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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils

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Third Ecumenical Council.

Prolegomena.

The holy and ecumenical Third Council was held in Ephesus, a city situated in Asia, in the large church of that city which is called Mary Theotoke,[69] in the reign of Emperor Theodosius the Little (i.e., Theodosius II), in the year 431 after Christ, numbering upwards of 200 Fathers. The “hegemons” (i.e., principal actors) therein were St. Cyril, the bishop of Alexandria illustrious among Fathers, who, acting in the place of the bishop of Rome Celestine I at first, was attending the meeting for the latter, but afterwards legates of Rome were sent from the West, namely, Arcadius, and Projectus, both of whom were bishops, and Philipp the presbyter, and Juvenal of Jerusalem, and Memnon of Ephesus. The Council was convoked against Nestorius, who hailed from the town of Germaniceia in Antiocheia, according to Theodoret, and by divine concession had ascended the throne of Constantinople. For, after quaffing and absorbing the muddy and heretical water from the outpourings of Diodorus and of Theodore of Mopsuestia, the wretch became wrong-minded in regard to the Mystery of the Incarnate Economy;[70] for he divided the one Christ into two persons and substances, remolding Him into a mere human being with a humanlike substance, apart from the conjoined Logos, and a God only by stretching a point, destitute of the assumption of humanity. That is to say, he divided the one Son into two sons, calling one of them the Son of God, and the other the son of the Virgin. Wherefore he was unwilling to call the Virgin, who was His mother with respect to the flesh, a Theotoke (a Greek word meaning “she who has given birth to God or to a God,” and much used in the Orthodox Church as a designation of the Holy Virgin). So, therefore, this holy Council anathematized[71] Nestorius on account of these views, and drew up its own definition of faith,[72] wherein it dogmatized Christ to be one with respect to substance, a perfect God the same, and a perfect human being the same, not another, and another, but one Son, the same, above motherless out of a Father, but below fatherless out of a mother. But it has delivered and handed down through all later generations the sacred injunction to the effect that His ever-virgin Mother is properly and truly to be called the Theotoke, on the ground that she truly and properly speaking gave birth in the flesh to God.[73] For when the exarch of this Council, I mean Cyril of Alexandria, proclaimed therein the following: “We are not preaching a deified human being, but, on the contrary, we are confessing a God become incarnate. He who was motherless with respect to essence, and fatherless with respect to economy on the earth, subscribed to His own handmaid as His Mother.” In the letter to Nestorius, on the other hand, which this Third Council made a definition of its own (as Dositheus says, and as is made manifest by the minutes of the Fourth Council, on p. 61 of the second volume of the Conciliar Records), which commenced as follows: “They spend their time in idle twaddle, as I learn. The same Cyril says the following: To become incarnate and to assume a human personality (called in Greek ensarcosis and enanthropesis respectively) betokens the Logos derived from God; since it was not that the nature of the Logos was transformed into flesh, but neither that it was changed into a whole human being consisting of a soul and body. Rather it is to be said that the Logos united to Himself, with respect to substance and substantiality flesh animated by a rational soul, and in an incomprehensible and inexpressible manner He became a human being, and actually lived as a son of man, not merely with respect to will and volition or complaisance, but neither as in an assumption of a personality alone; and that the natures conjoined for the purpose of unity were different, but from both there resulted one Christ and Son, not because the difference of the natures was eliminated or abrogated on account of the union, but rather that the two natures formed for us the one Lord and Christ and Son, of divinity and of humanity, through and by virtue of the inexpressible and ineffable concurrence for unity. . . . And again, if we forego the union with respect to substance either as unattainable or as having no attraction, we fall into the error of asserting that there were two Sons. . . . And again, this is professed everywhere by the words of the exact faith. Thus we shall find the Holy Father to have believed. Thus they have had the courage to call the Holy Virgin a Theotoke, not as the origin of the nature of the Logos, or, more specifically speaking, of His Godhood, as having received being from the Holy Virgin, but as having been the source out of which His holy body was begotten and furnished with a rational soul, to which body having become united with respect to substance, the Logos is said to have been begotten with respect to flesh.” (See this letter also in the second volume of the Conciliar Records on p. 436 thereof.) And the bishop of Cyzicus at that time in the great (or large) Church, Proclus, while Nestorius the heresiarch was sitting there, retorted in the following fashion: “We have been called together here by the holy and virgin Theotoke Mary, the untarnished jewel of virginity, the rational Paradise of the second Adam, the workshop wherein was wrought the union of the two natures, the panegyris of the salvatory exchange, etc.” After ordaining that no one may dare compose or write any other Creed than the one issued by the First and Second Ecumenical Councils, or even add anything thereto, or subtract anything therefrom, and anathematized all who might violate this command. In addition, this Council confirmed the condemnation of Pelagius and of Celestius, which they had received from many local synods and regional councils, and especially from the Council held in Carthage. Besides all these things, it also promulgated the present eight Canons, and published this letter to Pamphylia in its seventh and last act. These are necessary1 to the discipline and constitution of the Church, and they were confirmed indefinitely in c. I of the 4th, and by name and definitely in c. II of the 6th and in c. I of the 7th.

 

 

Canons.

 




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