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

Session IV.

[Among numerous passages of the Fathers one was read from a sermon by St. Gregory Nyssen in which he describes a painting representing the sacrifice of Isaac and tells how he could not pass it “without tears.”]

The most glorious princes said:  See how our father grieved at the depicted history, even so that he wept.

Basil, the most holy bishop of Ancyra, said:  Many times the father had read the story, but perchance he had not wept; but when once he saw it painted, he wept.

John the most reverend monk and presbyter and representative of the Eastern high priests, said:  If to such a doctor the picture was helpful and drew forth tears, how much more in the case of the ignorant and simple will it bring compunction and benefit.

The holy Synod said:  We have seen in several places the history of Abraham painted as the father says.

Theodore the most holy bishop of Catanea, said:  If the holy Gregory, vigilant526526    It is impossible in English to reproduce the play upon the words Γρηγόριος ὁ γρηγορῶν εἰς τὰ θεῖα νοήματα, κ.τ.λ. in divine cogitation, was moved to tears at the sight of the story of Abraham, how much more shall a painting of the incarnation of our Lord Christ, who for us was made man, move the beholders to their profit and to tears?

Tarasius the most holy Patriarch said:  Shall we not weep when we see an image of our crucified Lord?

The holy Synod said:  We shall indeed—for in that shall be found perfectly the profundity of the abasement of the incarnate God for our sakes.

[Post nonnulla a passage is read from St. Athanasius in which he describes the miracles worked at Berytus, after which there is found the following (col. 224),]

Tarasius, the most holy Patriarch, said:  But perhaps someone will say, Why do not the images which we have work miracles?  To which we answer, that as the Apostle has said, signs are for those who do not believe, not for believers.  For they who approached that image were unbelievers.  Therefore God gave them a sign through the image, to draw them to our Christian faith.  But “an evil and adulterous generation that seeketh after a sign and no sign shall be given it.”

[After a number of other quotations, was read the Canon of the Council in Trullo as a canon of the Sixth Synod (col. 233).]

Tarasius, the most holy Patriarch said:  There are certain affected with the sickness of ignorance who are scandalized by these canons [viz. of the Trullan Synod] and say, And do you really think they were adopted at the Sixth Synod?  Now let all such know that the holy great Sixth Synod was assembled at Constantinople concerning those who said that there was but one energy and will in Christ.  These anathematized the heretics, and having expounded the orthodox faith, they went to their homes in the fourteenth year of Constantine.  But after four or five years the same527527    We have seen that this is an error.  Vide Introduction to Trullan Canons. fathers came together under Justinian, the son of Constantine, and set forth the before-mentioned canons.  And let no one doubt concerning them.  For they who subscribed under Constantine were the same as they who under Justinian signed the present chart, as can manifestly be established from the unchangeable similarity of their own handwriting.  For it was right that they who had appeared at an ecumenical synod should also set forth ecclesiastical canons.  They said that we should be led as (by the hand) by the venerable images to the recollection of the incarnation of Christ and of his saving death, and if by them we are led to the realization of the incarnation of Christ our God, what sort of an opinion shall we have of them who break down the venerable images?

[At the close of the Session, after a number of anathematisms had been pronounced, the following was read, to which all the bishops subscribed (col. 317).]

