|« Prev||Chapter IV. The Mysteries and Kindred Subjects.||Next »|
C. THE ENJOYMENT OF REDEMPTION IN
THE MYSTERIES AND KINDRED SUBJECTS.
There is an old story of a man who was in a condition of ignorance, dirt, and wretchedness and who was one day told by God that he might wish for anything he liked and that his wish would be granted. And he began to wish for more and more and to get higher and higher, and he got all he wanted. At last he got presumptuous and wished he might become like God Himself, when at once he was back again in his dirt and wretchedness. The history of religion is such a story; but it is in the history of the religion of the Greeks and the Easterns that it came true in the strictest sense. They first wished to have material goods by means of religion, then political, æsthetic, moral, and intellectual goods, and they got everything. They became Christians and desired perfect knowledge and a supra-moral life. Finally they wished even in this world to be as God in knowledge, bliss, and life, and then they fell down, not all at once, but with a fall that could not be stopped, to the lowest stage in ignorance, dirt, and barbarity. Any one who at the present day studies the condition of Greek religion amongst the orthodox and the Monophysites, and not merely the religion of the untrained masses, but also the ritual of worship and the magical ceremonies practised by the ordinary priests and monks and their ideas of things, will with regard to many points get the impression that religion could hardly fall lower.507507That an honest and genuine faith can live and does live within these husks is not to be denied. 269It has really become “superstitio”, a chaos of mixed and entirely diverse but at the same time rigidly fixed maxims and formula;, an unintelligible and long-winded ritual of a patchwork kind, which is held in high esteem, because it binds the nation or the tribe together or unites it to the past, but which is still a really living ritual only in its most inferior parts.508508Even in these, as experience teaches us, religion may still continue to live for some. Thus the symbol and cult of the Cross in the Greek Church keeps alive a feeling of the holiness of the suffering of the righteous one and a reverence for greatness in humility. If we were to imagine that we knew nothing, absolutely nothing, of Christianity in its original form and of its history in the first six centuries, and had to determine the genesis, the earlier stages, and the value of the original religion from a consideration of the present condition, say, of the Jacobite or of the Ethiopian Church, how utterly impossible this would be.509509This impossibility may serve as a warning to us in regard to the interpretation of other religions, of their mythologies and ritual formularies. We know most religions only in the form of “superstitio”, i.e., in the form in which they have come down to us they are for the most part already in an entirely degenerate state, or have become petrified. Who therefore would make bold to set about explaining these forms in the absence of all knowledge of the previous stages? It is an audacious undertaking. What we have here is a forbidding and well-nigh dead figure of which only some members and these not the principal members are still living, whose nobler parts are so crusted over that so far as their essence is concerned they defy any historical explanation.510510This judgment must stand although much that is ancient, genuine, and edifying is contained in the prayers and hymns of the liturgies of all the peoples belonging to the Greek Church. But it has become a formula and as a rule is not understood by the people. In this respect the orthodox churches are in a more favourable position, and much is now being done in order to make the liturgy more intelligible. Islam which swept violently over Christianity in this form was a real deliverer; for spite of its defects and barrenness it was a more spiritual power than the Christian religion which in the East had well-nigh become a religion of the amulet, the fetish, and conjurers, above which floats the dogmatic spectre, Jesus Christ.511511See Fallmerayer, Fragmente aus dem Orient, 1877, further the descriptions of the Easter festivals kept by the different ecclesiastical parties in Jerusalem and their image worship. By the Mohammedans too the Christian priest is frequently regarded as a conjurer and when they happen to be living in the same place with Christians, and are in dire distress, they visit the holy places and have recourse to the miracle-working reliques and images.270
Many factors contributed to this final result, and above all, the stern march of political history and the economic distress. Closely connected with this was the abolition of the old distinctions between aristocrats, freemen, and slaves, and following upon this the penetration into the higher ranks of the religious and intellectual barbarism which had never been overcome in the lower ranks. Christianity itself contributed in the most effective fashion towards the decomposition of society; but having done this, it was not able to elevate the masses and to build up a Christian Society in the most moderate sense of the word, on the contrary it made one concession after another to the requirements and wishes of the masses. The fact, however, that it thus soon became weak and allowed the “Christian religion of the second order” which originally had been merely tolerated, to exercise an ever increasing influence on the official religion, is to be explained from the attitude which the latter itself had more and more come to take up.
The general idea of redemption which prevailed in the Greek Church had an eschatological character; redemption is deliverance from perishableness and death. But in Vol. III., pp. 163-190, attention was drawn to the fact that at all periods of its history the Greek Church was aware of possessing a means of salvation which already exists in the present and had its origin in the same source from which future redemption flows—namely, the incarnate person of Jesus Christ. The conception of this present means of salvation was originally of a spiritual kind; the knowledge of God and of the world, the perfect knowledge of the conditions attached to the future enjoyment of salvation, and the power of doing good works, in short “teaching of dogmas and good works” (μάθημα τῶν δογμάτων καὶ πράξεις ἀγαθαί) (Cyril of Jerus.), and in addition power over the demons (Athanasius). True, however, to the general mode of conceiving things and also to the heathen philosophies of religion of that period, this knowledge in reference to divine things soon came 271to be regarded not as in its nature a clear knowledge, or as having an historical origin, or as in its working something to be spiritually apprehended, but on the contrary as a sophia or wisdom, which being only half comprehensible and mysterious, originates directly with God and is communicated by sacred initiation.512512The beginnings of this transformation are, it is true, to be found far back in the past. We can already trace them in Justin, and perhaps in fact even in the Apostolic Age missionaries like Apollos regarded religion in this way. The uncertainty which in consequence seemed to attach to the content of this knowledge was more than counter-balanced by the consciousness that the knowledge so acquired and communicated, establishes a fellowship amongst those possessed of it and leads to real union with God and is thus not merely individual reflection.
This magical-mystical element which attaches to knowledge as the present possession of salvation, is certainly also to be considered as a clumsy expression of the view that the summum bonum is higher than all reason.513513See Vol. I., p. III, Vol. II., p. 349, n. 2. But the truth which the Eastern Christians wished to grasp and to retain, was not securely established by mystical rationalism. The combination, however, of the natural theology which had never been given up with mysticism,514514See Vol. III., p. 253, and p. 272 f. Mysticism as a rule is rationalism worked out in a fantastic way, and rationalism is a faded mysticism. with the magical and sacramental, entailed above all this serious loss that less and less attention was given to the positive moral element, while the downfall of pure science made it possible for the theologians to take up with all sorts of superstition. It was not that the superstitio of the masses was simply forced upon them; in their own theology they endeavoured in ever increasing measure to reach a transcendental knowledge which could be enjoyed, as it were, in a sensuous way. Like their blood-relations the Neo-Platonists, they were originally over-excited, and their minds became dulled, and thus they required a stronger and stronger stimulant. The most refined longing for the enjoyment of faith and knowledge was finally changed into barbarity. They wished to fill themselves with the holy and the divine as one fills oneself with 272some particular kind of food. In accordance with this the dogma, the μάθησις, was embodied in material forms and changed into a means of enjoyment—the end of this was the magic of mysteries, which swallows up everything, the sacred images, the sacred ritual. Christianity is no longer μάθησις and πράξεις ἀγαθαί, it is μάθησις and μυσταγωγία, or rather for the great majority it was to be only μυσταγωγία. The image-controversy shews us where the supreme interests of the Church are to be looked for.
The development of what belongs to the sphere of mysteries and of cultus from the time of Origen to the ninth century does not form part of the History of Dogma. Together with the conceptions of baptism, the Lord’s Supper, sacraments, and images it constitutes a history by itself, a history which has never yet been written,515515The best treatment of the subject is in von Zerschwitz, System der Kirchl. Katechetik, Vol. I.; see also his article “Liturgie” in Herzog’s R.-Encyckl., and ed., and cf. the investigations of the disciplina arcana by Rothe, Th. Harnack and Bonwetsch. and which runs parallel with the History of Dogma. In the Greek Church there was no “dogma” of the Lord’s Supper any more than there was a “dogma” of grace. And quite as little was there up to the time of the image-controversy a “dogma” of the saints, angels, and images; it was the θεοτόκος only that was found in the Catechism. But ritual was practised here with all the more certainty. There was a holy ritual; it was already firmly established in the days of Athanasius when the State united with the Church, and it was closely followed by a mystagogic theology. This mystagogic theology starting from a fixed point moved with the greatest freedom in the direction of a definitely recognised goal.
The fixed starting-point it had in common with dogma. It was the idea that Christianity is the religion which has made the Divine comprehensible and offers it to us to be possessed and enjoyed. The definitely recognised goal was the establishment of a system of divine economy of a strictly complete kind as regards time and place, the factors of which it was composed and the means it employed, and which, while existing in the midst of what is earthly, allows the initiated by the help 273of sensuous media to enjoy the divine life. Those who above all developed this system did so with a certain reservation—it was not absolutely necessary. He who has speculation and ascetic discipline has in these as a personal possession, means which render it unnecessary for him to go in quest of sensuous signs and initiation in common. This was the view of Clemens and Origen, and after them the same opinion was expressed by the most important mystagogues of the earlier period, that is, by all those who created mystagogy; for no one creates anything without having the consciousness of being above his creation. But the Epigoni receive everything which has come to be what it is under the form of authority, and accordingly it becomes more and more impossible for them to distinguish between end and means, actual things and their substitutes, between what occupies a ruling place and what is subordinate. The spiritualism which, partly in self-protection and partly following its craving for fantastic creations and sensuous pictures, creates for itself in the earthly sphere a new world which it fills with its own ideas, is at the last menaced and crushed by its own creations. But then the spirit which has been artificially enclosed in it vanishes too, and there is nothing but a dead, inert remainder. On it accordingly that veneration is ever more and more bestowed which formerly was supposed to belong to the spirit which had been confined within the matter. Herewith polytheism in the full sense of the word is once more established, it matters not what form dogmatics may take. Religion has lost touch with spiritual truth. When for it a definite space is sacred—in the strictest sense of the word,—and in the same way a definite place, definite vehicles, bread, wine, images, crosses, amulets, clothes, when it connects the presence of the Holy with definite persons, vessels, ceremonies, in short with the exact carrying out of a carefully prescribed ritual, then though this ritual may have the form it always had and may even include in it the most sublime and exalted thoughts, it is played out as spiritual religion and has fallen back to a low level. But this was the final fate of the religion of the Greeks, which adorns itself with the name “Christian”. The private religion of thousands of its adherents, measured by 274the Gospel or the Christianity of Justin may be genuinely Christian,—the religio publica has only the incontestable right to the Christian name,—and in possessing the Holy Scriptures it has what cannot be lost, the capability of reforming itself. Its fundamental dogma, which in the end determined its entire practice, namely, that the God-man Jesus Christ deified the human substance and in accordance with this attached a system of divine forces to earthly media, did not enable it to overcome the old polytheism of the Greeks and barbarians, but on the contrary rendered it incapable of resisting this.
This is not the place to discuss the question as to the extent to which religion succumbed to it and the consequences of this, nor as to the influence exercised by the Neo-Platonic ecclesiastical science and by the ancient religions and mysteries respectively. All we can aim at doing is to establish the fact that the μυσταγωγία which the μάθησις had in view, gradually brought about the decay of the latter. It is only now that we are able perfectly to understand why such a determined resistance was made in the Greek Church to all fresh attempts to give dogma a fixed form, a resistance which could be overcome only by the most strenuous efforts. It was not only the traditionalism native to all religions which thus offered resistance, but the interests bound up with the ritualistic treatment of dogma and to which serious injury was done by the construction of new formulae. If the practical significance of dogma lay not only in the fact that salvation was attained hereafter on the basis of this Faith, but also in the fact that on the basis of this Faith Christians were already initiated in this world,—in worship,—into fellowship with the Godhead and were able to enjoy the divine, it was necessary that the expression of this truth should be raised above all possibility of change. The liturgical formula which is constantly repeated, is what can least of all stand being altered. Accordingly it is only when we consider how dogmatic controversies have necessarily always been controversies about words which demanded admission into the liturgy, as was the case with the foreign Nicene catch-words, the θεοτόκος, the theopaschitian formula etc., and finally the “filioque”, that we can understand the suspicion which they 275necessarily roused. We can still see in fact from the state of things in our own churches at the present time how such a liturgy or such a book of praise which in no way corresponds to the creed, causes no difficulty, while even the best innovation has a most disturbing effect. The value of the ritual of worship lies always in its antiquity, not in its dogmatic correctness. Thus the μυσταγωγία which rested on the fundamental thoughts of the μάθησις, and which in fact issued from it, was the stoutest opponent of a doctrina publica which was advancing to greater precision of statement. In the end it actually reduced it to silence. In the controversy of Photius with Rome in reference to the Holy Spirit the charge brought against the West of having altered the wording of the Creed was urged quite as strongly as the charge of having tampered with the doctrine. One may in fact say that the Greeks regarded the former as worse than the latter. This is the most telling proof of the fact that the daughter became more powerful than the mother, that the μυσταγωγία had come to occupy a place of central importance. This, however, took place long before the days of Photius. The dogmatic controversies of the seventh century are in truth only a kind of echo of no importance, which merely gave dogma the illusory appearance of an independent life. The nature of the controversy makes it evident to any one who looks at the matter more closely, that the dogma had already become a petrifaction and that the kindred ideas of antiquity and of the stability of worship already dominated everything. It is the age of Justinian which brings the independent dogmatic development to an end. At that time the liturgy too received what was practically its final revision. The final completion of dogma ensued under the guidance of scholasticism which now established itself in the Church. Mystagogic theology, which now first began to spread widely, followed the completed liturgy. In this connection we may mention Leontius on the one side and Maximus Confessor who belonged to the seventh century on the other. Dogma as treated in the scholastic and ritualistic fashion is no longer μάθησις at all, in the strict sense of the word. It is, like the Eucharist or the “authentic” image, a divine marvel, a paradoxical, sacred 276datum,516516The description of the doctrine, i.e., the fides quæ creditur, as μυστήριον (sacrament), dated back to ancient times, hence too the practice of keeping the Creed secret. which scholasticism labours to elevate to being μάθησις, and which mysteriosophy exhibits in worship as something to be enjoyed.
We might content ourselves with these hints regarding the fate of dogma. It will, however, be proper to select two subjects from the rich and complicated material of the history of worship and the mysteries and by means of them to give a somewhat more precise outline of the course of development. These are the ideas of the Lord’s Supper in connection with which we have to pay attention to the mysteries in general, and the worship of angels, saints, the Virgin Mary, martyrs, relics, and images. As regards the latter, the action ensued in the eighth and ninth centuries which brings to an end the history of dogma or the history of religion in the Eastern Church generally. From this date onwards it has had merely an outward history, a history of theology, of mysticism, and ritualism.
