Monday, April 21, 2014

First Council of Constantinople (381)


St. Gregory Nazianzus

Issues 
Emperor Theodosius I called for a council of bishops in May of 381 to reach consensus on various issues. One goal was to end the Arian controversy which, despite being named heretical at the Council of Nicaea, continued to have large support. In fact, Constantinople was run by a large Arian faction. In the other extreme, a reactionary group had adopted Apollinarism, which suggested that Christ was fully divine, but not human.

There was also the issue of the ordination of Maximus as Bishop of Constantinople. Maximus was a Cynic who professed to be a convert. His conversion was suspect. Under dubious circumstances and through support of distant Egyptian bishops, Maximus had been consecrated as bishop of Constantinople. Many people, including the emperor, doubted Maximus’ faith and political motives. 

Results 
The council condemned fractions that denied the Nicene Creed: Arians, Apollinarians, and Macedonians. Constantinople was honored as “New Rome,” with the note that the bishop of Constantinople “shall have the prerogative of honor after the Bishop of Rome.” Maximus’ ordination was not recognized, and Gregory Nazianzus was installed. 

Heresies 
Arianism and Apollinarism both denied one of Christ’s dual natures as fully human and fully divine. The Macedonians denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Clearly, defining the Trinity was a continuing problem. Even 350 (or 2000) years after Christ, they weren’t sure what to make of him. Even within the realm of Tritarianism, I think some of us focus more on Jesus the man or Jesus the divine; it is difficult to sit comfortably in paradox.

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