian services. An outburst of protest came from the Chalcedonians. This was too much! Tiberius, not wanting to offend the ecclesiastical authorities before he had taken the imperial throne, proclaimed an order of arrest for all Arians and Manichees. John of Ephesus claims that the anti-Monophysites used this as a pretext and set about to plunder the places of worship of the Monophysites and to arrest some of them, himself included.

In general, however, Eutychius’ attack on Monophysitism restricted itself to the writing of books against them. John of Ephesus refers to these writings contemptuously, claiming in essence that Eutychius made a fool of himself, that Eutychius revealed his lack of knowledge in these books and could never prove his point. Patriarch Eutychius found himself accused of heresy because of his teaching on the resurrection. His overly spiritualized interpretation of the resurrection smacked of Origenism and he was denounced by both the Monophysites and by the Roman deacon Gregory.


Internal Dissenion Among the Monophysites:
Problems Caused by the Reconciliation of Paul the Black with Jacob.

Internally Monophysitism would carry within it a schism resulting from supporters of Paul “the Black” and those of Jacob. Paul “the Black” submitted to three years of suspension as a form of penance. Jacob was quite under the control of the monks who for some reason detested Paul. The monks threatened to separate from Jacob’s communion unless Jacob denounced his reconciliation with Paul “the Black.” Jacob did not deny the reconciliation, although John of Ephesus tells us that Jacob refers to it as “accidental,” as “informal.” When Theodosius died in Constantinople the Egyptian Church was without a patriarch. Indeed, exclusive of the Chalcedonian and Julianist bishops, there were only three Monophysite bishops in Egypt — Longinus, who was in distant Nubia; Theodore of Philae, now old and ill; and John of the Cells, who, though in Alexandria, was under discipline for some type of irregularity. The clergy in Alexandria wrote to Longinus of Nubia and to Theodore of Philae to urge them to come to consecrate a patriarch. Longinus responded quickly and undertook the trip. Along the way he met with Theodore of Philae who, too ill to travel, gave Longinus the authority to act in his name. Still underway Longinus met with two bishops in Mareotis and implored them to assist in the matter. They would assist only on the condition that the matter of the reconciliation with Paul “the Black” be clarified. Longinus’ choice for patriarch of Alexandria was Theodore, the abbot of Rhamnis in Nitria. The three bishops — Longinus and the two whom he met at Mareotis — consecrated Theodore of Rhamnis as patriarch of Alexandria. Paul “the Black” was present but did not participate precisely because he did not want the consecration to be challenged. He approved the consecration and exchanged the customary letter of enthronement as patriarch of Antioch. A letter of approval also came from Theodore of Philae.


The Election of Two Monophysite Patriarchs of

Alexandria: Theodore of Rhamnis and Peter.

But the consecration was challenged by some of the leaders of the Monophysite body in Alexandria, especially by a Theodosius and a deacon named Theodore. These men were indignant because, as they claimed, Paul “the Black” had been involved. They denounced and repudiated the consecration of Theodore of Rhamnis and sought to find another candidate. Their choice was a monk named Peter whom they consecrated — two visiting bishops from the orient and John of the Cells performed the consecration. Peter, now patriarch of Alexandria, acted quickly, according to Michael the Syrian, by consecrating seventy bishops. Immediately Peter convoked a council which deposed Paul “the Black.” Theodore of Rhamnis graciously wrote from his monastery that he had no interest in high position and implored the new body not to create a schism, although he complained to the end of his life about the conduct of Longinus and Paul who had “elevated him and then dropped him.”

The attitude of Jacob would now become crucial for the new body in Alexandria. Initially Jacob refused to recognize the consecration of Peter, referring to him as a “new Gaianus.” But Jacob was under the control of the monks who detested Paul “the Black.” Jacob left for Alexandria and, once there, fell under the influence of others who hated Paul. At this point Jacob supported the deposition of Paul “the Black.” Paul wrote, Michael the Syrian tells us, to Jacob to request an audience with him. Paul was, of course, Jacob’s superior. Jacob had been given an unusual commission in specific conditions but he was still only a bishop, whereas Paul was “Patriarch of Antioch.” Paul desired to restore unity among the Monophysite body. According to John of Ephesus Paul wrote to Jacob offering to accept any outcome as long as “this terrible schism ceases.” Longinus’ very life was at stake but he managed to return to Nubia where it was impossible to harm him. He was deposed and excommunicated. John of Ephesus writes that “actions took place by both sides in which only Satan could have rejoiced.”


