On July 28, 450, Emperor Theodosius II died, and the Byzantine throne reverted, in the absence of an heir, to his sister Pulheria. Immediately after ascending the Byzantine throne, Marcian and Pulheria decided to convene a new Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon.
The Fourth Ecumenical Council was held between 8 and 25 October 0451 AD, in the church of St Euphemia in Chalcedon. The number of participating bishops ranged from 520 to 630, a figure not reached by any other ecumenical council. Most of the participating bishops were from the East.
Eutychius, fighting against the heresy of Nestorius, carried to the extreme the teaching of Alexandria about the union of the two beings in the person of the Saviour. He so exaggerated the union of the two natures that he made them one. That is why the heresy of Eutychius received the name Monophysitism or Eutychianism. Eutychius held that the human nature taken by the Saviour at the incarnation was absorbed into His divine nature.
What happened at the 4th Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon?
On 28 July 450 Emperor Theodosius II died in a riding accident, his place being taken by his sister Pulcheria, a supporter of Orthodoxy, who married General Marcian.
The meeting of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon on 22 October was the most important, in which the Fathers approved the famous dogmatic formula which confessed Jesus Christ, the Son of God, “Truly God and truly man, the same of the rational soul and body, one with the Father, according to Godhead, and one with us, according to humanity, according to all things like unto us, except sin; the same Christ, Son, Lord, One-Begotten, known in two natures in an unmixed, unchanged, undivided, undivided way, the distinction of the threads not being abolished because of union, but rather the property of each nature being saved, and merging into one person and one hypostasis, not divided and divided into two persons.”
So, the new imperial pair decided to convene a new ecumenical synod to make the one of 449 forgotten. So, the number of Fathers who participated in this synod ranged from 520-to 630, a figure unmatched by any other ecumenical council.
How many participants attended the Fourth Ecumenical Council?
In 451 the Fourth Ecumenical Council took place, hosted in the church of ‘St. Grandmother Euphemia in Chalcedon. And it was convened by the imperial family, Marcian and also Pulheria.
The Fourth Ecumenical Council was the largest in Christian antiquity, with the number of participants recorded by historians ranging from 520 to 630, a figure unmatched by any other such gathering. Patriarch Anatolius of Constantinople played a special role in moderating the theological discussions of the 15 sessions.
As no consensus was reached, with both the Orthodox and Monophysite camps insisting on their arguments, Patriarch Anatolius proposed that the decision be left to the Holy Spirit, through the intercession of Saint Euphemia, whose relics rested in the cathedral of the Synod.
How many delegations did Pope Leo the Great of Rome send to the Synod?
Emperor Marcian presided over the session of 25 October 451, when the solemn proclamation of the decision of faith was made, and he delivered the closing address of the Synod.
Pope Leo the Great of Rome (440-461) sent five delegates to the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon: three bishops and two priests. There were also two African bishops, Aurelius and Rusticus, who were incidentally in Constantinople, refugees from Africa because of the Vandals’ naval attack.
In conclusion, only as true God could Jesus Christ bring about the salvation of men, and only as true man, representing all mankind, could He willingly sacrifice Himself on the cross for the salvation of all men.
What happened at the 5th session of the Council of Clacedonia?
God was born before all eternity from the Father, after the Godhead. And as a man, he was born in the last days for us and our salvation from the Virgin Mary. The Birth of God, the same Christ, Son, Lord, One-Born, known in two natures, unmixed and unchanged. Not in two persons, divided or separated, but the same Son. The One-Born, the God-Begotten, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the Fifth Session of October 22, 451, the Synod defined the Church’s doctrine of the two beings in the person of Jesus Christ by the following confession of faith: Following the Holy Fathers, we all teach and confess the same, Son. So our Lord Jesus Christ is perfect in Godhead and perfect in humanity. True God and true man, having a rational soul and body. Also, being one with the Father after the Godhead and one with us after humanity, being in all things like unto us apart from sin.
So the Holy and Great and Ecumenical Synod gathered with the grace of God and at the urging of the most blessed and God-loving Immaculate Christ-lovers, Augustinus Valentinian and Marcian. Also in Chalcedon, the metropolis of the diocese of Bithynia, in the church of the Most Holy Euphemia, the victorious in Christ, resolved to discuss the two natures of Christ.
Read also: First Council of Nicaea
Key Verse related to The Great Ecumenical Council
“And should such be the case this volume may well be a step toward “the union of all” and toward “the peace of all the holy churches of God,” for which the unchanging East has so constantly prayed in her liturgy?”
Why did the Great Ecumenical Council meet?
According to historical accounts, one of the reasons the Council of Chalcedon was convened was because of those who tried to spoil the mystery of the iconostasis and who brazenly say that the Virgin Mary is only human, the Holy Synod approved the synodal letters of the Blessed Cyril, pastor of the Church of Alexandria, to Nestorius and those of the East, as suitable for the removal of Nestorius’s folly to the right understanding of those who, moved by a sincere desire, wish to understand the saving Creed.
The Holy and Great and Ecumenical Council gathered together, wishing to put an end to all unbelief contrary to the truth, having learned the unshakable preaching from the beginning, decided first to leave untouched the faith of the 318 Holy Fathers, and, because of those who fight against the Holy Spirit, he strengthened the teaching on the being of the Spirit taught by the 150 Fathers assembled not long ago in the imperial city, which they [the 150 Fathers] made known to all.
Not as if they were adding something lacking to what had been decided before, but by clarifying, according to the testimony of the Scriptures, their teachings about the Holy Spirit against those who seek to tamper with His mastery.
