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Concerning the Approaching Orthodox-Monophysite Union

An In-Depth Commentary

Readers of the ecumenical press have been led to believe that, after a series of high-level "informal" talks, the Eastern Orthodox and "Oriental Orthodox" (Monophysite) Churches have come to a realization that they profess the same faith. Their separation in the fifth and sixth centuries can now be seen as having been due to linguistic, political and national factors. Since they have all along had the same faith, all that remains for the two churches now to do is to remove a few secondary difficulties such as mutual anathemas, the non-recognition of each other's saints and parallel jurisdictions. When these difficulties are removed, a new and glorious step will be achieved in the Ecumenical Movement, which ardently desires the union of all "Christian" churches and of all great world religions.

The Spring-Fall, 1971, issue of the Greek Orthodox Theological Review contains the minutes of the latest two Orthodox-Monophysite consultations, held in Geneva, Switzerland, on August 16-21, 1970, and in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia, on January 22-23, 1971. An examination of these minutes would obviously show whether or not the claims of ecumenists are correct.

A glance at the list of the Orthodox participants in the discussions would cause a traditional Orthodox to pause before perusing the minutes. Could he in even his wildest dreams expect that Metropolitan Nikodim of Lenigrad (who has twice communicated Roman Catholics in Rome), Metropolitan George Khodre of Mt. Lebanon (who calls for a union with Muslims) and such arch-ecumenists as Metropolitan Emilianos of Calabria, Archimandrite Damaskinos Papandreou (Constantinople), Fr John Meyendorff (American Metropolia), Fr. Vitaly Borovoy and Professor Livery Verenov (Moscow) would defend traditional Orthodoxy? And what good could come out of sessions co-chaired by such ecumenical veterans as Dr. Nikos Nissiotis, Director of the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland, and Fr. Paul Verghese of the World Council of Churches staff. A careful reading of the minutes of the Geneva and Addis-Ababa consultations shows that such misgivings would have been eminently justified.

Any Orthodox Christian knows that the Holy Church recognizes seven Divinely-inspired Holy Ecumenical Councils. Under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, these Councils solved once and for all crucial theological questions concerning the nature of the blessed Trinity, of Christ the Savior and concerning the veneration of icons. The doctrinal decisions of these Councils, being like Holy Scripture—a direct expression of God's self-revelation—are binding on all Orthodox Christians unto ages of ages.

The Monophysites, as is well known, objected to the Holy Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon. Not only did they refuse to accept it—they anathematized it and the theology of St. Leo of Rome, whose doctrine was acclaimed by the Council. The Monophysites claimed that Chalcedon and St. Leo preached heresy. The Orthodox Church made great efforts to reconcile the Monophysites to the Holy Church; the Holy Fifth Ecumenical Council, held under the Emperor Justinian, had as its specific aim such a reconciliation. The Monophysites, however, repulsed all such advances, and the Monophysites of Armenia, Ethiopia, Egypt (Copts), South India and Syria have remained to this day separated from the One Church of Christ.

For any traditional Orthodox, it is evident that the reestablishment of Communion with the Monophysites depends on their acceptance of the Seven Holy Ecumenical Councils as Orthodox and Divinely-inspired, and their repudiation of the heresy preached by their fathers, such as Dioscorus of Alexandria and Severus of Antioch (both of whom were condemned by the Ecumenical Councils). Were the Monophysites of today to do this, there would indeed be great Joy in heaven and we would embrace them as beloved brethren in the faith. The Geneva and Addis-Ababa consultations however, show that the Monophysites have absolutely no intention of doing so; they are as opposed as ever to Chalcedon and the three Holy Ecumenical Councils that followed. To show their unanimous enmity toward Chalcedon we shall quote their own words:

"Prof. Karmiris wants that a new formula should be developed; but let us be quite clear that that should not be an attempt to get the non-Chalcedonians to accept Chalcedon." (Bishop Theophiles of South India, p. 29)

"In the thirteenth century an Armenian Catholic agreed to accept Chalcedon but he was killed by the people". (Dr. Krikorian, Armenia, p. 29)