The Death of Jacob Baradaeus.

When Peter, the recently consecrated patriarch of Alexandria, died in 577 Damianus was selected to succeed him. Damianus had just been consecrated when Jacob decided to go to Alexandria to meet him, accompanied by a group of eight bishops and priests. Jacob’s intention was not known. Some speculated that his purpose was to make peace; some that he intended to consecrate a new patriarch for Antioch. His motives had to remain clouded in mystery, for underway he and the others with him contracted an illness and died eight days later. The cause of Jacob’s death was subjected to rumor.


Damianus of Alexandria and the Conference on unity
Among the Monophysites Requested by Almoundir.

For two years the controversy continued. The Arab prince Al-Moundir, when on a visit to Constantinople on state business, requested that Tiberius issue an edict of toleration for the Mono -physites and to summon a conference of the disputing groups. Damianus of Alexandria decided to consecrate a patriarch for Antioch and summoned Syrian bishops who elected a monk named Sergius. Gregory, the Chalcedonian patriarch of Antioch, discovered what was taking place and attempted to arrest the “conspirators.” Damianus and three others escaped. Damianus then went to Constantinople while the conference was taking place but did not participate. He did, however, meet privately with Al-Moundir and agreed to the decision of the conference, a decision which was that of reconciliation between the disputing parties. The monks, however, refused to accept the decision of union, claiming they had not been consulted.

When Damianus realized that the conference was unpopular with the monks, he denounced it. John of Ephesus relates that a substantial number of the Monophysites fled this schism by rejoining the Chalcedonians. A new patriarch for Antioch was finally consecrated — Peter of Callinicum, the original choice of Jacob. Paul “the Black” had essentially resigned to retire to a monastery. Few knew where Paul “the Black” was. Even his death in 585 was known to only a few and his followers continued to commemorate him as the living patriarch of Antioch. The schism continued and John of Ephesus ends his history with words of gloom: “Satan has realized his goal and now rejoices in dancing … rejoicing in the actions of both parties in the controversy.”


The Theological Quarrel Between Damianus
of Alexandria and Peter Callinicum of Antioch.

Peter Callinicum was now Monophysite patriarch in Antioch and Damianus was Monophysite patriarch of Alexandria. The Monophysite patriarchs usually ruled not from a centralized patriarchal residence but rather from a monastery beyond the reach of the city officials. Damianus held that the individual charac -teristics or properties of the Trinity were identical with the persons, a view which came close to Tritheism. And yet each hypostasis somehow merged — without any distinction — into the oneness of the Godhead. Peter reacted by accusing Damianus of Sabellianism. As a result, communion was broken between the two Monophysite patriarchates for approximately twenty years.

The source from the Egyptian perspective claims that Damianus attempted to end the schism but was unsuccessful “because of the quarrelsome nature of those in Antioch.” Michael the Syrian claims that Peter tried to heal the schism but failed “because of the complete malice of the Alexandrians.” A con -ference was finally arranged and Michael the Syrian relates that Damianus’ behavior was intolerable. Initially, he arrogantly refused to attend the conference at Paralus. Changing his mind, Damianus finally attended and, in the view of Michael the Syrian, caused the schism to escalate into an unbecoming battle of personal insults which resulted in physical fights — indeed, it is claimed that one deacon had his head broken. The civil authorities, relates Michael the Syrian, were disgusted with the behavior of both sides. The sources further relate that Peter Callinicum, so desirous to bring this schism to an end, travelled to Egypt and offered to give up his see. But his well-intentioned trip only exacerbated the schism, the precise details of which are not related.


The Monophysite Conference at the
Gubba Barraya Monastery.

In Alexandria the usual theological discussions were taking place. An Alexandrian named Stephen maintained that one could not be an “orthodox” — orthodox Monophysite — if one held that the distinctions in the “two natures” continued after the union. Two of the followers of Peter Callinicum, a John and a certain Probus, disagreed. A council was convoked about 588 at the monastery of Gubba Βarraya, the residence of the Monophysite patriarchs of Antioch since 580. John and Probus, declaring that if one held that distinctions in the two natures remained after the union, then it was essentially the same teaching as the Chalcedonians. Indeed, it is related that both John and Probus became Chalcedonians, although Probus is said to have reconverted with approaching death. Anastasius, the Chalcedonian patriarch of Antioch, deposed by Justin II and then later restored to his throne, tried to use this new schism among the Monophysites to reunite them with the Chalcedonians, a project that failed in general but resulted in numerous individuals returning to the Chalcedonian Church.


