The Orthodoxy of the Melkites and Chalcedon

I know it’s a popular opinion in our day and age that the Melkites or Byzantines have the same faith as us even when it comes to Christology but, I don’t understand how it is possible to be loyal to our fathers Sts. Severus, Philoxenus, Jacob of Serugh, Jacob baradeaus, Timothy of Alexandria, Theodosius, Peter the fuller etc who condemned it and at the same time hold to this opinion. Also how can Chalcedon be condemned as Nestorianizing when these people are “Orthodox” that would necessitate an orthodox interpretation of the Chalcedon and thus why should it be condemned why pick the Nestorian view of the council if that’s not even how they themselves interpret it ? And thus why should we continue in our rejection of Chalcedon ? Also how can we say this when our own fathers considered it to be in contradiction with Ephesus and some of the fathers of Ephesus explicitly condemned two natures after the union ?


  • hi aba, i like your icon, is it saint athanasius?

    this is a really big topic, there is an interesting discussion on it here:

    obviously i agree with my viewpoint (!) but it is good to see it from other perspectives as well. 
    remember we have (if we choose to read them) far more resources available to us than our church fathers.
    so i think it is easier for us to see all the sides of the discussion than it was for them.
    they had big language differences as well that added to the misunderstanding.

    having said that, anba severus is one of my favourite saints
    i love the story with the missing orban (holy bread) that reappeared.
  • Hi Aba,

    Excellent points.  It is, of course, true that our Holy Fathers knew more during their time, since they routinely debated Chalcedonian Nestorians, other Nestorians, and other groups of theological dissidents.  Also, our Holy Fathers were holy indeed, and so they were in no way lacking in charity or judgement, hence we must adhere to their stances if we believe in our Faith.

    I'm sorry Mabsoota, but I have to disagree with you when you infer that we have more resources available today than the fathers.  There are many resources which have been lost to history, including but not limited to the vast majority of St Theodotus of Ancyra's books Against Nestorius, and even the little we have only recently was discovered.  Moreover, the Holy Fathers routinely debated heretics, including the Holy Severus, who met with Justinian the Impious, and in the process converted the Chalcedonian Patriarch of Constantinople, St Anthimus, to the True Faith.  We should ask; how would we know more than the Holy Fathers, who lived during the relevant times, and who debated these heretics who they condemned, converting into sheep of the Lord those who would hear the voice of our shepherds?

    Thank you for linking that previous discussion (, I wish we had continued it, since I was interested in a response to my objections.  It was nevertheless delightful.

    Let us all just agree that the Holy Fathers misunderstood nothing about the Chalcedonians, or any other dissenting group.  It's not too much to ask for us to trust our fathers.  In fact, we must also agree that there was not a language difference, since St Severus deals with that in Contra Impium Gramaticum, wherein he shows that a redefinition of terms by neochalcedonians does not fix Chalcedon's formula, but actually makes it even more heretically absurd.

    God bless you,
  • Hello Aba,

    As I have already posted in other topic, Armenian Apostolic have some saints with different opinion. Catholicos St Nerses IV the Gracious (Shnorhali) (1102-1173) believed that we have one faith with Greek Orthodox and even tried to unite Churches. St Nerses Lambronatsi (1153–1198) tried to unite Armenian Church with Roman and Greek Churches. He became a zealous advocate of the union of the Greek and Armenian Churches. And there are a lot of other Armenian Fathers, who thought the same (Mchitar Gosh, Catholicos Magakia (Ormanyan), St Ovanes Harnetsi).

    In my personal opinion, the unanimous opinion of the holy fathers is authoritative only in matters of faith, and not in politics, terminology, relations with others, history, etc. It is necessary to separate the dogma from the worldly outlook. F. Peter Farrington in his articles had close position to this, as I have understood.

