My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True Lord, God, and Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
The Church Pentarchy [“Five Leaders”] or Five Patriarchates
In the Sixth Century Constantinople, in the minds of Eastern Christians, was firmly established as the primary see in the Christian Pentarchy, even though the see of Rome was still technically considered the “FIRST AMONG EQUALS.” Emperor Justinian called the pentarchy–the great original Patriarchates of CONSTANTINOPLE, ROME, ALEXANDRIA, ANTIOCH, AND JERUSALEM–THE “FIVE SENSES OF THE UNIVERSE.”
The title “ECUMENICAL” was give to all the chief offices in the imperial city. When Saint John the Faster (582-595 A.D.), the Patriarch of Constantinople, assumed the title of “Ecumenical Patriarch,” the designation was adamantly opposed by Pope Saint Gregory the Great of Rome (590-604 A.D.) as being extremely arrogant and unbecoming of any bishop, including the bishop or Rome. This is the same Saint Gregory whose name is traditionally connected with the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts which the Orthodox celebrate on the weekdays of Great Lent.
To sum up, by the Fifth Century, a “pentarchy” or system OF FIVE SEES (patriarchates), wiht a settled order of precedence, had been established. Rome, as the ancient center and largest city of the Empire, was understandably given the presidency or primary honor within the pentarchy into which Christendom was now divided. Plainly, this system of patriarchs and metropolitans was exclusively the result of Ecclesiastical legislation; there was nothing inherently divine in its origin. Had this been so, Alexandria could not have been demoted to third rank in order to have Constantinople exalted to second place. The determining factor was simply their secular status as the most important cities in the Empire. Typically, each of the Five Patriarchs was totally sovereign within his sphere of jurisdiction. The primacy of Rome, as such, DID NOT ENTAIL UNIVERSAL JURISDICTIONAL POWER OVER THE OTHERS. On the contrary, ALL BISHOPS, WHETHER PATRIARCHS OR NOT, WERE EQUAL. NO ONE BISHOP, HOWEVER, EXALTED HIS SEE OR DIOCESE, COULD CLAIM SUPREMACY OVER THE OTHERS. The bishop of Rome WAS SIMPLY VESTED WITH THE PRESIDENCY, AS THE SENIOR BISHOP 0 “THE FIRST AMONG EQUALS.”
Before examining the long Turkish domination that followed the fall of Constantinople, we need to explore one final event in the life of the Medieval Church — the Schism between Eastern and Western Christianity. To begin with, this tragic division was not an event, but a prolonged process stretching over centuries. The cracks and fissures in Christian unity are arguably visible as early as the Fourth Century. As such 1054, the traditional date marking THE EXCOMMUNICATION of Patriarch Michael Cerularius by papal legates, is inaccurate.
There is, in fact, no precise date. What really happened was a complete chain of events whose climax was only reached in the 13th century with the sack of Constantinople by Western (Latin) Crusaders in 1204. Equally, we need to remember that the events leading to schism were not always exclusively theological in nature. CULTURAL, POLITICAL, AND LINGUISTIC DIFFERENCES WERE OFTEN MIXED WITH THE THEOLOGICAL. Any narrative of the schism which emphasizes one at the expense of the other will be fragmentary. Unlike the Copts or Armenians who broke from the Church in the 5th Centry and established ethnic churches at the cost of their universality and catholicity, the Eastern and Western parts of the Church remained loyal to the faith and authority of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. They were united, by virtue of their COMMON FAITH AND TRADITION, IN ONE CHURCH. Still, the transfer of hte Roman capital to the Bosporus inevitably brought mistrust, rivalry, and even jealousy to the relations of the two great Sees, Rome and Constantinople. It was easy for Rome to be jealous of Constantinople at a time when it was rapidly losing its political prominence. In fact, Rome refused to recognize the conciliar legislation which promoted Constantinople to second rank. But the estrangement was also helped along by the German invasions in the West, which effectively weakened contacts. The rise of Islam with its conquest of most of the Mediterranean coastline (not to mention the arrival of the pagan Slavs in the Balkans at the same time) further intensified this separation by driving a physical wedge between the two worlds. The once homogenous unified world of the Mediterranean was fast vanishing. Communication between the Greek East and the Latin West by the 600s had become dangerous and practically ceased.