Pope Gregory I and the Chalcedonian Patriarch of Alexandria Eulogius.

The death of both Peter and Damianus did not end the quarrel, a quarrel which continually makes reference to the dispute over Paul “the Black.” The Alexandrian patriarch of the Chalcedonians, Eulogius, was respected by the Monophysites and apparently was responsible for bringing many back to the Chalcedonian Church. Patriarch Eulogius wrote to Pope Gregory the Great about the “glad news of the increase in the number of “true” orthodox. Pope Gregory's letter to Eulogius — Letter 8 — is historically interesting. Pope Gregory, in whom many have found the beginnings of the evolution of the modern papacy, appears in a much different perspective when one considers his correspondence with the eastern patriarchs. Pope Gregory, the first pope to take the title of Servus servorum Dei, writes to Eulogius: “My brother, do not convey on me high titles . . . you are my brother in rank and in character my superior. Do away with words that only harm character and increase vanity.” It is the same tone one finds in the astonishing and historically important correspondence of Pope St. Gregory with John the Faster, the first patriarch of Constantinople to adopt officially the title of “ecumenical patriarch” — the title had been used previously during the Acacian Schism and during the reign of Justinian I, although not with the consistency and frequency with which John the Faster used it.

The Election of the Monk Athanasius as Patriarch of Antioch.

An end to the schism between the Monophysite patriarchates of Alexandria and Antioch came after the death of Peter Callinicum's successor, Julian, in approximately 595. The council that met at the Gubba Barraya monastery could not decide on an acceptable candidate. The sources relate that the council finally decided to leave the decision to God — they would elect the first monk who appeared outside the monastery gates the next day. A monk who was in charge of the monastery camels, a certain Athanasius, was the first to appear. He was instantly grabbed and consecrated patriarch. Astonished, he declared that he had another year's obligation with the monastery to care for the camels. The council agreed to let him keep his oath for another year. A year later a delegation came to fetch him. Athanasius became a highly respected patriarch and his service lasted many years, from 597 until approximately 630.

Maurice Accuses Al-Moundir of Treason and the Consequent Splitting of the Ghassanid Kingdom.

During this period the wars with Persia were to take their toll in terms of reshaping the life of Christianity in the future generations, for they prepared in a sense the opportunity for a new religion to expand at the expense of the empire. From approximately 572 the empire had been engaged in serious if sporadic conflict with Persia. The military assistance of al-Moundir's Ghassanid kingdom helped the empire immensely — indeed, it is not an exaggeration to state that al-Moundir was one of the most important persons in the empire from a perspective of military logistics. Tiberius had appointed Maurice to head the imperial military forces in the east. Maurice was determined to strike a decisive a blow against the Persians, a blow designed to destroy the Persian capital, Ctesiphon. In 580 Maurice set out to secure the pivotal point, the bridge over the river at Circesium. John of Ephesus relates that when Maurice's forces arrived at Circesium, they found the bridge demolished by the Persians. Maurice immediately accused al-Moundir of sabotage and treason, placing this charge directly before Tiberius. Imperial orders went out to arrest al-Moundir. He was condemned for treason and exiled to Sicily, an action which proved controversial and ultimately devastating for the imperial military forces in the east.

The sources differ on the question of the guilt of al-Moundir. In his ^ Church History Evagrius Scholasticus claims that al-Moundir, whom he calls a rogue, was fortunate to be sentenced only to exile — he was deserving of the death penalty. Writing during the reign of Emperor Heraclius (610-641), Theophylact Simocattes, in his lengthy study of eight books on the reign of Maurice, considers al-Moundir a “traitor.” John of Ephesus, on the other hand, claims there was no truth to the charge, a position which Michael the Syrian appears to support without committing himself explicitly on the subject.

