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Authority
21-04-2010, 04:51 PM
Post: #6
 
We are, here and in the questions about Orthodoxy, running along lines which are not parallel but converging and crossing; or perhaps that's just me, dear Fr. Gregory. Big Grin

In the other thread I have suggested that whatever rhetoric might say (and it says much) the Church now is no more identical with what it was in 451 than the world in which it exists is. That is a good thing. I liked Museums but would not want to be part of the exhibits.

I have just been reading an excellent book by the American scholar, Susan Wessels on Leo the Great and the development of the Roman idea of primacy (Brill, 2007) which will be of interest to anyone wanting even more information about Chalcedon.

She is very interesting on the developing understanding of the Petrine verses in Matthew. Later polemic tends to see the Orthodox attributing Leo's ideas to a desire for supremacy, but she locates them in a very Orthodox context, which is the one we were referring to - who says whether a developing understanding is really 'orthodox'? Indeed, who has the right to define 'orthodoxy'?

This is in the context of the fifth century, but it speaks to us now. In an era where there was a Canon, but where other books also claimed canonicity, and in an age when that Canon (and a possible wider one) could be read and thus interpreted, who decided if bishop x said such and such when bishop y was profoundly convinced that whatever it was it was rank heresy?

The hope that Nicaea had decided this matter once and for all was, of course, not realised. Ephesus 431 rehearsed how the Church dealt with a senior patriarch who preached something which another senior patriarch thought was heresy. Although St. Cyril came out victorious, it was not as clear cut as he would have liked, and for a time both he and Nestorius were effectively excommunicated.

St. Cyril's foresight in securing the support of the Bishop of Rome turned out to be a brilliant move, as there is no doubt that Rome's views were taken very seriously when they were supported by the other bishops in Council. Chalcedon rammed that message home, although Ephesus 449 might be thought to have done so in a negative way. Diosorus' handling of the Papal delegates set Rome against him, and his attitude towards Leo's Tome set up the denouement of Chalcedon.

When push came to shove, what the Fathers were not prepared to do was to say that in matters of perplexity they were prepared to go against Rome. That is not to say, as some Catholics used to say, that they just accepted Leo's definition of orthodoxy, for, as we know, they needed to read Leo against Cyril, and only when they were convinced that the two taught the same were they happy to admit that Peter spoke through Leo. But what they would not do was to say that Alexandria by itself could prevail.

One can read Chalcedon in various ways, but in this matter of who speaks with authority, one answer from Chalcedon satisfies no polemicist. When Alexandria and Rome (Mark and Peter) were at one (as at Ephesus 431, or Nicaea) then the Fathers were happy to be guided; when Constantinople and Rome were at one (with Cyril) the Fathers were happy to be guided. What no one was happy with was either the Bishop of Rome by himself pronouncing, or the Patriarch of Alexandria pronouncing by himself. Even the greatest and most Apostolic of Sees needed to teach in Council and thus, in matters of perplexity, with the orthodox faith as received by the Fathers.

Neither our own Fathers, nor those of the Romans or Eastern Orthodox come out of Chalcedon unscathed. Although I know it is the fashion in some quarters to regard St. Dioscorus as a martyr, like many such he may have had his own intransigence to thank for that fate. Had he followed the splendid and wise example of the great Cyril and not made an enemy of Rome, he would not have handed Constantinople what it wanted at Chalcedon. The ambitions of Constantinople went a good way to the disasters which followed; it may, in its own eyes, have achieved the status it wanted, but the price it paid was a heavy one - for others at first and, in the end, for itself.

Such historical reflections may seem to take us away from the subject, but in reality they don't.

In Christ,

John

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
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Messages In This Thread
Authority - John Charmley - 17-04-2010, 08:49 PM
[] - Fr Gregory - 18-04-2010, 06:02 AM
[] - John Charmley - 18-04-2010, 07:26 AM
[] - Fr Gregory - 18-04-2010, 08:55 PM
[] - John Charmley - 18-04-2010, 10:04 PM
[] - John Charmley - 21-04-2010 04:51 PM
[] - Fr Gregory - 22-04-2010, 07:02 AM
[] - John Charmley - 22-04-2010, 05:38 PM



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