At the beginning of the Fourth Century the Church already possessed a large series of “mysteries” whose number and limits were, however, not in any way certainly defined.517517See Kattenbusch, op. cit. I., p. 393 ff. “The mysteries represent by their form the dogma” . . . “It is in this connection too that the comparison of the details in the Liturgy with the life of Jesus as known to us from the Gospel and for which Sophronius of Jerusalem had already prepared the way, first appears in the true light. The arrangement of the Liturgy represents the history of the Incarnation. In this way the whole form of the Liturgy came to share in the value attached to the dogma. Only he who acknowledges the orthodox Liturgy is a Chalcedonian.” They are τελεταί, mystic rites, which are based on λόγια τοῦ Θεοῦ, words of God; amongst these Baptism, together with the practice of anointing which was closely connected with it, and the Lord’s Supper,518518There are many passages which prove how closely Baptism and the Lord’s Supper were linked together, and regarded as the chief mysteries. What Augustine de pecc. mer. et remiss. remarks (24, 34) can hardly be held to apply only to the Punic Christians. “Optime Punici Christiani baptismum ipsum nihil aliud quam ‘salutem’ et sacramentum corporis Christi nihil aliud quam ‘vitam’ vocant, unde nisi ex antiqua, ut existimo, et apostolica traditione” etc. It was chiefly through the Lord’s Supper that the element of mysteries found an entrance into the religion of spirit and truth. This way of treating the elements used in it, which are nevertheless expressly described as symbols, supplied the point of departure for the development of the greatest importance. were the most highly esteemed; while 277from them a part of the other mysteries had also been developed. Symbolic acts, originally intended to accompany these mysteries, got detached and became independent. It was in this way that Confirmation originated519519Cypr. ep. 72. I. We find it first amongst the Gnostics alongside of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper; see Excerpta ex Theodoto, the Coptic-gnostic writings and the ritual of the Marcianites. Cf. on this sacrament Schwane, Dogmengesch. II., p. 968 ff. which is already reckoned by Cyprian as a special “Sacramentum”, which Augustine designates520520C. litt. Petiliani II., c. 104, 239. a “Sacramentum Chrismatis”, and which is called by the Areopagite a “mystery of the mystic oil” (μυστήριον τελετῆς μύρου). Augustine too knows of a “Sacramentum Salis” as well as many others,521521De pecc. merit. II., 42. and the Areopagite makes special mention of six mysteries: of enlightenment (φωτίσματος), of coming together or communion (συνάξεως εἴτ᾽ οὖν κοινωνίας), of the mystic oil (τελετῆς μύρου), of priestly consecrations (ἱερατικῶν τελειώσεων), of monastic consecration (μοναχικῆς τελειώσεως), and the mysteries in reference to the holy dead (μυστήρια ἐπὶ τῶν ἱερῶς κακοιμημένων).522522See de eccles. hierarch. 2-7. To the author the most of these mysteries are not separate mysteries, but represent a whole series of different mysteries. The last mentioned has nothing to do with extreme unction, but designates certain practices in connection with the treatment of the corpse. This enumeration is not, however, in any way typical, and its author can hardly have intended it to be taken as absolutely complete. “Mysterium” is every symbol, any material thing, in connection with which anything sacred is to be thought of, every action done in the Church, every priestly performance.523523The “aliud videtur, aliud intellegitur” (Augustine) is the best definition of the sacrament or mystery. These mysteries correspond to the heavenly mysteries which have their source in the 278Trinity and in the Incarnation.524524The orthodox Greek Church came to reckon the sacraments as seven owing to the influence of the West, i.e., gradually from the year 1274 onwards. Still the number seven never came to have the importance attached to it in the West. As every fact of revelation is a mysterium in so far as the divine has through it entered into the sphere of the material, so conversely every material medium, and thus too the word or the action, is a mysterium as soon as the material is a symbol or vehicle of the divine. But even in the earliest times no strict distinction was made between symbol and vehicle. The development consists in this that the symbol more and more retreated behind the vehicle, that new heathen symbols and ritual actions were adopted in increasing numbers and that finally the vehicle was no longer conceived of as a covering for or outward embodiment of a truth, but as a deified element, as something essentially divine.525525In Athanasius we already meet with both modes of expression: (1) “The Logos became flesh, in order that he might offer his body for all, and we by participating in his spirit may be made divine” (de decret. synod. Nic. 14); (2) “We are made divine inasmuch as we do not participate in the body of a man, but receive the body of the Logos Himself” (ad. Maxim. phil. 2).
It is obvious that this way of regarding the “mysteries”, amongst which the sign of the cross, relics, exorcism, marriage, etc., were reckoned, made it impossible to think of them as having a marked and lofty dogmatic efficacy. The rigid dogmatic even forbade such an assumption. As Greek theology regards the Church as an institute for salvation only when it is thinking of heathen and lapsed members or members who are minors, because the doctrine of freedom and redemption does not allow of the thought of a saving institute or of a community of believers chosen by God, in the same way and for the same reasons it knows nothing of a means of grace for those who are already believers, so far as by this is meant the sin-destroying, reconciliatory activity of God attached to a material sign and always strictly limited in its range, and which has for its object the re-establishment of justice and charity or of the filial relation. The ancient Church knew nothing of such means of grace. Accordingly since it desired to have mysteries, believed it possessed them in actions which had been handed down, and was strongly influenced by the dying heathen cultus, it had 279to content itself with the inexpressibleness of the effect of the mysteries. This conception forms the basis even where, following the directions of the New Testament,526526Here already at this early stage the difficult question emerges which even at the present day troubles many amongst ourselves, as to whether the ceremonies of the Old Testament, circumcision for instance, were sacraments. regeneration, the forgiveness of sins, the bestowal of the spirit, etc., are deduced in rhetorical language from separate sacraments. The assumption that the sacramental actions had certain inexpressible effects—the doctrine of freedom prevented the magical-mystical effects which were specially included under this head from being embodied in a dogmatic theory—logically led, however, to these being performed in such a way that the imagination was excited and the heavenly was seen heard, smelt, and felt, as for example in incense and the relics and bones of martyrs. The enjoyment of salvation on the part of him who participated in these rites, was supposed to consist in the elevating impression made on the imagination and the sensuous feelings. He was supposed to feel himself lifted up by means of it into the higher world, and in this feeling to taste the glory of the super-sensuous, and for this reason to carry away the conviction that in a mysterious fashion soul and body had been prepared for the future reception of the immortal life. Such being the theory it was an easy step from this to combine all the mysteries into one great mystery in worship, and this was what actually took place. With this as the starting-point the “Church” too accordingly became a holy reality, the institution for worship, the holy mechanism, which supplies the believer with heavenly impressions and raises him to heaven. The idea of the Church which had the most vitality in the East was that of something which, regarded as active, was “the lawful steward of the mysteries” (“ὁ γνήσιος τῶν μυστηρίων ὀικονόμος”) and conceived of as passive, was the image of the “heavenly hierarchy.”
In strict logical fashion it developed from beginnings which already foreshadow the end. Although the beginnings are characteristically different, we find them in Antioch as well as in Alexandria and thus in both the centres of the East. In the case of the former of these cities the beginnings are to be 280looked for in Ignatius, the author of the Six Books of the Apostolic Constitutions, the editor of the Eight Books, and in Chrysostom, and together with them in Methodius. In the case of the latter the starting-point was supplied by Clemens, Origen, (Gregory of Nyssa) and Macarius. In the former everything from the first was intimately associated with the bishop and with worship, in the latter with the true Gnostic originally, then next with the monk. In the former the bishop is the hierurge and the representative of God, the presbyters represent the apostles, and the deacons Jesus Christ. This is the earthly hierarchy, the copy of the heavenly. Already with Ignatius the cultus dominates the entire Christian life; the holy meal is the heavenly meal, the Supper is the “medicine of immortality”—φάρμακον ἀθανασίας. By means of the one Church-worship we mount up to God; woe to him who takes no part in it. All this is put in a stronger form in the Apostolical Constitutions, and is developed in a worthy and sensible fashion in the work of Chrysostom περὶ ἱερωσύνης. But in all this the attitude of the laity is a passive one; they make no effort, they allow themselves to be filled.527527I here leave out of account the Syrian mysticism of the fifth and sixth centuries of which we first really got some idea from the admirable work of Frothingham, Stephen bar Sudaili, 1886. The philosophico-logical element is not entirely absent from the views of these Syro-Monophysite mystics who had relations with Egypt too, but still it always was kept in the background. We have in their case Pantheism of a strongly marked character represented by the consubstantiality of God and the universe, and in accordance with this they had a fondness for the “Origenistic” ideas of the history of the universe and of the restoration of all things. The influential Methodius viewed the matter from a different standpoint. Although he is the opponent of the Alexandrians, he does not deny the influence which he had received from them. His realism and traditionalism are, however, of a speculative kind. They constitute the substructure of the subjectivity of the monkish mysticism. Christ must be born “rationally” (νοητῶς) in the believer; every Christian must by participating in Christ become a Christ. Methodius knew how to unite the ideas of a powerful religious individualism with the Mysticism which attaches itself to objective traditions. While protecting these latter against the inroads of a heterodox idealism, he nevertheless intended that 281they should merely constitute the premises of an individual religious life which goes on between the soul and the Logos alone.
This was the fundamental thought of the great theologians of Alexandria. But they rarely connected the substructure of their theosophy with earthly worship, and still more rarely with earthly priests. Nevertheless their substructure was of a much richer kind than that of the Antiochians. There is probably no single idea connected with religion or worship, no religious form, which they did not turn to account. Sacrifice, blood, reconciliation, expiation, purification, perfection, the means of salvation, the mediators of salvation,—all these, which were connected with some symbol or other, played a rôle in their system. It was the hierarchical element alone which was kept very much in the background, nor was much prominence indeed given to the idea of the ritual unity of the Church which was a leading one with the Antiochians. Everything is directed towards the perfection of the individual, the Christian Gnostic, and everything is arranged in stages, a feature which is wanting in the system of the Antiochians. The Christian does not merely allow himself to be filled with the Holy; on the contrary he is himself here always engaged in independent effort inasmuch as he advances from secret to secret. At every stage some remain behind; each stage down to the last presents a real thing and the covering of a thing. Blessed is he who knows the thing or actual fact, still more blessed he who presses on to the next stage, but he too is saved who grasps the thing in its covering only. But with the stages of the mysteries the stages of the knowledge of the world further correspond. He who makes the mysteries his own, thinks at the same time on the progressively ordered world. He advances from the external world upwards to himself, to his soul, his spirit, to the laws of the world and the world-spirits, to the one undivided Logos who rules the universe, to the incarnate Logos, to the highest Reason, which lies behind the Logos, to what is above all reason—to God. The Cosmos, the history of redemption, the Bible are the great graduated, ordered mysteries which have to be traversed: all divine things and all human things—πάντα θεῖα καὶ πάντα ἀνθρώπινα. When we have 282once reached the end aimed at, all helps may be dispensed with. There is a standpoint viewed from which every symbol, every sacrament, every thing that is holy, which appears in a material covering, becomes profane, for the soul lives in the Holiest of all. “Images and symbols which set forth other things were of value so long as the truth was not present, but when the truth is present, it is necessary to do the things of the truth and not of the image or representation of it,” (αἱ εἰκόνες καὶ τὰ σύμβολα παραστατικὰ ὄντα ἑτέρων πραγμάτων καλῶς ἐγίνοντο, μέχρι μὴ παρῆν ἡ ἀλήθεια· παρούσης δὲ τῆς ἀληθείας τὰ τῆς ἀληθείας δεῖ ποιεῖν, οὐ τὰ εἰκόνος). This holds good of the aspiring theologian; it holds good also in the main of the humblest, barbarous monk. But Christianity would not be the universal religion if it did not present salvation in the symbolic form at all stages. This thought separates the ecclesiastical theosophs of Alexandria from their Neo-Platonic and Gnostic brethren. In it the universalism of Christianity finds expression, but the concession is too great. It sanctions a Christianity which is bound up with signs and formulæ, the Christianity of the “εἰκόνες”. The most sublime spiritualism, as happened in expiring antiquity, made terms with the grossest forms of the religion of the masses,—or rather, here is expiring antiquity. That it could do this is a proof that a naturalistic or polytheistic element was inherent in itself. Because it did it, it was itself stifled by the power which it tolerated. The issue reveals the initial capital blunder.
The mystical cultus of Antioch which culminates in the priest and divine service, and the philosophical mysticism of Alexandria which has ultimately in view the individual, the gnostic and the monk, already converge in Methodius and the Cappadocians;528528Gregory of Nazianzus (in laud. Heron. c. 2) thus speaks from the altar to Hero “Approach hither, near to the Holy places, the mystic table and me, τῷ διὰ τούτων μυσταγωγοῦντι τὴν θέωσιν, οἷς σε προσάγει λόγος καὶ βίος καὶ ἡ διὰ τοῦ παθεῖν κάθαρσις.” they next converge in the works of the pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.529529The article by Möller in Herzog’s R.-Encyklop. III., p. 616 ff. enables us to understand how the Dionysius question stood in the year 1878 (the best analysis is by Steitz, in the Jahrhb. für deutsche Theol., 1866, p. 197 ff; there are valuable if not quite convincing discussions by Hipler, 1861 and in the Kirchenlex. 2 III., p. 1789 ff., cf. the work of Engelhardt, Die angebl. Schriften des A. Dionysius, Sulzbach, 1823). Within recent years, however, several new publications based on the sources, and discussions, have appeared, which shew that nothing has really yet been certainly established; see Pitra, Analecta Sacra III., on this Loofs in the ThLZ., 1884, Col. 554 f.; Frothingham, Stephen bar Sudaili, the Syrian Mystic and the Book of Hierotheos, 1886; in addition Baethgen in the ThLZ, 1887, No. 10; Skworzow, Patrologische Untersuchungen, 1875; Kanakis, Dion. d. Areopagite, 1881; Dräseke (Ges. Patrist. Abhandl., 1889, p. 25 ff.; Dionysios v. Rhinokolura, in addition Gelzer in the Wochenschrift f. Klass. Philol., 1892, separate impression); Jahn, Dionysiaca, 1889; Foss, Ueber den Abt Hilduin von St. Denis and Dionysius Areop. in the Jahresbericht des Luisenstadt. R.-Gymnasiums z. Berlin, 1886. The most ancient testimony to the existence of these works is to be found in the Church History attributed to Zacharias of Mitylene (Land, Anecd. Syr. III., p. 228). Severus quoted them at a Council at Tyre which cannot have been held later than the year 513. Still older would be Cyril’s testimony in the work against Diodorus and Theodore, which even if it ought not to be attributed to Cyril, belongs to the fifth century. “Although the manuscript reading in Liberatus Brev. 10 is corrupt still it ought probably to be emended thus: Dionysii Areopagitæ, (Dionysii) Corinthiorum episcopi” (Gelzer). Hipler, Pitra, Dräseke, Möller, Kanakis (who wishes to fix the date of the writings definitely for about 120) have pronounced against the old assumption of a (pious) fraud, and have referred the writings to the second half of the fourth century. They have besides sought to shew that we ought probably to make a distinction between the several works which now bear the name of Dionysius, and that the oldest of the writings bearing this name are in all probability not forgeries, though forgers and interpolators did seize upon them in the fifth or sixth century, and that therefore, as is so frequently the case, it was not the author, but tradition which first committed the forgery. But if Frothingham is right, the writings ought to be put later, and Gelzer as against Dräseke has advanced some very strong arguments in favour of the idea of an original pia fracas—after the analogy of the Neo-Platonic interpolations—that is in support of the hypothesis “that the author of these writings purposely intended from the first to secure a loftier authority from them than they would otherwise have had by means of the prestige attaching to works contemporary with the Apostles.” “The author of the Dionysian writings was merely following the usages of the schools, in transferring his works to the apostolic age.” The question of date is consequently not yet settled, (second half of the fourth and fifth century). The period previous to 400 seems to me the more probable, but there are so many points connected with these writings which are still obscure that one must refrain from pronouncing an opinion until a new, thorough, and comprehensive investigation has been made. It was owing to Maximus Confessor 283that in this combination they became the power which dominates the Church.