"Within the last five years a bishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was suspended from his bishopric because something he wrote lent itself to be interpreted as an acceptance of Chalcedon." (Rev. Joseph, South India, p, 29)

"Here I have the feeling that one side (i.e. the Eastern Orthodox) is assuming that they have a monopoly of the truth and think the other side should admit error." (Abba Degou, Ethiopia, p. 29)

"Our fathers found Nestorianism in the horos (i.e. doctrinal definition) of Chalcedon. We cannot accept any expression that lends itself to be interpreted as a duality in the person of Jesus Christ...Even if we accept the teaching of Chalcedon we are not obliged to accept Chalcedon." (Bishop Gregories (Copt), p. 30)

"We have always held that Chalcedon was not ecumenical. By all means, you continue to believe in Chalcedon; but do not expect us to accept Chalcedon." (Mariam of Ethiopia, p. 30)

"Let us be quite clear; Chalcedon is not acceptable to us." (Bishop Zakka, Syrian Monophysite, pp. 30-31)

"There should be no misunderstanding of the position of the non-Chalcedonian Churches; there will be no formal acceptance of Chalcedon." (Fr. Verghese, South India, p. 31)

Students of Church History know that the Holy Sixth Ecumenical Council, convoked to refute the very lethal heresy of Monothelitism, dealt with a false teaching which, as it were, revealed the inner logics of Monophysitism. It is not surprising that the Sixth Council is considered even more odious than Chalcedon by the Monophysites. In his paper presented at Geneva, the Monophysite theologian, Fr. Verghese, shows this perfectly clearly. He writes,

"If acceptance of the Sixth Council thus means our agreeing to condemn Dioscorus and Severus, who are true teachers of the Authentic Tradition, then we must choose the two fathers mentioned in preference to the Sixth Council, which appears to us badly muddled, not to say in grievous error"...(p. 137)

He continues,

"The argument in the horos of the Sixth Council is basically unacceptable for us...acceptance of the Sixth Council is much more difficult for us than the acceptance of Chalcedon...This council explicitly and unjustifiedly condemns our fathers Dioscorus and Severus, and calls the former 'hated of God' and the doctrine of the latter 'mad and wicked'...We are unable to accept the dithelite formula attributing will and energy to the natures rather than to the hypostasis...We regard Leo (of Rome) as a heretic for his teaching that the will and operation of Christ is to be attributed to the two natures of Christ rather than to the one hypostasis... If the restoration of communion between our two families of Churches were to be dependent on our acceptance of the four councils now rejected by the non-Chalcedonian family, then we have little reason at present to hope that this condition can be fulfilled." (pp. 137-l41)

After reading such an extremely firm rejection of Orthodox teaching and a passionate reaffirmation of the Monothelite heresy, the Orthodox reader is astounded that even the most true-believing of ecumenists could believe that Orthodox and Monophysites have reached doctrinal agreement. Can it be that men calling themselves Orthodox are willing to unite with those so obviously repudiating Orthodoxy? The frightening truth is that they are. Only one Orthodox delegate, Fr. John Romanides, a Greek-Armerican representing the Church of Greece, had the wisdom and courage to stand up at Geneva and speak the truth (Fr. John was ejected from the Greek Archdiocese Seminary in Brookline several years ago for his adherence to traditional Orthodox views). "We have known for centuries," he stated, "the non-Chalcedonian accusations against Chalcedon. Now we are given the impression that the Chalcedonians can be considered Orthodox by the non-Chalcedonians, not because Chalcedon is Orthodox, but because the Chalcedonians are no longer faithful to Chalcedon….If the non-Chalcedonian position on Chalcedon is correct, then the Chalcedonian must reject Chalcedon. If the Chalcedonians Greek position on Chalcedon is correct, then the non-Chalcednians must accept the dogmatic teaching of Chalcedon as Orthodox." (pp.22-23)

