Lesson 17B PreviewPhillip Schaff Selection: Pope Leo’s letter “Eutyches”; Video on Pope Leo; Rev. Thomas Weinandy Audio Lecture “The Council of Chalcedon”

Letter XX.

To Eutyches, an Abbot of Constantinople.

(Phillip Schaff -Editor’s Note: “Quesnel is of opinion that Eutyches’ letter [to Leo before Leo wrote the response below] had accused Domnus, Bishop of Antioch, and Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus (cf. Lett. CXX., chapters iv. and v.), of Nestorianizing, and that he thus had gained the approbation of Leo before his own unsoundness [my emphasis, LNG] had been made known, the heresy of Nestorius has been again reviving.”)

[From Wikipedia: “Eutyches (c. 380—c. 456) was a presbyter and archimandrite at Constantinople. He first came to notice in 431 at the First Council of Ephesus, for his vehement opposition to the teachings of Nestorius; his condemnation of Nestorianism as heresy precipitated his being denounced as a heretic himself.”]

Leo, the bishop, to his dearly-beloved son, Eutyches, presbyter.

You have brought to our knowledge, beloved, by your letter that through the activity of some [ We reply that your solicitude in this matter has pleased us, since the remarks we have received are an indication of your mind.  Wherefore do not doubt that the Lord, the Founder of the catholic Faith, will befriend you in all things.  And when we have been able to ascertain more fully by whose wickedness this happens, we must make provision with the help of God for the complete uprooting of this poisonous growth which has long ago been condemned.  God keep thee safe, my beloved son.

Dated 1st June, in the consulship of the illustrious Postumianus and Zeno (448)

Letter XXI.From Eutyches to LeoI.  He states his account of the proceedings at the Synod.God the Word is before all else my witness, being confident of my hope and faith in Christ the Lord and God of all, and discerning the proof of my holding the truth in these matters:  but I call on your holiness, too, to bear witness to my heart and to the reasonableness of my opinions and words.  But the wicked devil has exercised his evil influence upon my zeal and determination, whereby his power ought to have been destroyed.  Whereupon he has exerted all his proper power and aroused Eusebius, bishop of the town of Dorylæum, against me, who presented an allegation to the holy bishop of the church in Constantinople, Flavian, and to certain others whom he found in the same city assembled on various matters of their own:  in this he called me heretic, not raising any true accusation but contriving destruction for me and disturbance for the churches of God.Their holinesses summoned me to reply to his accusation:  but though I was delayed by a serious illness besides my advanced age, I came to clear myself, knowing well that a faction had been formed against my safety.  And, indeed, together with a writ of appealand denied,  to which my signature was appended, I offered them a statement showing my confession upon the holy Faith.  But when the holy Flavian did not receive the document, nor order it to be read, yet heard me in reply utter word for word that Faith which was put forth at Nicæa by the holy Synod, and confirmed at Ephesus, I was required to acknowledge two natures, and to anathematize those who denied this.  But I, fearing the decision of the synod, and not wishing either to take away or to add one word contrary to the Faith put forth by the holy Synod of Nicæa, knowing, too, that our holy and blessed fathers and bishops Julius, Felix, Athanasius, and Gregorius[Editor’s Note: Of these four worthies, Athanasius is too well known to need further notice.  Gregorius is either Greg. Nazianzen, Bishop of Constantinople (circ. 380) or Greg. of Nyssa, both great champions of the Church against Arianism (not, as the Ball., Greg. Thaumaturgus, Bishop of Neo-Cæsarea, 244–70):  Julius was a Bishop of Rome (337–52):  an excerpt from one of his letters is printed by the Ball. at the end of this letter as the passage on which Eutyches based his error, though they suspect it (not unnaturally) as being an Apollinarian imposition:  Felix is probably no other than the Arian Bishop of Rome, Felix II. (355–8) whose appointment is characterized by Athanasius as effected “by antichristian wickedness,” but who is yet a canonized saint and martyr of the Roman Church] rejected the phrase “two natures,” and not daring to discuss the nature of God the Word, who came into flesh in the last days entering the womb of the holy virgin Mary unchangeably as he willed and knew, becoming man in reality, not in fancy, nor yet venturing to anathematize our aforesaid Fathers, I asked them to let your holiness know these things, that you might judge what seemed right to you, undertaking by all means to follow your ruling.

II.  His explanations were allowed no hearing.

But without listening to any thing which I said, they broke up the Synod and published the sentence of my degradation, which they were getting ready against me before the inquiry.  So much slander were they factiously making up against me that even my safety would have been endangered had not the help of God at the intercession of your holiness quickly snatched me from the assault of military force.  Then they began to force the heads of other monasteries . [Editor’s Note: Abbots’ signatures are found attached to the condemnation of Eutyches by the synod of Constantinople.] to subscribe to my degradation (a thing which was never done either towards those who have professed themselves heretics, nor even against Nestorius himself), insomuch that when to reassure the people I tried to set forth. statements of my faith, not only did they, who were plotting the aforesaid faction against me, prevent them being heard, but also seized them that straightway I might be held a heretic before all.

