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NPNF2-14. The Seven Ecumenical Councils
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Extracts from the Acts.

Session I.

(Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. VII., col. 53.)

[Certain bishops who had been led astray by the Iconoclasts came, asking to be received back.  The first of these was Basil of Ancyra.]

The bishop Basil of Ancyra read as follows from a book; Inasmuch as ecclesiastical legislation has canonically been handed down from past time, even from the beginning from the holy Apostles, and from their successors, who were our holy fathers and teachers, and also from the six holy and ecumenical synods, and from the local synods which were gathered in the interests of orthodoxy, that those returning from any heresy whatever to the orthodox faith and to the tradition of the Catholic Church, might deny their own heresy, and confess the orthodox faith,

Wherefore I, Basil, bishop of the city of Ancyra, proposing to be united to the Catholic Church, and to Hadrian the most holy Pope of Old Rome, and to Tarasius the most blessed Patriarch, and to the most holy apostolic sees, to wit, Alexandria, Antioch, and the Holy City, as well as to all orthodox high-priests and priests, make this written confession of my faith, and I offer it to you as to those who have received power by apostolic authority.  And in this also I beg pardon from your divinely gathered holiness for my tardiness in this matter.  For it was not right that I should have fallen behind in the confession of orthodoxy, but it arose from my entire lack of knowledge, and slothful and negligent mind in the matter.  Wherefore the rather I ask your blessedness to grant me indulgence in God’s sight.

I believe, therefore, and make my confession in one God, the Father Almighty, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, and in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life.  The Trinity, one in essence and one in majesty, must be worshipped and glorified in one godhead, power, and authority.  I confess all things pertaining to the incarnation of one of the Holy Trinity, our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, as the Saints and the six Ecumenical Synods have handed down.  And I reject and anathematize every heretical babbling, as they also have rejected them.  I ask for the intercessions (πρεσβείας ) of our spotless Lady the Holy Mother of God, and those of the holy and heavenly powers, and those of all the Saints.518518    Thus far there was no expression of opinion from which the Iconoclasts would have dissented, for in all that regarded the Blessed Virgin and the Saints and their invocation and patronage, the heretics agreed with the orthodox.  Protestants have been in the habit of treating the Iconoclasts as if they were substantially agreed with them with regard to the cultus of the Blessed Virgin and of the other Saints.  What an error this is, is easily proved by citing two of the anathematisms of their Conciliabulum.
   “If anyone shall not confess that the Ever-virgin Mary is properly and truly the Mother of God, and more exalted than every creature, whether visible or invisible, and does not seek her intercessions with sincere faith because she has confidence in approaching our God. who was born of her, let him be anathema.” (L. and C., Conc., Tom. VII., col. 524.)

   “If anyone does not confess that all the Saints from the beginning down to now, who whether before the Law, or under the Law, or in grace pleased God, should be honoured in his presence both with soul and body, and does not seek their prayers, according to the tradition of the Church as of those having confidence to plead for the world, let him be anathema.”  (Ibid. col. 528.)

And receiving their holy and honourable reliques with all honour (τιμῆς), I salute and venerate these with honour (τιμητικῶς προσκυνέω), hoping to have a share in their holiness.  Likewise also the venerable images (εἰκόνας) of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the humanity he assumed for our salvation; and of our spotless Lady, the holy Mother of God; and of the angels like unto God; and of the holy Apostles, Prophets, Martyrs, and of all the Saints—the sacred images of all these, I salute and venerate—rejecting and anathematizing with my whole soul and mind the synod which was gathered together out of stubbornness and madness, and which styled itself the Seventh Synod, but which by those who think accurately was called lawfully and canonically a pseudo-synod, as being contrary to all truth and piety, and audaciously and temerariously against the divinely handed down ecclesiastical legislation, yea, even impiously having yelped at and scoffed at the holy and venerable images, and having ordered these to be taken away out of the holy churches of God; over which assembly presided Theodosius with the pseudonym of Ephesius, Sisinnius of Perga, with the surname Pastillas, Basilius of Pisidia, falsely called “tricaccabus;” with whom the wretched Constantine, the then Patriarch, was led (ἐματαιώθη) astray.

These things thus I confess and to these I assent, and therefore in simplicity of heart and in uprightness of mind, in the presence of God, I have made the subjoined anathematisms.

Anathema to the calumniators of the Christians, that is to the image breakers.

Anathema to those who apply the words of Holy Scripture which were spoken against idols, to the venerable images.

Anathema to those who do not salute the holy and venerable images.

Anathema to those who say that Christians have recourse to the images as to gods.

Anathema to those who call the sacred images idols.

Anathema to those who knowingly communicate with those who revile and dishonour the venerable images.

Anathema to those who say that another than Christ our Lord hath delivered us from idols.

Anathema to those who spurn the teachings of the holy Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church, taking as a pretext and making their own the arguments of Arius, Nestorius, Eutyches, and Dioscorus, that unless we were evidently taught by the Old and New Testaments, we should not follow the teachings of the holy Fathers and of the holy Ecumenical Synods, and the tradition of the Catholic Church.