In 582 Maurice became emperor (582-602). In 584 al-Moundir’s Ghassanid kingdom split into fifteen different tribes, a historical reality which now meant that the empire had lost the solidity of support which the united kingdom under the Ghassanids had provided. Indeed, the Arabs formerly united under al-Moundir came to regard all Christianity with suspicion — moreover, many Arabs joined forces with the Persians. Michael the Syrian relates that this was the end of Christian Arab cooperation with the empire, the cause of which was “the treachery” of imperial officials. Lost now was that important conversion of the Ghassanids during the reign of Anastasius, a conversion which at that time saw the Ghassanids switch their loyalty from the Persians to the empire. Now the reversal occurred. The infuriated Ghassanids now pillaged Palestine. The imperial forces had opportunity to see the swiftness of the Arab cavalry, a swiftness that the Byzantine military could not match. Yet the Byzantines remained focused on Persia, neglecting the seriousness of the possibility of a future military force of Arabs — the rise of Islam.


The Policy of Emperor Maurice (582-602):
Persecution of the Monophysites in Constantinople.

In his Chronicle John of Nikiou writes that Emperor Maurice, a staunch Chalcedonian, made no attempt to negotiate a union with the Monophysites. Maurice, the son-in-law of Tiberius, was a very effective emperor — indeed, his reign is often overlooked because it is overshadowed by the reigns of Justinian and Heraclius. He was respected by most segments of Byzantine society, from the ascetical monks to the Monophysite John of Ephesus who refers to Maurice as “God-inspired.” Yet, in Constantinople Maurice persecuted and imprisoned Monophysites, including John of Ephesus — over the protests of Patriarch John the Faster. Indeed, John of Ephesus puts the following words in the mouth of John the Faster: “What have the ‘dissenters’ done that permits us to persecute them?” The policy towards the Monophysites did not remain restricted to Constantinople — it spread to Syria, to Egypt, and then to Armenia.


Emperor Maurices Extension of Imperial
Rule in Armenia and the Ecclesiastical Result.

In 591 Emperor Maurice, through diplomacy, was able to extend the imperial influence in Armenia up to Lake Van, a substantial increase from imperial control in Armenia when Maurice ascended the throne. The Armenian Catholicus John had accepted the Henotikon in about 571. Now Maurice was determined to restore the Chalcedonian faith in Armenia. He summoned the Armenian bishops within the imperial territory to Constantinople where they accepted Chalcedon. A new Chalcedonian patriarch was elected. This was not received well by the then Catholicus Moses whose residence was at Dvin. This action by Emperor Maurice did, however, have one lasting result, for it brought the kingdom of Georgia, then in a subservient relationship to Armenia, into the Chalcedonian faith. The Armenian Church was split.


The Persecution of Monophysites in Melitene and
Mesopotamia Unleashed by Domitian, Bishop of Melitene.

The Monophysites, however, were gaining ground throughout the area of the border with Persia and also in eastern Cappadocia. In 599 a new persecution broke out in Syria, a persecution caused by the emperor’s nephew, Domitian, Bishop of Melitene. The zeal with which Domitian undertook his project is vividly described by Theophylact Simocattes in his Historiae (5, 4). Evagrius Scholasticus in his Church History (4, 18) and Michael the Syrian in his Chronicle (10, 23) also give an account of the zealous persecuting activity of Domitian, who confiscated the monasteries of the Monophysites in Melitene and in the province of Mesopotamia. It is not difficult to discern from the writing of Michael the Syrian that at this time Syrians came to be known as Monophysites, just as Coptic Christians in Egypt became identified with Monophysitism — in contradistinction, Chalcedon became identified as Greek. Michael the Syrian relates that the monks in Edessa who refused to obey imperial orders to leave their monasteries were killed by the military (Chronicle 10, 23). The reputation of Emperor Maurice suffered sorely in the eastern areas as a result, far worse than it had ever been. John of Nikiou, the Coptic bishop, in his Chronicle (101, 5) sees the cause of the earthquake in Antioch as a direct result of “the heresy of Emperor Maurice,” as God’s judgment on the emperor. The Coptic and Syrian Mono physites will view the conquests by the Persians and then by the Arabs as also God’s judgment on the heresy of Chalcedon and on Ar ‘nfliction of persecution. Domitian died in 602, an important ίη the history of the eastern Church, for the break between the non-Chalcedonians and “empire” had been consummated.


Emperor Maurice and Chosroes II of Persia.

