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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,

Fr. xxx

+ + +

Dear xxx:

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 Œcumenical 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 Œcumenical 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 Œcumenical Synods, and the primacy of the Orthodox Faith.

How foolish I am! A mere fundamentalist!

I apologize.

Least Among Monks,

+ Archbishop Chrysostomos