Disputes merely about words must not be allowed to divide those who think alike – St. Athanasius
For months I had been literally CONSUMED with the entire Chalcedon / Non Chalcedon schism (theology has always consumed me for 25 years so this was nothing new). This latest episode of being consumed began with my family’s visit to a beautiful Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Seattle, WA that is close to us. We loved our visit (so much so we visited again the next week) and were amazed how ancient everything they did was (women stood on the right, men on the left for crying out loud !).
I was amazed how Orthodox everything they sang, read, and said was. I was really struck with the way they celebrated the Resurrected Jesus Christ – the worship blew me away.
Anyhow, after posting about our visit on facebook, I was lambasted by our Priest and privately by some Orthodox brothers in how I was “visiting and communing with heretics” who were “outside of the Church.” Heretics? Outside of the Church? Seriously? Copts are heretics like Arians? Damnable heretics? Seriously?
So I studied. I read. I prayed. My brain began to hurt.
I could not see the big deal except that language, imperial politics, phyletism, and pride seemed more the cause of the schism rather than real Christological differences which were not really differences when properly understood from all sides and perspectives — from primary sources.
What disturbed me the most was that the Copts held to a strict Cyrillian Christology so how could they be heretics? I read everything by St Cyril I could find and saw that what the Copts taught aligned with his teaching. St Cyril is called a Saint !! The Church of Alexandria considered as central the Christological “mia physis” formula of St. Cyril ”One Incarnate Nature of God the Word”. The Cyrillian formula was accepted by the Council of Ephesus in 431. It was neither nullified by the Reunion of 433, nor condemned at Chalcedon. On the contrary, it continued to be considered an orthodox formula. So how could holding to it be heresy?
My brain hurt more.
Anyhow . . . I was getting no where in actually seeing the “heresy” and decided to just give up trying to understand this confusing mess until I came across a statement of reconciliation in a discussion group. It was good. It covers all the differences beautifully. It was good enough for me to move on with so I share it here. It is an easy solution to a problem if we could all embrace it (and the Copts are – see Part II on this page). This is the solution :
Following the Holy Fathers, we confess one Christ who is fully God and fully human, with no confusion or division between his humanity and divinity.
We accept the formula “One incarnate nature of God the Word” in its Orthodox understanding, as it was employed by the Holy Cyril as a safeguard against any suggestion that Christ is divided, or that his humanity and divinity constitute two distinct persons. We understand the “one incarnate nature” to refer to the inseparable unity in Christ of his complete humanity and complete divinity, and thus He was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, without any confusion between His humanity and divinity, and we reject any suggestion that, in the union, his humanity is swallowed up or abridged by the divine nature.
Finally, because the two natures are inseparably united by the one person of Christ, it is right to refer to his Mother Mary as the Theotokos.
Now, lets get rid of our pride, phyeltism, heresy hunting, bickering over the past, and in- house fighting – we agree more than we disagree, in fact we think alike – and in a spirit of unity pleasing to God (John 17) let us adopt it. . . . and move on in reaching the world with the Christian Gospel that is so desperately needed.