Persia had been ruled for almost a century by Chosroes I and his grandson Chosroes II, from 531 until 638. In 592 Chosroes II had to flee from a revolt in Persia. It was Emperor Maurice who had responsible for restoring him to the Persian throne, where Chosroes II would rule in peace with the empire for the next ten years — surrounded by an imperial bodyguard provided by yCa rice The emperor had received a reputation for being extremely parsimonious, a reputation which was unfair since the empire he inherited had been financially depleted. Yet the reality in the minds of the imperial subjects was one of dislike for Maurice. In 602, having run out of finances necessary to continue the military compaign in the Balkans, Maurice ordered the imperial army to winter in Avar territory and “to live off the land.” The amy mutinied and elected their military officer Phocas as exarch. Phocas immediately marched on Constantinople. Maurice, abandoned by the army, by the guards, and by the population — both the Greens and Blues revolted — fled with his family to Calcedon where he and four sons were murdered. His four sons were butchered before his eyes! Phocas was crowned by the army and entered Constantinople triumphantly.


The Bloody Reign of Emperor Phocas (602-610).

The rule of Phocas (602-610), known as the “tyrant,” is in j considered one of the lowest points in the history of the Bizantine empire. His reign is remembered as one of bloodshed both abroad and at home. He was wholly concentrated on mantaining the throne against inner treason and conspiracy and against the military advances of Chosroes II, who used the murder again benefactor and father-in-law Maurice as justification for resuming the war. The advances of the Persian army were almost unopposed and it proved to be a death blow thirty years later to the eastern provinces. The Persian forces overran Mesopotamia, Siria, Cappadocia, Paphlagonia, and finally reached and besieged Chalcedon at the very walls of Constantinople. The supply of corn from Egypt to Constantinople was suspended and famine broke out. The late Roman empire was in its death throes.


The Edict of Emperor Phocas to Pope Boniface III.

During the wars and the internal mutiny that characterized his reign, Phocas managed to carry out a conciliatory policy with Rome. The controversy between Pope Gregory I and Patriarch John the Faster had been essentially ignored by Emperor Maurice. Phocas issued an edict addressed to Pope Boniface III, an edict which acknowledged the Roman see, the “Apostolic Church of St. Peter,” as the head of all churches. While Phocas became more and more hated in Byzantium, his reputation in Rome culminated with an inscription of praise in a column erected in the Roman forum. In general, Phocas responded to the chaotic situation by retaliating against the Monophysites in the eastern districts and against the Jews.


The Advance of the Persian Army
and the Religious Policy of Chosroes II.

There is no incontrovertible evidence that the Monophysites assisted the advances of the Persian army. Although an anonymous Nestorian chronicler asserts that Chosroes II merely feigned to favor Christians, there is reason to believe that he was certainly not directly opposed to Christianity. Chosroes’ wife was the daughter of Maurice — indeed, she was permitted to establish a church and a monastery in the proximity of the Persian imperial palace. We are also told that Chosroes’ mistress, Shirin, whom he later married, was a convert to Jacobite Monophysitism. In general, however, Chosroes’ marriages remain difficult to place in chronology. Three sources testify to Chosroes’ giving of gifts to the church of St. Sergius at Circesium. Michael the Syrian relates that Nestorian and Monophysite bishops accompanied the Persian armies and, on the conquest of any Christian city, they expelled the Chalcedonian bishops. When Jerusalem fell in 604, Patriarch Zacharias and thirty-five thousand Chalcedonians, together with holy relics of the Cross, were taken to Ctesiphon. Chosroes’ policy was to leave the Monophysites in place when he conquered one of their cities. Michael the Syrian relates that the memory of Chalcedon was soon eradicated from the Euphrates to Syria.

In either 612 or 614 a conference of the bishops from the east took place at Seleucia under the sponsorship of Chosroes II. Whether the result was the acceptance of the Armenian “confession of faith” is not the issue. It is evident that Chosroes II allowed in general — for this would not be the case in Edessa — the Nestorians to control their congregations and the Monophysites theirs. As the former monk and the now Monophysite Patriarch of Antioch, Athanasius, wrote to the Patriarch of Alexandria, all that really mattered was that the dark night of Chalcedon had been lifted, an accomplishment which was met with rejoicing.