Behold the words of a man for whom the truth of Christ is more precious than ecumenical compromise! On yet another occasion Fr. Romanides felt compelled to speak up, "Our discussions have now reached the point where the Chalcedonian Orthodox are clearly being told that the non-Chalcedonians should not be expected to accept Chalcedon as a condition of union. This now seems to be put to us as a condition for continuing our unofficial dialogue. Such a condition is unacceptable and for us can only mean the end of dialogue. We strongly sense that either (1) there has taken place a radical change since (the discussions at) Aarhus and Bristol, or (2) we have all along been the objects of an ecumenical technique which aims at the accomplishment of inter-communion or communion, or union without agreement on Chalcedon and the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Ecumenical Councils. The non-Chalcedonians should very clearly realize that from our side the faith professed cannot be separated from the people who profess. The faith confessed by the Fathers of Chalcedon is the true faith. If we accept that faith we must accept also the Fathers who profess this true faith. Otherwise, the communion of saints confessing this faith is not accepted as a reality. In this connection, I would stress that we are not going to be maneuvered into positions predetermined for us by ecumenical technicians and strategists." (pp.29-30)

Glory to God for Fr. Romanides’ witness to the truth! As he correctly showed, the flat refusal of the Monophysites to accept Chalcedon and the ensuing Holy Council dictates a breaking off of dialogue with them. What "dialogue" can there be with those stubbornly entrenched in their heresy?

Alas, Fr. Romanides’ voice was a lone voice in an ecumenical wilderness. Much more representative of the delegates’ opinion was Professor Nissiotis’ statement at Addis-Ababa, "We cannot put formal recognition of Chalcedon a pre-condition of union." (p. 220) When the delegates did not represent open despisers of the faith such as Nissiotis or the Moscow Patriarchate representatives, they were muddled and confused men, aware that something was wrong but terrified to say so out of fear of sinning against ecumenical "love". An example of such a muddled theologian is J. D. Zizioulas (Church of Greece). Speaking on the subject of the Monophysite theologian Severus of Antioch, he observes,

"The Sixth Ecumenical Council puts him side by side with Apollinarius and calls him impious—a very strong expression which was linked not with behavior but with Orthodox faith. If we manage to free Severus from heretical accusations—a matter not so easy to agree upon at first sight—how can he be accepted to our common communion without clear implication on the part of the Eastern Orthodox that the Sixth Ecumenical Council to which they adhere so firmly has in fact been in blunt error with regard to Severus?" (p. 153)

Elsewhere he remarks,

"I agree with the view that the Church is not a static entity, but if this is the case, how can we maintain the position that horos is unchangeable? Will not the revising of the anathemas involve revision of the horos also? This question arises, for example, in connection with the horos of the Sixth Ecumenical Council. The anathema against Severus is found explicitly in the text of the horos." (p. 42)

In true ecumenical fashion, the pointed objections of Fr. Romanides and the soul-searchings of Zizioulas were ignored as the ecumenical technicians rapidly and pragmatically laid the groundwork for Unia. The following path to union was chosen: A Formula Concordiae will be drawn up stating the lie that Orthodox and Monophysites have the same faith; the Monophysites will not officially recognize the last four Ecumenical Councils but will refrain from openly anathematizing them and St. Leo. The Orthodox, for their part, will lift the anathemas over Severus, Dioscorus, and other deceased Monophysite fathers. Neither side will be required to recognize the other’s saints (i.e. the Monophysites need not recognize Leo as a saint, and the Orthodox can refrain from canonizing Severus); they must, however, remove the anathemas over these men. When the Formula Concordiae is drawn up and accepted, inter-communion will commence. A very practical plan! All that is sacrificed is devotion to the truth, to Christ, and to His Holy Church.

The idea of a Formula Concordiae was enthusiastically received by most of the Eastern Orthodox delegates to the consultations:

"Speaking of the Middle East situation, I can say only that a Formula Concordiae is needed not to create unity but to give recognition to a unity which is actually felt and experienced by both sides." (Metr. George Khodre of Antioch, p. 36)

"Will it not be enough if the Formula Concordiae simply states our general agreement in our common faith and leaves the councils to be treated merely as the historical background?"(!) (Fr. Meyendorff, American Metropolia, p. 33)

