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Author Topic: Ecumenical Relations with the Assyrian Church of the East  (Read 2250 times) Average Rating: 0
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Pilgrim
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« on: August 07, 2009, 01:26:19 AM »

I'm interested in what is being done in ecumenical relations with the Church of the East.

After doing some research on them, including reading documents on the rich history of the Persian Church, as well as their position on Nestorius, and the Nestorian heresy (which I believe Nestorius would have condemned), as well as the Church's Christology (which matches what Nestorius ACTUALLY taught) I have come to the conclusion that the Christology of the Church of the East and that of the Eastern (or chalcedonian) Orthodox Church are the same: and no that does not mean nestorian, as in the heresy, but rather as Nestorius taught. Two natures (usia, and physis) united in one person (prosopon). One Jesus Christ, human and Divine, niether nature diminished, nor confused.

I worry though about what our non-Chalcedonian brethren's response would be to union with the Assyrian Chirch and vice-versa. Although the confusion there lies, I think, between Nature and Person. I wonder, is any ecumenical effort present between the Oriental Orthodox and the Assyrian Church?

Any info on relations with eastern or Oriental Orthodox would be appreciated.

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One is Christ the Son of God,
Worshiped by all in two natures;
In His Godhead begotten of the Father,
Without beginning before all time;
In His humanity born of Mary,
In the fullness of time, in a body united;
Neither His Godhead is of the nature of the mother,
Nor His humanity of the nature of the Father;
The natures are preserved in their Qnumas*,
In one person of one Sonship.
And as the Godhead is three substances in one nature,
Likewise the Sonship of the Son is in two natures, one person.
So the Holy Church has taught.
 
 
 * Qnuma, is an Aramaic word. The nearest equivalent is the Greek “hypostasis”, in Latin “substantia” and in English “substance”.
 
http://www.nestorian.org/index.html is where I got my info. The sections on the Nestorian controversy were particularely helpful on that subject.
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« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2009, 01:50:42 AM »

There have been threads touching on the issue of OO dialogue with the Church of the East, which has not really gone anywhere.  The Catholics have signed a common declaration with them.  You may want to click on the Church of the East tag below to find the threads on this. 

I don't know if we've really discussed what interaction, if any, the EO's in recent times have had with the Church of the East.  I'd be interested in learning about that also. 
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« Reply #2 on: August 07, 2009, 01:59:48 AM »

thanks salpy! i'll check them out. do you know what the relations have been like (particularely in the Syrian Church)?
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« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2009, 02:05:04 AM »

I'm interested in what is being done in ecumenical relations with the Church of the East.

After doing some research on them, including reading documents on the rich history of the Persian Church, as well as their position on Nestorius, and the Nestorian heresy (which I believe Nestorius would have condemned), as well as the Church's Christology (which matches what Nestorius ACTUALLY taught) I have come to the conclusion that the Christology of the Church of the East and that of the Eastern (or chalcedonian) Orthodox Church are the same: and no that does not mean nestorian, as in the heresy, but rather as Nestorius taught. Two natures (usia, and physis) united in one person (prosopon). One Jesus Christ, human and Divine, niether nature diminished, nor confused.
But what of Mary's title, Theotokos?
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« Reply #4 on: August 07, 2009, 02:10:06 AM »

While there is still an official rejection, I have read that many Assyrians will accept the title if properly defined.

The initial objections seem to have started from a fear that it would lead to a sort of 'creation of God the Word at the Conception" theology, as well as the seeming 'second birth' of our Lord.

They certainly confesss the theology behind the title: that God dwelt in Mary's womb, not a human only.

However Nestorius' first anathema against St. Cyril seems to be heretical, but I'm not sure how much it was influenced by the afforementioned objections.
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« Reply #5 on: August 07, 2009, 02:12:29 AM »

thanks salpy! i'll check them out. do you know what the relations have been like (particularely in the Syrian Church)?

I know this was addressed in one of the other threads, but I can't recall where.   Smiley

Basically, there is an agreement among the OO Churches to the effect that no one OO Church will go it alone in seeking union with anyone outside our communion.  So the Syrian Church's relations would be the same as all the others.  All that I can recall otherwise is that there was some dialogue, but it didn't lead to anything.  I think there still is a feeling that our Christologies are different enough to prevent union at this time.