Despite the initial elation all was not well, for the Persian occupation was not popular — indeed, ultimately not even popular among the Monophysites. The Monophysites were deeply concerned with the insensitivity of Chosroes II, an insensitivity he revealed by appointing a Persian Nestorian bishop for Edessa. Michael the Syrian alludes to this as the creation of a “new Ibas.” In addition, Persian taxation was exacting. And the threat of deportation to Persia was not a comforting thought.


The Accession of Emperor Heraclius (610-641).

The situation of the empire under Phocas looked hopeless. There seemed to be no one and no place to turn to. But in Africa the exarchate of Carthage was prospering under Heraclius the Elder, a valiant officer in the wars against the Persians during the reign of Emperor Maurice. He realized that if the empire could be saved, he would have to act. He sent his son Heraclius in a fleet and his nephew Nicetas with an army by land. Whoever reached Constantinople first would rule. In the early fall of 610 Heraclius’ fleet reached its destination and he was received as a deliverer, received with open arms. Phocas, despised by all, was seized, cut to pieces, and burned. Emperor Heraclius was one of the greatest rulers in Byzantine history. He appears to have come from Armenian stock. He was a pious Chalcedonian and an inspired leader who was capable of inspiring others with a sense of mission. He found the empire in shambles and left it restored, at least restored sufficiently to ensure its survival for another eight centuries.

The tragedy of Heraclius is that he worked energetically for thirty years and yet at the end of those thirty years it appeared as though he had accomplished nothing. Persia had been defeated. In 630 the Cross was brought back solemnly and triumphantly to Jerusalem by Emperor Heraclius himself and the territory of the empire existing at the end of the reign of Emperor Maurice had been restored. But a new military and religious force had come into existence and it was to capture the precious cities of the east Islam.

Heraclius, after the victory against Persia in 630, turned his attention to the unity of the Church. As with other emperors, his task was to attempt to devise a formula which would restore the Monophysites to the Chalcedonian Church. In the territories which Heraclius had reconquered the Monophysites were now in virtually complete control. Armenia, as a result of the Persian religious policy carried out with the advancing Persian victories, was Monophysite. The patriarchal sees of Alexandria and Antioch now had only Monophysite patriarchs and these patriarchs controlled not only the surrounding areas and the monasteries but also the cities. The influence and authority of the Monophysites had spread far beyond the border of the empire. The Monophysite patriarch of Antioch, Athanasius, had conveyed upon the monastery of Mar Matthai in Nineveh a primacy over all Christian converts in Persia.


Patriarch Segius and the Beginning of Monothelitism.

The patriarch of Constantinople, Patriarch Sergius (610-638) worked for a formula of union. The doctrine of one energy in Christ, a doctrine which arose in the eastern provinces, seemed to provide some hope as a formula of compromise. Emperor Heraclius supported this position. Indeed, already during his counteroffensive against Persia Heraclius had been discussing the possibility of union, especially with the Church of Armenia. In 634 the monk Sophronius had become the new patriarch of Jerusalem — he had begun his strenuous opposition to the new doctrine of one energy before his consecration as patriarch, claiming that it was nothing more than a form of Monophysitism.

Pope Honorius (625-638) played an important role in this development. In 634 Patriarch Sergius I sent a letter to Pope Honorius outlining the developments in the East, the goal of which was to win back the Monophysites to Chalcedonian unity by means of a formula that emphasized the oneness of operation in Christ. A year earlier Patriarch Cyrus of Alexandria had won back the “dissenters” by the formula of “ one theandric operation” in the Lord — μία θεανδρική ένέργεία Sophronius had already challenged the position while still a monk. He had brought forth patristic texts to demonstrate that there were two operations in Christ and requested that Patriarch Cyrus vow that he would not in the future speak of either one or two operations in Christ. Patriarch Sergius in his letter to Pope Honorius confessed that he held the faith as expounded by Pope Leo I and that he too had asked Patriarch Cyrus to refrain from speaking of operations, although he personally could accept a theology of a single operation — Sergius feared that two operations would imply that Christ possessed two conflicting wills. Sergius awaited the reaction of Pope Honorius.


The Role of Pope Honorius in the Rise of Monothelitism.