"We should work towards a Formula Concordiae…Such a Formula Concordiae must affirm our agreement in faith. The Chalcedonians held onto the seven councils; the non-Chalcedonians have only the three councils; the way out seems to be for the non-Chalcedonians to agree that they do not object to the teaching of the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh councils…The anathemas pronounced by the councils should not be allowed to stand in the way of restoring communion. For the sake of a Formula Concordiae, the anathemas may simply be ignored as having lost their significance for the life of the Church now. Persons who are considered saints by some traditions and condemned by others should be regarded as persons locally venerated and not condemned by others." (Fr. Verenov, Moscow, pp. 35-36)

The Orthodox ecumenists present found precious little difficulty in removing anathemas imposed for doctrinal reasons by Ecumenical Councils (e.g. the explicit condemnation of Severus):

"I support what Paul Verghese has said now. It is true that we have tended to take a position of conciliar fundamentalism (!). In the matter of tradition, continuity is essential…We should try to realize continuity. But I doubt if true continuity can be maintained on the level of persons. For example, take Leo and Severus. How do they stand in the communion of saints? Or take Origen. He was indeed in communion with many, but does not even a council proclaim him out of communion? I would suggest that all we can do is to consider individuals as models in particular situations." (Fr. Meyendorff, Metropolia, p. 34)

"…Mutual explanations have shown that our one Orthodox faith is one and the same. When anathemas are lifted, the saints of each side will be beyond any negative pronouncements…" (Met. Nikodim of Leningrad, p. 227)

The Monophysites were overjoyed at the capitulation of the Orthodox ecumenists, for though they will fight to the death for their heretical traditions, they have no sense of truth and are perfectly willing to enter into intercommunion with Orthodox and Roman Catholics on a basis of ecumenical relativism. "You have your truth and we’ll have ours"—this is their position. At the consultations, therefore, many Monophysites pressed for union:

"Let us formalize our agreement in the faith first, then the question of Chalcedon and the later councils can be attended to in the United Church later on." (Dr. Samuel, South India, p.222)

"Since we have at our three previous meetings reached this important Christological agreement, should we not restore communion on that basis and then have a commission to attend to matters like lifting anathemas and altering liturgical texts.?" (Mikre Selassie, Ethiopia, p. 223)

At Addis-Ababa, Fr. Vitaly Borovoy of the Moscow Patriarchate presented a paper entitled "The Recognition of Saints and Problems of Anathemas". This paper pleased the Monophysites greatly and drew no objections from the Orthodox delegates (Fr. Romanides did not attend the Addis-Ababa conference). Expressly basing himself on the ideas of emigre theologians of the Paris exarchate (a body which went into schism from the Russian Church Abroad in 1926 and quickly became a center of theological modernism and ecumenism), Borovoy asserts that Monophysites (and Roman Catholics) are full fledged members of the Body of Christ. Christ cannot be divided. He claims Orthodox, Monophysites and Roman Catholics "have one Holy Writ, one Apostolic Tradition, and sacred origin, the same sacraments and in essence, the same dogmas; (they are) Churches, in essence, of a single faith, a single piety, and a single way of salvation." (p. 246) Splits in the one Body of Christ, as that between Orthodox and Monophysites, must be overcome by "repudiating" and "eradicating" past transgressions through "repentance".

Not only does Fr. Borovoy preach blatant heresy, claiming that Monophysites and Catholics are members of the one Body of Christ, he also attacks true Orthodox doctrine. The belief that there are no true sacraments outside the canonical limits of the Orthodox Church is termed "not far from blasphemy". (p. 256) "According to the views of the Early Church," Borovoy declares, "not only Baptism but also all other sacraments are recognized as real right from the very moment of their correct performance, even though in heretical churches—and not merely from the moment of their reception into the Catholic Church." (p. 256) Since heretics have true sacraments, what then is the meaning of ‘mutual anathemas and excommunications?’ They are," he answers, "like frontier barriers between separate states…". (p. 257) The mutual lifting of anathemas by Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras is seen by Borovoy as a wonderful reversal of the "terrible act" of separation in the eleventh century.

