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The Creed of the Sixth Œcumenical Council, against the Monothelites.


Review of the Dogmatic Legislation of the Seven Œcumenical Councils.


The Nicæno-Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Creed of Chalcedon, both of which we have given in full, embrace the sum and substance of the dogmatic legislation of the œcumenical Councils of the undivided ancient or Græco-Latin Church. All the rest is merely explanatory and supplementary, or disputed.

The Sixth Œcumenical (or Third Constantinopolitan) Council (also called Conc. Trullanum I.), held A.D. 680, in consequence of the Monothelite or One-Will Controversy (683–680), enlarged the Creed of Chalcedon, notwithstanding the solemn prohibition of the Council of Chalcedon (see p. 16), by adding a ὅρος , or dogmatic definition to the effect that Jesus Christ had two distinct and inseparable wills ( θελήματα ), as well as two natures, a human will and a divine will, working in harmony, the human in subordination to the divine; the will being regarded as an attribute of nature rather than person. See Actio XVIII. in Mansi, Conc., Tom.XI. pp.637 sqq. After quoting the Symbol of Chalcedon down to the words παραδέδωκε σύμβολον (see p. 15), the Synod goes on, without interruption, as follows:

Καὶ δύο φυσικὰς θελήσεις ἤτοι θελήματα ἐν αὐτῷ [Ἰησ. Χριστῷ] καὶ δύο φυσικὰς ἐνεργείας ἀδιαιρέτως, ἀτρέπτως, ἀμερίστως, ἀσυγχύτως, κατὰ τὴν τῶν ἁγίων πατέρων διδασκαλίαν ὡσαύτως κηρύττομεν· καὶ δύο μὲν φυσικὰ θελήματα οὐχ᾽ ὑπεναντία, μὴ γένοιτο, καθὼς οἱ ἀσεβεῖς ἔφησαν αἱρετικοί, ἀλλ᾽ ἑπόμενον τὸ ἀνθρώπινον αὐτοῦ θέλημα, καὶ μὴ ἀντιπίπτον ἢ ἀντιπαιλαῖον, μᾶλλον μὲν οὖν καὶ ὑποτασσόμενον τῷ θείῳ αὐτοῦ καὶ πανσθενεῖ θελήματι· ἔδει γὰρ τὸ τῆς σαρκὸς θέλημα κινηθῆναι, ὑποταγῆναι δὲ τῷ θελήματι τῷ θεϊκῷ κατὰ τὸν πάνσοφον Ἀθανάσιον. Et duas naturales voluntates in eo [Jesu Christo], et duas naturales operationes indivise, inconvertibiliter, inseparabiliter, inconfuse secundum sanctorum patrum doctrinam adæque prædicamus; et duas naturales voluntates non contrarias, absit, juxta quod impii asseruerunt hæretici, sed sequentem ejus humanam voluntatem, et non resistentem vel reluctantem, sed potius et subjectam divinæ ejus atque omnipotenti voluntati. Oportebat enim carnis voluntatem moveri, subjici vero voluntati divinæ, juxta sapientissimum Athanasium.


Then follow quotations from John vi. 38, Gregory Nazianzen, Pope Leo (Ep. ad Flavianum, c. 4), Cyril of Alexandria, and a repetition of the Ephesian and Chalcedonian prohibition to set forth any new symbol of faith on pain of excommunication. Pope Agatho, by a dogmatic 73epistle, exercised a controlling influence over this Council similar to the one of Pope Leo I. over the Council of Chalcedon. On the other hand, the Council emphatically condemned Pope Honorius as a Monothelite heretic. Monothelitism continued among the Maronites on Mount Lebanon.

The Third Œcumenical Council, held at Ephesus, A.D. 431, and the Fifth Œcumenical Council, held at Constantinople, A.D. 553 (hence also called the Second Constantinopolitan C.), issued no new Creed, but simply reaffirmed the previous Creeds and condemned certain heresies.

