A Humorous and Instructive Reply to a Question Concerning the Monophysites
Dear Father xxx,
I think the question has less to do with "apologies" (and I basically agree with
your position on that) and more to do with ecclesial matters: if,
hypothetically, it were determined that there were no doctrinal impediments to communion
between the Chalcedonian Church and the Copts, what do we do with the veneration of saints
who were persecuted and martyred by the other side, and who were each other's sworn
enemies? Would we give them a list of saints that had to be removed from their
calendar? Would they present us with such a list? Or do you overlook
everything while everyone continues to venerate whom they have always venerated? And
what about Coptic saints who may have been indisputably radical Monophysites for whom the
Coptic Church has a continuing attachment?
I certainly do not presume to know the answers; however, these are, as I understand them,
some of the questions.
With love in Christ,
+ + +
May God bless you.
I came up with a fantastic solution to this dilemma. It is amazingly clever and novel. Let
us pretend that Bishops of spiritual vision, meeting together in the belief that the Holy
Spirit guides those who are gathered in Christ's name and among whom He thus dwells, were
to conclude, in conformity with the confession of the Fathers before them, that the
Monophysites taught something contrary to the Orthodox Faith preserved within the
boundaries of the Church.
Let us then pretend that the Orthodox Church is characterized by its fidelity to these
Bishops and that the Fathers of the Church would never have cut off for untold centuries
people who really were of correct faith; but rather, that they would have acted only
responsibly and in a way pleasing to the Holy Spirit. And let us pretend that we are not
more spiritual and more learned than these Fathers, or that the Fathers and believers and
Saints in the many centuries after them were not simply cretins and sycophants blindly
accepting the errors of the cumenical Synods, waiting for our enlightened contemporaries
bravely to open our eyes.
Then let us pretend that we are bound by our Baptisms and Confession of Faith to follow
the infallible statements of the cumenical Synods which these Bishops convened. Let us
pretend that the very conscience of the Church and Her self-identity lie in these Synods.
And let us pretend that one of these Synods actually condemned the Non-Chacedonians and
removed them from the bosom of Orthodoxy. And finally, let us pretend that these Bishops
represent the True Church established by Christ, from which all in error have been
removed, and that fidelity to their pronouncements makes us True Orthodox Christians. And
let us pretend that contemporary Orthodox ecumenists, men (at least of late) of rather
obviously limited intellectual gifts and little spiritual prowess, are not wiser than the
Fathers before us. Would this not be a wonderful solution to the dilemma of our
relationship to those in heresy, and specifically the heresy of Monophysitism?
Now, going beyond the foregoing game of "pretend," let us further pretend that
Christians live in love and that, because of this, they would never want others to believe
that what is false is true, but always wish to bring people to the Truth. Let us pretend
that we could teach the Monophysites that they are wrong, rather than apologizing to them
for the Truth and for human historical errors that have nothing to do with the criterion
of Truth itself. Let us pretend that we could bring the Copts into the Church, rather than
prostitute the Truth by conforming it to error. Would this not add much to the wonderful
solution that I proposed in the paragraph above?
On second thought, all of this would entail faith in the Truth, the authority of the
Church, the inspiration of the Fathers, the infallibility of the cumenical Synods, and
the primacy of the Orthodox Faith.
How foolish I am! A mere fundamentalist!
Least Among Monks,
+ Archbishop Chrysostomos