Fr. Borovoy counsels Orthodox and Monophysites to first restore Eucharistic communion and then worry about such problems as the mutual recognition of saints. Both churches should sponsor a liturgical renewal in which all "polemical passages and judgements" should be "weighed" from the point of view of their "present relations." (p. 258) They should remember that they (as well as the Catholics) represent "a Holy Church, united in the Eucharistic anamnesis around one single Holy Cup." (p. 259)

Even the apostate Athenagoras of Constantinople has not put the ecumenical heresy more clearly than Fr. Borovoy of Moscow! It is truly amazing that hierarchs calling themselves Orthodox can maintain canonical ties with such open despisers of the faith. Considering Borovoy’s total capitulation, the enthusiastic reception of his speech by the Monophysites is not a surprise. As Fr. Verghese of South India stated,

"Fr. Borovoy’s profound and well documented paper has given us a fresh way of thinking. If I may attempt to summarize what he said, the Church has a divine-human nature and therefore contains within itself a tendency to schism. But this is not a sickness unto death. Schisms on the whole are not healed by compromise formulae: accepting each other as we are is a better way." (p. 225)

The lie behind the approaching Orthodox-Monophysite Unia is clear to all who have eyes to see. The slogan "unity in the faith" is designed to deceive the faithful—there is no such unity and the Monophysites remain entrenched in their centuries-old heresy. The Formula Concordiae (if it is deemed necessary to draw one up before intercommunion) will simply be a vaguely worded compromise statement. At Geneva, Fr. Romanides protested against the attempt of the ecumenists present to compare their Formula with the great and holy reconciliation of John of Antioch and Cyril of Alexandria in 433. In the 433 reconciliation, he declared, "On the one hand there was no compromise in dogma, but there was accomodation in terminology. On the basis of mutual explanations and clarifications, each side accepted the other as Orthodox in spite of differing terminologies. However, John did accept as Orthodox both the Third Council and the Twelve Chapters of Cyril and Cyril did accept John’s use of two natures. No one gave up his position, but recognized and accepted the other as Orthodox. This must be the pattern for us also." (pp.37-38) It is clear 433 cannot serve as a model when the Monophysites refuse to accept four Orthodox councils and the Orthodox are very unsure of whether or not the Monophysites are still heretics (it would appear they are Monothelitists even if not Monophysites).

At Addis-Ababa, it was resolved that the mutual anathemas may simply be dropped. "Should there be a formal declaration or ceremony in which the anathemas are lifted? Many of us felt that it is much simpler to drop these anathemas in a quiet way as some churches have begin to do." (p. 211) This way, the faithful will, of course, be kept in total ignorance of their betrayal by their hierarchs and theologians.

It should also not be forgotten that politics plays a considerable role in the coming Unia. The communist-controlled Orthodox Churches (in particular, Moscow, Rumania and Bulgaria) are highly interested in establishing the closest possible contacts with the "Third World" populaces of Ethiopia, South India, etc. Through its controls over the Moscow Patriarchate and the Armenian Monophysites, the Soviet government can also heavily influence proceedings.

One day in the near future, Metropolitan Nikodim of Leningrad, or Metropolitan Emilianons of Calabria, or Metropolitan George Khodre of Mt. Lebanon will probably begin quietly distributing sacraments to Monophysites, as Moscow is now doing to Roman Catholics. This will serve to speed up the coming Unia even more. The hierarch committing this initial blasphemy will defend himself by claiming that the Monophysites share the same cup as the Orthodox.

Orthodox faithful of America! After 1500 years, the Holy Church once again stands confronted by the heresy of Monophysitism, since the Ecumenical Movement has resurrected all the heresies of old and sent them in legions against the Holy Church. As the Synod’s Archbishop Vitaly of Montreal has written, "Ecumenism is the heresy of heresies, because until now every separate heresy in the history of the Church has striven itself to stand in the place of the true Church, while the ecumenical movement, having united all heresies, invites them all together to honor themselves as the one true Church." (from July-August 1969, p. 155) While the ecumenists have devoted considerable coverage to the coming Orthodox union with Rome, they have also been "quietly" paving a union with the Monophysites. Let us not blaspheme the memory of Orthodox martyrs and confessors who sacrificed themselves in combat against the impious and soul-destroying doctrine of Monophysitism. Let us decisively repudiate Orthodox ecumenists who have rejected Holy Orthodoxy in the name of the union of all religions. Let our voices be heard!

From the September 1971 issue of the Newsletter Supplement to The Orthodox Christian Witness.