The past two weeks have been both enlightening, and depressing -- despite my light-hearted reference to a quip by the incomparable Yogi Berra for my title. On the one hand, I have been re-reading the early history of the Church -- especially the theological and historical details of the first four ecumenical councils: Nicaea in 325, Constantinople in 381, Ephesus in 431, and Chalcedon in 451. I was struck by the fact that the term "ecumenical" (in the sense of combining bishops of both the eastern and western branches of the Church) was applied to these four only by a declaration read and adopted at the fifth ecumenical council, at Constantinople in 553.
And who declared those first four Councils to have been "ecumenical"? The Byzantine Emperor Justinian, that's who, with the cooperation of the bishops at Rome. The Western branch of the Church had accepted the decrees of the four councils as binding through Pope Hormisdas (514-523), but it was only after Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) compared them to the Four Gospels that their universal character was fully acknowledged in both the West as well as the East. (For political reasons, however, the Roman Church refused to accept the canons adopted at Constantinople in 381 until the Second Council of Lyons, in 1274.)
So what business did the Emperor have deciding exactly which earlier councils of the Church deserved the term "ecumenical"? Ah, therein lies quite a tale, to which I shall return, in a moment. To read more, click here.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
"It's Déjà Vu All Over Again!"
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 7:01 AM