I believe we have an instance in the 5th-century where a reigning Pope of Rome exercised something like an immediate jurisdiction over the Eastern See of Constantinople, and, by extension, even over the Council of Ephesus (431). The background begins with a newly ordained Bishop of Constantinople, Nestorius, who would go on to espouse the heresy which has it that there are two persons in Christ Jesus, the Human and Divine. He rejected the term “theotokos” (Mother of God) because he thought it violated the human status of the Savior, as well as deify the Virgin Mary. How could anyone beget God unless they, too, are God? This heresy of Nestorius was promulgated through his sermons, and the Pope of Rome, St. Celestine, received word on this. Choosing to work with the 2nd See of Christendom, St. Celestine chose to interact in exchanges with the Bishop of Alexandria, St. Cyril, on the brewing heresy in Constantinople’s new Bishop. The heresy of Nestorius reached a high-water mark around April of 430, and this caused St. Cyril to write a sober letter to the Pope requesting some sort of corrective action. Continue reading
How did the Bishops of the Council receive the Tome of Leo? This is a fundamental question in the current dialogue between the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics. The idea held by the Eastern Orthodox is that Pope St. Leo’s tome carried no binding authority simply because it was issues by the Magisterium of Rome. On the contrary, they would urge, the Tome of Leo was critically examined, and only when it was judged to be in accordance with the Apostolic faith was it deemed acceptable. This demonstrates, they would argue, that a Papal fiat carried no coercive bind upon the Church until the authority of a Council deemed it so, i.e. Councils are superior in authority than Popes. I even had an Eastern Orthodox Christian tell me at a get-together that the Pope’s decision counted as one single vote together with the other bishops equally presiding and contributing. Does this gloss adequately represent the historical facts as seen from the Council of Chalcedon itself? To this we now look.
Portion of Pope St. Leo’s Tome [in Greek] When the years following the Council of Ephesus 431 drew nigh, a fellow named Eutyches, a 70 year-old Archimandrite who headed a monastery just outside the walls of Constantinople, had been accused by Eusebius, Bishop of Dorylaeum, of the heresy which posited 1-nature in Christ our God, after the unionization of the Word and humanity. Consequently, a Synod was convened in Constantinople in the year 448, and Eutyches was condemned under the presiding authority of Patriarch St. Flavian, the city’s Bishop. But since Eutyches had some influence on the Emperor Theodosius II, a Council was called in order to vindicate the teaching of Eutyches, as well as blame St. Flavian for condemning him. Pope St. Leo had sent legates carrying his famous epistle to St. Flavian, otherwise referred to as his Tome, which would soundly refute Eutyches and promote what would…
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