Everything was grouped round the Lord’s Supper,530530Baptism may be left out of account; for the views held regarding it did not undergo any actual development within the period we treat of (see Vol. II., 140.) Naturally the general and changing ideas of the mysteries exercised an influence upon baptism, but it was rarely studied ex professo. It besides occupied an isolated position since it could never be brought into intimate connection with worship. What was certain was that baptism actually purifies from sins committed previous to it, i.e., destroys them, and consequently constitutes the beginning of the process which makes the mortal man imperishable. It is thus the source and beginning of all gifts of grace. But as was the case in regard to the other mysteries, so here too there were theologians who, in imitation of Origen, held the view that there was a mysterious purification of the soul, and regarded the water as a symbol, but all the same as the absolutely necessary symbol, which just for this very reason is not simply a “symbol” in the modern sense of the word (see the Cappadocians). The intellectualism of these theologians and their inability to believe in an actual forgiveness of sins, led them in the case of baptism to prefer the idea of a φωτισμός—the primitive designation of the sacrament—and thus of a physical purification (κάθαρσις) or else to think of the proof it gave of such a purification. Other theologians, however, from the days of Cyril of Alexandria downwards, in accordance with their ideas of the Lord’s Supper with which, following John XIX. 34, baptism was always ranged (Johannes Damascenus still gives prominence to these two sacraments only), assumed that there was an actual μεταστοιχείωσις of the water into a divine material, which took place by means of the descent of the spirit which followed the invocation of God. Tertullian (de bapt.) and Cyprian had already taught similar doctrine in the West. Cyril of Jerusalem too (cat. III. 3, 4) held the view that there was a dynamic change in the water. But it is Cyril of Alexandria (Opp. IV., p. 147) who first says: Διὰ τῆς τοῦ πνεύματος ἐνεργείας τὸ αἰσθητὸν ὕδωρ πρὸς θείαν τινὰ καὶ ἀπόρρητον μεταστοιχειοῦται δύναμιν, ἁγιάζει δὲ λοιπὸν τοὺς ἐν οἷς ἂν γένοιτο. Still the Church did not get the length of having distinct and definite formulæ for the sacramental unity of water and spirit, for the moment, and for the means whereby this unity was produced. Although the statement held good that baptism was absolutely necessary to salvation, still people shrank more from the unworthy reception of it than from the danger of definitely dispensing with it. In the fourth century people kept postponing it repeatedly—so as not to use this general means till the hour of death. Baptism was accordingly regarded by many in praxi not as initiation into the Christian state, but as the completion of it. Some very characteristic passages in Augustine’s Confessions, e.g., show this (e.g., Confess. VI. 4): it was possible in the fourth century to rank as a Christian, though one was not yet baptised. But the great Church-Fathers of the fourth century defended the practice of infant-baptism which had been already handed down, and this was established in the fifth century as the general usage. Its complete adoption runs parallel with the death of heathenism. As regards baptism by heretics, the view held in the Eastern Church at the beginning of the fourth century was that it was not valid. But it gradually, though hesitatingly, receded somewhat from this position (see the decisions of 325 and 381). A distinction was made between those sects whose baptism was to be recognised, or was to be supplemented by the laying on of hands, and those whose baptism had to be repeated (this is still what we have in the ninty-fifth canon of the Trullan Synod 692). The Church did not, however, arrive at any more fixed view on the matter, since just those fathers of the fourth century who where held in the highest esteem generally demanded re-baptism. Whether one ought to re-baptise the heretic or to anoint him or merely to lay the hand upon him, is a point that is not certainly decided up to the present time. The Greek Church very frequently still repeats baptism at the present clay; see Höfling, Sacr. der Taufe, 1848; Steitz, Art. “Ketzertaufe” in Herzog’s R.-Encykl. 2nd ed.; Kattenbusch, op. cit. I., p. 403 ff. and as 284was the case in an earlier period, it still continued to be regarded from a twofold point of view, the sacrificial and the 285sacramental.531531See Vol. II., p. 136, and p. 146. The mystery with which it came to be increasingly surrounded and the commemorations which took place at its celebration, preserved to the Lord’s Supper in wholly altered conditions within the world-Church which embraced the Empire, its lofty and at the same time familiar, congregational character.532532It is very worthy of note that already in the fourth century the Lord’s Supper was regarded as the expression of a particular form of Confession. Philostorgius (H. E. III. 14) tells us that up to the time of Aëtius the Arians in the East had joined with the orthodox in prayers, hymns, etc., in short in almost all ecclesiastical acts, but not in the “mystic sacrifice.” In the commemorations from that time onwards connection with the Church found public expression. Cancelling of Church membership was regularly expressed by erasure of the name in the commemoration from the diptychs. No rigidly doctrinal development of the Lord’s Supper followed on this. But probably the presence of changes in the conceptions formed of the Lord’s Supper both in its sacrificial and in its sacramental aspect, might be proved. These changes, however, take place throughout within the limits which were already fixed in the third century. The blend of a sublime spiritualism and a sensuous realism was already in existence in the third century. Any progress which took place could consist only in this, that religious materialism advanced further and further and forced spiritualism to retire. Its advance was, however, furthered above all by the fact that the dogma of the Incarnation was brought into connection with the Lord’s Supper. This is the most important fact connected with this development, for now the Lord’s Supper became, as it were, the intelligible exponent of the entire dogmatic system, and at the same time the hitherto vague ideas regarding the kind and nature of the body of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, came to have a firmly fixed form. If previous to this Christians had never of set purpose thought of the body of the historical Christ when speaking of the body of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, but of His spirit, His word, or the remembrance of His body offered up, or of something inexpressible, something glorified which 286passed for being His body, now the idea emerged that the material element which is potentially already the body of Christ according to Gregory of Nyssa, is by priestly consecration or more correctly, by the Holy Spirit who also overshadowed Mary, changed with the real body of Christ or else taken up into it. The Incarnation is not repeated in the Lord’s Supper, but it is continued in it in a mysterious fashion, and the dogma is practically attested in the most living and marvellous way through this mystery. The priest is here, it is true, the minister only, not the author; but in connection with such a transaction to be the servant who carries out what is done, means to be engaged in an inexpressibly lofty service which raises one even above the angels. The whole transaction, which is based on the Incarnation, is thus beyond a doubt itself the mystery of the deification (θέωσις). The connection is exceptionally close; for if the act gets its essence and its substance from the Incarnation, while the latter again has in view the deification, it is itself the real means of the deification. It is the same thought as that which had already been indicated by Ignatius when he described the holy food as the “medicine of immortality” (φάρμακον ἀθανασίας); but it is only now that this thought is taken out of the region of uncertain authority and has fixity given to it by getting a thoroughly firm foundation. But perhaps the point that is most worthy of note is, that in reference to the elements phrases were used by the Greek Fathers of a later period, which, as applied to the dogma of the Incarnation, had to be discarded as Gnostic, doketic, Apollinarian, or Eutychian and Apthartodoketic! People speak naïvely—up to the time of Johannes Damascenus, at least—of the changing, transformation, transubstantiation of the elements into the Divine. No attempt is made to form definite ideas regarding the whereabouts of their material qualities; they are wholly and entirely deified. In a word, the views held regarding the Lord’s Supper were for a long time Apollinarian-monophysite, and not dyophysite. But this makes it once more perfectly plain that what was regarded by the Greek Church as of real importance from the religious point of view, was adequately represented only by the teaching of Apollinaris and Monophysitism, and that the 287reasons which finally led to the adoption of Dyophysitism had no strict connection with the dogmatic system.
As regards the sacrificial aspect of the holy action, the most important development consists in the advance made in the transformation of the idea of sacrifice, for which the way had been already prepared in the third century. The offering of the elements, the memorial celebration of the sacrifice of Christ in the sacrifice of the Supper, the offering of the gifts (προσφέρειν τὰ δώρα) and the offering of the memorial of the body (προσφέρειν τὴν μνήμην τοῦ σώματος) was changed into an offering of the body, (τὸ σῶμα τροσφέρειν) a propitiatory memorial sacrifice. “The sacrifice of His Son on the Cross was, as it were, put before God’s eyes and recalled to memory in order that its effects might be communicated to the Church.” Thus, owing to the influence of the heathen mysteries and in consequence of the development of the priestly notion, the idea crept in that the body and blood of Christ were constantly offered to God afresh in order to propitiate Him. And the more uncertain men became as to God’s feelings, and the more worldly and estranged from God they felt themselves to be, the more readily they conceived of the Supper as a real renewal of the Sacrifice of Christ and of His saving death. Christians had formerly made it their boast that the death of Christ had put an end to every sort of outward sacrifice; they had spoken of the “bloodless and rational and gentle sacrifice” (ἄναιμος καὶ λογικὴ καὶ προσηνὴς θυσία) or of the “immaterial and mental sacrifice” (θυσία ἀσώματος καὶ νοερά). These modes of expression continued to be used in the third and fourth centuries, but the desire for a sensuous expiatory sacrifice, which had been present, though in a hidden form, at an early date, became stronger and stronger, and thus “flesh and blood”—namely, the flesh and blood of Christ—were described as sacrificial offerings. Thus men had once more a bloody sacrifice, though indeed without visible blood, and what it seemed not to have certainly accomplished when offered once, was to be accomplished by a repetition of it. And thus, as the act regarded as a sacrament was connected in the closest way with the Incarnation, and appeared as a mysterious, real representation of it, as something 288to be enjoyed by the believer, so, regarded as a sacrifice, it was now finally brought into the most intimate connection with the death of Christ, but in such a way that in it the saving sacrificial death likewise appeared to be continued, i.e., repeated. Is it possible to give the sacramental act a loftier position than this? Assuredly not! And yet it was nothing but pure Paganism which had brought this about. Since these developments took place most of the Churches of Christendom in the East and West have been fettered and enslaved by a “doctrine of the Supper” and a “ritual of the Supper”, which must be reckoned amongst the most serious hindrances which the Gospel has experienced in the course of its history. Neither the calling out of elevated feelings, nor the superabundance of intellectual force, of acuteness and “philosophy” which has been expended in connection with this, can undo the mischief which has been incalculable and which is still going on. And as in the fifth and sixth centuries the Supper was conceived of as the resultant of the system of dogma as a whole (the Trinity and the Incarnation), and was supposed to be equivalent to it, and to give a lively representation of it, so the same is still the case at the present day. The “doctrine” of the Supper has been treated in such a way as in the first place to sanction the dogma of the Incarnation, and in the second place to gather up to a point the entire confessional system of doctrine and the conception of the Church. In the whole history of religions there is probably no second example of such a transformation, extension, demoralisation and narrowing of a simple and sacred institution!
Sure and logical as was the course of the development of the ritual and doctrine of the Supper in the Greek Church, no dogma in the strict sense of the word was set up, because there was no controversy unless about points of no importance. But just for this very reason the doctrinal pronouncements scarcely ever get beyond the stage of unfathomable contradictions and insoluble oracles. Christians felt so comfortable in the darkness of the mystery; they laid hold of this or the other extravagant form of expression without being afraid of being corrected or being forced to pay respect to a fixed form of words sanctioned by ecclesiastical usage. Anything that sounded 289pious and edifying, profound and mysterious, could be freely used in connection with the mystery. And since the words which were used in this connection, such as spirit (πνεῦμα), spiritually (πνευματικῶς), flesh (σάρξ), body (σῶμα) had a three-fold and a manifold meaning533533Let any one take a proposition such as this from Athanasius: πνεῦμα ζωοποιοῦν ἡ σάρξ ἐστι τοῦ κυρίου, διότι ἐκ πνεύματος ζωοποιοῦ συνελήμφθη, in order to form an idea of how one may twist and turn the words. in ecclesiastical usage, since Scripture itself supplied various allegories in connection with this matter, using flesh of Christ as equal to the Church, flesh of Christ as equal to His words, etc., since John VI. as compared with the words of institution supplied endless scope for speculation and rhetoric, since the consequences and the terminology of the dogma of the Incarnation were on the same lines,—and in addition, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and certain ideas of the Church,—since finally the sacramental and sacrificial elements were at one time kept strictly separate and at another ran into one another, the utterances of the Greek Fathers in reference to the Supper constitute as a rule the most forbidding portions of their works. But to give a logical solution and orderly reproduction of their thoughts is not at all the historian’s business, for in attempting such a task he would constantly be in danger of missing the meaning of the Fathers. For this reason we here renounce any such attempt. It will be sufficient to note the tendency and progress of the development in the Fathers who are to be referred to in what follows.534534In the essays by Steitz on the doctrine of the Supper in the Greek Church (Jahrbb. f. deutsche Theol. IX., pp. 409-481; X., pp. 64-152, 399-463; XI., pp. 193-253: XII., pp. 211-286; XIII., pp. 3-66) we possess an investigation of the subject which is as comprehensive as it is thorough. The author, however, does not seem to me always to have hit the mark in the judgments he passes. He makes too many distinctions, and in particular his view as to the existence of a strictly distinct symbolic doctrine of the Supper is hardly tenable in the form in which he seeks to develop it. A purely symbolic conception of the Supper never existed, for it was always harmoniously united with a ritual which was based on a very realistic way of conceiving of it. What we now call “symbol” is something wholly different from what was so-called by the ancient Church. On the other hand, after the sacramental magic in its coarsest form had found its way into the Church, “symbolic” statements were always tolerated because the symbol was really never a mere type or sign, but always embodied a mystery; see Vol. II. p. 143. On the doctrine of the Supper cf. further the monographs by Rückert, Kahnis, Ebrard. That the increasingly complex 290form taken by doctrine was of no advantage to real religion may be inferred from the one fact that the effects of the Supper were always described in an absolutely vague fashion. Nor did the θεώσις, that process to which was attached this high-sounding name, really mean anything, for it was impossible to understand it in any serious sense. The idea that freedom was the basis of all that was good, was in the way of this. This θεώσις, which is experienced in imagination, threatened, in the case of the Greeks themselves, to change into a mere play of fancy; for as soon as they realised that they were moral beings, they thought of nothing else save of the exalted God, of His demand that they should renounce the world and do good, and of the duty which lay upon man of living a holy life in order to die a blessed death. For this very reason they were also unable to reach any complete confidence in the promise of the forgiveness of sins given in the Supper. In place of this, however, religious materialism went to absurd lengths, while at the same time the ascetic theosoph was always free respectfully to ignore the whole transaction.
