The issue is worth pondering because another schism could happen again. It might not seem likely now, but in 351 AD did anyone see the split over Chalcedon coming? They couldn't have.
True, I suppose it is possible, but let's not count our schisms before they're hatched.
I definitely see what you're saying. Let's rewind to the fifth century, which offers better examples. Given the geographical proximity between Chalcedonians and non-Chalcedonians there, Christians in Georgia/Armenia and Greater Syria would surely have been aware of the rupture following Chalcedon and been in a position, at least in some cases, to choose between the two sides. For the sake of being sure they were on the right path, how could the ordinary person back then have made a decision?
I can't answer for ancient people, of course, but reading through history it strikes me that the communions developed somewhat gradually, and especially in the places you mentioned there was a lot of back-and-forth, so to speak. If I recall correctly, the Georgians still venerate some Syriac anti-Chalcedonian saints, even though they're not likely to admit today that they themselves were ever anti-Chalcedon. There are other indications, of course (for instance, Georgian icons
have a heck of a lot more in common with Ethiopian
or other OO iconography than they do Byzantine
), but the point is that, yes, there were people that were sort of caught in between. There is even a word for Chalcedonian Armenians, though I don't remember what it is (I've read it in scholarly sources, but I don't speak Armenian myself so I've forgotten it). Also too there's the whole issue of the origins of the Melkites, 'Melkite' being a translation from Syriac; as I've read it, it was originally applied pejoratively by non-Chalcedonian Syriacs to those of their community who had accepted the imperial/Chalcedonian definition (though today the Melkites are Arabized, in common with the rest of the Chalcedonians in the Levant). These things, plus historical facts like how it took the Armenians roughly 50 years to get around to officially condemning Chalcedon at the Council of Dvin (506) suggest to me that there wasn't one moment when all the Armenians or all the Syriacs or all the whatevers woke up and decided to collectively hate Chalcedon, or for the others to collectively love it. Again, I think it goes back to it being okay to where you find the faith, because you can't spend your life in limbo over something that people obviously much smarter than any of us haven't yet resolved. Even in the famous story in which the Coptic monks of the desert were brought a copy of the Tome of Leo, they read it before they tore it up...just like the fathers of Chalcedon read it before they accepted it. So for me, when I went to the Coptic Church and started hearing from Copts themselves, and reading their fathers and their history regarding this issue, I was satisfied that their Christology made a lot of sense, their reasons for rejecting Chalcedon made a lot of sense, and that these were consistent with the earlier, pre-Chalcedonian saints that they told me have provided them a clear, Orthodoxy Christology and Theology since the pre-schism days (e.g., St. Cyril, St. Athanasius, etc). So for me there wasn't any big choice to make, and I didn't agonize that maybe I should really be a Byzantine. But I can understand that some people do that...I just think it's odd to project this uncertainty on to the past. Everyone that we know about eventually ended up somewhere, whether they were a minority (like Chalcedonian Armenians; I guess by today they have been completely assimilated into the EO, maybe Georgian, church?) or eventually a majority (e.g., EO in Palestine). So you should eventually end up somewhere, too.