“Oriental Orthodoxy,” Part I: Chalcedonian Orthodoxy and Non-Chalcedonian Heterodoxy

In The Triads St. Gregory Palamas made a reference to the Christological decree of the Council of Chalcedon (451),

If then this light, which shone from the Saviour on the Mountain, is a natural symbol, it is not so in respect of both the natures in Him, for the natural characteristics of each nature are different.

This is very telling, as 1.) it affirms Chalcedon, and 2.) shows the historicity of the Orthodox Church’s orthodox Christology as defined at the Fourth Ecumenical Council–very telling indeed, especially in our present-day when both of the preceding points are under attack, and not just by heretics, but by many Orthodox as well.

The Spread of Heresy

This could be seen last year when the blog Orthodoxy & Heterodoxy published a brilliant, insightful and historically accurate post by guest author Nicholas Marinides, Ph.D., entitled Chalcedonian Orthodoxy and Non-Chalcedonian Heterodoxy. Not only did Fr. Andrew Damick opt to add an ‘Editorial Note’ preceding the ‘Comments’ section, but the post has since been updated with links to two follow-up posts which I have not yet had the time to read, due to training jiu-jitsu and being a full-time seminarian in a different province than my long-suffering wife.

The post itself obviously is not what I’m referring to when I wrote above ‘this could be seen last year,’ but the comments section, as those who are not embracing the Monophysite/Miaphysite heresies with open arms could easily guess. Indicative of the mindset of those posting in the comments against Dr. Marinides is the fact that a couple Orthodox Theological Academies embrace the same mindset, as I will show in a “Prequel” in this series.

Ephesians 4:15

I sent a link to the blog post to my Spiritual Father, as he (in addition to being a Professor of Pastoral Theology in a seminary) is in an unusual position as he not only has his M.A.Th. from one of the pro-Miaphysite Orthodox Theological Academies but is also a Lecturer at the other. His response?

 This is good

Speaking the truth in love

And he is exactly right. The comments posted in response to Dr. Marinides’ post are crazy, and quite telling actually about what shapes people’s minds; they also reveal a historical anachronism in that Monophysitism ‘became’ Miaphysitism which ‘became’ Oriental Orthodoxy, Dr. Marinides even touched on that slightly. That’s one of the worst arguments really, that what the Miaphysites believe now is not what they believed then… OK, then either they have invented a new heresy from the old heresy, or they are in fact Orthodox. When I read stuff such as The Nature of Christ by Shenouda III, to me, it’s pretty clear they are Monophysites renaming themselves Miaphysites (ironically both terms meaning ‘one nature’), and so Monophysitism was condemned at Chalcedon and Miaphysitism was condemned in the 8th anathema in the 8th session of the 5th Ecumenical Council: 

“VIII. IF anyone uses the expression “of two natures,” confessing that a union was made of the Godhead and of the humanity, or the expression “the one nature made flesh of God the Word,” and shall not so understand those expressions as the holy Fathers have taught, to wit: that of the divine and human nature there was made an hypostatic union, whereof is one Christ; but from these expressions shall try to introduce one nature or substance [made by a mixture] of the Godhead and manhood of Christ; let him be anathema. For in teaching that the only-begotten Word was united hypostatically [to humanity] we do not mean to say that there was made a mutual confusion of natures, but rather each [nature] remaining what it was, we understand that the Word was united to the flesh. Wherefore there is one Christ, both God and man, consubstantial with the Father as touching his Godhead, and consubstantial with us as touching his manhood. Therefore they are equally condemned and anathematized by the Church of God, who divide or part the mystery of the divine dispensation of Christ, or who introduce confusion into that mystery.”

Case closed, right? This is where I’m not so sure, as Ecumenists and academic theologians push this issue one is forced to admit the Monophysites and Miaphysites are in error, or that the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th Ecumenical Councils are in error, as after Chalcedon they each sequentially confirm the previous Council. This relates to whether or not the case is closed by an appeal to history: up until the 11th century all of Christendom (excluding heretical groups) accepted the 8th Ecumenical Council, with the Patriarchate of Rome after falling into schism rejecting it and so they had their own #8 later, but all of Orthodoxy continued to count 8 Ecumenical Councils all the way up until the 19th century, —thereafterfor reasons best explained by the late Fr. Romanides—it was incorrectly removed from our Ecclesiastical history, which is precisely what will happen to the 7th, 6th, 5th, and 4th: we will become Miaphysites. Little by little, step by step, the road to Tartarus is paved with good intentions…

Holy Saturday 1579: The Miracle of the Holy Fire

The above is really unsettling, and the whole situation confusing, to those who attempt to fight the good fight, to keep the faith—but don’t lose heart, we have a miracle showing us the way in which we should proceed: the miracle of the Holy Fire, which as of this writing has already been granted to the Chalcedonian Orthodox faithful who gathered at the Holy Sepulchre today.

Every time heretics have tried to obtain the Holy Fire they have failed. Three such attempts are known, and it is the one in 1579 that concerns us in this post:

Once the Armenians (monophysites – ed.) paid the Turks, who then occupied the Holy Land, in order to obtain permission for their Patriarch to enter the Holy Sepulchre, the Orthodox Patriarch was standing sorrowfully with his flock at the exit of the church, near the left column, when the Holy Light split this column vertically and flashed near the Orthodox Patriarch.

A Muslim Muezzin, called Tounom, who saw the miraculous event from an adjacent mosque, immediately abandoned the Muslim religion and became an Orthodox Christian. This event took place in 1579 under Sultan Mourad IV, when the Patriarch of Jerusalem was Sophrony IV.

Keep this in mind when in a few hours we ourselves receive the light from the flame of the sleepless lamp on the Holy Altar in our parishes, lighting our Paschal candles from it as we receive the light from the unwaning light, and glorify Christ Who is risen from the dead. Recall at that moment when the Holy Light split the column, lighting the candle of the Chalcedonian Orthodox Patriarch Sophrony IV, and not the candle of the Miaphysite Patriarch.

Further Reading

The Messianic Theology of Bob Marley and His Conversion to Ethiopian Orthodoxy – Dr. Taylor Marshall

Meet the Oriental Orthodox Christians and Their Controversial Christology – Dr. Taylor Marshall