Only a few hints regarding the course taken by the development of the doctrine can fitly be given here: Origen supplies the starting-point. “In his view the eucharistic body was only the Word of God or of the Logos as being a substitute for his appearance in the flesh; the shew-bread was for him the type of the Word in the old Covenant; for as this was placed, as it were, before the eyes of God as a propitiatory memorial object, so the Church also puts a bread before God which has a great propitiatory power—namely, the commemoration, the word regarding His passion and death with which Christ introduced and founded the Supper. But the bread of blessing was in his view the symbol only of this word, only of His eucharistic body, but not of His body offered up on the Cross, and if he does once call the latter “the typical and symbolic body”, he did this only in the sense referred to. This is just what is peculiar and characteristic in his standpoint, that whenever he speaks of the Supper or indeed in a more general 291sense of the eating of the flesh or of the drinking of the blood of Christ, he does this without any reference to the body which He had as man or to the blood which flowed in the veins of this body.”535535Steitz X., p. 99. The body and blood of Christ are knowledge, life, and immortality, not, however, as a mere thought or as a symbol, but in inexpressible reality. In Eusebius we already note an advance, and in fact in the “Demonstratio” and in the work “de eccles. theologia” he has several new categories. In his case already the offering of the memorial of the body (μνήμην τοῦ σώματος προσφέρειν) passes over into the offering of the body (τὸ σῶμα προσφέρειν). He has the propitiatory memorial sacrifice. But from the sacramental point of view the consecrated elements are still for him symbols of the mystical body of Christ, i.e., of His word: only from the sacrificial point of view do they already possess the value of mysterious symbols of the actual body, the body which was once offered up.536536Demonstr. ev. I. 10; de eccles. theol. III. 12; Steitz X., p. 99 ff. It is impossible to extract a doctrine from the confused statements of Athanasius, nor will it do to make him a “symbolist”.537537So rightly Thomasius I., p. 431 ff. as against Steitz X., p. 109 ff. Probably, however, Athanasius comes nearer to Origen in his conception of the Supper than in any other part of his doctrine.538538See ad Serap. IV., espec. c. 19 and the Festival-letters. The statement of Basil (ep. 8, c. 4) is genuinely Origenist: “We eat the flesh of Christ and drink His blood in that by His Incarnation and His life which was manifest to the senses, we become partakers of the Logos and of wisdom. For he described His whole mystical appearance as flesh and blood and thereby indicated the doctrine which is based on practical, physical, and theological science, and by which the soul is nourished and is meanwhile prepared for the vision of the truly existent.” But the Cappadocians likewise had already advocated a theurgy of the most palpable kind—in all the Fathers the spiritualistic amplifications of the doctrine occur, always with reference to John VI. As regards the doctrine of the Supper, “Realism” and Real Presence of the true body of Christ (or transubstantiation) are for us at the present day equivalent. In 292ancient times, however, there was a “realism” which had no reference whatever to that real presence, but which on the contrary regarded a spiritual mystical something as really present. Hence the controversy on the part of historians of dogma and of ecclesiastical parties regarding the doctrine of the Supper held by the Fathers. They are “Symbolists” in respect of the real presence of the true body; indeed as regards this they are in a way not even symbolists, since they had not that body in their minds at all. But they know of a mystical body of Christ which is for them absolutely real—it is spirit, life, immortality, and they transferred this as real to the celebration of the Supper.539539On Basil Steitz X., p. 127 ff., on Gregor Naz. the same, p. 133 ff. From Basil’s ninety-third letter in particular we see that for him spiritualism was in no sense opposed to the most superstitious treatment of the Supper. Quite correctly Ullmann, Gregor, p. 487: “It is difficult to determine what Gregory understood by eating and drinking the blood of Christ, and in any case no dogma which may be regarded as peculiarly belonging to Gregory can be deduced from it.” In him we find the expression for the consecrated elements “ἀντίτυπα τοῦ τιμίου σώματος καὶ αἵματος”, an expression which Eusebius in his day might have used and which Eustathius did use (Steitz X., p. 402). According to Macarius too, Christ gives Himself and the soul to be eaten spiritually (hom. 27, 17), but this spiritual eating is the enjoyment of something actual. Macarius, however, while he had the individual soul in view always thought of the Church; for to this noteworthy Greek mystic who, moreover, knew something of sin and grace, as to Methodius, the soul is the microcosm of the Church and the Church is the macrocosm of the soul. But the statements made by him and Methodius in respect to this point, were not further followed out.540540On Macarius, see Steitz X., p. 142 ff. The influence of the sacrificial conception of the consecrated elements, as being the antitypes of the broken body of Christ, on the sacramental conception, can be traced already in Eustathius and in the Apostolical Constitutions;541541Steitz X., pp. 402-410. its presence is perfectly apparent in the mystagogic catechetics of Cyril of Jerusalem. But I suspect that in their catechetical instruction Basil and Gregory did not express themselves differently from him. Besides the many other passages having reference to the subject, Catech. 293V., 7 is specially important. “And next after we have sanctified ourselves (through prayer), we pray the gracious God that He will send down His Holy Spirit on the elements presented, in order that He may make the bread into the body of Christ and the wine into the blood of Christ; for' what the Holy Spirit touches is wholly sanctified and transformed (μεταβέβληται).” Here therefore we have a plain assertion of the μεταβολή which is effected by the Holy Spirit in the Supper, and Cyril in fact appeals to the miracle of Cana. At the same time “Cyril is the first church-teacher who treats of baptism, the oil, and the Eucharist, in their logical sequence, and in accordance with general principles.” The element which may be termed the symbolic, or better, the spiritual element, is nowhere wanting in his theology, and in fact it still quite clearly constitutes its basis; but we see it supplemented by that “realism” which already regards the details of the act of ritual as the special subject of instruction. The epiklesis or invocation, brings with it a dynamic change in the elements in the Supper as in all mysteries. By partaking of the holy food one becomes “a bearer of Christ”; the flesh and blood of Christ is distributed amongst the members of the body. In Cyril’s view the elements in their original form have after consecration wholly disappeared. “Since now thou art taught and convinced that the visible bread is not bread, although to the taste it appears to be such, but the body of Christ; and that the visible wine is not wine, although to taste it seems to be such, but the blood of Christ, comfort thine heart,” (Catech. V., 9). But still we might make a mistake if we were to attribute to the theologian what is said by the catechist. Extravagances of this sort still belonged at that time to the liturgical and catechetical element, but were not a part of theology.542542On Cyril, see Steitz X., pp. 412-428. But the miracle of Cana and the multiplication of the bread now became important events for teachers, as indeed is evident from the sculpture of the Fourth Century, and even such a pronounced Origenist as Gregory of Nyssa for whom indeed σύμβολον was equivalent to ἀπόδειξις (a setting forth) and γνώρισμα (mark or token) and who laid down the principle “Christianity has its 294strength in the mystic symbols” (ἐν τοῖς μυστικοῖς συμβόλοις ὁ χριστιανισμὸς τὴν ἴσχον ἔχει),543543C. Eunomium XI., T. II., p. 704. as catechist propounded a physiological philosophically constructed theory regarding the spiritual nourishing power of the elements which were changed into the body of the Lord, which in religious barbarity far outstrips anything put forward by the Neo-Platonic Mysteriosophs. It makes it plain to us that in the fourth century Christianity was sought after not because it supplied a worship of God in spirit and in truth, but because it offered to men a spiritual sense-enjoyment with which neither Mithras nor any other god could successfully compete. Gregory wished for a spiritual and corporal “communion and mixing” (μετουσία καὶ ἀνάκρασις) with the Redeemer. The only help against the poison which has crept into our body is the antidote of the body of Him who was stronger than death. This antidote must be introduced into the body. It accordingly transforms and alters our body (μεταποιεῖν καὶ μετατιθέναι; μετάστασις, μεταστοιχείωσις, ἀλλοίωσις). The actual body of Christ as immortal is thus the remedy against death; it must therefore, like other sorts of good, be partaken of bodily. This partaking takes place in the Supper; for through the act of consecration the bread and wine are changed into the flesh and blood of the Lord (μεταποίησις) in order that through partaking of them our body may be transformed into the body of Christ (μεταστοιχείωσις; see Justin). These transubstantiations are proved by a philosophical exposition of matter and form, potentiality and actuality; at this point Aristotle had already to be brought forward to furnish the necessary proof. The paradox was held to be not really so paradoxical. The body of the Logos, it was affirmed, itself consisted of bread; the bread was virtually (δυνάμει) the body etc. But more important than these dreadful expositions of a pharmaceutical philosophy was the close connection which Gregory formed by means of them between the Eucharist and the Incarnation. He was the first, so far as I know, to do this. The older Fathers also, indeed, while by the eucharistic body they understood the word and the life, always regarded the Incarnation as the fundamental condition, which alone made that 295use of it possible. But since they did not entertain the idea of the real body of Christ, the Incarnation and Eucharist—apart from some attempts by Athanasius—still remained unconnected.
It was otherwise with Gregory. For him the transformation of the consecrated bread into the body of Christ was the continuation of the process of the Incarnation. “If the existence of the whole body depends on nourishment while this consists of food and drink; if, further, bread serves for food, and water mixed with wine for drink, and if the Logos of God, as has been already proved, is united (συνανεκράθη) in his character as God and Logos with human nature, and, having entered our body, produced no different or new constitution for human nature, but rather sustained his body by the usual and fitting means and supported life by food and drink, the food being bread; then, just as in our case, he who sees the bread to some extent perceives the human body therein, because when the bread enters the latter it becomes part of it, so in that case the body which conceals God within it, and which received the bread is to a certain extent identical with the bread . . . for what is characteristic of all was also admitted regarding the flesh of Christ, namely, that it was also supported by bread, but the body was by the residence in it of the Divine Logos transformed (μετεποιήθη) to a divine sublimity and dignity. We accordingly are now also justified in believing that the bread consecrated by the word of God is transformed into the body of the God-Logos. For that body was also virtually bread, but was consecrated by the residence in it of the Logos, who dwelt in the flesh. Accordingly as the bread transformed in that body was invested with divine energy we have the same thing happening here. For in the former case the grace of the Word sanctified the body which owed its existence to, and to a certain extent was, bread, and similarly, in the present instance, the bread, as the apostle says, is made holy by God’s Word (Logos) and command; not that it is first changed into the body of the Logos by being eaten, but that it is at once transformed into his body by the Logos (by its consecration) in accordance with the saying of the Logos, ‘This is my body’.” Gregory argues similarly as regards the wine and blood, and 296then continues: “Since then that flesh which received God also received this portion (wine, blood) into its substance, and God made manifest by that means interfused himself in the perishable nature of men, in order that by communion with deity the human might be deified; therefore he implants himself in all who have believed in the dispensation of grace, by means of the flesh whose substance consists of both wine and bread, condemning himself to the bodies of believers, so that by union with that which is immortal man also might become a participator in immortality. And these things he grants to the power of the blessing, having therefore transformed the nature of the phenomena (Ἐπεὶ οὖν καὶ τοῦτο τὸ μέρος [wine, blood] ἡ θεοδόχος ἐκείνη σὰρξ πρὸς τὴη σύστασιν ἑαυτῆς παρεδέξατο, ὁ δε φανερωθεὶς Θεὸς διὰ τοῦτο κατέμιξεν ἑαυτὸν τῇ ἐπικήρῳ τῶν ἀνθρώπων φύσει, ἱνα τῇ τῆς θεότητος κοινωνίᾳ συναποθεωθῇ τὸ ἀνθρώπινον, τούτου χάριν πᾶσι τοῖς πεπιστευκόσι τῇ οἰκονομίᾳ τῆς χάριτος ἑαυτὸν ἐνσπείρει διὰ τῆς σαρκός ἧς ἡ σύστασις ἐξ οἴνου τε καὶ ἄρτου ἐστὶ, τοῖς σώμασι τῶν πεπιστευκότων κατακρινάμενος, ὡς ἂν τῇ πρὸς τὸ ἀθάνατον ἑνώσει καὶ ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀθανασίας μέτοχος γένοιτο. Ταῦτα δὲ δίδωσι τῇ τῆς εὐλογίας δυνάμει πρὸς ἐκεῖνο μεταστοιχειώσας τῶν φαινομένων τὴν φύσιν). It was henceforth impossible for any other theory to outbid this one, which followed the practice. It is the foundation for all farther developments, especially the liturgical, and is responsible for nominally Christian heathenism. It sprang from Gregory the “spiritualist”, the disciple of Origen! It explains why all purer science necessarily ceased. No independent theology could long hold its ground side by side with such an intoxicating speculation.544544Catech. magna 37, Steitz X., pp. 435-446. For the rest, Gregory did not teach transubstantiation in the later Western sense. According to him only the form (εἶδος)of the elements, not the substance, was changed. His theory is therefore rightly described as one of transformation. Nor was he quite clear about the relation of the eucharistic to the real—transfigured—body. He did not entertain the idea of a complete identity, but only of a qualitative unity. The consecrated elements were qualitatively identical with the body, which the Logos had employed as his organ.297
Chrysostom, on the contrary, spoke of a complete identity, and did not shrink from the boldest and most repugnant expressions. “In proof of his love he has given us the body pierced with nails, that we might hold it in our hands and eat it; for we often bite those whom we love much.”545545Hom. 24 in 1 ep. ad. Cor. c. 4. “Christ permits us to glut ourselves on his flesh.” Chrysostom won't remove our horror of cannibalism by spiritualising the rite. “In order then that the disciples might not be afraid, he drank first, and thus introduced them undismayed into the Communion of his mysteries; therefore he drank his own blood.” “Reflect, that the tongue is the member with which we receive the awful sacrifice.” “Our tongue is reddened by the most awful blood.” “He has permitted us who desire it not merely to see, but to touch and eat and bury our teeth in his flesh, and to intermingle it with our own being.”546546Hom. de beato Philogono 3; see Steitz X., pp. 446-462, from whom also the above quoted passages are taken. The fact that at the same time the benefit contained in the Lord’s Supper is described as being perceived by the mind, a νοήτον, hardly affects the result, for of course the body, however real, of a God is a νοητόν. Like Gregory, Chrysostom speaks of a refashioning and transforming (μεταρρυθμίζειν and μετασκευάζειν) of the elements, which Christ, the Holy Ghost, effects through the priest by means of the invocation—not of the words of institution which do not constitute the medium among the Greeks. Very instructive, moreover, is the reference to the Incarnation. “The Church sees the Lord lying in the crib wrapped in swaddling-clothes—an awful and wonderful spectacle; for the Lord’s table takes the place of the crib, and here also lies the body of the Lord, not wrapped in swaddling-clothes, but surrounded on all sides by the Holy Ghost.” Chrysostom, accordingly, went decidedly farther in this point also than Gregory, with whom he agreed in the assumption of an essentially corporeal effect of the participation.547547Compare also the offensive expressions of Theodoret (Interpret. in cant. cantic. C. 3, Opp. II., p. 89 Schulze): οἱ τοίνυν ἐσθίοντες τοῦ νυμφίου τὰ μέλη καὶ πίνοντες αὐτοῦ τὸ αἷμα τῆς γαμικῆς αὐτοῦ τυγχάνουσι κοινωνίας. But the same author writes (Dial. Inconfus.): οὐδὲ γὰρ μετὰ τὸν ἁγιασμὸν τὰ μυστικὰ σύμβολα τῆς οἰκείας ἐξίσταται φύσεως. μένει γὰρ ἐπὶ τῆς προτέρας οὐσίας καὶ τοῦ σχήματος καὶ τοῦ εἴδους καὶ ὁρατά ἐστι καὶ ἁπτά, οἷα καὶ πρότερον ἦν.298
To Dionysius, who was thoroughly Neoplatonic, the ethical central notion consists in mystical union [= θέωσις (deification) = ἀφομοίωσις (likeness) + ἕνωσις (union)]. The complicated “hierarchies” in heaven and in the Church—“purifying, illuminating, perfecting” = deacons, priests, and bishops—act as intermediaries. This they accomplish by the mysteries which likewise are graded; to the bishops is reserved the consecration of the priests, the consecration of the anointing oil and of the altar. So the Lord’s Supper, as in the case of Cyril of Jerusalem, is no longer treated apart; it has its place along with five other mysteries. Dionysius was enabled to evolve a mystical doctrine dealing with each mystery by a close examination of its ritual performance. A deeper sense is given to each little detail; it has a symbolical significance; “symbolical” is indeed not a strong enough term. There is really a mystery present; but this conception does not prevent the expert in mysteries from after all regarding everything as the covering of a single inner process: the return of the soul from multiplicity to unity, from finitude and disunion to the ocean of the divine being. The Eucharist which accompanies and completes the process contributes to that which was begun in baptism. The liturgical performance is rendered symbolical in every part. Moreover, the consecrated elements are themselves treated as symbols. The realistic view of Chrysostom is not found in Dionysius. The realism consists, so to speak, in the fixity and integrity of the liturgical performance. Otherwise it is true of the Lord’s Supper, what Dionysius says generally of all mysteries: “The majority of us do not believe in what is said regarding the divine mysteries; for we only see them through the sensible symbols attached to them. We ought to strip the symbols off and behold them by themselves when they have become naked and pure; for thus seeing them we should revere the spring of life pouring into itself, both beholding it existing by itself and being a kind of single force, simple, self-moved, self-acting, not abandoning itself, but furnishing the science of all sciences, and 299ever itself seen by itself.”548548Dionys. ep. 9, I ed. Corder (1755) I., p. 612: Ἀπιστοῦμεν οἱ πολλοὶ τοῖς περὶ τῶν θείων μοστηρίων λόγοις· θεώμεθα γὰρ μόνον αὐτὰ διὰ τῶν προσπεφυκότων αὐτοῖς αἰσθητῶν συμβόλων. Δεῖ δὲ καὶ ἀποδύντας αὐτὰ ἐφ᾽ ἑαυτῶν γυμνὰ καὶ καθαρὰ γενόμενα ἰδεῖν· οὕτω γὰρ ἂν θεώμενοι σεφθείημεν πηγὴν ζωῆς εἰς ἑαυτὴν χεομένην καὶ ἐφ᾽ ἑαυτῆς ἑστῶσαν ὁρῶντες καὶ μίαν τινὰ δύναμιν, ἁπλῆν, αὐτοκίνητον αὐτοενέργητον, ἑαυτὴν οὐκ ἀπολείπουσαν, ἀλλὰ γνῶσιν πασῶν γνώσεων ὑπάρχουσαν, καὶ ἀεὶ δι᾽ ἑαυτῆν ἑαυτὴν θεωμένην. And it is characteristic that it was precisely the consecration of the monk which constituted the highest mystery. Nothing but the tradition of the Church prevented Dionysius ranking it actually above the Eucharist. Dionysius does not discuss the Eucharistic sacrifice at all.549549Mönchsweihe de eccles. hierarch. I. 6, Abendmahl l.c. I. 3, pp. 187-198; on Dionysius’ whole teaching on the Sacraments, see Steitz XI., pp. 216-229.