The Photian Schism
The gap widened further in the 9th century when the missionary ambitions of the two communions clashed over the Christianization of Bulgaria and Moravia. The election of Patriarch Photius even caused a temporary division, known as the “Photian Schism.” But it is the coronation of Charlemagne as Emperor by the pope and the revival in 800 of a Western “Roman” Empire which best illustrate how far the gulf had widened. For the East, the West was acting as if the Roman Empire, with its legitimate Emperor in Constantinople, HAD CEASED TO EXIST. The Byzantine Empire’s claims to world sovereignty were being ignored. Charlemagne’s new “empire” was USURPING THE LEGITIMATE ROLE OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE IN CONSTANTINOPLE Such a declaration of independence and emancipation from Byzantium was a threat to the unity of Christendom and, indirectly, the shared faith of the one Church. Subsequent developments, such as the Norman conquest of Southern Italy, the Crusades, the commercial penetration of the Bosphorus and the Black Sea by Italian merchants, were to add to the already lengthy list of disagreements. They suffice to demonstrate how deep the alienation had become. In fact, they have been judged time and again as the cause of the schism…
“…Two basic problems — the PRIMACY OF THE BISHOP OR ROME and the PROCESSION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT — WERE INVOLVED. These DOCTRINAL NOVELTIES WERE FIRST OPENLY DISCUSSED IN Photiu’s Patriarchate. By the 5th Century, to repeat, Christendom was divided into Five Sees with Rome holding the primacy. This was determined by canonical decision and did not entail hegemony of any one local church or patriarchate over the others. Rome began TO INTERPRET HER PRIMACY IN TERMS OF SOVEREIGNTY, AS A GOD-GIVEN RIGHT INVOLVING UNIVERSAL JURISDICTION IN THE CHURCH. The COLLEGIAL AND CONCILIAR NATURE OF THE CHURCH, IN EFFECT, WAS GRADUALLY ABANDONED IN FAVOR OF A SUPREMACY OF UNLIMITED PAPAL OF A SUPREMACY OF UNLIMITED PAPAL POWER OVER THE ENTIRE CHURCH…Characteristically, Rome INSISTED ON BASING HER MONARCHICAL CLAIMS TO “TRUE AND PROPER JURISDICTION” (as the Vatican Council of 1870 put it) on Saint Peter. This “Roman” exegesis of Matthew 16:18, however, was UNKNOWN TO THE FATHERS WHO HAD RULED ON THE CHURCH’S ORGANIZATION. For them, specifically, Saint Peter’s primacy COULD NEVER BE THE EXCLUSIVE PREROGATIVE OF ANY ONE BISHOP. ALL BISHOPS MUST LIKE, SAINT PETER, CONFESS JESUS AS THE CHRIST AND, AS SUCH, ALL ARE SAINT PETER’S SUCCESSORS. To believe otherwise WOULD BE TO VIOLATE THE BISHOP’S CHARISMATIC EQUALITY; N ONE ONE CAN HOLD A POSITION SUPERIOR TO THAT OF OTHERS.
Equally disturbing to the Christian East was the Western interpretation OF THE PROCESSION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. Like the primacy, this too developed gradually and entered the Creed in the Latin West almost unnoticed. This theologically complex issue involved THE ADDITION BY THE WEST OF THE LATIN PHRASE FILIOQUE CLAUSE (“AND FROM THE SON”) to the Creed. The original Creed sanctioned by the Councils DID NOT CONTAIN THIS PHRASE, THE TEXT SIMPLY STATES, “the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, PROCEEDS FROM THE FATHER.” Theologically, the Latin interpretation WAS UNACCEPTABLE TO THE ORTHODOX since it implied that the Holy Spirit now HAD TWO SOURCES OF PROCESSION, the Father and the Son, rather than the Father ALONE. In short, THE BALANCE BETWEEN THE THREE PERSONS OF THE HOLY TRINITY WAS ALTERED. The result, the Orthodox Church believed, then and now, WAS THEOLOGICALLY INDEFENSIBLE….ONLY ANOTHER ECUMENICAL COUNCIL COULD INTRODUCE SUCH AN ALTERATION AND NOT TO BE ACTED UPON UNILATERALLY BY THE LATIN WEST. INDEED THE CHURCH ECUMENICAL COUNCILS, WHICH DREW THE ORIGINAL CREED, HAD EXPRESSLY FORBIDDEN ANY SUBTRACTION OR ADDITION TO THE TEXT. The West’s tampering with THE MAJOR CREEDAL FORMULA OF THE CHURCH WAS, ALL IN ALL, INADMISSIBLE. (Source: Aristeides Papadakis, Ph.D)
( “History of the Orthodox Church,” To Be Continued)
“Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Divine and Glorious Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God