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In light of this quote from Saint Cyril of Alexandria, what is wrong with the Tome of Leo?

Discussion in 'The Voice In The Desert - Oriental Orthodox' started by TheLostCoin, Aug 11, 2018.

  1. TheLostCoin

    TheLostCoin A Lonesome Coin Supporter

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    So, I briefly brought this up in another thread, but I want to discuss it in more detail.

    I'm actually right now in the process of reading Saint Cyril's "On the Unity of Christ", and I've read portions of Saint Cyril's commentary on John (what we have of it anyways), and I've come across a passage that makes me question one of the main criticisms of Chalcedon that non-Chalcedonians seem to hold.

    I talked to a Coptic priest recently, and I've talked to other Oriental Orthodox on the Internet, and it seems that one of the main criticisms that I've heard from both of these sources about the Orthodoxy of the Tome of Leo is distinct roles that are granted to both natures.

    For example, from the Tome of Leo,
    "So, if I may pass over many instances, it does not belong to the same nature to weep out of deep-felt pity for a dead friend, and to call him back to life again at the word of command, once the mound had been removed from the four-day-old grave; or to hang on the cross and, with day changed into night, to make the elements tremble; or to be pierced by nails and to open the gates of paradise for the believing thief."
    https://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/incac1.htm

    Severus of Antioch said (I can't find the source) that it's foolish to draw such distinctions, because in the example of walking on water, or perhaps raising Lazarus, Chalcedonians would say that the Divine Nature is responsible for these miracles; however, the Divine Nature doesn't have feet and isn't capable of walking on water, nor does the Divine Nature have a voice which can say "Lazarus, arise!"

    Therefore, the conclusion that is drawn by these internet apologists as well as the Coptic priest I've talked to is that we cannot separate the actions of Christ like this, which is why they are so enthusiastic about maintaining "One Incarnate Nature of the Word."

    However, this is what I wanted to show you. This comes from Part 27 and 28 of Book 8 of Saint Cyril's Commentary on the Gospel of Saint John, where he's discussing the Natures of Christ in the Garden.

    "Now, He says, is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save one from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. See I pray you in these words again how the human nature was easily affected by trouble and easily brought over to fear, whereas on the other hand the Divine and ineffable Power is in all respects inflexible and dauntless and intent on the courage which alone is befitting to It. For the mention of death which had been introduced into the discourse begins to alarm Jesus, but the Power of the Godhead straightway subdues the suffering thus excited and in a moment transforms into incomparable boldness that which had been conquered by fear."

    http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/cyril_on_john_08_book8.htm

    It seems that Saint Cyril of Alexandria himself is making a similar "division of Natures" that the Miaphysites that I've talked to have accused the Dyophysites of doing.

    In fact, out of curiosity, I brought this exact same example up to the priest I was discussing with, without mentioning Saint Cyril as the author, and he condemned the idea as "Nestorian" and spiritually dangerous.

    I also think it's worth bringing up the Council of Ephesus, which does something similar (although not exactly the same).

    "In a similar way we say that he suffered and rose again, not that the Word of God suffered blows or piercing with nails or any other wounds in his own nature (for the divine, being without a body, is incapable of suffering), but because the body which became his own suffered these things, he is said to have suffered them for us. For he was without suffering, while his body suffered...For by nature the Word of God is of itself immortal and incorruptible and life and life-giving, but since on the other hand his own body by God’s grace, as the apostle says, tasted death for all, the Word is said to have suffered death for us, not as if he himself had experienced death as far as his own nature was concerned (it would be sheer lunacy to say or to think that), but because, as I have just said, his flesh tasted death. So too, when his flesh was raised to life, we refer to this again as his resurrection, not as though he had fallen into corruption–God forbid–but because his body had been raised again.So we shall confess one Christ and one Lord."

    http://www.papalencyclicals.net/councils/ecum03.htm



    So, it seems to me that there is one of three conclusions that can be drawn from this.

    1. The Miaphysites have, out of either misunderstanding or out of preserving Alexandria terminology, have actually, in their own belief system, condemned the theological ideas of Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Council of Ephesus.

    2. There is a nuance of this argument that I am missing, and failing to comprehend the argument that the Miaphysites are making as regards to the Tome of Leo.

    3. Most Miaphysites don't understand their own theology due to the division of Chalcedonians and non-Chalcedonians, and it has been misrepresented to me; this is an argument that the non-Chalcedonians don't actually hold, rather it's something else with Chalcedon that is heretical.