The following period was set the task of combining the crass realism of Gregory of Nyssa and Chrysostom with the ritualism of Dionysius, without at the same time wholly destroying the hidden spiritual element which depreciated all rites in comparison with the inner feeling and exaltation. But from the beginning of the fifth century conceptions of the Eucharist were very decidedly influenced by the Christological differences. If the conception of the Eucharist was connected with that of the Incarnation, then it could not be a matter of indifference to the former, whether in the latter the two natures were held to be fused in one or to remain separate. Monophysites and Orthodox, however, had always been and remained of one mind regarding the Lord’s Supper. Cyril argued over and over again from the Lord’s Supper in support of the Incarnation and vice versa, and it was strictly due to him that the Church learned the connection between the two and never lost it. Even Leo I. can discuss it.550550Ep. 59. Nay, the incorruptibility of the Eucharistic body was now accepted without question, while this view, when applied to the Incarnation, was called, at least in later times, Aphthartodoketism. Cyril had no fixed doctrinal formula for the Lord’s Supper; he did not go so far as Chrysostom.551551On the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper as held by Theodore, Theodoret, Nestorius, and Pseudo-Chrysostom, see Steitz XII, pp. 217-435. Theodoret can be described with most reason as a believer in the symbolical character of the rite. Yet on the other hand it was maintained in the school of Theodore, in order to separate deity and humanity in Christ, that in the Lord’s Supper the humanity of the Redeemer is received. This was very stoutly and acutely opposed by Leontius (in Mai, Vet. Script. nova coll. VI., p. 312) and that as a deification of man. But since the body was to him, because of the one 300nature made flesh (μία φύσις σεσαρκωμένη), God’s body, it was in the full sense of the term “life-giving” (ζωοποιός). Accordingly he also maintained that it was not, as Nestorius taught, the body of a man that lay on the altar, but the body of God.552552Ep. 12 ad Cœlest. When we partake of the flesh of Christ, he implants it in us; he does not thereby become man in us—this mystical inference is rejected,—but our body is transformed and becomes immortal. We do not yet find in Cyril, however, the contention that the real body of Christ is present in the eucharistic body; it is rather only an operative presence that is meant; the eucharistic body is identical in its effects with the real.553553On Cyril, see Steitz XII., pp. 235-245. Nilus held the same view, l. c., pp. 245-248. It was the strict Monophysites who could bring the eucharistic and the earthly body quite closely together, because they also held the earthly body to be imperishable;554554Anastasius Sinaita made experiments to refute them, demonstrating that the consecrated host actually did decay; Steitz XII., pp. 215, 271 f. while the Severians still kept the two apart. But even the strict Monophysites did not, so far as is known, advance beyond identity in operative power.555555Steitz XII., pp. 248-256. The decisive step was taken in the age of the orthodox renaissance under the shield of Aristotle, accordingly by the scholastics of the sixth century. Here we have above all and first to name Eutychius, Patriarch of Constantinople in the time of Justinian. He based his view “on the conception derived from the system of Dionysius, that the cause exists by itself apart from its effects, but multiplies itself potentially in them and enters wholly into each, and proved that the ascended body abides complete [in substance] and undivided in itself [in heaven], and yet is received completely by each communicant in the portion of bread dispensed to him.” Eutychius teaches a real multiplication of one and the same body of Christ in its antitypes—for as such he still describes the consecrated elements; but this 301multiplication is not one of substance, but of power. At any rate the separate existence of the eucharistic body side by side with the real is here for the first time given up.556556Steitz XII., pp. 214, 256-262. Even before this, Isidore of Pelusium had demonstrated that the eucharistic body passed through the same stages of deification (θέωσις) as the real. “It is partaken as capable of suffering and mortal; for it is broken and is bruised by our teeth; yet it is not destroyed, but is transformed in the communicant into the immortal body.”557557Steitz XII., pp. 215, 262 ff.
John of Damascus settled this question also.558558On the mystics before him and after Dionysius, and their in part significant modification of the ideas of Dionysius under the influence of Aristotle, see Steitz. XI., pp. 229-253. How closely the Trinity, Incarnation, and Eucharist were conceived to be connected, in the 7th century, may be seen from the Confession of Macarius of Antioch at the sixth Council, Mansi XI., p. 350 sq. In the 13th chapter of Book IV. of his system of doctrine he gave a theory of the mysteries—Baptism and the Lord’s Supper—based on that of Gregory of Nyssa, but at the same time he was the first to perfect the conception of the identity of the eucharistic and the real body of Christ. John begins with the corruption of humanity and the Incarnation. From the latter we obtain the new birth and the twofold food, that we may become sons. and heirs of God. The birth and food required to be spiritual as well as corporeal, for we are both. As regards the food, he himself in the last night ate the ancient passover, and then gave the New Testament. God is all powerful and creates by word and spirit. As he sent forth the light, as his spirit formed a body from the flesh of the virgin and without seed, so the same spirit, falling like rain on the field, changes bread and wine into the flesh and blood of Christ; an analogy drawn from the process of nourishment as in Gregory of Nyssa. We may ask here as Mary did: How can that be? And we must once more answer: The Holy Spirit comes upon it. And in fact God has taken for his purpose the commonest things that we through the common and natural may be transplanted into the supernatural. But he now writes: “The body is truly made one with the deity, the body which came from the holy virgin, 302not that the body which was assumed comes down from heaven, but the very bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of God. And if you ask how this happens, it is enough for you to hear that it is by the Holy Spirit, just as the Lord also by the Holy Spirit assumed flesh for himself and in himself.”559559Σῶμά ἐστιν ἀληθῶς ἡνώμενον θεότητι, τὸ ἐκ τῆς ἁγίας παρθένου σῶμα, οὐχ ὅτι τὸ ἀναληφθὲν σῶμα ἐξ οὐρανοῦ κατέρχεται, ἀλλ᾽ ὅτι αὐτὸς ὁ ἄρτος καὶ οἶνος μέταποιοῦνται εἰς σῶμα καὶ αἷμα Θεοῦ. εἰ δὲ τὸν τρόπον ἐπιζητεῖς, πῶς γίνεται, ἀρκει σοι ἀκοῦσαι, ὅτι διὰ πνεύματος ἁγίου, ὥσπερ καὶ ἐξ τῆς ἁγίας θεοτόκου διὰ πνεύματος ἁγίου ἑαυτῷ καὶ ἐν ἑαυτῷ ὁ κύριος σάρκα ὑπεστήσατο. In what follows the view is expressly rejected that it is a different body of Christ that is in question: there are not two bodies, but one. Further: “The bread and wine are not types of the body and blood of Christ; not so, but the very body of the Lord deified.”560560Οὐκ ἔστι τύπος ὁ ἄρτος καὶ ὁ οἶνος τοῦ σώματος καὶ αἵματος Χριστοῦ· μὴ γένοιτο, ἀλλ᾽ αὐτὸ τὸ σῶμα τοῦ κυρίου τεθεωμένον. The bread of the communion is not simple bread, but is united with the deity; it has accordingly two natures. The body united with the deity is, however, not one nature, but the one is that of the body, the other that of the deity combined with it, so that the two together constitute not one nature but two. Only the not yet consecrated elements, moreover, are to be called “antitypes”; in this way Basil also used the word (!). The mystery, however, is called “participation” because through it we possess a share in the deity of Jesus, but “communion” first, because we have communion with Christ, and secondly, because by the holy food we are united with one another, one body of Christ, members in his body, and therefore of one another. Therefore we have anxiously to watch lest we “participate” with heretics, or allow them to “participate” with us. Finally, it is still to be noticed that, according to John, the sacred food was not subject to the natural processes in the body.
This is the classical doctrine of the Lord’s Supper in the Greek Church up to the present day. By the Holy Ghost bread and wine are received into the body of Christ. The eucharistic body is that which was born of the virgin, not, however, by a transubstantiation, as if the body of Christ descended suddenly from heaven and took the place of the elements, but by transformation 303and assumption, just as in the Incarnation. The bread-body is received into the real body and is thus identical with it.561561Steitz XII., pp. 216 f., 295-286. That is the last word of the Greek Church—only now was the mystery perfect. Only now was the real presence of the true body originated, the doctrine which the Churches of to-day, except the Reformed, wrongly assign to antiquity, nay, to the Apostolic age itself. It is true that Scholastics and Mystics have taught much that was original on the Lord’s Supper in the Greek Churches since John; spiritualism also was not abolished; but the history of dogma can give no place to these individual pronouncements.562562See Steitz XIII., pp. 3-66. The two controversies about the Lord’s Supper of 1155 and 1199 are relatively the most important. The sacrificial character and the reference to the crucifixion, which are so strikingly neglected by John, were again made prominent in after times.563563The magical view of the Lord’s Supper is also seen in the practice of children’s communion, which first attested by Cyprian (by Leucius?), became the rule in the East, after infant Baptism had been established. Participation in the Lord’s Supper was even held to be absolutely necessary; so already Cyprian, Testim. III. 25. See the Art. “Communion of Children” by v. Zerschwitz in Herzog’s R.-Encykl., 2nd ed. The physical and liturgical miracle was never, however, so logically analysed or reduced to the categories of being and phenomenon, substance and accident, in the Greek Church as in the West. Attempts at this were made; but they never obtained any far-reaching importance in the official doctrine. The second Nicene Council of A.D. 787 took its stand on the conception of John. The last exclamations of the assembled Fathers were: “Whoever does not confess that Christ, on the side of his humanity, has an unlimited form, let him be anathema. May the memory of Germanus (of Constantinople) and of John (of Damascus) endure for ever.”564564See Mansi XIII., p. 398 sq. and Hefele III., p. 473. On the present doctrine and practice of the Greek Churches as regards the Eucharist, see Gass, Symbolik, pp. 252-277.; Kattenbusch l.c. I., p. 410 ff. There as also in the Index of Hefele’s Conciliengesch. (esp. Vol III. under “Abendmahl”, “Messe”) we obtain information also as to the numerous detailed decisions bearing on the rite (leavened bread, etc.); compare Heineccius, Abbildung der alten and neuen griechischen Kirche, 1711.304
§ 2. Christianity of the Second Rank.
There existed in Christendom, ever since there was a doctrina publica, i.e., from the end of the second century, a kind of subsidiary religion, one of the second rank, as it were subterranean, different among different peoples, but everywhere alike in its crass superstition, naïve doketism, dualism, and polytheism. “When religions change, it is as if the mountains open. Among the great magic snakes, golden dragons and crystal spirits of the human soul, which ascend to the light, there come forth all sorts of hideous reptiles and a host of rats and mice.” Every new religion invigorates the products of the ancient one which it supersedes. In one aspect of it we know very little of the “Christianity” of the second rank, for it had no literary existence;565565Yet some of the apocryphal Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, Apocalypses, etc., come under this head. in another we are thoroughly familiar with it; for we only need to set before us, and to provide with a few Christian reminiscences, the popular conditions and rites with which Christianity came in contact in different provinces,566566The works of Usener and Dieterich (Νεκυια, Leipzig, 1893) are valuable. as also the tendencies, everywhere the same, of the superstitious mob, tendencies inert in the moral sphere, exuberant in the realm of fancy. Then we have this second-class Christianity. It consisted in worship of angels—demigods and demons, reverence for pictures, relics, and amulets, a more or less impotent enthusiasm for the sternest asceticism—therefore not infrequently strictly dualistic conceptions—and a scrupulous observance of certain things held to be sacred, words, signs, rites, ceremonies, places, and times. There probably never was an age in which Christendom was free from this “Christianity”, just as there never will be one in which it shall have been overcome. But in the fully formed Catholic Church as it passes over into the Middle Ages, this Christianity was not only dragged along with it as a tolerated, because irremovable, burden, but it was to a very large extent legitimised, though under safeguards, and fused with the doctrina publica. Catholicism as it meets us in Gregory the Great and in the final decisions of the seventh 305Council, presents itself as the most intimate union of Christianity of the first order with that subterranean, thoroughly superstitious, and polytheistic “Christianity”; and the centuries from the third to the eighth mark the stages in the process of fusion, which seems to have reached an advanced point even in the third and was yet reinforced from century to century to a most extraordinary extent.
It is the business of the historian of the Church and of civilisation to describe these developments in detail, and to show how in separate provinces the ancient gods were transformed into Christian saints, angels, and heroes, and the ancient mythology and cultus into Christian mythology and local worship. This task is as aesthetically attractive as that other which is closely allied to it, the indication of the remains of heathen temples in Christian Churches. The temple of Mithras which became St. George’s Church, proves that St. George was Mithras; in St. Michael the ancient Wotan had been brought to life again, just as Poseidon in St. Nicholas; the different “mothers of God”, who were honoured with all sorts of sacred offerings—one preferred fruits, another animals—only show that Demeter, Venus, Juno, and countless other great mothers and holy or unholy virgins, had merged in the one mother.—The provincial calendars and various “Church Years” conceal significant reminiscences from the old heathen times. Here, however, we are only interested in the questions of principle, how far all this had forced its way into the doctrina publica, and how it was possible for that religion, whose strong point had once been a horror of idols, to admit this stuff as something sacred.
As regards the second question, the points of contact existed in the doctrina publica itself. The following may have been the most important. In the first place, the doctrina had been constructed by the aid of Greek and Roman intellectual culture and philosophy. These, however, were connected by a thousand ties with mythology and superstition, which were not got rid of by assigning a “noumenon” to everything. We need only recall the single instance of Origen to see that the father of free and spiritual theology was at the same time the patron of 306every superstition that would admit of receiving the least grain of spiritual contents. Secondly, the doctrina publica sanctioned the Old Testament. Before this, indeed, and even to some extent in the time of the conflict with Gnosticism great pains had been taken to prove that the Old Testament was a Christian book, and to allegorise all its ceremonial features. But the power of interpretation had weakened more and more in comparison with the strength of the letter. What a wealth was embraced in the book of material drawn from the most varied stages of religious history! This material was sacred. No one indeed now got circumcised, or offered bloody sacrifices, or refrained from eating pork, but what did that signify if everything else gradually came somehow or other to be accepted? From the third century the Church needed infinitely more than a doctrina publica; it needed a sacred constitution, holy priests and a holy ritual. The Old Testament from which pretty nearly anything can be legitimised also legitimised this. Thus, side by side with revelation in the form of sacred doctrine, there arose an indefinitely increasing mass of sacred things which could be justified from the Old Testament alone. For its sake the old strict exclusion of the literal meaning of the book and of its ceremonies was abandoned, slowly indeed, but surely. At first the attempt was made to proceed circuitously, and to attribute the ceremonial decrees to the Apostles, because men were still unwilling to appeal directly to the Old Testament commands; but they then became bolder, and finally felt no scruple about using the Old Testament down to matters of detail, the special points of the Temple ritual—the cherubim being cited, for example, in support of the right to worship pictures.