Informally, our relations are warm.  It is not uncommon for Armenians and Assyrians to intermarry.
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« Reply #6 on: August 07, 2009, 02:58:55 AM »

While there is still an official rejection, I have read that many Assyrians will accept the title if properly defined.
Properly defined how?

The initial objections seem to have started from a fear that it would lead to a sort of 'creation of God the Word at the Conception" theology, as well as the seeming 'second birth' of our Lord.

They certainly confesss the theology behind the title: that God dwelt in Mary's womb, not a human only.
If they confess the theology behind the title, then they should have no problem accepting the title, shouldn't they?  If they don't accept the title, what does that tell you?
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« Reply #7 on: August 07, 2009, 03:05:18 AM »

But what of Mary's title, Theotokos?

I did read an intresting website some time ago (http://www.nestorian.org). It is admittedly maintained by a self described "nestorian", but I was really struck with how Orthodox and un-Nestorian the Christology described on the site was. I expected it to be completely alien to Orthodox Christology.

I do think that the biggest point of disagreement is on the official title of the Theotokos.

edit in red
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« Reply #8 on: August 07, 2009, 03:25:40 AM »

But what of Mary's title, Theotokos?

I did read an intresting website some time ago (http://www.nestorian.org). It is admittedly maintained by a self described "nestorian", but I was really struck with how Orthodox and un-Nestorian the Christology described on the site was. I expected it to be completely alien to Orthodox Christology.

I do think that the biggest point of disagreement is on the official title of the Theotokos.

edit in red

I had the same experience. I studied at University with a sister of a Bishop of the Nestorian Church 25 years ago and got to know the family well. One of the things that I learned is that the word "Nestorian" means something different to them than it does to us, and we need to be aware of this. Just because they describe themselves as the "Nestorian Church" does not mean they hold what we understand as the Nestorian Heresy.
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« Reply #9 on: August 07, 2009, 09:32:13 AM »

The "Nestorian" theology underwent a major revision under Babai the Great, around the time of the Fifth Council.  He continued to reject Theopaschism, however, which would be a major problem.

Another would be that they canonized Nestorius.
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« Reply #10 on: August 07, 2009, 01:32:54 PM »

What kind of revision? Could you give info on some of the changes made?

And, yes, that is a little uncomfortable. I believe he is venerated in their liturgy.
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« Reply #11 on: August 07, 2009, 01:36:26 PM »

But what of Mary's title, Theotokos?

I did read an intresting website some time ago (http://www.nestorian.org). It is admittedly maintained by a self described "nestorian", but I was really struck with how Orthodox and un-Nestorian the Christology described on the site was. I expected it to be completely alien to Orthodox Christology.

I do think that the biggest point of disagreement is on the official title of the Theotokos.

edit in red

I had the exact same experience. The nestorian heresy I knew was not what was being preached. I was shocked to read some of Nestorius' writings and learn that he despised the heresy as much as any Cyrillian Christian. He even wrote  paper defending himself against the heresy named after him.
I don't see the problem with "Theotokos", but they still have reserves about it, sadly...
But what of Mary's title, Theotokos?

I did read an intresting website some time ago (http://www.nestorian.org). It is admittedly maintained by a self described "nestorian", but I was really struck with how Orthodox and un-Nestorian the Christology described on the site was. I expected it to be completely alien to Orthodox Christology.

I do think that the biggest point of disagreement is on the official title of the Theotokos.

edit in red

I had the same experience. I studied at University with a sister of a Bishop of the Nestorian Church 25 years ago and got to know the family well. One of the things that I learned is that the word "Nestorian" means something different to them than it does to us, and we need to be aware of this. Just because they describe themselves as the "Nestorian Church" does not mean they hold what we understand as the Nestorian Heresy.

I agree. The Nestorianism they hold is what Nestorius actually preached, as opposed to what the heresy preached.
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St. Cyril, St. Leo, and St. Severus pray that the Church may be united and one, Eastern and Oriental.St. Issac the Syrian, pray that Assyria would return to the Holy Church. St. Gregory, pray for Rom
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« Reply #12 on: August 07, 2009, 02:10:46 PM »

http://www.nestorian.org/the_lynching_of__nestorius.html

This was an interesting article.
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« Reply #13 on: August 07, 2009, 03:55:34 PM »

What kind of revision? Could you give info on some of the changes made?

