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§ 11. The Seven Œcumenical Councils.

The entire Orthodox Greek or Oriental Church,9090   The full name of the Greek Church is 'the Holy Oriental Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Church.' The chief stress is laid on the title orthodox. The name Γραικός, used by Polybius and since as equivalent to the Latin Græcus, was by the Greeks themselves always regarded as an exotic. Homer has three standing names for the Greeks: Danaoi, Argeioi, and Achaioi; also Panthellenes and Panachaioi. The ancient (heathen) Greeks called themselves Hellenes, the modern (Slavonic) Greeks, till recently, Romans, in distinction from the surrounding Turks. The Greek language, since the founding of the East Roman empire, was called Romaic. including the Greek Church in Turkey, the national Church in the kingdom of Greece, and the national Church of the Russian Empire, and embracing a membership of about eighty millions, adopts, in common with the Roman communion, the doctrinal decisions of the seven oldest œcumenical Councils, laying especial stress on the Nicene Council and Nicene Creed. These Councils were all summoned by Greek emperors, and controlled by Greek patriarchs and bishops. They are as follows:


I. The first Council of Nicæa, A.D. 325; called by Constantine M.

II. The first Council of Constantinople, A.D. 381; called by Theodosius M.

III. The Council of Ephesus, A.D. 431; called by Theodosius II.

IV. The Council of Chalcedon, A.D. 451; called by Emperor Marcian and Pope Leo I.

V. The second Council of Constantinople, A.D. 553; called by Justinian I.

VI. The third Council of Constantinople, A.D. 680; called by Constantine Pogonatus.

VII. The second Council of Nicæa, A.D. 787; called by Irene and her son Constantine.

The first four Councils are by far the most important, as they settled the orthodox faith on the Trinity and the Incarnation. The fifth Council, which condemned the Three (Nestorian) Chapters, is a mere supplement to the third and fourth. The sixth condemned Monothelitism. The seventh sanctioned the use and worship of images.9191   Worship in a secondary sense, or δουλεία, including ἀσπασμὸς καὶ τιμητικὴ προσκύνησις, but not that adoration or ἀληθινὴ λατρεία, which belongs only to God. See Hefele, Conciliengeschichte, Bd. III. p. 440.

To these the Greek Church adds the Concilium Quinisextum,9292   This Synod is called Quinisexta or πενθέκτη, because it was to be a supplement to the fifth and sixth œcumenical Councils, which had passed doctrinal decrees, but no canons of discipline. It is also called the second Trullan Synod, because it was held 'in Trullo,' a saloon of the imperial palace in Constantinople. The Greeks regard the canons of this Synod as the canons of the fifth and sixth œcumenical Councils, but the Latins never acknowledged the Quinisexta, and called it mockingly 'erratica.' As the dates of the Quinisexta are variously given 686, 691, 692, 712. Comp. Baronius, Annal. ad ann. 692, No. 7, and Hefele, l.c. III. pp. 298 sqq. held at Constantinople (in Trullo), A.D. 691 (or 692), and frequently also that held in the same city A.D. 879 under Photius the Patriarch; while the Latins reject these two Synods as schismatic, and count the Synod of 869 (the fourth of Constantinople), which deposed Photius and condemned the Iconoclasts, as the eighth œcumenical Council. But these conflicting Councils refer only to discipline and the rivalry between the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Pope of Rome.

The Greek Church celebrates annually the memory of the seven holy Synods, held during the palmy days of her history, on the first Sunday in Lent, called the 'Sunday of Orthodoxy,' when the service is made to 45reproduce a dramatic picture of an œcumenical Council, with an emperor, the patriarchs, metropolitans, bishops, priests, and deacons in solemn deliberation on the fundamental articles of faith. She looks forward to an eighth œcumenical Council, which is to settle all the controversies of Christendom subsequent to the great schism between the East and the West.

Since the last of the seven Councils, the doctrinal system of the Greek Church has undergone no essential change, and become almost petrified. But the Reformation, especially the Jesuitical intrigues and the crypto-Calvinistic movement of Cyril Lucar in the seventeenth century, called forth a number of doctrinal manifestoes against Romanism, and still more against Protestantism. We may divide them into three classes:

I. Primary Confessions of public authority:

   (a) The 'Orthodox Confession,' or Catechism of Peter Mogilas, 1643, indorsed by the Eastern Patriarchs and the Synod of Jerusalem.

   (b) The Decrees of the Synod of Jerusalem, or the Confession of Dositheus, 1672.

   To the latter may be added the similar but less important decisions of the Synods of Constantinople, 1672 (Responsio Dionysii), and 1691 (on the Eucharist).

   (c) The Russian Catechisms which have the sanction of the Holy Synod, especially the Longer Catechism of Philaret (Metropolitan of Moscow), published by the synodical press, and generally used in Russia since 1839.

   (d) The Answers of Jeremiah, Patriarch of Constantinople, to certain Lutheran divines, in condemnation of the doctrines of the Augsburg Confession, 1576 (published at Wittenberg, 1584), were sanctioned by the Synod of Jerusalem, but are devoid of clearness and point, and therefore of little use.

II. Secondary Confessions of a mere private character, and hence not to be used as authorities:

   (a) The two Confessions of Gennadius, Patriarch of Constantinople, 1453. One of them, purporting to give a dialogue between the Patriarch and the Sultan, is spurious, and the other has nothing characteristic of the Greek system.

   (b) The Confession of Metrophanes Critopulus, subsequently Patriarch 46of Alexandria, composed during his sojourn in Germany, 1625. It is more liberal than the primary standards.

III. Different from both classes is the Confession of Cyril Lucar, 1629, which was repeatedly condemned as heretical (Calvinistic), but gave occasion for the two most important expositions of Eastern orthodoxy.

We shall notice these documents in their historical order.


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