Thirdly, the sacred rites of Baptism, and especially of the Eucharist, offered points of contact for the intrusion of Christianity of the second rank into official Christianity. The public doctrine had already, at a very early date, treated and regarded these rites as mysteries in the ancient sense. Thus the door was thrown wide open to the inrush of everything of the character of a mystery, magic, liturgical miracles, and fetishes. Fourthly, devil, and angels had played a great part even in primitive Christianity. The official doctrine, 307however, at first paid comparatively little heed to them; yet they had always employed the imagination even of the most enlightened. Round these traditions the popular conceptions now gathered, and the doctrina publica was almost defenceless against them. When in the fourth and fifth centuries the masses streamed into the Church, it was not in a position, in spite of catechetical instruction, to exercise any control over them, or to examine the (mental) luggage of those desiring admission. Nay, more, the monks, who in the same period had with such extraordinary rapidity obtained full charge of piety, moved in this world of demons and angels, and cherished the ancient mythology under a Christian name. To live in the sphere of pure and impure spirits, to be visited, refreshed, strengthened by the former, and to be tempted and assailed by the latter, soon was held to be a sign of a heroic Christianity; and to this the official doctrine had to accommodate itself. Besides the cultus, men obtained their edification from a pious light literature whose dualism and exotic character might lead the critic to assign it wrongly to the Gnosticism of the second century.567567To the monks there fell as a rule in the East the role of mediators between Christianity of the first and second rank. They perhaps contributed most strongly to the transference of catchwords of the former into the latter, and of the spirit of the latter into the former. But the Church was perhaps even more strongly influenced by the Neoplatonic doctrine of spirits. In devoting itself to a lofty intuition, and, like the Gnostics of old, seeing between God and the world hosts of graded moons (angels) who as the “heavenly hierarchy”—in reality as cosmical powers —reduced the many to the one, this doctrine legitimised the superstitious and barbarous conceptions of demigods and genii. The one God, whom the people had never understood, threatened to disappear, even in the views of refined theologians, behind the whole complicated intermediaries who appeared more tangible and therefore more trustworthy. Who can wonder that now the cultured Christian, if a mystic, also preferred in his religious difficulties to resort to these courts rather than to turn directly to God? If the supreme God had appointed and set these courts between himself and his world, then it would 308be presumption and aimless effort to ignore them. Only the strict ascetic might venture that. But he also would rather dwell in fancy in the magnificent, beautifully ordered world of spirits, where the golden buckets ascend;568568The Manichæans held a similar doctrine. he would rather picture the fulness and variety of the immortal life than dwell for ever on the desolate and terrifying thought of the One, who was so incomprehensible, that not even his Being could be conceived.
Fifthly, as a residuum of the idea that all Christians were “saints”, and that the Church possessed apostles, prophets, and spiritual teachers, the conviction had remained that there had been a Heroic Age, and that those who had then won a name for themselves were “saints”. They were added to the Patriarchs and Old Testament Prophets, and they continued to receive successors in the martyrs and great ascetics. The most cultured theologians had already set up theories of the power of these heroes to intercede with God, and of their special relation to Christ. The anniversaries of the birth or death of the saints were celebrated, and thus they offered themselves in the most natural way to take the place of the dethroned gods and their festivals. They fell into line with the angelic powers, and were held to be more trustworthy than the latter. Among them Mary came to the front, and the course of the development of dogma specially favoured her, and her alone. A woman, a mother, made her appearance in proximity to the deity; and thus at last it became possible to include in Christianity the recognition of that which had been most foreign to primitive Christianity—homage paid to sex, the sacred, the divine, in a female form. The Gospel to the Hebrews had already, indeed, made the Lord say, “My mother the Holy Ghost”; but this thought was yet sexless, so to speak, and was besides never made use of in the great Church. Mary now became the mother, the bearer, of God.
Sixthly, from the earliest times the Christians had looked on death as holy; it was the birth-hour of the true life; for in this world life meant for the Christians to practise dying, and to have died was to live in immortality. Accordingly, everything 309connected with blessed death, had already been touched by the breath of immortality. The martyrs exhaled this breath; therefore their very bones were more precious than gold or jewels. The worship of the dead began early, and only a few opposed it. The heathen use of fetishes and amulets revived in the cultus of the dead and of relics; in this form it was destitute of the aesthetic charm which antiquity knew how to give to its amulets and little sanctuaries, and for this reason the refined taste of enthusiastic Epigoni rose in disgust against the veneration of bones and corpses (see Julian’s attacks). But the Christians satisfied themselves from the contrast between the sensuous appearance and its religious value that their faith was unique and elevated. since it found the divine in the very dust and fragments of death. Therefore they were certain of not being heathen in revering those amulets and relics; for heathenism sought and found its sacred things in the bloom of life, but Christianity in death. With the service of the relics was most intimately connected the veneration of the saints, and the two led to the veneration of pictures and idols.
For, seventhly, the doctrina publica, as has been shown in our whole account, contained to an increasing extent the impulse to transform the μάθησις (doctrine) into mysteries; this impulse it followed continually in the treatment of the Eucharist. But in doing so, it opened up the way to the boundless desire to enjoy the holy everywhere and with the whole five senses, and it then obeyed this desire itself. The Lord’s Supper became the centre of an ever extending circle of material sacred things which could be seen, heard, tasted, smelt, and touched. The religious was much more closely connected with the material than with the moral. That, however, meant the relapse to religious barbarism and the worship of images. This might be transfigured in poetry—everything now showed a trace of God; it could even be spiritualised pantheistically—God is the world, and the world is the deity revealed; but within Christianity it was nothing but apostasy. But further, the senses which seek to perceive and therefore do perceive that which is holy, become dull and blind in presence of that which is actually perceptible, and dazzle the reason. The reason became 310accustomed to a fabulous world of wonders, and more and more lost all rational standards. Even the most cultured Fathers from the fifth century ceased to be capable of distinguishing between the real and unreal; they were defenceless against the most absurd tales of the miraculous, and lived in a world of magic and enchantment. Then there once more emerged practices which date from the earliest age of civilisation. Soothsaying, auguries, examination of sacrifices, inquiries at oracles of every sort:— they had lost their name and their ritual, but they were now revived in all that was essential as Christian, though in new forms. Bibliomancy, questioning the Bible like a book of oracles, arose. Synods at first denounced it, but even great doctors of the Church favoured the evil habit. Ordeals, which were by no means originated by the Germans, came into vogue. Two clerics of North Africa were suspected of a scandalous act; both denied the charge; one must have been guilty; Augustine sent them over sea to the grave of S. Felix of Nola. There they were to repeat their assertions; Augustine expected that the saint would at once punish the liar. At the sixth Council a Monothelite offered to prove the truth of his confession by writing it and placing it on the breast of a dead man, when the dead would rise up. The Fathers of the Council accepted the test. In cases of sickness questions were addressed to this or that saint; the patient slept in his chapel; on certain days lodging in the chapel was more effective than on others, etc., etc. The sources of the fifth to the eighth century contain hundreds of such cases; not only did the foolish multitude take part in them, but, as the above passages have shown, the spiritual leaders themselves. The impulse to mystagogy, and the misguided craving to feel the proximity of the deity, without being or becoming a new man, were to blame for this decline and fall. Only two points can be cited. First, the better Christians still continued to seek and find an object of thought (νοητόν) in the thousand liturgical sacred things, the thought and its envelopment interchanged with each other in an attractive play. Thus these men defended themselves against the charge of worshipping idols. Secondly, the honour to be assigned to idols was and continued to be 311uncertain; it was not equal to that of God or of Jesus Christ or to the authority of Holy Scripture, and one might even finally disown them; any one might confine himself to the doctrina publica, and privately interpret in his own way its sensuous and magical portions, if only he did not attack them. But the poor common people knew nothing of this secret privilege of the learned, nor might they share in it. And even scholars were themselves burdened with an immense amount of stuff to which they had to dedicate their piety. It is the same to-day. The pious regard which is required by the whole complex of ecclesiasticism, intimately interwoven as it is with nationality, restricts the capacity to win independent power in religion, and to take earnestly and devoutly what is really earnest and holy. No religion gains anything through time; it only loses. If a hurricane does not pass over it and purify it again and again, it gets stifled in its own withered foliage. No hurricane has yet swept over the Churches of the East. And yet they possess in the Gospel, which they too read, an element of movement which perhaps in some future time will bring life to the dry bones.
On the worship of angels, see Vol. III., Chap. IV. and Schwane, Dogmengeschichte II., pp. 299-328. The seventh general Synod decided that angels must also be portrayed because they were finite in form, and had appeared to many in a human shape. The theologoumenon of Dionysius, who was not the first to teach it, concerning the nine choirs of angels, obtained general acceptance. The conception of the manifold guardian ministry of the angels became more and more important. Even Schwane confesses here: “the doctrine that every man possessed such a guardian spirit appears to have been allied to the old heathen idea of genii, but was also founded on Holy Scripture” (p. 315). The worship and invocation of angels became established; but the Church held in principle to the position that the angelic cultus was not identified with the worship of God.569569On the extension of angel-worship we have an interesting bit of evidence as early as the fourth century in Didymus, De trinit. II. 7, p. 250 (ed. Mingarelli): Διὸ μετὰ τὰς ἐκκλησίας καὶ οἶκοι εὐκτήριοι τῷ Θεῷ τῆς προηγορίας ὑμῶν (scil. of the angels) ἐπώνυμοι, ᾧ εὐάρεστος ξυνωρὶς ἀρχαγγέλων, οὐκ ἐν μόναις ταῖς πόλεσιν, ἀλλὰ καὶ στενωποῖς ἰδίᾳ καὶ οἰκίαις καὶ ἀγροῖς ἱδρύθησαν, χρυσῷ καὶ ἀργύρῳ ἢ καὶ ἐλέφαντι κοσμηθέντες· ἴασίν τε οἱ ἄνθρωποι καὶ εἰς τὰ ἀπωτέρω τῆς ἐνεγκαμένης αὐτοὺς χωρία τὰ ἔχοντα οἷον ὡς πρυτάνια ἐπιτευγμάτων τὰ εὐκτήρια προβεβλημένα, οὐκ ὀκνοῦντες καὶ πέλαγος διαλαβεῖν ἢν δέοι μακρόν . . . ὡς πειραθησόμενοι πλείονος εὐνοίας μὲν τῆς περὶ τὴν πρεσβείαν ἀπὸ ὑμῶν, μετουσίας δὲ τῆς τῶν φιλοτιμουμένων ὑπὲρ τοῦ εὖ ἀγαθῶν παρὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ.312
In reference to the Saints, Cyril says in his fifth mystagogic catechism (c. 9); “Then we also remember those who have already fallen asleep, first the Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, and martyrs, that God through their prayers and intercession may accept our supplication.” So also Augustine. This circle was extended after the fifth century by the addition of holy bishops, monks, and nuns. The power of the Saints to intercede was always the reason why honour and invocation (τιμὴ καὶ ἐπίκλησις) were due to them. The ancient little martyr-chapels of the saints now became great Churches. The complete apotheosis of the saints was denied in principle. The offerings brought on the anniversaries of Saints and Martyrs were always meant for God. But the connecting of the service of the Saints with the eucharistic sacrifice gave the former an extraordinary value. Banquets were regularly held on their anniversaries—a genuinely heathen custom, and in vain did men like Ambrose, Augustine, and Gregory of Nazianzus inveigh against them. The ideas of the communion of the Saints, and its typical import—every class gradually obtained its Saint—were certainly very valuable, and in this sense the worship of the Saints was not entirely unjustifiable; but the harm was greater than the benefit. The worship of God suffered, and crass superstition was introduced, especially in connection with the relics. This was first perceived by the Gallican priest Vigilantius who had witnessed the gross disorder prevalent at the sacred sites of Palestine,570570Jerome c. Vigilant. and ep. ad Riparium. Vigilantius (end of the fourth century) went to the roots of the worship of the Saints with his criticism, not only disputing the power of their intercession, but denying its existence, since the Saints were not yet in heaven with Christ. Against him Jerome maintained (c. Vigil. 6) a “ubique esse” of the saints, Apostles, and Martyrs, since they were wherever 313Christ was. Augustine also, who refers to similar contentions, showed that the Saints continued to have the power and the will to participate in earthly things. Vigilantius had rightly perceived the danger of an actual fusion of the service of God and of the Saints, and his attack resulted, at least, in a sharper distinction being drawn in theory. This was also, however, done by the Greeks; they reserved worship (λατρεία) to God, and described the veneration of the Saints, in language already used by Cyril of Alexandria, as a becoming honour (τιμὴ σχετική).571571Worship was more and more paid to the saints as ascetics and workers of miracles. Men wished to receive front the miracle-workers what they praised in the ascetics; for the worship was not platonic, but was always covetous. The great patterns for biographies of ascetics were the Life of Anthony by Athanasius, and the Lives of the Egyptian monks by Jerome. These were followed in the West by the saintly novels on Martin of Tours by Sulpicius Severus, and the Egyptian Tales of Johannes Cassianus. Comprehensive works soon appeared in the East, of which the φιλόθεος ἱστορία of Theodoret, the Historia Lausiaca of Palladius, and the corresponding sections of Sozomen’s Church History, deserve special mention. The ἀποφθέγματα of Macarius are uniqne. The biographies of saints and martyrs of the Jacobites, Copts and Abyssinians are, thanks to a gloomy and desolate fancy, particularly repulsive. We need only here mention the collection (Simeon Metaphrastes) and the ritual use of the biographies (Menaen, Synaxarien, etc.).
Most offensive was the worship of relics.572572On the differences between East and West in the cultus of the relics, see Sdralek, Art. Reliquien in Kraus, Realencyklop. der Christl. Alterthümer. It flourished to its greatest extent as early as the fourth century, and no Church doctor of repute restricted it. All of them rather, even the Cappadocians, countenanced it. The numerous miracles which were continually wrought by bones and relics seemed to confirm their worship. The Church therefore would not give up the practice, although a violent attack was made upon it by a few cultured heathens, and besides by Manichæans. Moreover, in the Church itself a scanty opposition arose here and there. The strict Arians (Eunomians) appear to have been more backward about this worship (c. Vigil, 8), and Vigilantius assailed the worshippers of relics, with Julian-like acuteness, though he was moved by the thought of the divine worship in spirit and truth. He called the adorers of relics “suppliants to refuse and servants of idols.” He would have nothing to do with the lights kindled before relics, the praying and kissing, or the pomp with which they 314were surrounded (c. 4). But that did as little good as his unsuccessful attacks on pilgrimage to the holy sites of Palestine. Men continued to seek the living among the dead, and soon it was enjoined as an universal command—and first in the West—that every altar must have its relics; see Canon 17 of the 6th Synod of Carthage, and Canon 2 of a Parisian Council in Hefele III., p. 70. The altar was no longer merely the table of the Lord, but at the same time the memorial of some Saint or other. Yet in France it was still necessary for a long time to defend the practice against Vigilantius who had obtained no ally in Augustine, although that great theologian well knew that God required a spiritual service.573573On the continued influence of Vigilantius in France, see the tractate of Faustus of Reji de symbolo (Caspari, Quellen IV., p. 273); “Ut transeamus ad sanctorum communionem. Illos hic sententia ista confundit, qui sanctorum et amicorum dei cineres non in honore debere esse blasphemant, qui beatorum martyrum gloriosam memoriam sacrorum reverentia monumentorum colendam esse non credunt. In symbolum prævaricati sunt, et Christo in fonte mentiti sunt, et per hanc infidelitatem in medio sinu vitæ locum morti aperuerunt.” In the East, after Constantine Copronymus had attacked the relics along with the images, their worship was expressly enjoined by the seventh Synod; see the transactions at the fourth and seventh sittings (Hefele III., pp. 466, 472) as also the seventh Canon of the Council: “As every sin is followed by others in its train, the heresy of the iconoclasts dragged other impieties after it. They have not only taken away the sacred pictures, but they have abandoned other usages of the Church, which must now be renewed. We order therefore that relics be deposited with the usual prayers in all temples which have been consecrated without possessing any. But if in future a bishop consecrates a Church not having relics he shall be deposed.” On the worship of saints and relics in the modern Greek Church, see Gass, Symbolik, p. 310 ff., Kattenbusch l.c. I., p. 465 f. Along with relics and pictures the sign of the cross—this from an early date: see even Justin—the volume of the Gospels, the eucharistic vessels and many other things were held to be especially holy. On the cross and the form in which it was to be made, on which great stress is placed, see Gass, p. 184 f.
