Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume III/Theodoret/Prolegomena/Theodoret and Chalcedon
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Theodoret and Chalcedon
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V.—Theodoret and Chalcedon.
Now, not for the last time in history, an important part was played by a horse. In July, 450, Theodosius, while hunting in the neighbourhood of his capital, was thrown from the saddle into a stream, hurt his spine, and a few days afterwards died. With him died the cause of Eutyches and of Chrysaphius. The eunuch was promptly executed, and at last a Council was conceded to reconsider and rectify the crimes and blunders of the Latrocinium. But the Empress and her venerable husband did not wait for the Council to undo some of the wrong done to Theodoret, and the large place he filled in the eyes and estimation of the oriental world is shewn by the interest shewn at Constantinople in his behalf. The decree of relegation appears to have been rescinded, and he was free to present himself at the synod. On the first assembling of the five hundred bishops, under the presidency of the imperial Commissioners, the minutes of the Latrocinium were read; the presence of Dioscorus was protested against by the Roman representation as having dared to hold a synod unauthorized by Rome; and the claim of Theodoret to sit and vote, allowed both by the imperial Commissioners and by the westerns, since Leo had accepted him as an orthodox bishop, was vehemently resisted by the Eutychians. He entered, but at first did not vote, and his enemies at last succeeded in wringing from him a personal anathema not only of Nestorianism, but of Nestorius. The scenes reported in detail are too characteristic alike of the earlier Councils and of Theodoret to be omitted.
“The illustrious Presidents and the honorable Assessors ordered that the most religious bishop Theodoret should enter, that he might be a partaker of the Council, because the holy Archbishop Leo had restored the bishopric to him; and the most sacred and pious Emperor determined that he was to be present at the Holy Council. And on the entrance of the most religious Theodoret, the most religious bishops of Egypt, Illyricum and Palestine called out: ‘Have mercy upon us! The faith is destroyed. The Canons cast him out. Cast out the teacher of Nestorius.’ The most religious bishops of the East and those of Pontus, Asia, and Thrace shouted out: ‘We had to sign a blank paper; we were scourged, and so we signed. Cast out the Manichæans; cast out the enemies of Flavian; cast out the enemies of the faith.’ Dioscorus, the most religious bishop of Alexandria said: ‘Why is Cyril being cast out, who is anathematized by Theodoret?’ The Eastern and Pontic and Asian and Thracian most religious bishops shouted out: ‘Cast out Dioscorus the murderer. Who does not know the deeds of Dioscorus?’ The Egyptian and the Illyrian and the Palestinian most religious bishops shouted out: ‘Long years to the Empress!’ The Eastern and the most religious bishops with them shouted out: ‘Cast out the murderers!’ The Egyptians and the most religious bishops with them shouted out: ‘The Empress has cast out Nestorius. Long years to the orthodox Empress! The Council will not receive Theodoret.’ Theodoret, the most religious bishop, came up into the midst and said: ‘I have offered petitions to the most godlike, most religious and Christ-loving masters of the world, and I have related the disasters which have befallen me, and I claim that they shall be read.’ The most illustrious Presidents and the most honourable Assessors said: ‘Theodoret, the most religious bishop, having received his proper place from the holy Archbishop of the renowned Rome, now occupies the place of an accuser. Wherefore, that there be no confusion in our proceedings, allow the things which have had a beginning to be finished. No prejudice will accrue to anyone from the appearance of the most religious Theodoret. Every argument for you and for him, if you desire to make one on one side or the other is of course reserved.’ And after Theodoret, the most religious bishop, had sat down in the midst, the Eastern, and the most religious bishops who were with them, shouted out: ‘He is worthy! He is worthy!’ The Egyptians and the most religious bishops who were with them shouted out: ‘Do not call him a bishop! He is not a bishop! Cast out the fighter against God! Cast out the Jew!’ The Easterns and the most religious bishops who were with them shouted out: ‘The orthodox for the Council! Cast out the rebels! Cast out the murderers!’ The Egyptians and the most religious bishops who were with them shouted out: ‘Cast out the fighter against God! Cast out the insulter of Christ! Long years to the Empress! Long years to the Emperor! Long years to the orthodox Emperor! Theodoret has anathematized Cyril.’ The Easterns and the most religious bishops who were with them shouted out: ‘Cast out the murderer Dioscorus!’ The Egyptians and the most religious bishops with them shouted out: ‘Long years to the Assessors! He has not the right of speech. He is expelled from the whole Synod!’ Basil, the most religious bishop of Trajanopolis, in the province of Rhodope, rose up and said: ‘Theodoret has been condemned by us.’ The Egyptians and the most religious bishops with them shouted out: ‘Theodoret has accused Cyril. We cast out Cyril if we receive Theodoret. The Canons cast out Theodoret. God has turned away from him.’ The most illustrious Presidents and the most honourable Assessors said: ‘The vulgar cries are not worthy of bishops, nor will they assist either side. Suffer, therefore, the reading of all the documents.’ The Egyptians and the most religious bishops with them shouted out: ‘Cast out one man, and we will all hear. We shout out in the cause of Religion. We say these things for the sake of the orthodox Faith.’ The most illustrious Presidents and the honourable Assessors said: ‘Rather acquiesce, in God’s name, that the hearing of the documents should take place, and concede that all shall be read in proper order.’ And at last they were silent, and Constantine, the most holy Secretary and Magistrate of the Divine Synod, read these documents.”
