Monday, July 29, 2013

Second Council of Constantinople - 553 AD

The Second Council of Constantinople - 553 AD

In the sixth century the Church was faced with yet another heresy trying to emerge on the scene, the Three Chapters controversy and schism. A little background will be helpful here. 

The Council confirmed the condemnation issued by the Edict of Byzantine Emperor Justinian against the Three Chapters in 551 AD. The Three Chapters controversy is inclusive of the first attack coming from Theodore of Mopsuestia (d. 428), the second attack on Cyril of Alexandria and the Council of Ephesus written by Theodoret of Cyrrhus (d. 466), and finally the third attack being against Cyril of Alexandria and the Council of Ephesus by Ibas of Edessa (d. 457).

The Second Council of Constantinople of 553 AD gathered as the fifth Ecumenical Council to confirm the orthodox teaching of the Church and condemn the following heterodox teachings:

1. Jesus and Christ were two separate persons.
2. That the Virgin Mary was the Mother of the human nature of Jesus but not the Theotokos, God Bearer.

The Council was presided over by Eutychius, Patriarch of Constantinople, and assisted by the other Eastern Patriarchs. The Western Patriarch, the Bishop of Rome, Pope Vigilius, was invited to the Council but chose to not attend. The Bishop of Rome, Vigilius, even went as far as issuing a document ordering that the Council not occur without him. Since the Church had the proper understanding of the role of the Bishop of Rome, the Council preceded without him. Vigilius was living in Constantinople at the time, was arrested, imprisoned by the Emperor and personally excommunicated by the Council Fathers for his refusal to attend the Council (the entire Western Church was not excommunicated).

The Council Fathers condemned the heterodox claims and reaffirmed the Orthodox Faith:

1. Jesus Christ is a divine Person.
2. Jesus Christ is a divine Person, having a divine nature and human nature.
3. The Virgin Mary is the Theotokos, the Mother of Christ God, and in virtue of this She is the God Bearer and correctly can be acclaimed the Mother of God.

In December of 553 AD Vigilius decided to condemn the Three Chapters, citing his personal authority and without acknowledging the Council, claiming his refusal to condemn it previously was due to the fault of his advisors whom he claimed misled him. Interesting how the Bishop of Rome began setting himself apart from the conciliatory and collegial nature of the Church Orthodox.

The canons condemning the Three Chapters and the ten dogmatic definitions that preceded the canons clearly defined Chalcedonian Christology. The two natures of Christ, human and divine, as defined at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, was more than ever made clear. The two natures, human and divine, were possessed by a single divine Person, Christ God, the Second Person of the Trinity.

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