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History of Dogma - Volume V
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We have already described in Vol. III. of our present work, as far as it bore on the history of dogma, the part taken by the West during this period in the Christological controversies of the East, the great impetus given to the papacy by the successors of Damasus, and further by Leo I. and his successors. We have shown how the papal power was in the sixth century embroiled, and (under Justinian) almost perished, in the East Gothic and Byzantine turmoils; how the fifth Council produced a schism in the West, and shook the position of the papacy, and how on the other hand the latter regained and strengthened its importance through the instrumentality of Gregory I.513513Gregory, certainly, had almost to abandon the fifth Council. 514514The papal power received its greatest accession of authority from the days of Damasus to the end of the fifth century: it was then settled that the primacy was to be a permanent institution of the Catholic Church. This accession of strength was partly due to the fact that in that century the Chair of St. Peter was occupied by a number of peculiarly capable, clever, and energetic Bishops. But the advance was caused to a still greater extent by external conditions. The most important may be mentioned here. (1) The dogmatic complications in the East gave the Popes an opportunity of acting as umpires, or of exhibiting in full light the doctrinal correctness “characteristic of the Chair of St. Peter.” (2) The Western Roman Empire leant ultimately for support, in its decline, on the Roman Bishop (see the Ep. Valent. III. to Leo. I.); when it perished the latter was its natural heir, since the central political power in the West was gone, and the Byzantine Emperor had not the power, the leader of the German hosts not the prestige, necessary to restore it. (3) The storms of the tribal migration drove the Catholics of Western countries, which were seized by Arians, into the arms of Rome; even where this did not happen at once, the opposition ceased which had been previously offered to the claims of the Roman Bishop by the provinces, especially North Africa. (4) The patriarchal constitution never got established in the West, and the Metropolitan only succeeded in part; thus the development into the papal constitution was ensured for the future. (5) The transactions with the political power of Eastern Rome and the Imperial Bishop there now compelled the Roman Bishops, that they might not be at a disadvantage in dealing with Constantinople, to deduce their peculiar position, which they owed to the capital of the world, entirely from their spiritual (their apostolic or Petrine) dignity. But this exclusive basing of the Roman Chair on Peter afforded the firmest foundation at a time when all political force tottered or collapsed, but the religious was respected. Even the thought of political sovereignty, so far as such a thought could arise in the Roman Empire at all, seems to have dawned on Leo’s successors. In any case, the position of the papacy was so secure at the close of the fifth century, that even the frightful storms of the sixth century were unable to uproot it. That in the West—outside of Rome—the theory of the Roman Bishop (following Matt. XVI.) came but slowly to be recognised, and that the attempt was made to retain independence as far as the exigencies of the case permitted, ought to be expressly noticed. Theologians only admitted that the Roman Bishop represented ecclesiastical unity, and did not assent to the papistical inference that it was the prerogative of Rome to govern the Churches. We also reviewed the important work, in which Vincentius of Lerinum standing on Augustine’s shoulders, described the antiquitas catholicæ fidei, i.e., the Catholic conception of tradition.515515Vol. III., p. 230 ff. The whole West was agitated in our period by the storms of the tribal migrations. The ancient world received its final blow, and the Church itself, so far as it was composed of Romans, seemed to run wild under the horror and pressure of the times.516516Salvian. de gubern. I II. 44: “Ipsa ecclesia, quæ in omnibus esse debet placatrix dei, quid est aliud quam exacerbatrix dei? aut præter paucissimos quosdam, qui mala fugiunt, quid est aliud pœne omnis cœtus Christianorum quam sentina vitiorum?” The young peoples which streamed in were Christian, but Arian. In the kingdom of the Franks alone there arose a Catholic, German nation, which began slowly to be fused with the ancient Roman population; but the Church, with its cultus, law, and language, remained Latin: victus victori legem dat. The Franks were at the outset in the Latin Church, as at the present day the Mongolian tribes of Finland are in the Greek Church of Russia. This Latin Church, which, however, had parted in Franconia with the Roman Bishop, or was only connected with him by respect for him, preserved its old interests in Gaul and Spain, and continued its former life until the end of the sixth century.517517See Hatch, “The Organisation of the Early Christian Churches,” Lecture viii., and “The Growth of Church Institutions,” p. 1 f. Even up till that time the old civilisation had not wholly perished in it, but it was almost stifled by the barbarianism, which resulted from fusion with the invading populace. In North Africa, in spite of dreadful sufferings, Catholic Latin ecclesiasticism held its ground till on into the seventh century. But the Church, once so independent in its relations with Rome, found itself compelled more than once in this period to turn for succour to Rome for its self-preservation. The position of Italy, i.e., of the Roman Bishop, was wholly peculiar, for the Church of Middle and Lower Italy never played any part in Church history. So far as a Catholic Church still existed in the West in the German Empire, it represented the remnant of the shattered Western Roman Empire, and therefore lay in the sphere of power of the Roman Bishop, even if this relationship might not take any definite shape for the moment. But this Roman Bishop was himself fettered to the East, and political and ecclesiastical ties compelled him to look more to the East than the West. The fact that he nevertheless did not lose his connection with the latter, he, in the sixth century, owed more to his past, and his impregnable position in Rome, than to a deliberate policy.518518The recognition in Rome of the fifth Council had almost alienated Italy and North Africa from the Pope.