Mary takes the first place among the saints. She came into 315notice even in the first three centuries.574574See Vol. I., p. 258; II., p. 277. So early began the legends and aprocryphal narratives that dealt with her; her place in the Symbol next the Holy Spirit insured a lofty position to her for all time. Pierius, Alexander of Alexandria, and Athanasius, already called her mother of God, and her virginity was maintained before, during and after the birth, the birth itself being embellished with miracle, as in the case of the Gnostics. But Mary obtained her chief, her positively dogmatic significance from the fact that the dogma of the Incarnation became the central dogma of the Church. Even the arguments of Irenæus are in this respect very significant (Mary and Eve); but it was only from the fourth century that the consequences were drawn. It would lead us too far to give here a history of mariolatry even in outline.575575A good review is given by Benrath, “Zur Gesch. der Marienverehrung”, re-printed from the Theol. Studien and Kritik., 1886. A list is given in it of Catholic literature, in which the works of Marraci, Passaglia, Kurz (1881), Scheeben (1882), and von Lehner (1881, also a 2nd ed.) are especially noteworthy. Art. “Maria” by Steitz in the R.-Encykl., Rösch, Astarte Maria (Stud. u. Krit., 1888, pp. 265-299). Kattenbusch, l.c. I., p. 464 f. The orthodox Fathers of the Greek Church in the fourth century were still comparatively reserved. Ambrose and Jerome, above all, in their controversy with Jovinian, initiated the Church in the worship of Mary.576576Jovinian, so passionately handled by Jerome, had, in keeping with his depreciatory view of virginity in general, denied among other things the perpetua virginitas of Mary. But other Western writers, like Bonosus and Helvidius, held the same view, and found supporters in their own time in Illyria. Bonosus held heterodox views, besides, of the person of Christ (compare the Art. on him in Herzog’s R.-Encykl.). Ambrose who exerted so strong an influence upon Augustine is especially to be mentioned as patron of this worship. He taught that Mary took an active share in the work of redemption, and already applied Gen. III., 3 to the holy virgin. In his time, again, the fables about Mary, which had long been in existence, began to be recognised as authoritative in the Church. All that had been sung in her praise by extravagant Latin, Greek, and Syrian poets and novelists, was consolidated into a kind of doctrine. It was believed as early as the end of the fourth century that Mary had not died, 316but had been removed from the earth by a miracle. Yet the Arabian Collyridians, who presented her with offerings of bread-cakes, as if she had been a goddess, were anathematised (Epiph. H. 78). The Nestorian controversy brought Mary into the centre next Christ. She was the rock from which was hewn the deified body of the God-Logos. Nestorius cried in vain to Cyril, and with him to the whole Church, “Don't make the virgin into a goddess”; at Ephesus Cyril exalted her for ever in the Catholic Church above all creatures, above Cherubim and Seraphim, and set her at the right hand of the Son. He started the permutatio nominum by which everything held true of the Son might be said to a great extent of the mother, because without her there would have been no God-man. She now really became a factor in dogma, which cannot be said of any saint or angel; for the name “she who bore God” (bride of the Holy Spirit) was thoroughly meant. It may be said in many respects that the orthodox now taught regarding Mary what the Arians had taught regarding Christ; she was a demi-god mediating between God and men. John of Damascus summarised the Greek theory in De fide orth. III., 12 and in the three homilies devoted to Mary. “The name ‘Bearer of God’ represents the whole mystery of the Incarnation. The Holy Spirit purified Mary with a view to the conception.” John adopted the whole mass of legend up to the Ascension. Her share in the work of redemption is strongly emphasised; her body remained uncorrupted. Yet it is noteworthy that John was much more cautious in his dogmatic work than in his homilies.
The Synod of A.D. 754, hostile as it was to saints and pictures, did not venture to interfere with mariolatry; indeed it expressly avowed its orthodoxy on this point; but that was not enough for the opposition. Theodorus Studita described the iconoclasts as opponents of the worship of Mary—see his ἐγκώμιον εἰς τὴν κοίμησιν of Mary; and it was only by the Synod of 787 that feeling in the East was satisfied. But in spite of all the extravagances with which she was honoured—the successive rise of numerous festivals, the annunciation, birth, death, reception, introduction into the temple—she is only recognised after all in Greek dogmatics as the great patroness and intercessor 317for men. There is not a word of her having been free from the stain of original sin. It has been rightly said that she soon took a much more independent position in Western piety. “The prayers to Mary in the Greek Euchologion have a very uniform tone, because they dwell persistently on the desire for support and help.” (Gass, l.c. p. 183). In a word, although she is also called “Lady” by the Greeks, she is not the “Queen” who rules Christendom and the world, and commands in heaven. She is not the “Mother of sorrows”; that itself gives a different meaning to the feeling in the two Churches. But the superstition which is practised among the masses in connection with her pictures is perhaps worse in the East than in the West.
The distinctive character of the Greek Church was most clearly expressed in the worship of pictures, in the form in which it was dogmatically settled after the controversy on the subject.577577On the controversy about images, see Mansi XII.-XIV., and the works of John of Damascus, Theodore Studita, Theophanes, Gregory Hamartolus, Cedrenus, Zonaras, Constantine Manasses, Michael Glycas, Anastasius and others. Works by Goldast (1608), Dallaeus (1642), Maimbourg (1683), Spanheim (1686), Walch (Vol. X. of the Ketzergesch.), Schlosser (1812), Marx (1839), Hefele (Concil. Gesch. III. 2, p. 366 ff.; IV. 2, p. 1 ff.), Schenk, Kaiser Leo III. (Halle, 1880). On the relation of Armenia to the image-controversy, see Karapet Ter Mkrttschian, Die Paulikianer (Leipzig, 1893), p. 52 ff., and there also the part on the controversies and the history of the sects, p. 112 ff., etc.; see especially the K.-Gesch. of Hergenröther. Gass, Symbolik, p. 315 ff. Kattenbusch l.c. I., p. 467 ff., and the monograph by Schwarzlose, Der Bilderstreit, ein Kampf der griechischen Kirche um ihre Eigenart and ihre Freiheit, 1890. There had been pictures from early times, originally for decorative purposes, and afterwards for instruction, in the grave-yards, churches, memorial chapels, and houses, and fixed to all sorts of furniture. Opposition had existed, but it came to an end in the Constantinian age. The people were to learn from the pictures the histories they depicted; they were looked on as the books of the unlearned.578578But at the same time, some ranked the pictures much higher than exegesis, as is shown by the interesting letter of Bishop David of Mez-Kolmank on images and drawings to John Mairogomier (translated by Karapet, l.c., p. 52): . . . “This sect arose after the time of the Apostles, and first appeared among the Romans, wherefore a great Synod was held at Cæsarea, and the command was given to paint pictures in the House of God. These painters became arrogant, and sought to have their art placed above all other ecclesiastical arts. They said: “Our art is light, for, while few read the Holy Scriptures, it enlightens equally old and young.” This and other passages by Armenius show, besides, that there were “iconoclastic heretics” long before the Emperor Leo. The Marcionites (Paulicians) also rejected pictures and crosses. At the same time the 318picture was to adorn holy places. But still another interest gradually made itself felt, one that had formerly been most strenuously resisted by early Christianity. It is natural for men to desire relics and images of venerated beings, to withdraw them from profane use, and to treat them with deep devotion. Christianity had originally resisted this impulse, so far as anything connected with the deity was concerned, in order not to fall into idolatry. There was less repugnance, however, to it, when it dealt with Christ, and almost none from the first in the case of martyrs and heroic characters. From this point the veneration of relics and pictures slowly crept in again. But from the fifth century it was greatly strengthened, and received a support unheard of in antiquity, through the dogma of the incarnation and the corresponding treatment of the Eucharist. Christ was the image (εἰκών) of God, and yet a living being, nay, a life-giving spirit (πνεῦμα ζωοποιόν); Christ had by the incarnation made it possible to apprehend the divine in a material form, and had raised sensuous human nature to the divine: the consecrated elements were εἰκόνες of Christ and yet were his very body. These ideas introduced thought to a new world. It was not only the Areopagite and the mystics who saw in all consecrated finite things the active symbol of an eternal power, or perceived the superiority of the Christian religion to all others in the very fact that it brought the divine everywhere into contact with the senses. They merely raised to the level of a philosophic view what the common man and the monk had long perceived, namely, that everything secular which has been adopted by the Church became, not only a symbol, but also a vehicle of the sacred. But amid secular things the image, which bore as it were its consecration in itself, appeared to be least secular. Pictures of Christ, Mary, and the saints, had been already worshipped from the fifth 319(fourth) century with greetings, kisses, prostration, a renewal of ancient pagan practices. In the naïve and confident conviction that Christians no longer ran any risk of idolatry, the Church not only tolerated, but promoted, the entrance of paganism. It was certainly the intention to worship the divine in the material; for the incarnation of deity had deified nature (φύσις). A brisk trade was carried on in the seventh and beginning of the eighth century in images, especially by monks; churches, and chapels were crowded with pictures and relics; the practice of heathen times was revived, only the sense of beauty was inverted. It was not fresh life that seemed fair, but, though a trace of the majestic might not be lacking, it was the life consecrated to asceticism and death. We do not know how far artistic incapacity, how far the dogmatic intention, contributed to the Byzantine ideal of the saints. “Authentic” pictures were in existence, and numberless copies were made from them. By their means, monkish piety, engaged in a stupid staring at sacred things, ruled the people, and dragged Christianity down to deeper and deeper depths.
But this monkish piety, which prevailed from the Bishops down, had become more and more independent in relation to the State. None of his successors had mastered the Church, like Justinian; and it was the aim of the iconoclastic emperors to reduce it to complete subjection to the State, to make it a department of the State. They sought at the same time to have a State Church into which they could force the sects, Jews and Mohammedans, without imposing what was most obnoxious to them, that which made official Christianity into heathenism —the worship of images. They meant therefore to decide what was Christian, and how the cultus ought to be framed, and in doing so they were aided by the fact that it could be shown without any difficulty that the worship of images was something relatively novel and alien. We cannot say more; for they themselves were violent and rude barbarians, military upstarts, who depended on the sword. They had abandoned the idea of the Church as the chief support of the empire; it was to be the chief servant. Instead of priests they had soldiers. They merely wished that the Church should not give trouble, and that it 320should be possible in any given case to make whatever use of it the State might require. Image-worship may look like religious barbarism; but it was associated with all the spiritual forces still possessed at that time in Christendom. The iconoclastic imperial power was much more barbarous, though we have to admit that Constantine Copronymus possessed brilliant gifts as a ruler. However, the emperors found bishops who made common cause with them, and it cannot be denied that some of these had religious motives for attacking the images. Here and there the hostility of the Jews and of Islam may have set them thinking about the matter; others sought for means of winning or conciliating the Mohammedans. Their opponents described the Arabians as the teachers of the iconoclastic emperors.
In A.D. 726 Leo the Isaurian took the matter in hand.579579Schwarzlose (l.c., p. 36 ff.) has anew examined the origin of the controversy, in order to determine the external causes. But the matter has not yet been made clear. The following points fall to be considered. (1) Lesser reactions against the worship of images, which proceeded from the bosom of the Church even before the outbreak of the controversy, but which were only locally important. (2) Accusations by the Jews that the Christians ran counter to the prohibition of images in the Old Testament; the intervention of an Arabian Khalif, A.D. 723 (Jezid II.), against the Christian worship of images and of Mary (influenced by Judaism?); influence of the Jews on Leo the Isaurian (?). (3) A theological iconoclastic party in Phrygia, gathered round the Bishop of Nacolia [on this Schwarzlose, as it seems to me rightly, lays particular stress]; this party perhaps took its stand on ancient Montanistic and Novatian reminiscences—the Paulicians are also said to have been inconoclasts; Leo’s contact with the above party in his time of military service. (4) The resolve of the Emperors no longer to depend for support on the spiritual power of the Church, but on the army, yet on the other hand to perfect the imperial papacy—after the pattern of the Khalif: βασιλεὺς καὶ ἱερεύς εἰμι. Karapet, l.c., lays stress on the part played by Islam, but will have nothing to do with Jewish influences. The Emperor wished to play the same part as the Khalif. A general opposition at once arose. “The king must not decide concerning faith” (μὴ δεῖν βασιλέα περὶ πίστεως λόγον ποιεῖσθαι). This general idea accompanied the whole dispute. From the days of Maximus Confessor, the leaders of the Greek Church insisted on the independence of the Church in relation to the State, and the Roman Bishops supported them in their efforts. They were for that very reason on the side of image-worship, just as, conversely, Charlemagne and his Franks were averse 321from it. At the same time the influence of other motives than those of ecclesiastical politics should not be denied.580580Reuter, Gesch. der relig. Aufkläring in MA. I., p. 10 ff. It was perhaps the greatest and the least expected crisis ever experienced by the Byzantine Church.581581On the external course of the controversy in detail, see Schwarzlose, l.c., p. 51 ff. The issue deprived it of any further independent history, of middle ages, or of a modern era. The image-worshippers, with the Pope at their head, replied to the imperial edict by referring to express divine statutes, to the Labarum of Constantine, and to the great Fathers of the fourth century, who had taught that the worship passed from the image to its prototype.582582A passage from the works of Basil was especially important (δι᾽ εἰκόνος ἡ γνῶσις τοῦ ἀρχετύπου γίνεται); but Funk (Quartalschr., 1888) has shown that while Basil certainly uttered this saying, his meaning was different from that of the later image-worshippers; by εἰκών he meant Christ himself to whom the worship passed. They appealed to a picture at Paneas of which Eusebius had spoken, but above all to the incarnation of the Logos. “Had God not become man, we would not portray him in a human form.” The prohibitions of the Old Testament signified nothing to the contrary; for idols are only pictures of things which do not exist. We do not worship idols like the golden calf. He who makes use of the Old Testament in the Jewish fashion and charges the Church with idolatry is a reprobate Jew. Besides, Israel had possessed divine images of its own; it only refused to value them—Moses’ rod, the golden pitcher, the cover of the ark etc.; had it worshipped these, it would not have fallen down before idols. All sculpture made in the name of God was venerable and holy.583583Gregory II. Ep. ad German. in Mansi XIII., p. 91 sq. These were the most important arguments.
But the Emperor appointed a Patriarch favourable to him in Constantinople, and sought to get the Pope of Rome into his power. The latter, in his letters to him584584Mansi XII., pp. 959 sq., 975 sq. defending the images, emphasized the points, first, that there were χειροποίητα (images made with hands) which had been prompted by God, and were therefore sacred and, secondly, ἀχειρποίητα (not made with hands), 322as e.g., the picture which Christ had sent to Abgar. The latter, the ἀχειροποίητα, played a great, indeed the decisive, role in the Church of the East. Moreover, we see from the Pope’s letters that the imperial edict not only affected image worship as the veneration of idols, stones, walls, and boards, but also the veneration of martyrs as polytheism, and that the military Emperor plumed himself on his likeness to Josiah (Hezekiah). Thereupon the Pope wrote him that the dogmas of the Church were the affair of Bishops and not of the Emperor; as the former might not interfere in civil matters, so neither might the latter in ecclesiastical. The Emperor replied that he was at once Emperor and Priest. But Gregory was not to be dismayed; his second letter was even more forcible than his first. John of Damascus, securely protected by a Khalif, also raised his voice in three apologies on behalf of the images.585585Opp. ed. Lequien I., pp. 305-390; see Langen, Joh. von Damasc., p. 129 ff. Schwarzlose (l.c., pp. 202-223) has described very thoroughly the theology of the supporters of images. On the third of the Damascene’s apologies, see l.c., p. 103 ff., on the spurious letter to the Emperor Theophilus, p. 109 ff. In these the adoration of images is made to form an integral part of the dogmatic theory of the Incarnation. We adore the Creator who became a creature; with him is inseparably connected the purple garment of the body. Therefore, while God himself cannot be portrayed, the incarnate God can. The Mosaic law only forbade the ‘adoration of service’ (προσκύνησις λατρείας), but not adoration (προσκύνησις) in general. Images are visible forms representative of the invisible; the Son alone indeed is a perfect (identical) copy; but other images are also connected with the subject they portray, and from eternity one of every creature has existed in the presence of God. Gregory and John have a very great deal in common in their arguments, so that we see clearly how dependent the former was on Greek writers,586586Apparently this opinion is not yet sufficient. Following doubts already expressed by Semler, Rössler, Malfatti, and Duchesner, Schwarzlose (l. c., p. 113 ff.) has brought forward reasons worth considering for holding that Gregory’s two letters in their present form cannot have come from the hand of Gregory II. Interpolations have been inserted by a Greek. but not only is the whole subject more thoroughly treated in John, but it is more strictly based on dogmatics. He even goes so 323far as to see in the rejection of images Manichæism, the contempt of matter which the God-Logos had hypostatically united with himself. We find a frightful confusion of ideas in an apparently simple and solid argument. All dogma, wherever John lays his hands on it, culminates in the images. The doctrines of the Holy Ghost, of death, unction and the cross, all require this worship.