What did the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon decide?
Unlike nature, but closely related to it, the hypostasis (which, where it designates humanity, is called “person”) is not an addition of content, of material, to what nature is, but is one’s way of being as a whole in itself. For example, a woody matter rounded into the whole mass has become hypostasis.
All this having been established by us with great care and acuteness, the Holy Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon decided that no one is permitted to write or compose, nor to think, nor to teach another confession of faith. So as for those who dare to compose another [confession of] faith, to teach it to others, or to spread another Creed.
So let them do this in favor of those who wish to return to the knowledge of the truth from the Hellenistic or Judaistic wanderings, or any other heresy. Therefore, let them, if they are bishops or clergy, be removed [bishops from bishoprics and clergy from clergy], and if they are monastics or laymen, let them be given anathema.
What was the mission of the fathers of the Fourth Council?
In the very words of St. Basil the Great, “being and hypostasis are distinguished as the common is distinguished from each other, as, human nature in general from this man or that man”. Thus St. Basil will contribute, through his explanations, to the clarification of the terms being and person, terms which were greatly distorted by Aristotelian philosophy and which led to many misunderstandings between East and West.
The Holy Fathers of the Fourth Synod had the difficult task of explaining the term person, but above all of showing how in the Person of the Saviour Christ there are two beings: one divine and one human. Although for a long time it was thought that the notion of personhood (apostasy) first appeared at this Council, the truth is that it appeared much earlier, being introduced by St. Basil the Great, with the Holy Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Council using Vasilian theology in their approach.
Following in the footsteps of the teaching of St. Basil the Great, St. Cyril of Alexandria and the other Fathers of the Third Ecumenical Council showed that the Incarnate Son of God has one person, but two natures, divine and human. In other words, human nature is not rounded off into a person of its own but is assumed by the divine Person of the Son of God.
What is the consequence of heresy?
Disagreements continued even after Nestorius was excommunicated, and this was because the heresy was going in another, equally pernicious direction. An old archimandrite of Constantinople, Eutychius, a man of vast theological knowledge, but also very stubborn, took, unlike Nestorius, the unity between the two natures of the Saviour to the extreme, saying that after His incarnation from the Virgin Mary, Christ had only one nature, the divine, the human nature being absorbed into His divine nature, as a drop of water is lost in the immensity of the sea.
The natural consequence of this heresy is that if Christ, the Son of God, does not have, in addition to the divine nature, the complete human nature, received through the birth of the Virgin Mary, then the entire work of human salvation is destroyed, since, according to the words of several Holy Fathers, Christ could save only what He had assumed and therefore had to assume His entire human nature, apart from sin.
So, to prevent this disturbance in the Church from growing, Emperor Theodosius II convened an ecumenical synod to meet again in 449 at Ephesus. Therefore, this synod was attended by 138 bishops and presided over by Dioscor of Alexandria.
What have the church fathers managed to demonstrate through the Ecumenical Synods?
The 4th century, rightly called the “golden age of theology” because of the great ecclesiastical figures who lived during this period, was also the beginning of the great heresies. Having just emerged from the catacombs, the Church now found itself under attack not by pagans but by its members, who failed to grasp the truth of Scripture.
Gathered in ecumenical synods, the Holy Fathers succeeded in showing what the Church’s true teaching was. The Fourth Ecumenical Council was the largest of these. Not only in the sheer number of Fathers participating (630) but above all in the importance of the decisions taken here. The Church celebrates the Holy Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Council on the 6th Sunday after Pentecost.
The Holy Fathers of this Synod have shown once again that where there is communion, there is also the Holy Spirit. With whose help every confusion can be cleared up and every obscurity illuminated. This is why the Gospel read on the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost is also the Gospel in which the Saviour prays to the Father to keep the Apostles united. And also through them, the future leaders of the Church.
- When they opened the tomb and unfolded the royal seal of St. Euphemia, they saw the letter of the righteous sitting on the right hand. And also the letter of the pagan lying on the foot.
- In 451, at the initiative of Emperor Marcian, the Fourth Council of Carson was convened, presided over by Bishop Anatolius of Constantinople, and attended by more than 300 bishops.
- The Fourth Ecumenical Council was held at Halkidon in 451 AD, also known as the Council of Halkidon. So this important conference dealt with two main themes: some concerning the Sonship (Nature). And also Substance (Person) of Christ and the visible organization of the Church.
After the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325) had shown, through the Symbol of Faith, that the Son is “deo-flesh with the Father”. That is, equal in glory and power with the Father, and not a mere creature of the Father, condemning the teaching of Arian. So, the emphasis would shift, in the 5th century, to the Person and nature of the Person of the Saviour Christ.
The fact that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity had become man and had therefore taken on human flesh and a rational soul. Thus people rightly asked: was Christ, the incarnate Son of God, more God or more man? Was his body real or apparent?
Next, to test your knowledge of the roots of Christianity and the 4th ecumenical synod, you can play the following Quizlet. Have a nice day!
Trivia Game about The Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon
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- Louth, A. (2015). Christology in the East from the Council of Chalcedon to John Damascene. The Oxford Handbook of Christology, 139.
- Price, R., & Gaddis, M. (Eds.). (2005). The acts of the Council of Chalcedon (Vol. 45). Liverpool University Press.
- Roueché, C. (2009). Acclamations at the Council of Chalcedon. Chalcedon in context: church councils 400, 700, 169-77.
- Turman, E. M. (2013). Toward a Womanist Ethic of Incarnation: Black Bodies, the Black Church, and the Council of Chalcedon. Springer.