    So, could an Oriental Orthodox help me out? In light of the Gospel Commentary by Saint Cyril, or the Council of Ephesus, what is inconsistent with the Tome of Leo?
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2018
  2. dzheremi

    dzheremi Coptic Orthodox non-Egyptian

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    Hi. Just so I can get a better understanding of what your underlying suppositions are, do you think that the OO do or should (based on this quote that you've put up) have a problem with the union being hypostatic? I ask because my gut reaction to this is what I assume many Chalcedonians would say as well (though maybe not in exactly these words): of course He felt troubled in His humanity -- He was incarnate, truly assuming the human nature, and hence felt real human feelings like fear, mental anguish, sadness, and sympathy ("Jesus wept"). Elsewhere in the same commentary, St. Cyril makes this point when writing about Christ as the new Adam: "And in the same manner that as man He felt hunger and weariness, so also He feels the mental trouble that is caused by suffering, as a human characteristic."

    So that you know I'm not just writing from my own opinion, here is what Fr. Tadros Y. Malaty, a very widely-published modern Coptic theologian, says about that same passage in his Patristic Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, vol. 2 (p. 148, emphasis added):

    The Lord spoke about the need for Him to suffer and to die. As the Son of Man, He lifted His heart and said: “Now My soul is troubled”. Indeed, these are strange words coming from the Lord especially after the disciples had witnessed Gentile strangers seeking to meet Him. Then they heard Him say “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified”. However, because He had truly become incarnated, it was natural that His soul got troubled in the face of all that cloud of suffering that enveloped Him. He probably saw through that cloud the sins of all humanity. It appeared before Him so that He would carry them upon His shoulders; and offer Himself as a burnt sacrifice and redemption for our sins.

    While the Lord comforted His disciples, and told them “Let not your hearts be troubled” (Jn 14:1), yet He says “Now My heart is troubled”. His troubled heart releases our hearts from being troubled: His pains constitute the mystery of our eternal peace.​

    In other words, following HH St. Cyril, it was by His assuming the one human nature at/with the incarnation that our Lord felt these things.

    It does not suddenly become Chalcedonianism because we can recognize that He would feel one thing according to His humanity while He may experience another according to His divinity. This was the entire point of St. Severus' famous rhetorical, to say that although we can and do distinguish what is befitting divinity and what is befitting humanity, we still relate all actions to the one Christ Who is both at all times. The problem with the Tome is not in the portion that you have quoted -- which basically says that the two natures are not the same (and hence some things befit one, and some things befit another), a point which I have yet to hear any OO person disagree with (and it would be wrong to do so) -- but with other portions, such as where it says "For each 'form' does the acts which belong to it, in communion with the other; the Word, that is, performing what belongs to the Word, and the flesh carrying out what belongs to the flesh; the one of these shines out in miracles, the other succumbs to injuries."

    You may not see a difference between this and what you have quoted from St. Cyril, particularly as the relevant portion begins "the human nature was easily affected" (so believe me, I can see where you are coming from with this), but in what other sense would it be reasonable to talk about Christ being troubled, were that not the case? In other words, if we must disclaim this because it is a manifestation of His humanity in a way that is unique to it as a nature, then we cannot have a true union of two natures at all, despite the fact that this is what both sides agree is in fact the case with regard to Christ. And we would have the same problem (much more worryingly) with various portions of the scriptures themselves, e.g., "Jesus wept" (John 11:35). And yet we do not have such a problem. And so similarly, we do not have such a problem with things like the quote from St. Cyril. Again, to recognize that divinity and humanity are not the same, and that both are well and truly present in their fullness in Christ Jesus our Lord, is not a rebuke of miaphysitism -- it is (according to miaphysites, anyway) an affirmation of it, just as you can read St. Cyril as an affirmation of Chalcedonianism, if you read everything according to Chalcedonianism! That's true of this commentary, and true of any of HH's other works, too. (I've been through that in the past on this very forum with regard to On The Unity of Christ with other Chalcedonians.)

    But the problem with the language of the Tome comes precisely with this idea of the natures themselves, as 'things' considered separately, as the actors, "each one (doing) the acts which belong to it." We would say that, no, Christ is the actor (Christ is the one doing, feeling, experiencing, etc.), even if we can also say that whatever He is doing or feeling is more characteristic of humanity or of divinity. That distinction, again, is found in the very same commentary of HH with regard to His feeling mental trouble caused by suffering, as I've already shown: "...as a human characteristic." Presumably you would not protest concerning that portion that it frames things in terms of characteristics instead of natures and hence throw in the towel with regard to the Tome or its language, right? And that's good that you wouldn't, because if you're response to that is "of course not", then hopefully you can see why an OO person would not consider the portion you have brought from elsewhere in the same commentary to fatal to their Christological position, either.