And, yes, that is a little uncomfortable. I believe he is venerated in their liturgy.

My understanding is that he reworked the language, but substantively he retained the Christology of Nestorius' teacher, Theodore of Mopsuestia, whose writings he relied on and who also is venerated by the Church of the East. 
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« Reply #14 on: August 07, 2009, 04:14:06 PM »

I agree. The Nestorianism they hold is what Nestorius actually preached, as opposed to what the heresy preached.

The problem here is that the Christology of Nestorius and other Theodorans has been exaggerated over time for polemical reasons.  We often hear that the Assyrians "believe in two sons," or that they "believe Christ was two persons."  That's actually not what they believe, or ever believed.  The difference between their Christology and ours is more subtle than that, but that doesn't mean there isn't a real difference.  However, because their position has been so exaggerated, people are often surprised when they hear that Nestorius didn't teach these things, and they jump to the conclusion that he must therefore have not been a heretic and that the Church of the East has the same Christology as the EO's, or even the OO's.

You don't want to necessarily jump to that conclusion, though.  Fr. Anastasios, a while back, did an analysis of some of the things written by Nestorius toward the end of his life.  This shows that he did hold a Christology which was defective from both an EO and OO viewpoint:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,3673.msg48474.html#msg48474


Also, one of our members, Ronyodish, in post 88 the thread below, described how the Chaldean Church (which I understand uses the Christology formulated by Babai) sees the sufferings of Christ on the cross:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,16412.msg240639.html#msg240639

I'm not a theologian, but my understanding is that from the viewpoint of OO's this separates Christ's humanity and divinity a little too much.  An EO on that thread indicated that his Church would have a problem with it also. 
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« Reply #15 on: August 07, 2009, 04:50:14 PM »

Great post Salpy.
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« Reply #16 on: August 07, 2009, 09:45:28 PM »

Well, after reading this I musty confess that I see a greater division between man and God than I thought.

Could someone please explain Communicatio idiomatum? I don't quite understand the concept...
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« Reply #17 on: August 07, 2009, 11:04:59 PM »

Well, after reading this I musty confess that I see a greater division between man and God than I thought.

Could someone please explain Communicatio idiomatum? I don't quite understand the concept...

It means each nature continues what is proper to it, but in the hypostatic union in the person of Christ they are so united that any action of His is theandric.  So the Crucifixion was proper to the humanity, the Resurrection to the Divinity, but since Christ is one, God died for us and a Man rose.
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« Reply #18 on: August 08, 2009, 01:24:01 AM »

Thanks Smiley
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« Reply #19 on: August 08, 2009, 03:13:07 AM »


Could someone please explain Communicatio idiomatum? I don't quite understand the concept...

In the orthodox sense it means that almost any attribute or circumstance of either full humanity or full divinity can be attributed to the hypostasis of the Incarnate Word, because He fully possesses and fully subsists in both His humanity and His divinity without any form of separation.

The Confessional Lutherans took it so far as to mean that the two natures communicate attributes to each other (rather than simply to the hypostasis of the Word), and thus that, for instance, the humanity of Christ is present everywhere simply by virtue of the Incarnation. I don't recognize this latter form and believe it to be a heretical form of Synousiast Monophysitism.
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« Reply #20 on: August 08, 2009, 03:04:16 PM »

But it would be Christ present everywhere, as is proper to his divinity. But through communicato idiomatum would that mean that the Man Christ Jesus is present everywhere?
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« Reply #21 on: August 08, 2009, 03:38:25 PM »

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,3673.0.html

After reading this post by Fr. Anastasios, I have come to the conclusion that the teachings of Nestorius are indeed more like the heresy than I thought.

As far as I can tell, his Christology can be likened to Christ the Man being a Temple, and Christ the Word being the Ark within. The Temple is only holy insofar as the Ark dwells within.
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« Reply #22 on: August 08, 2009, 05:13:50 PM »


But it would be Christ present everywhere, as is proper to his divinity.