III.  He appeals to Leo for protection.

I take refuge, therefore, with you the defender of religion and abhorrer of such factions, bringing in even still nothing strange against the faith as it was originally handed down to us, but anathematizing Apollinaris, Valentinus, Manes, and Nestorius, and those who say that the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour, descended from heaven and not from the Holy Ghost and from the holy Virgin, along with all heresies down to Simon Magus.  Yet nevertheless I stand in jeopardy of my life as a heretic.  I beseech you not to be prejudiced against me by their insidious designs about me, but to pronounce the sentence which shall seem to you right upon the Faith, and in future not to allow any slander to be uttered against me by this faction, nor let one be expelled and banished from the number of the orthodox who has spent his seventy years of life in continence and all chastity, so that at the very end of life he should suffer shipwreck.  I have subjoined to this my letter both documents, that which was presented by my accuser at the Synod, and that which was brought by me but not received, as well as the statement of my faith and those things which have been decreed upon the two natures by our holy Father.

Eutyches’ Confession of Faith.

I call upon you before God, who gives life to all things, and Christ Jesus, who witnessed that good confession under Pontius Pilate, that you do nothing by favour.  For I have held the same as my forefathers and from my boyhood have been illuminated by the same Faith as that which was laid down by the holy Synod of 318 most blessed bishops who were gathered at Nicæa from the whole world, and which was confirmed and ratified afresh for sole acceptance by the holy Synod assembled at Ephesus:  and I have never thought otherwise than as the right and only true orthodox Faith has enjoined.  And I agree to everything that was laid down about the same Faith by the same holy Synod:  of which Synod the leader and chief was Cyril of blessed memory bishop of the Alexandrians, the partner and sharer in the preaching and in the Faith of those saints and elect of God, Gregory the greater, and the other Gregory [Editor’s Note: Here we have the two Gregorys mentioned] Basil, Athanasius, Atticus and Proclus.  Him and all of them I have held orthodox and faithful, and have honoured as saints, and have esteemed my masters.  But I utter an anathema on Nestorius, Apollinaris, and all heretics down to Simon, and those who say that the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ came down from heaven.  For He who is the Word of God came down from heaven without flesh and was made flesh in the holy Virgin’s womb unchangeably and unalterably as He Himself knew and willed.  And He who was always perfect God before the ages, was also made perfect man in the end of the days for us and for our salvation.  This my full profession may your holiness consider.

I, Eutyches, presbyter and archimandrite, have subscribed to this statement with my own hand.

Pope Leo wrote a letter clarifying the doctrine at stake in the controversies of this period. Our narrator offers us an excerpt from Leo’s letter summarizing his position:

The Rev. Thomas Weinandy, a highly respected Catholic scholar, offers us a learned presentation from Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, St. Louis: The Council of Chalcedon and Some Contemporary Christological Issues. (Note in the concluding Q & A session two Lutheran scholars on the faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, ask excellent questions that stimulate clarification of some challenging concepts.)

Bible Verses for Reflection: Jude 1: 3-4; Eph 2: 21-22; 1 Tim 3: 14-16

A Quote for Your Consideration: “Also in his state of humiliation Christ was a true King, possessing and exercising divine power, not only according to his divine nature (essentially), but also according to His human nature (by way of communication)…But the full and constant use of the divine dominion communicated to the human nature was not exercised by our Savior until His exaltation at the right hand of God…” (John Theodore Mueller, Christian Dogmatics, 215)

Questions for Discussion:

1. In his letter to Leo, Eutyches complains that Eusebius presented an allegation of heresy to Bishop Flavian. What can we say about this allegation’s content, Eutyches’ response to it, and the eventual disposition of Eutychianism?

2. Are you satisfied with Eutyches’ statement of faith? Now with your understanding of Eutychianism and its final disposition, do you detect anything in his statement of faith that causes you concern?

3. You may have noted in the reading of Leo’s Letter, by Father James Kubicki, we hear Leo write of Christ’s incarnation, “…and so man is not swallowed up in the dignity of the divine…”. Why did Leo incorporate this phrasing in his letter. What was he alluding to doctrinally?

4. You will read in  A Quote for Your Consideration above the author uses two parenthetical insertions “(essentially)” and “(by way of communication)” to enhance his meaning. What does he apparently intend to clarify with these additions?

5. Father Weinandy asserts the Council of Chalcedon established three incarnational truths. What were they?

6. In discussing what he terms “Christology from below”, Fr. Weinandy notes this approach entails two parts: one aspect leads to a valid theological position and the other a false position. Describe the false position and how a student of theology may fall into this  conceptual error.

7. Does God suffer? Can you summarize Fr. Weinandy’s explanation of this issue? What do you think? Does God love? Again, explain his explanation.

8. Did Jesus know he was The Son of God? Can you summarize Fr. Weinandy’s explanation of this issue?

9. In response to the global religion movement, Fr. Weinandy offers a perspective based on Chalcedon when considering the challenge of these traditions that deny Jesus’ uniqueness. What does he see as the major failings of these other religions?


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