    God bless you,
  • hi tigran, you said it better than i could, thanks.
    dioscorus, sorry i didn't get in to a big debate, i have been busy in real life!
    could tigran and aba please tell us who is in their pictures?
    mine is saint matthias, the 12th apostle :)
  • Hi Mabsoota,

    On my picture you can see St Nerses Lambronatsi

    God bless you,
  • Hello Tigran,

    We've addressed St Nerses Shnorhali before, and basically there are a few reasons why we cannot use him to support the modern idea of ecumenism:

    1. St Nerses did not say that the Chalcedonian heretics were always orthodox.  He wanted to receive them by oikonomia, but this sort of reception is done for heretics who are coming into the Church (like in 433 with the Nestorians, and 484 with the crypto Nestorians).

    2. The Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church rejected St Nereses' position, which is itself very different from modern ecumenism.  Shortly after his repose in the Lord, an Armenian Orthodox council condemned the Chalcedonians once more, which St Nerses Lambronatsi attended.

    3. The Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church has consistently condemned Chalcedonianism as a heresy on numerous occasions before and after the two St Nerses' (who aren't even ecumenists by modern-day standards):

    - Catholicos Babken I in late 5th century
    - Catholicos Nerses II and Second Council of Dvin in 6th Century
    - Third Council of Dvin 607
    - Catholicos Sahak III
    - Council of Manzikert 726
    - Bishop Stephen of Syunik responding to Chalcedonian Patriarch Germanos of Constantinople
    - Prince Ashot and Armenian Catholicos Zachary together with Syriac representative Archdeacon Nonnus of Nisibis at Council of Sirakawan 862
    - Armenian Catholicos Gregory II in the presence of Coptic Patriarch in 1087

    4. Most importantly, St Grigor Tatevatsi lived after the ideas of Sts Nerses and Nerses were postulated, and not only did he reject them, but his "no-nonsense approach," if you will, was accepted by the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church:

    "Now, the heathen and the schismatic are equally ungodly for like a dog he [the heathen or the schismatic] returns to his vomit—that is, he did not have that [heathenism], and he denied this [orthodox faith] and turned from there. Moreover, [the schismatic’s case] is even worse…"
    - St. Gregory of Tatev, Book of Questions, Chapter Four of the Major Contents and Section One of My Second Volume, On the digression of schismatics, pg. 116 

    "Likewise are the new schismatics, Chalcedonians, the forerunners of Anti-Christ, the followers of Nestorius the damned, and Leo the sacrilegious."
    - St. Gregory of Tatev, Book of Questions, Chapter Four of the Major Contents and Section One of My Second Volume, On the digression of schismatics, pg. 117

    How do we know the AAOC accepted St Grigor Tatevatsi's stance?  Simple, St Grigor enforced the anathemas against the Chalcedonians in the Rite of the Calling to the Priesthood, which is preserved by the AAOC to this day:

    "I profess the orthodox faith and I confess the Holy Trinity: the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; and the incarnation of Christ our God; and I anathematize all the ranks of heretics; Arius, Macedon, and Nestor, and all the ranks of Diophysites." - Rite of the Calling to the Priesthood, Armenian Orthodox Church

    "Do you anathematize Eutyches [...]; and the Aphthardocetae [...] and Leo and his "Tome," which he wrote for personal glory and not for the sake of truth, and thus schismed from the Church?" - ibid

    So, I don't see how an argument could be made here.  The consensus of the Fathers is not broken by one or two fathers here and there, who are trying to defend their land in a heavily political climate ailed by Mohammedans and other aggressors.

    The other Armenian Fathers who you mention are likewise not advocates for false unity. In fact, both Aba and I have not been opposed to true unity, but only a false unity which does not involve heretics and schismatics' repentance.  What does confession matter if we say, "I want to be reconciled to God, but I wasn't wrong when I left Him," or if we say, "I can understand what God wants without subjecting myself to His authority?"

    God bless you,
  • Hi Mabsoota,

    By all means, I don't want to debate people in Christ.  I don't consider these discussions "debate," but only as discussions with fellow members of Christ's One True Church, who genuinely seek to know and love the truth (as St Severus titles his most wonderful work - Philalethes).

    Also, no worries, I understand that you're busy.  All I mean is that I enjoy hearing what you have to say, so if you feel that you need an extended period of time to think of an answer, my figurative doors are always open.