Well, this is not what I'm talking about. The Lutherans taught that being present everywhere actually becomes proper to not only the divinity of Christ but also His humanity. I think they are much more clearly a heretical shade of Monophysitism than anyone could ever accuse the Orientals of being.


But through communicato idiomatum would that mean that the Man Christ Jesus is present everywhere?

Through the orthodox communication of attributes, "the Man Christ Jesus", who is more accurately the Word become human, would be present everywhere, but only with respect to His divine ousia, not also with respect to His human ousia. At least this is my understanding. I stand available for correction on this.
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« Reply #23 on: August 08, 2009, 05:18:40 PM »

Okay, so under the confessional Lutheran view, ominpresence becomes proper to Christ's humanity as well as to His Divinity. That does sound like monophysitism. To an extent. As you said, the Oriental Orthodox do not go this far.

Salpy, from what I understand, you look at the eastern and Orientals as one Orthodox Church. Would you extend this to the Assyrians as well?
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« Reply #24 on: August 08, 2009, 05:26:52 PM »

Salpy, from what I understand, you look at the eastern and Orientals as one Orthodox Church. Would you extend this to the Assyrians as well?

I'm not even remotely an expert on this.  However, I have heard my priest (who is very ecumenical) say that we and the EO's have the same beliefs, whereas the Assyrians are different.  I'm not going to contradict my priest.   Smiley  Also, what little studying I have done of the subject tells me that their Christology is different than ours.  We are not the same Church as the Church of the East.
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« Reply #25 on: August 10, 2009, 03:29:06 AM »

Thank you Salpy (and also Fr. Anastasios) for some excellent posts.

Perhaps the blunt errors of today are making us more accepting of the well worded heresies of ancient.
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« Reply #26 on: August 10, 2009, 03:59:15 PM »

It seems that while most OO are willing to admit that currently the EO are not explicitly heretical, that they are at the very least schismatic. This is what was recently conveyed to me with a Coptic priest I met with. Further, I think in a conversation with Father Peter, he conveyed that he views the Council of Chalcedon as actually having been a point of Christological deficiency in the history of the EOC, again, even if they have now developed an orthodox Christology.

The Assyrian Church of the East, on the other hand, is generally recognized the OO and EO as being not only schismatic, but heretical as well.
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« Reply #27 on: August 10, 2009, 04:07:36 PM »

Getting back to the question in the original post, is there any dialogue going on between the EO's and the Assyrians?  I know about 100 years ago, some Assyrians joined the Russian Church.  That's all I know, though.  Is there any dialogue now?
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« Reply #28 on: August 10, 2009, 04:20:12 PM »


Getting back to the question in the original post, is there any dialogue going on between the EO's and the Assyrians?  I know about 100 years ago, some Assyrians joined the Russian Church.  That's all I know, though.  Is there any dialogue now?

I believe the answer is no, but I'm not sure. There's actually probably more dialogue going on between the OO and ACE than the EO and ACE.
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« Reply #29 on: August 10, 2009, 05:45:38 PM »

I would have expected the opposite, considering the diophysite/miaphysite difference. Maybe its the closer culture between Assyrians and the OO churches, especially the Malankara Orthodox Church.
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« Reply #30 on: August 10, 2009, 07:02:07 PM »


I would have expected the opposite, considering the diophysite/miaphysite difference. Maybe its the closer culture between Assyrians and the OO churches, especially the Malankara Orthodox Church.

The numbering of the hypostases is significantly more important than the numbering of the physes.
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« Reply #31 on: August 10, 2009, 07:57:51 PM »

The numbering of the hypostases is significantly more important than the numbering of the physes.

If we keep everything right, except fail in the smallest point, we are guilty of all error.
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« Reply #32 on: August 10, 2009, 08:56:19 PM »

The numbering of the hypostases is significantly more important than the numbering of the physes.

If we keep everything right, except fail in the smallest point, we are guilty of all error.

I don't see how this relates to what I said.
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« Reply #33 on: August 11, 2009, 02:15:12 PM »

The numbering of the hypostases is significantly more important than the numbering of the physes.

If we keep everything right, except fail in the smallest point, we are guilty of all error.
Good reason to not be a perfectionist. Tongue
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