One more sad incident must be given—the demand made at the eighth session that Theodoret should pronounce a curse on his ancient friend. “The most reverend bishops all stood before the rails of the most holy altar, and shouted “Theodoret must now anathematize Nestorius.” Theodoret, the most reverend bishop, passed into the midst, and said: “I have made my petition to the most divine and religious Emperor, and I have laid documents before the most reverend bishops occupying the place of the most sacred Archbishop Leo; and if you think fit, they shall be read to you, and you will know what I think.’ The most reverend bishops shouted ‘We want nothing to be read—only anathematize Nestorius.’ Theodoret, the most reverend bishop, said: ‘I was brought up by the orthodox, I was taught by the orthodox, I have preached orthodoxy, and not only Nestorius and Eutyches, but any man who thinks not rightly, I avoid and count him an alien.’ The most reverend bishops shouted out: ‘Speak plainly; anathema to Nestorius and his doctrine—anathema to Nestorius and to those who defend him.’ Theodoret, the most reverend bishop said: ‘Of a truth I say nothing except so far as I know it to be pleasing to God. First I will convince you that I am here, not because I care for my city, not because I covet rank. Because I have been falsely accused, I come to satisfy you that I am orthodox, and that I anathematize Nestorius and Eutyches, and every one who says that there are two Sons.’ Whilst he was speaking, the most reverend bishops shouted out: ‘Speak plainly; anathematize Nestorius and those who think with him.’ Theodoret, the most reverend bishop, said: ‘Unless I set forth at length my faith I cannot speak. I believe’—And whilst he spoke the most reverend bishops shouted: ‘He is a heretic! He is a Nestorian! Away with the heretic! Anathema to Nestorius and to any one who does not confess that the Holy Virgin Mary is the Parent of God, and who divides the only begotten Son to two Sons.’ Theodoret, the most reverend bishop, said, ‘Anathema to Nestorius and to whoever denies that the Holy Virgin Mary is the Parent of God, and who divides the only begotten Son into two Sons. I have subscribed the definition of faith, and the epistle of the most holy Archbishop Leo.”
- cf. the deaths of William I. and William III. of England.
- Though Marcian’s independence of western dictation was shewn in the summoning of the bishops not to a place in Italy, as Leo had hoped and urged, but to Chalcedon, the beautiful Asiatic suburb of Constantinople.
- Epp. CXXXIX, CXL.
- Accounts of the numbers vary. Marcellinus says 630. There were more than 400 signatures.
- Perhaps of the Emperor himself. (Breviar. Hist. Eutych.) The representatives of the imperial government sat in the centre of the Cancelli; on their right were Dioscorus, Juvenal of Jerusalem, and the Palestinian bishops; on their left Paschasinus of Lilybæum, (Marsala) Lucentius of Asculum (Ascoli) with Boniface, a Roman presbyter, the three representatives of Leo, Anatolius of Constantinople, Maximus of Antioch, and the orientals. Paschasinus signed as “synodo præsidens,” but he did not either locally or effectively preside.
- The acts of the Council of Chalcedon refer to Theodoret having been righted by the bishop of “the illustrious city of Rome;” “the archbishop of the senior city of Rome.” The primacy is that of the ancient capital.
- Labbe iv., 102, 103.
- Labbe iv. 621. Bertram (Theod. Ep. Cyr. doctrina christologica, 1883) thinks Theodoret changed his views; Möller (Herzog XV. s.v.) that he retained them, though necessarily modified in expression by stress of circumstances.