Fulfilling the divine precept of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ, our holy Fathers did not hide the light of the divine knowledge given by him to them under a bushel, but they set it upon the candlestick of most useful teaching, so that it might give light to all in the house—that is to say, to those who are born in the Catholic Church; lest perchance anyone of those who piously confess the Lord might strike his foot against the stone of heretical evil doctrine.  For they expelled every error of heretics and they cut off the rotten member if it was incurably sick.  And with a fan they purged the floor.  And the good wheat, that is to say the word which nourisheth and which maketh strong the heart of man, they laid up in the granary of the Catholic Church; but throwing outside the chaff of heretical evil opinion they burned it with unquenchable fire.  Therefore also this holy and ecumenical Synod, met together for the second time in this illustrious metropolis of Nice, by the will of God and at the bidding of our pious and most faithful Emperors, Irene a new Helena, and a new Constantine, her God-protected offspring, having considered by their perusal the teachings of our approved and blessed Fathers, hath glorified God himself, from whom there was given to them wisdom for our instruction, and for the perfecting of the Catholic and Apostolic Church:  and against those who do not believe as they did, but have attempted to overshadow the truth through their novelty, they have chanted the words of the psalm:528528    The reference is to Ps. lxxiv. 3, but the text is quite different from ours.  “Oh how much evil have thine enemies done in thy sanctuary; and have glorified themselves, saying, There is not a teacher any more, and they shall not know that we treated with guile the word of truth.”  But we, in all things holding the doctrines and precepts of the same our God-bearing Fathers, make proclamation with one mouth and one heart, neither adding anything, nor taking anything away from those things which have been delivered to us by them.  But in these things we are strengthened, in these things we are confirmed.  Thus we confess, thus we teach, just as the holy and ecumenical six Synods have decreed and ratified.  We believe in one God the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, his only-begotten Son and Word, through whom all things were made, and in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and giver of life, consubstantial and coeternal with the same Father and with his Son who hath had no beginning.  The unbuilt-up, indivisible, incomprehensible, and non-circumscribed Trinity; he, wholly and alone, is to be worshipped and revered with adoration; one Godhead, one Lordship, one dominion, one realm and dynasty, which without division is apportioned to the Persons, and is fitted to the essence severally.  For we confess that one of the same holy and consubstantial Trinity, our Lord Jesus Christ the true God, in these last days was incarnate and made man for our salvation, and having saved our race through his saving incarnation, and passion, and resurrection, and ascension into heaven; and having delivered us from the error of idols; as also the prophet says, Not an ambassador, not an angel, but the Lord himself hath saved us.  Him we also follow, and adopt his voice, and cry aloud; No Synod, no power of kings, no God-hated agreement hath delivered the Church from the error of the idols, as the Jewdaizing conciliabulum hath madly dreamed, which raved against the venerable images; but the Lord of glory himself, the incarnate God, hath saved us and hath snatched us from idolatrous deceit.  To him therefore be glory, to him be thanks, to him be eucharists, to him be praise, to him be magnificence.  For his redemption and his salvation alone can perfectly save, and not that of other men who come of the earth.  For he himself hath fulfilled for us, upon whom the ends of the earth are come through the economy of his incarnation, the words spoken beforehand by his prophets, for he dwelt among us, and went in and out among us, and cast out the names of idols from the earth, as it was written.  But we salute the voices of the Lord and of his Apostles through which we have been taught to honour in the first place her who is properly and truly the Mother of God and exalted above all the heavenly powers; also the holy and angelic powers; and the blessed and altogether lauded Apostles, and the glorious Prophets and the triumphant Martyrs which fought for Christ, and the holy and God-bearing Doctors, and all holy men; and to seek for their intercessions, as able to render us at home with the all-royal God of all, so long as we keep his commandments, and strive to live virtuously.  Moreover we salute the image of the honourable and life-giving Cross, and the holy reliques of the Saints; and we receive the holy and venerable images:  and we salute them, and we embrace them, according to the ancient traditions of the holy Catholic Church of God, that is to say of our holy Fathers, who also received these things and established them in all the most holy Churches of God, and in every place of his dominion.  These honourable and venerable images, as has been said, we honour and salute and reverently venerate:  to wit, the image of the incarnation of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, and that of our spotless Lady the all-holy Mother of God, from whom he pleased to take flesh, and to save and deliver us from all impious idolatry; also the images of the holy and incorporeal Angels, who as men appeared to the just.  Likewise also the figures and effigies of the divine and all-lauded Apostles, also of the God-speaking Prophets, and of the struggling Martyrs and of holy men.  So that through their representations we may be able to be led back in memory and recollection to the prototype, and have a share in the holiness of some one of them.

Thus we have learned to think of these things, and we have been strengthened by our holy Fathers, and we have been strengthened by their divinely handed down teaching.  And thanks be to God for his ineffable gift, that he hath not deserted us at the end nor hath the rod of the ungodly come into the lot of the righteous, lest the righteous put their hands, that is to say their actual deeds,529529    This obscure phrase Mendham omits altogether. unto wickedness.  But he doeth well unto those who are good and true of heart, as the psalmist David melodiously has sung; with whom also we sing the rest of the psalm:  As for such as turn back unto their own wickedness, the Lord shall lead them forth with the evil doers; and peace shall be upon the Israel of God.

[The subscriptions follow immediately and close the acts of this session (col. 321–346).]


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