Fifth Sunday in Lent: Anathemas

“Anathemas of the Second Council of Constantinople”

My tribe believes your tribe should really be avoided.

I. If anyone does not confess that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are one nature or essence, one power or authority, worshipped as a trinity of the same essence, one deity in three hypostases or persons, let him be anathema…

II. If anyone does not confess that God the Word was twice begotten, the first before all time from the Father… the other in the last days… by…. Mary, and born of her, let him be anathema.

III. If anyone says that God the Word who performed miracles is one and Christ who suffered is another….let him be anathema.

IV. If anyone says that the union of the Word of God with man was only…. as the raving Theodosius says…. and if he does not acknowledge…. that …. there is only one person, the Lord Jesus Christ one of the holy Trinity -- let him be anathema….

V. If anyone understands the expression -- one hypostasis of our Lord Jesus Christ -- so that it means the union of many hypostases, and if he attempts thus to introduce into the mystery of Christ two hypostases, or two persons… let him be anathema.

VI. If anyone says that the holy, glorious, and ever-virgin Mary is called God-bearer by misuse of language and not truly… and if anyone shall not confess that in this pious sense the holy Synod of Chalcedon confessed her to be God-bearer: let him be anathema.

VII. If anyone using the expression, "in two natures," does not confess that our one Lord Jesus Christ is made known in the deity and in the manhood… but shall make use of the number two to divide the natures or to make of them persons properly so called, let him be anathema.

VIII. If anyone confesses that the union took place out of two natures or speaks of the one incarnate nature of God the Word and does not understand those expressions as the holy Fathers have taught… the Church of God equally rejects and anathematizes those who divide or cut apart or who introduce confusion into the mystery of the divine dispensation of Christ.

IX. If anyone says that Christ ought to be worshipped in his two natures, in the sense that he introduces two adorations…. let him be anathema.

X. If anyone does not confess that our Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified in the flesh is true God and the Lord of Glory and one of the Holy Trinity; let him be anathema.

XI. If anyone does not anathematize Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, Apollinaris, Nestorius, Eutyches and Origen, together with their impious, godless writings, and all the other heretics already condemned and anathematized by the holy catholic and apostolic Church, and by the aforementioned four Holy Synods and all those who have held and hold or who in their godlessness persist in holding to the end the same opinion as those heretics just mentioned; let him be anathema.

This mutual anathematizing approaches the perceptions that we popularly hold about the implications of the term ‘heretic’ in the medieval and modern ages, open to Monty Python parodies. It’s a shortcut: ‘my mother says I can’t play with you….’

By the end of this century, Gregory the Great will have set us up for the later medieval model. Here is a mid-century version of this approach of ‘good fences make good neighbours’: the 11 anathemas of the 2nd Council of Constantinople, called in 553 to clarify which interpretations of the Creed of Chalcedon from 451 were to be avoided.

Barbarians keep besting the corrupt old regimes and cultures, with the Franks and the Lombards succeeding the Goths. Who converted whom in this process? Barbarian rulers moved from an Arian to a Trinitarian position in this century, while an attempt at imperial restoration failed under a heretic emperor. Maybe the decadent really were degenerate, or unregenerate, and perhaps the barbarians really were regenerating!

The Council of Chalcedon was held in a defensive position, besieged from the east, and trying to hold the loyalties of the Coptic and other orthodox communions in what turned out to be a doomed attempt at ‘oikumene’ including the whole world.

These are heroes whose name few know. They were completing an age, preparing us for the medieval paradigm to follow, after what we still call the ‘Dark Ages’. Their ideas culminate in the medieval paradigm, which will be defended against new heretics in the future inquisitions in the Tridentine Counter-Reformation - but not yet.

Modern progressive vanity is unfounded. These ancient barbarians had a more sophisticated theology and politics than we can fully appreciate. They recognized what was at stake in a religious vision of trinity and catholicity, to support a new world. Do we?