The Council of Ephesus condemned 'the impious and profane doctrines' of Nestorius in two of its six canons (can. 1 and 4), and indorsed the twelve anathemas of Cyril of Alexandria hurled against Nestorius, which are purely negative, and need not be inserted here.7979    See the Anathematismi Cyrilli in Mansi, Conc. Tom. IV. p. 1082 and Tom. V. pp. 85 sqq. (Greek and Latin, with the ἀνατροπή of Theodoret, and the ἀπολογία of Cyril), also in Denzinger's Enchiridion, pp. 27–31, and Gieseler's Church History, Vol. I. pp. 349 sqq. (Am. ed., only the Greek text). The ambitious, violent, and overbearing Cyril, who controlled the Synod, misrepresented his rival Patriarch of Constantinople, and leaned towards the opposite heresy of Eutychianism. Compare the refutation of Theodoret in Mansi, Tom. V. pp. 87 sqq., and my Church History, Vol. III. pp. 722–729. The Œcumenical Council of 431 was saved by its orthodoxy, otherwise it would have shared the disgrace of the infamous Robber Synod ( σύνοδος λῃστρική , latrocinium Ephesinum ), held at Ephesus a few years later (449) under the lead of Dioscurus (Cyril's successor), where passion, intrigue, and uncharitableness ruled supreme. Gregory of Nazianzum, who himself presided over the Second Œcumenical Council, drew a sad picture of the unchristian spirit which disgraced the synodical assemblies of his day. But the Third Œcumenical Council stands morally as well as doctrinally far below its two predecessors. The same Synod sanctioned also the letters of Cyril and of Cœlestinus of Rome to Nestorius, and incidentally (in can. 1 and 4) condemned Pelagianism in the person of Cœlestius, the chief pupil of Pelagius, on the supposition that he sympathized with Nestorius; but the Pelagian doctrines are not stated.

The Fifth Œcumenical Council, of 164 Bishops, occasioned by the protracted and tedious Monophysite controversies (which grew out of the Council of Chalcedon), confessed the Nicene Creed as explained and enlarged by the Councils of Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon, indorsed the dogmatic edicts of Emperor Justinian, and condemned the three Chapters ( τρία κεφάλεια ), that is, some writings of three departed divines of the Antiochian school, Theodore of Mopsuestia (the teacher of Nestorius), Theodoret of Cyros, and Ibas of Edessa (friends of Nestorius). The last two, however, had been declared orthodox by the Council of Chalcedon. The Fifth Œcumenical Council had a leaning towards Monophysitism, but the Sixth Œcumenical Council reacted again in favor of the dyophysitism of the Council of Chalcedon, and supplemented it by teaching the dyotheletism of Christ.8080    The Greek Acts of the Fifth Council, with the exception of the fourteen anathemas on the three Chapters, are lost; but a Latin translation, concerning whose genuineness and completeness there has been much controversy, is preserved. See Mansi, Conc. Tom. IX. pp. 163 sqq., especially pp. 538–582. Denzinger gives the Canones XIV. de tribus capitulis (Enchir. pp. 58–73), and also the fifteen Canons against the errors of Origen (pp. 73–80), but the latter belong to an earlier Constantinopolitan Synod, held A.D. 544. On the Three Chapter Controversy, see my Church History, Vol. III. pp. 768 sqq., and more fully, Hefele, Conciliengeschichte, Vol. II. pp. 775–899.

The Seventh (and last strictly) Œcumenical Council, held, under the Empress Irene, at Nicæa, A.D. 787, and hence also called the Second Nicene Council, condemned the Iconoclasts, and sanctioned the ecclesiastical use and limited worship of sacred images.8181    The ἀσπασμὸς καὶ τιμητικὴ προσκύνησις , osculum et honoraria adoratio , but not ἀληθινὴ λατρεία ἡ πρέπει μόνῃ τῇ θείᾳ φύσει , vera latria, quæ solam divinam naturam decet. See the decree in Mansi, Conc. Tom. XIII. p. 378 sq. Also in Denzinger, Enchir. pp. 104, 105. But this decision is recognized only by Greeks and Romans, while Protestants regard it as a relapse into a refined form of idolatry, condemned by the Second Commandment and the primitive Christian Church. It became a fruitful source of superstition, but stimulated also the development of Christian art.

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