Anathema to those who dare to say that the Catholic Church hath at any time sanctioned idols.

Anathema to those who say that the making of images is a diabolical invention and not a tradition of our holy Fathers.

This is my confession [of faith] and to these propositions I give my assent.  And I pronounce this with my whole heart, and soul, and mind.

And if at any time by the fraud of the devil (which may God forbid!) I voluntarily or involuntarily shall be opposed to what I have now professed, may I be anathema from the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, and from the Catholic Church and every hierarchical order a stranger.

I will keep myself from every acceptance of a bribe and from filthy lucre in accordance with the divine canons of the holy Apostles and of the approved Fathers.

Tarasius, the most holy Patriarch, said:  This whole sacred gathering yields glory and thanks to God for this confession of yours, which you have made to the Catholic Church.

The Holy Synod said:  Glory to God which maketh one that which was severed.

[Theodore, bishop of Myra, then read the same confession, and was received.  The next bishop who asked to be received read as follows:  (col. 60)]

Theodosius, the humble Christian, to the holy and Ecumenical Synod:  I confess and I agree to (συντίθεμαι) and I receive and I salute and I venerate in the first place the spotless image of our Lord Jesus Christ, our true God, and the holy image of her who bore him without seed, the holy Mother of God, and her help and protection and intercessions each day and night as a sinner to my aid I call for, since she has confidence with Christ our God, as he was born of her.  Likewise also I receive and venerate the images of the holy and most laudable Apostles, prophets, and martyrs and the fathers and cultivators of the desert.  Not indeed as gods (God forbid!) do I ask all these with my whole heart to pray for me to God, that he may grant me through their intercessions to find mercy at his hands at the day of judgment, for in this I am but showing forth more clearly the affection and love of my soul which I have borne them from the first.  Likewise also I venerate and honour and salute the reliques of the Saints as of those who fought for Christ and who have received grace from him for the healing of diseases and the curing of sicknesses and the casting out of devils, as the Christian Church has received from the holy Apostles and Fathers even down to us to-day.

Moreover, I am well pleased that there should be images in the churches of the faithful, especially the image of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the holy Mother of God, of every kind of material, both gold and silver and of every colour, so that his incarnation may be set forth to all men.  Likewise there may be painted the lives of the Saints and Prophets and Martyrs, so that their struggles and agonies may be set forth in brief, for the stirring up and teaching of the people, especially of the unlearned.

For if the people go forth with lights and incense to meet the “laurata” and images of the Emperors when they are sent to cities or rural districts, they honour surely not the tablet covered over with wax, but the Emperor himself.  How much more is it necessary that in the churches of Christ our God, the image of God our Saviour and of his spotless Mother and of all the holy and blessed fathers and ascetics should be painted?  Even as also St. Basil says:  “Writers and painters set forth the great deeds of war; the one by word, the other by their pencils; and each stirs many to courage.”  And again the same author “How much pains have you ever taken that you might find one of the Saints who was willing to be your importunate intercessor to the Lord?”519519    Mendham seems to have reversed the sense here altogether.  And Chrysostom says, “The charity of the Saints is not diminished by their death, nor does it come to an end with their exit from life, but after their death they are still more powerful than when they were alive,” and many other things without measure.  Therefore I ask you, O ye Saints!  I call out to you.  I have sinned against heaven and in your sight.  Receive me as God received the luxurious man, and the harlot, and the thief.  Seek me out, as Christ sought out the sheep that was lost, which he carried on his shoulders; so that there may be joy in the presence of God and of his angels over my salvation and repentance, through your intervention, O all-holy lords!  Let them who do not venerate the holy and venerable images be anathema!  Anathema to those who blaspheme against the honourable and venerable images!  To those who dare to attack and blaspheme the venerable images and call them idols, anathema!  To the calumniators of Christianity, that is to say the Iconoclasts, anathema!  To those who do not diligently teach all the Christ-loving people to venerate and salute the venerable and sacred and honourable images of all the Saints who pleased God in their several generations, anathema!  To those who have a doubtful mind and do not confess with their whole hearts that they venerate the sacred images, anathema!

Sabbas, the most reverend hegumenus of the monastery of the Studium, said:  According to the Apostolic precepts and the Ecumenical Synods he is worthy to be received back.

Tarasius, the most holy Patriarch, said:  Those who formerly were the calumniators of orthodoxy, now are become the advocates of the truth.

[Near the end of this session, (col. 77)]

John, the most reverend bishop and legate of the Eastern high priests said:  This heresy is the worst of all heresies.  Woe to the iconoclasts!  It is the worst of heresies, as it subverts the incarnation (οἰκονομίαν ) of our Saviour.520520    In the English Hefele (Vol. V., p. 363) this appears in the following most extraordinary form.  “John…declared that the veneration of images was the worst of all heresies ‘because it detracted from the Economy (Incarnation) of the Redeemer.’”  (!)


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