The reply of Pope Honorius is preserved in the Greek trans -lation read at the Sixth Ecumenical Council, the Third Council of Constantinople in 681 (Mansi 11, 537-544). Honorius supported the decision to refrain from discussion on the subject — he considered that to be the work of grammarians, not theologians. He preferred to focus on the one Christ who “operates” in both his human and divine natures. In quoting from the Council of Chalcedon that the two natures are unconfusedly and immutably united, Honorius saw in this unity the existence of a single will in Christ. The best defense on the part of the defenders of the Roman doctrine of papal infallibility is that this letter to Sergius was no more than a private letter, a letter in which both he and Patriarch Sergius were striving to arrive at an acceptable and orthodox formula, a letter which cannot be construed as coming under the category of public papal definitions of faith. Patriarch Sergius also wrote to Pope Honorius but Honorius’ response is no longer extant.

The “question of Honorius” has long been debated. He was subjected to much criticism in his own time. It must be mentioned that St. Maximus the Confessor maintained in his response to the deposed Patriarch Pyrrhus that Honorius restricted himself to the confines of the problem as it was proposed to (Patrologia Graeca 91, 329). But further developments took place, complicating “the question him of Honorius.” In 649 the Lateran Council summoned under Pope Martin I condemned Monothelitism and its eighteenth canon named Patriarch Sergius as a heretic. The Sixth Ecumenical Council (681) mentions Honorius several times and two of his letters to Patriarch Sergius read at the twelfth and thirteenth sessions. The latter session condemned the Monothelites and “expelled” them from the Church, a condemnation and expulsion that included Honorius (Mansi 11, 556). The final session also lists Honorius among the heretics (Mansi 11, 636; 656; 665). These condemnations, it should be mentioned, precisely define the guilt of Honorius — he followed Sergius and Cyrus. The acts of the council were sent to Pope Agatho for his confirmation. Agatho had died and the new pope, Leo II, evaluated the acts and wrote to Emperor Constantine IV that he had approved the acts, Leo II also condemns Honorius in this letter: [Hononus] qui hanc apostolicam ecclesiam non apostolice traditionis doctrina lustravit sed prophana pro traditione immaculatam fidem dari permittendo conatus est (Patrologia Latina 96, 408).

Although Patriarch Cyrus could claim that his formula had brought many of the Monophysites, “the dissenters,” to the Chalcedonian faith, all was not well in Alexandria. Cyrus became known for his cruelty towards his opponents. The sources describe his rule as a reign of terror — indeed, he is accused of seizing and butchering opponents with no trial. He managed to instill hatred in the masses and in his opponents and this hatred was transferred to a hatred for the empire.


The Islamic Conquests.

Seemingly exhausted from the war against Persia, Emperor Heraclius received bitter news in 634. The Arab advance in Palestine and Syria had become a serious threat. The Arab strategy was no longer that of sporadic attacks. Rather, under the enthusiasm and vitality of its new Islamic leaders, the military conquest of territory had begun with systematic attacks. One Arab force advanced along the coast of Palestine. Another moved north to the Sea of Galilee, stopped only by the Roman fortification at the Yarmuk river. Simultaneously, Arab forces under Khalid, fighting in Iraq, quickly moved across the desert and appeared before the walls of Damascus. The Islamic Arab forces then learned that the Byzantine military was to attempt to cut off the Arabs, that a Byzantine force was on the move from the north to cut off the Arab force along the Palestinian coast. Khalid swiftly moved to reinforce the Arab army already in position. In the summer of 634 the Byzantines confronted the two Arab forces between Gaza and Jerusalem. The Byzantine force wasdestroyed. Under the inspiration of Patriarch Sophronius Jerusalem held out for a while but was finally forced to surrender. But Patriarch Sophronius refused to make any agreement except with the Caliph Omar himself. Indeed, we are told that Omar conceded to the wish of Sophronius and left Medina to meet personally with Patriarch Sophronius. Theophanes relates that when Patriarch Sophronius saw Caliph Omar in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, he exclaimed: “Lo, the Abomination of Desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel, stands in the Holy Place.” Meanwhile, the Persian empire was conquered, Mesopotamia was taken (639-640), and Armenia subdued (640). The Arabs then began their conquest of Egypt.

The tragedy of the imprecision of language at the Council of Chalcedon had resulted in the rise of Monophysitism. The desire to restore a unity to the Church had led Monophysitism to Monothelitism. The most significant opponent to Monothelitism is St. Maximus the Confessor.

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