Under the Catholic Bishops who had survived in Gaul and North Africa as representatives of the Roman Empire, a not altogether unimportant part of the history of dogma was enacted in our period, viz., the fight for and against complete Augustinianism. The Roman Bishop, though much more concerned with the Christological and political questions of the East, intervened also in this matter. At the close of our period, when absolute darkness had settled on the West, the great monachist Pope and “father of superstitions” introduced the ecclesiastical world to the Middle Ages in the form required by uncivilised peoples. In doing so, he had not to do violence to his own convictions; for the civilisation that was passing away inclined to barbarianism.519519Yet classical culture was never quite extinct in Italy (Rome). Its representatives in the sixth century were Cassiodorus, the pious churchman, on the one hand, and Boethius, the latitudinarian, on the other. The former laboured earnestly on behalf of the Church and monachism of his time (compare also the exertions of Junilius); the latter was the instructor of a later age (see above, p. 34).

We have only therefore to consider, in what follows, the conflict waged round Augustinianism, and the position of Gregory the Great in the history of dogma.520520On the history of the Apostolic Symbol in our period see my article in Herzog’s R. E. 3 Ed.; Caspari, Quellen I.-IV. Vols.; v. Zerschwitz, System der Katechetik II. 1. Of the additions made to the ancient Roman Symbol, and afterwards universally accepted, the only one important dogmatically is the phrase “communio sanctorum.” It can be proved from the second homily of Faustus of Rhegium (Caspari, Kirchenhist. Anekdota, p. 338), and his Tractat de symbolo, which he certainly did not edit himself (Caspari, Quellen IV., p. 250 ff.), that South Gallican Churches had the words “communio sanctorum” in the Apostolicum in the second half of the fifth century. It is debatable whether they already stood in the Symbol of Nicetas, whom I identify with Nicetas of Romatiana—the friend of Paulinus of Nola; they may also have merely belonged to the exposition, which was strongly influenced by Cyril’s Catechisms (see Kattenbusch, Apost. Symbolum, 1894, Vol. I). If it were certain that they were merely meant in the Gallican Symbol to stand in exegetical apposition to “sancta ecclesia,” then we would have to suppose that that Symbol had been influenced by the countless passages in which Augustine describes the Church as communio sanctorum, i.e., of the angels and all the elect, inclusive of the simple justi (or with synonymous terms). But, firstly, one does not conceive how a mere exegetical apposition should have got into the Symbol, and why that should have happened particularly in Gaul; secondly, the explanation of the words by Faustus points in another direction. We read in his second homily: “Credamus et sanctorum communionem, sed sanctos non tam pro dei parte, quam pro dei honore veneremur. Non sunt sancti pars illius, sed ipse probatur pars esse sanctorum. Quare? quia, quod sunt, de illuminatione et de similitudine ejus accipiunt; in sanctis autem non res dei, sed pars dei est. Quicquid enim de deo participant, divinæ est gratiæ, non naturæ. Colamus in sanctis timorem et amorem dei, non divinitatem dei, colamus merita, non quæ de proprio habent, sed quæ accipere pro devotione meruerunt. Digne itaque venerandi sunt, dum nobis dei cultum et futuræ vitæ desiderium contemptu mortis insinuant.” And still more clearly in the Tractate (p. 273 f.): “. . . transeamus ad sanctorum communionem. Illos hic sententia ista confundit, qui sanctorum et amicorum dei cineres non in honore debere esse blasphemant, qui beatorum martyrum gloriosam memoriam sacrorum reverentia monumentorum colendam esse non credunt. In symbolum prævaricati sunt, et Christo in fonte mentiti sunt.” Faustus accordingly understands by the “sancti” not all the justi, but—as Augustine not infrequently does—the specifically “holy,” and he contends that the words aimed at the followers of Vigilantius who rejected the worship of the saints. In that case “communio sanctorum” means communion of or with the specifically “holy.” It is still matter of dispute whether this is really the idea to which the Apostolicum owes its questionable acquisition, or whether the latter is only a very early artificial explanation. On the “filioque” in the Constantinopolitan Creed, see Vol. IV., p. 126 f.


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