    When something can be read either way depending on the emphasis of the person doing the reading, then maybe it is a better idea to look at things in terms of a difference in emphasis, rather than to try to have one 'win' over the other. (I don't mean to imply you are doing that, exactly, only that it is very common on both sides for people to think that they have found a kind of silver bullet which will resolve the difficulties in finding out 'who is right', rather than acknowledging that the 'other side' may have a point, even if we still disagree. I'm going to guess that this is what you have encountered with the OO who told you that there was something "Nestorian" going on in the commentary, though of course it didn't happen to me, so I can't know for sure.)

    So which reading 'wins out', so to speak? As with many, many other things, it depends on where you are coming from. For me personally, it is enough that in his other writings HH likewise says that we distinguish between the human and the divine natures as natures (which we do), and can contemplate them distinctly in theoria by recognition of their differences (which we do), and yet we do not say anything other than that Christ is One and His nature is One (which we do). Knowing these things about HH makes it a lot easier to understand how we ought to interpret whenever he writes about two natures, which he does do, and so we try to keep our readings of those passages within the guidelines that his other writings set up, so as to not oppose the saint to himself, nor ourselves to him (Lord have mercy). I'm sure the Chalcedonians are doing nothing else, and yet they come to different conclusions because of course they would emphasize those portions of his writings which can be most readily adapted to their preexisting Christology, no differently than I have just done earlier in this very paragraph.
     
  3. TheLostCoin

    TheLostCoin A Lonesome Coin Supporter

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    Ah, this makes complete sense now. I understand now.

    I'm starting to think that finding the True Church is impossible, because in regards to the Tome of Leo, it now leads to determining what his intention is, and what the right context is in terms of how he says those things. I've always read the Tome of Leo in the context of the properties of the different natures, not necessarily "each nature as separate actors."
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2018
  4. dzheremi

    dzheremi Coptic Orthodox non-Egyptian

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    Yes, it can be difficult, I'm sure. I think it is much better that everyone go where they can be fed with true spiritual nourishment, rather than where they have been intellectually convinced is the 'most correct' -- not because I don't believe that there is such a unique place (obviously if I didn't feel the OO are right, I'd be somewhere else; it'd be easier, in a practical sense), but because I walked into the OO Church thanks to the path shown by the Desert Fathers, and one of the best lessons I've learned from them yet is when Abba Anthony said of Abba Joseph (after stumping some pilgrims with a question about the meaning of a particularly difficult to understand Bible verse) "Abba Joseph has answered correctly, because he said 'I do said, not know.'"

    If we wait until we are 100% certain in all things (be it about this, or anything else that is important), then it is very easy to never make a decision, because we will be unsure as to what is the right way forward, and especially with regard to things like this, the pit only goes deeper and deeper the more you look into it. There's always another book to read, another father to research, another controversy, another miracle or supposed miracle, etc.

    The last time someone who had researched both communions quite heavily (to the point where he said privately that it was essentially a toss-up for him) asked me if I thought he should be OO or EO, I told him that it this is not up to me, but that the EO could do worse than to receive someone who had seriously studied the matter. He ended up becoming Russian Orthodox, and we remained on friendly terms long after that. I would give the same answer to anyone, really. Only you can decide, but in any case, God is seeking true worshipers to worship Him in spirit and truth, so I would focus on where I can best do that, first and foremost. There's nothing that says that you couldn't maintain honorably friendly relations with "the others" after choosing one or the other, anyway, so long as conversion doesn't involve suddenly seeing the others as somehow lesser people as opposed to just...y'know...using some terminology that is less preferred to your own (cf. HH St. Cyril reconciled with John of Antioch, recognizing his dyophysite expression as fully Orthodox without ever giving up his own mia physis formula). We still did with the local Greeks in Albuquerque when I lived there, and we had relatively frequent Chalcedonian visitors from a variety of traditions (Catholics, OCA, Lutherans, etc.), all of whom were welcomed with open arms so long as they did not try to commune (which thankfully none of them did).

    Anyway, best of luck to you, and if you have any other questions, don't hesitate to ask them here. Maybe another OO person will eventually show up at some point, even...
     
  5. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Handmaid of God †

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    Good answer.

    Of course I am convinced theologically of the EO correctness - but there is such a thin sliver of difference between us at the levels I can comprehend!

    But thankfully EO was the path for me, since there are EO Churches around me.