    God bless you,
  • Dear Dioscorus, 

    1. St Nerses Shnorali wrote about reunifications of Churches. So, he considered greek to be Church too: 

    "Just by the anger of God, was the Church betrayed to the unbelievers, and it happened because of the division? So also the mercy of God to Christians, and the new vigor of the sovereigns and the strengthening of the Christian armies from nothing else should be expected, as from the reunification of all the Churches of Christ."

    2. St Nerses Lambronatsi joined the union with Roman Church (without abandoning the faith in one nature and other our dogmats), translated some latin canons into armenian language, died during this union. So, if Roman Church is not real Church, its impossible to consider Nerses to be a saint. But AAC consider Nerses to be saint. Therefore Roman Church is Church.

    3. Abadoning Chalkidonism is not the same as abadoning Chalkidon Churches.

    4. Firstly, the spirit if Tatevatsi's works is much more close to west tradition than to east one (tradition of AAC). 

    Secondly, Tatevatsi has a lot of unique points of view: for instance, he considered that Mary and some Prohets were cured from the original sin before Christ; he thought that Apostles were ordained twice: by Christ to the bishops, on Pentecost - to the catholicoses; he wrote articles against Purgatory, but he had his own teaching instead of it.

    Thirdly, I am not sure, but it seems to be that St Tatevatsi considered real Church only Armenian one. He wrote:

    “Now the Armenian people in their religion and rules, that is, faith and deeds, are more true and kind, therefore, all Christian nations are obliged to follow it.”

    “Now there are the rules of the apostles and the Three Holy Councils, and there is only one that has remained close and unchanged to them - this is the Armenian people.”

  • Hello Tigran,

    There is a difference between considering a sect to be properly "a church," even that due to its roots that it is "a church originating with Christ," and saying that this church is in union with the "One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Orthodox Church."  A great example is the church of Antioch, the Syriac Orthodox Church.  This is one of the foremost of the churches founded by the apostles.  But, when it accepted Arianism, rejecting that the Son is God, they ceased being part of the Universal Church until this local church repented.

    This is confessed in your own liturgy, after the creed, when the deacon pronounces an anathema from the Catholic Church all of those who say that there was a time when the Son was not.  So, we have to make these proper distinctions in our ecclesiology.  St Nerses is not contradicting proper ecclesiology as it has been expressed by the Early Church Fathers such as St Cyprian of Carthage, even if his actions were due to geopolitics more than proper doctrine.  Also, it's worth noting that some of the writings of St Nerses have probably been forged by Melkites, if my recollection of HH Aram I's study is correct.

    As for St Nerses Lambronatsi, he participated in a council shortly after St Nerses the Gracious, which once again anathematized the dyophysite heretics, putting to rest the question of union for the time-being.  St Nerses Lambronatsi is believed to have supported various papal doctrines which we as the truly Orthodox Church have never accepted, and so St Nerses' ecclesiology was evidently not fully in line with the rest of the Holy Fathers.  Also, just because the Latin church is not part of the True Church, it does not mean St Nerses is not a saint.  It just means he made a mistake, which we all do from time to time.  This is why we rely on the general consensus, especially according to those Holy Fathers who excelled in the relevant matters at the relevant times of controversy.

    All of the holes in the postulation that the two Sts Nerses somehow overturn the consensus of the Fathers are not necessary to show the falsity of this postulation.  As stated earlier, which was not dealt with, the Armenian Orthodox Church ended up accepting the anathemas on "all the ranks of Dyophysites" and the Tome of Leo.  Evidently, the Armenian Orthodox Church took St Grigor Tatevatsi's position on the matter.

    I frankly cannot agree that St Grigor was Western-thinking.  His theology is incredibly Dionysian, even if his style of writing is similar to Latin scholastics.  The style of one's writing does not determine if one is Western or Eastern oriented, the content of theology does.  St Grigor was an avid anti-filioquist, an avid miaphysite, and a firm supporter of essence-energy distinction, as well as uncreated grace.  He was truly the best Armenian Orthodox theologian of all time, and one of the best Orthodox theologians of the second millennium.  His handle of metaphysics is entirely apostolic.