But the freedom of the Church from the State was also strongly emphasised by the subject of the Khalif, so that once more the parallelism with Gregory’s letters is striking, so much so as almost to cast doubt on the genuineness of the latter or of John’s apologies. It was the prerogative not of Emperors but of Councils to control Church affairs. The power of binding and loosing had been granted not to Emperors, but to Apostles, Bishops, and Doctors. In the second address John assails the Emperor still more sharply. At the same time, he now maintains that the Church is governed by the written and unwritten institutions of the Fathers; the worship of images belongs to the latter. It was difficult to produce proof from tradition, and many patristic passages could be instanced against it. Hence “unwritten” tradition. The adoration of the cross and of relics was always embraced in the defence, and even the Old Testament analogy was cited in its support. In the third address it is again declared that adoration is due only to God and the body united with the Deity, and that the incarnate God is alone to be portrayed. Then the abandonment of Scriptural evidence for images is made up for by an indirect proof. Here it occurs to the apologist, that in fact all the catchwords of orthodox dogma do not exist in the Bible. Next, we have a detailed philosophy of images: the Son is the perfect resemblance of God, and the Holy Ghost of the Son. Images are the ideas of things; man is the likeness of God; the word is the image of thought; recollection of the past and representation of the future are images. Everything is an image, and the image is everything. The saints themselves are worshipped in their pictures. This is followed by the treatment of the Eucharist, next by a long section on the degrees of worship; it is abasement in presence of the object revered. 324To this is appended the mention of the curative shadow of the Apostles, the handkerchief, and the boys who ridiculed Elisha. Thus we are led up to relics, saints, and pictures, the crib,. Golgotha, the cross, nails, sheets, swaddling-clothes, and vesture, and again to books of the Gospels, sacred vessels, candlesticks and crosses etc. in the Church. Even the adoration of princes is recalled. Numerous patristic passages, some of them forged, are quoted.
After the death of Leo, and the overthrow of an anti-emperor supported by those friendly to images, the son of the former, Constantine Copronymus, carried out his father’s policy with an iron hand. He summoned the general Synod, already planned by his father, to Constantinople A.D. 754. Three hundred and thirty-eight bishops assembled, but the Patriarchs were absent. Archbishop Theodosius of Ephesus presided.587587Schwarzlose (l.c., pp. 76-101) has well described the iconoclastic party and its whole system. “The iconoclasts rejected the religious use and adoration of pictures, because not only according to their view were they contrary to Scripture, tradition, and dogma, but also seduced the Church into heresy and heathenism.” The proceedings are only in part known, through those of the seventh general Council.588588Mansi XIII., p. 205 sq. In the decision (ὅρος) of the Synod Christianity is abruptly contrasted with idolatry, but the veneration of images is idolatry. There were hardly many Bishops, who could or dared use such language honestly or from the heart. The majority played the hypocrite from dread of the emperor in declaring that the veneration of images was a work of Satan, introduced into the Church of the pure doctrine, in order to seduce men from the lofty adoration of God, or in describing painting as the sinful art by which the incarnation of Christ was blasphemed. But it sounds strangest of all to hear that these Bishops charged the image worshippers at once with Nestorianism and Eutychianism. They were Nestorians since it was of course only possible to represent the humanity of Christ, and thus his divinity and humanity were sundered; and they were Eutychians in so far as they sought at the same time to represent his divinity and accordingly confounded it with his humanity. The only image allowed—and this is an 325important declaration—were the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper. Starting from the prohibition of the portrayal of Christ, images in general were argued against. Further, Christianity rejected along with heathenism not only sacrificial, but pictorial, worship. The saints live with God; to recall them to earthly life by means of a dead art was blasphemy. Men ought to continue to worship and invoke them, but to condemn their pictures. No reference seems to have been made to relics. We have now a series of excellently chosen passages from the Bible and the Fathers. In conclusion, stringent penalties were attached to the worship of images, and a string of anathemas crowns the whole. “We also believe that we speak apostolically and have the Holy Spirit.” They had in fact uttered fine propositions, and used words which had ceased for centuries to be heard so distinctly in the Greek Church; but did they themselves believe in these words?
They were under the yoke of the Emperor. The clergy obeyed when the decrees were published; but resistance was offered in the ranks of the monks. Many took to flight, some became martyrs. The imperial police stormed the Churches, and destroyed those images and pictures that had not been secured. The iconoclastic zeal by no means sprang from enthusiasm for divine service in spirit and in truth. The Emperor now also directly attacked the monks; he meant to extirpate the hated order, and to overthrow the throne of Peter. We see how the idea of an absolute military state rose powerfully in Constantinople, how it strove to establish itself by brute force. The Emperor, according to trustworthy evidence, made the inhabitants of the city swear that they would henceforth worship no image, and give up all intercourse with monks. Cloisters were turned into arsenals and barracks, relics were hurled into the sea, and the monks, as far as possible, secularised. And the politically far-seeing Emperor at the same time entered into correspondence with France (Synod of Gentilly, A.D. 767) and sought to win Pepin, History seemed to have suffered a violent rupture, a new era was dawning which should supersede the history of the Church.
But the Church was too powerful, and the Emperor was not 326even master of Oriental Christendom, but only of part of it. The orthodox Patriarchs of the East (under the rule of Islam) declared against the iconoclastic movement, and a Church without monks or pictures, in schism with the other orthodox Churches, was a nonentity. A spiritual reformer was wanting. Thus the great reaction set in, after the death of the Emperor (A.D. 775), the ablest ruler Constantinople had seen for a long time. This is not the place to describe how it was inaugurated and cautiously carried out by the skilful policy of the Empress Irene,589589See Phoropulos, Εἰρηνη ἡ Ἀθηναια αὐτοκρατειρα Ῥωμαιων. Μερος á ann 769-788. It is important that the iconoclastic emperors belonged to Asia Minor, while Irene was Athenian. cautiously, for a generation had already grown up that was accustomed to the cultus without images. An important part was played by the miracles performed by the re-emerging relics and pictures. But the lower classes had always been really favourable to them; only the army and the not inconsiderable number of bishops who were of the school of Constantine had to be carefully handled. Tarasius,590590Heikel (Helsingfors, 1889) has published in Greek for the first time the vita Tarasii, written by Deacon Ignatius. the new Patriarch of Constantinople and a supporter of images, succeeded, after overcoming much difficulty, and especially distrust in Rome and the East, after also removing the excited army, in bringing together a general Council of about 350 bishops at Nicæa, A.D. 787, which annulled the decrees of A.D. 754.591591A first attempt to hold a Synod failed A.D. 786, since the majority of the bishops were still adverse, and were supported by the army. The proceedings of the seven sittings592592See Mansi XIII., pp. 992-1052. The quotations in the Libri Carolini furnish many problems. are of great value, because very important patristic passages have been preserved in them which otherwise would have perished; for at this Synod also the discussions turned chiefly on the Fathers. The decision (ὅρος) restored orthodoxy and finally settled it. The first six Synods with their anathemas and canons were first confirmed, and it went on: “We decide with all precision and fitness to set up, along with the form of the precious and life-giving cross, the august and holy images made with colours or of 327stone or other suitable material, in the holy churches of God, on sacred vessels and garments, on walls and tablets, in houses and on the streets: both the image of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, and of our undefiled Lady, the holy mother of God, and of the august angels, and all saintly and pious men; for the prototypes being constantly seen represented in images, the spectators are excited to remember and long for them, and to bestow reverence and due veneration on the images, not indeed the true worship according to our faith which is due to God alone; but (as it becomes us) to make an offering of incense and lights in their honour to the form of the precious and life-giving cross, to the holy Gospels, and the other sacred erections, as was the pious custom of the ancients; for the honour paid to the image passes to the prototype; and he who adores the image adores in it the being or object portrayed.”593593Ὁρίζομεν σὺν ἀκριβείᾳ πάσῃ καὶ ἐμμελείᾳ παραπλησίως τῷ τύπῳ τοῦ τιμίου καὶ ζωοποιοῦ σταυροῦ ἀνατίθεσθαι τὰς σεπτὰς καὶ ἁγίας εἰκόνας, τὰς ἐκ χρωμάτων καὶ ψηφῖδος καὶ ἑτέρας ὕλης ἐπιτηδείως ἐχούσης ἐν ταῖς ἁγίαις τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐκκλησίαις, ἐν ἱεροῖς σκεύεσι, καὶ ἐσθῆσι, τοίχοις τε καὶ σανίσιν, οἴκοι τε καὶ ὁδοῖς· τῆς τε τοῦ κυρίου καὶ Θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰκόνος, καὶ τῆς ἀχράντου δεσποίνης ἡμῶν τῆς ἁγίας θεοτόκου, τιμίων τε ἀγγέλων, καὶ πάντων ἁγίων καὶ ὁσίων ἀνδρῶν· ὅσῳ γὰρ συνεχῶς δι᾽ εἰκονικῆς ἀνατυπώσεως ὁρῶνται, τοσοῦτον καὶ οἱ ταύτας θεώμενοι διανίστανται πρὸς τὴν τῶν πρωτοτύπων μνήμην τε καὶ ἐπιπόθησιν, καὶ ταύταις ἀσπασμὸν καὶ τιμητικὴν προσκύνησιν ἀπονέμειν, οὐ μὴν τὴν κατὰ πίστιν ἡμῶν ἀληθινὴν λατρείαν, ἢ πρέπει μόνῃ τῇ θείᾳ φύσει· ἀλλ᾽ ὃν τρόπον τῷ τύπῳ τοῦ τιμίου καὶ ζωοποιοῦ σταυροῦ καὶ τοῖς ἁγίοις εὐαγγελίοις καὶ τοῖς λοιποῖς ἱεροῖς ἀναθήμασι, καὶ θυμιαμάτων καὶ φώτων προσαγωγὴν πρὸς τὴν τούτων τιμὴν ποιεῖςθαι, καθὼς καὶ τοῖς ἀρχαίοις εὐσεβῶς εἴθισται· ἡ γὰρ τῆς εἰκόνος τιμὴ ἐπὶ τὸ πρωτότυπον διαβαίνει· κἀὶ ὁ προσκυνῶν τὴν εἰκόνα, προσκυνεῖ ἐν αὐτῇ τοῦ ἐγγραφομένου τὴν ὑπόστασιν.
Just as at Trent, in addition to the restoration of mediæval doctrine, a series of reforming decrees was published, so this Synod promulgated twenty-two canons which can be similarly described. The attack on monachism and the constitution of the Church had been of some use. They are the best canons drawn up by an Œcumenical Synod. The bishops were enjoined to study, to live simply and be unselfish, and to attend to the care of souls; the monks to observe order, decorum, and also to be unselfish. With the State and the Emperor no compromise was made; on the contrary, the demands of Maximus 328Confessor and John of Damascus are heard, though in muffled tones, from the canons.594594See the Canons 3, 6 and 12. Theodorus Studita a few years later triumphantly asserted the famous 3rd Canon: “Any choice of a bishop, priest or deacon emanating from a secular prince is invalid.” Still, though the Byzantine Church possessed in the next period an abbot—Theodorus Studita595595See Thomas, Theodor von Studion, Leipzig 1892.—who championed, as none but a Nicholas or Gregory could, the sovereignty over princes of God’s law and the Church, it did not win freedom and independence. However, the repeated and for decades successful attempts made by military Emperors in the ninth century to get rid of the image-worship which had only brought defeat to the State, were finally frustrated.596596The superstition indulged in by the image-worshippers is shown by the epistle of Michael the Stammerer to Ludwig the Pious (Mansi XIV., p. 399); see Hefele IV., p. 40. The great Theodore maintained the orthodox cause unflinchingly against Leo the Armenian and Michael the Stammerer. Their successor Theophilus was a relentless foe to images and the monks. Then came an Empress, Theodora, who finally restored the worship. This took place at the Synod held at Constantinople A.D. 842. This Synod decreed that a Feast of Orthodoxy (ἡ κυριακὴ τῆς ὀρθοδοξίας) should be celebrated annually, at which the victory over the iconoclasts should be regularly remembered. Thus the whole of orthodoxy was united in image-worship.597597See also the decision of the 8th general Synod, sessio X. (Mansi XVI., p. 161). An Oriental Christian—an Armenian, but in this question all Orientals are agreed—writes at the present day: A Christianity which is stunted and disguised in pictorial forms, if it belongs to the Church, i.e., if it is determined by the history and the spiritual genius of a people, is much stronger and more justified than any conceptions coloured by sectarianism or rationalism, however much these may appeal to modern taste (Karapet l. c., p. 116).
In this way the Eastern Church reached the position which suited its nature. We have here the conclusion of a development consistent in the main points. The divine and sacred, as that had descended into the sensuous world by the incarnation, had created for itself in the Church a system of material, supernatural things, which offered themselves for man’s use. The theosophy of images corresponded to the Neo-platonic conception, connected with that of the Incarnation, of the one unfolding 329itself in a plurality of graded ideas (original types) down to the earthly. The theme had, as the image-worshippers said, been already touched on by Basil (“the knowledge of the prototype comes through the image”: δι᾽ εἰκόνος ἡ γνῶσις τοῦ ἀρχετύπου γίνεται); Gregory of Nazianzus (“it is the nature of the image to be a copy of the prototype and of what is said”: αὕτη εἰκόνος φύσις μίμημα εἶναι τοῦ ἀρχετύπου καὶ οὗ λέγεται); the Areopagite (“truly visible images are the seen [representatives] of the unseen” ἀληθῶς ἐμφανεῖς εἰκόνες εἰσὶ τὰ ὁρατὰ τῶν ἀοράτων); Theodoret (“sin alone has no copy”) and others.598598See passages in Gass, p. 319 f. All that had been wanting was a correct understanding and a bold carrying out of the truth. And lastly, that nothing be left out, Aristotelian scholasticism found its account here also. It had been maintained long ago, and supported by reference to the pictures “not made with hands” (ἀχειροποίητα), that not painting, but the tradition and law of the Church created the types—see also the decision of the seventh Council. But Theodorus Studita went still further.599599See Opp. Theodori ed. Sirmond T.V. Here we have collected the Antirrhetic. (I.=III.) c. Iconomachos, Confutatio Poematum Iconomachorum, Quæstiones propositæ Iconomachis, the Capita VII. adv. Iconom., and the Ep. ad Platon. de cultu ss. imag. The two books of epistles (l.c.) contain abundant material regarding the images. To him the picture was almost more important than the correct dogmatic formula; for in his view the relation of the copy to the original was a necessary one, and there was complete identity in so far as while the material was different, the form (the hypostasis) was the same. Theodore maintained that the material was indifferent, but that in the form of the authentic pictures one possessed the real Christ, the real Mary, and the real saints. They all bore their prototype in themselves, and this prototype was independent of the personal impress; it went on imprinting itself from picture to picture, at first spontaneously—for these men caught at the absurdity of images not made with hands (εἰκόνες ἀχειροποίητοι), then through the artist, if he reproduced the type faithfully.600600The chief passages are collected in great abundance and are well arranged by Sirmond T.V. sub voce “Imagines” in the index.
With this science of images composed of superstition, magic and scholasticism we may fitly close the development. The 330Greek Church has almost entirely excluded plastic representations, and its practice of art has, in consequence of the ban placed on it by the “authentic” picture, never been anything but stunted. No one can deny that the image-worshippers had some justification in their controversy with the iconoclasts; and for Greek Christianity, as it was, image-worship was a vital question. But in the great conflict waged for a century by the Byzantine Church with the State, not only did its distinctive character, but its freedom, depend on the issue. Great monks had tried to educate the Church up to the idea of freedom. In the fight to retain its character it was victorious; but in that for liberty it succumbed.331
|« Prev||Chapter IV. The Mysteries and Kindred Subjects.||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version