    I still have great respect for you, my brother, and agree with you almost 100% of the time. I learn from you, and one of my favorite teachers on YouTube is an OO priest.

    But thankfully I have two local parishes I am in communion with.

    (And honestly - the music in EO is easier on my ear, lol, though that's not a valid reason.)
     
  6. dzheremi

    dzheremi Coptic Orthodox non-Egyptian

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    You're darn right that's not a valid reason! Elghadab! ("Is outrage!") :mad::p

    Hahaha...no, I've heard that from a lot of people, including born-Coptic people, so there must be something to it. I like Coptic chant, but I can recognize that it's not for everyone. Probably EO would be most comfortable with Armenian hymns, since they tend to be a bit softer and more amenable to choral arrangements of the type that I've heard in EO hymnody (though really all OO also use the eight tone system that the EO also use, except for the Copts and the Tewahedo...)


    "Lord have mercy" in Armenian
     
  7. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Handmaid of God †

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    That's beautiful!

    To be perfectly honest, I think it's the instruments in some of what I've heard that are hardest on my ears?

    But a bonus - I've been "outraged" in yet another language! :D
     
  8. dzheremi

    dzheremi Coptic Orthodox non-Egyptian

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    Ah. Yeah, I could see that. All of our liturgies are supposed to be unaccompanied except for time-keeping devices (cymbal and triangle for the Copts; sistrum and staff for the Ethiopians; I'm not sure if their drums are used in actual liturgies or perhaps just the paraliturgical services), but I have heard some instruments in certain churches. Not in my own (though I've heard plenty about that happening in the trouble spots in the "land of immmigration"; Lord have mercy!), but since the OO are a lot less uniform than the EO in terms of practice, I guess I can't go running up to every Armenian person to show them that video from the monastery choir...but boy would I ever like to! A lot of Armenian liturgies have organ. I am a former Roman Catholic. I don't like organs in church. Oh well. I guess the entire Armenian Church doesn't have to change specifically to suit meeee... :rolleyes:
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2018
  9. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Handmaid of God †

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    It's probably proper timekeeping instruments I'm talking about? I'm just not used to the sound.
     
  10. dzheremi

    dzheremi Coptic Orthodox non-Egyptian

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    Ah. Fair enough. Not a fan of the cymbal. I'm not either, given how a lot of people play it, but it really shouldn't be anything flashy like it unfortunately often is (a side effect of too many darn kids being trained to be 'deacons', maybe?). But something like the following recording from the Monastery of St. Macarius in the desert is the traditional way to do it: very sparsely used, and when it is used it's very, very simple.



    (Beginning at 5:44) The explanation of the first canticle of the Midnight praises (Khen Oushot Afshot/"With the split")

    In fact, in my own parish we never even saw the cymbals unless we were screwing up the hymn, since that's what they're there for to begin with (with the exception of some of the praises for the feasts; I've heard conflicting information that they're either supposed to be used for certain praises, or just allowed to be used then).

    So we would be going along...you know...failing...and suddenly it would be like "Oh no...Abouna just looked at (deacon) George...yep, here come the cymbals! Oh, we're gonna hear about this later over the Agape meal!" And we always did, too. Haha. Abouna would make us practice and practice, right there at the table, and he would hit the table with every syllable we were supposed to emphasize. "hi-TEN ni-peres-VI-ya en-TE ti-Theo-to-KOS etho-WAB MAR-iya!"

    Trust me, after one or two of those, it's tempting to ask if we can just incorporate the cymbals all the time, but that's really not how it's supposed to be.

    On the plus side, you get pretty good at memorizing the text that way. There was definitely a method to this madness. :)
     
  11. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Handmaid of God †

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    Interesting, thank you.

    That sounded MUCH better.

    Yes, I've heard too many times where cymbals or whatever were the overwhelming element from the start and - I honestly just don't like it. I found it jarring and distracting. I'm relieved to know it's not supposed to be like that. :)

    And I actually really like the sematron (?) and other calls to prayer in monasteries. So it's not a beat or percussion or whatever that I'm opposed to. I just don't like jarring jangling that overpowers chant.
     
  12. TheLostCoin

    TheLostCoin A Lonesome Coin Supporter

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    Quick question: Is there a difference between the way the Chalcedonians and non-Chalcedonians understand the way both properties of the Natures interact with each other?
     
  13. dzheremi

    dzheremi Coptic Orthodox non-Egyptian

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    There may be, but I don't know enough to say. I'd want to see how the Chalcedonians would talk about that, and then evaluate it for any similarities or differences.
     
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