    As for the statement: "Abadoning Chalkidonism is not the same as abadoning Chalkidon Churches," the heresy of Chalcedonianism is not a preference of one flavor over another, but a rejection of a real heresy which results in a duality of sons (as the Holy Fathers have said).  This puts the Chalcedonians under multiple blanket anathemas, including the aforementioned ones which the Armenian Orthodox still hold.

    Finally, St Grigor did not teach that only the Armenian Orthodox were the True Church.  For one, he never wrote against the rest of the Church (Coptic, Tewahedo, Syriac), but only against heretics and schismatics.  He was in union with the rest of the Church.  Those quotes can easily be taken to mean that he perceives that Armenian Orthodox Christians are the most devout, which was probably true during his time, and that only the Armenian Orthodox Church has never accepted Christological heresy in its history.  The latter quote may be a historical error, since arguably the Alexandrian Church also never accepted Chalcedon, but a charitable reading of St Grigor does not have to mean anything more than a recount of whether any other churches besides the Armenian Church never fell away from the Faith.

    Please keep this anathema of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church dear to your heart:

    "I profess the orthodox faith and I confess the Holy Trinity: the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; and the incarnation of Christ our God; and I anathematize all the ranks of heretics; Arius, Macedon, and Nestor, and all the ranks of Diophysites." - Rite of the Calling to the Priesthood, Armenian Orthodox Church

    God bless you,
  • Hello Dioscoros,

    There is a difference between sect and heresy. Sect is delusion out the Church and heresy is delusion in the Church. A very good example is St. Basil the Great (379). He was baptized after a heretical creed opposed to the Nicene Creed and ordained to the priesthood by Arians. St. Basil had never received communion with Orthodox during his lifetime, who demanded “without philosophies” to accept the Symbol of Nicaea. He had never been in communion with legal historic Orthodox Church.

    In addition to the two Nerses, I also remembered St. Hovhannes Garnetsi. He had a vision in which God would condemn to eternal torment those who change their Church and rebaptise in other Church. He made examples of cathelics, greeks, armenians and assyrians (nestorians).

    One more thing is, as for as I know, consensus of Fathers is not dogmatic principle. There were situations, when it didn’t work. For instance, the First Ecumenical Council was completely contrary to the consensus of the holy fathers 1-3 centuries. Most of St Fathers before 325 considered that Son is subordinate to the Father. And it is heresy of “subordinationalism”.

    Talking about our anathemas, we know that modern chalkidonites don’t believe in 2 Sons and Tome of Leo can be understood in Orthodox way. Moreover, most of chalkidonite christians even don’t know who is Leo and what happened in 451. So, any anathema should not be understood literally, but in the sense that the Fathers put into it. This anathema applies only to real heretics who believe in 2 Sons in chalkidone theology.

    As for the position of the Church, there is a book “The Armenian Church” by great scientist, philosopher, Patriarch of Constantinople Malachia Ormanian (1841-1918), which is being published today with the blessing of our bishops. Here we can read:

    «The two Churches [Greek-Orthodox and Roman-Catholic], which have appropriated to themselves the pompous names of catholic and ecumenical as proof of their universality, are in fact isolated and enclosed within the circle of their individuality. Such intolerance is completely alien to the spirit of the Armenian Church, which does not allow a separate or national Church, no matter how vast it may be, to appropriate the character of universality. It stands on the grounds that true universality can exist only in the assembly of all Churches closely united in the name of the principle of unitas in necessariis, to which all the basic principles of Christianity are reduced. Once this condition is met, each individual Church can interpret minor particulars in its own way. The Armenian Church reduces these foundations of Christian teaching to the most simple and concise interpretation. It recognizes as necessary only the dogmatic definitions of the first three Ecumenical Councils, definitions dating back to the epoch when individual Churches still retained unity and communion among themselves. Thus, any Church that recognizes the Trinity, the Incarnation and the Redemption, according to the view of the Armenian Church, can be a part of the Universal Church and, as such, grants its followers the right to eternal salvation. All such Churches maintain communion with one another in the spirit, in spiritualibus, in which the highest unity of faith and charity, necessary for the unity of Christianity, is achieved. The rest of the points concerning doctrine or beliefs may be accepted or rejected, either as a result of the decision of a separate council, or by virtue of the authority of the scientists of the Church.»

    God bless you,
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