Orthodox America

   381 - The Second Ecumenical Council - 1981

From the "Last Farewell" of St. Gregory the Theologian to the 150 Fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council (On his resignation as Patriarch)

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This year marks the 1600th anniversary of the Second Ecumenical Council held in Constantinople 150 Fathers attended the Council, including many of the great saints of the period: St. Meletius of Antioch (who opened the. Council), St. Gregory the Theologian (who was elected Patriarch of Constantople and then presided over it), St; Gregory of Nyssa, St Cyril of Jerusalem, and others. There were no representatives from the Pope of Rome, but the West accepted the Council.

The Council was called primarily against the heretic Macedonius, who taught that the Holy Spirit was not God but a created being, as well as against the other heresies of the 4th century. Its chief accomplishment was to reaffirm the Orthodox doctrine of the First Ecumenical .Council, held at Nicaea in 325, which declared the Divinity of Jesus Christ against the Arians, who believed Him to be only a creature. It completed the Nicene Creed with certain additions,. especially the final articles on the Holy Spirit, the Church,. etc,

One important heresy the Council refuted was. that of chiliasm or millenarianism, taught by a certain Apollinarius. This heresy, based on a misunderstanding of chapter 20 of the Apocalypse, taught that after Christ's Second Coming He would reign on earth with His saints for a thousand years. Some of the heretics described the life of these thousand years as one of bodily pleasures, while others taught of it in a more spiritual way; but all alike taught that it was to be distinct from the eternal Kingdom of Heaven, which would open afterwards.

To combat this division of the one K in g do m of C h r i 5 t, the Second Council added to the Creed the words "and of His Kingdom there shall be no end." The later Fathers of the Church (for example, Blessed Augustine inthe West) taught the Orthodox doc trine that the "binding" of satan (Apoc. 20:2) began with Christ's crucifixion (Now shall the prince of this world be cast out--John 12:31), that the reign of Christ described in this chapter is with the souls of the saints (Apoc. 20:4), and that the "thousand years" is the whole period (the number being symbolic) between the First and Second Comings of Christ, the life of grace in the Church being already a beginning of Christ's Kingdom, which continues in heaven after death and reaches its perfection after the Last Judgment.

The Creed which was proclaimed by the Second Ecumenical Council is the very one which is sung today in all Orthodox churches during the Divine Liturgy and read at other parts of the daily services. Later Councils found this Creed to be so precise an expression of the Orthodox teaching that it forbade the adding or subtracting of a single word of it, In the West the Latin Church violated this command by adding the word "filioque" and teaching that the Holy Spirit proceeds "also from the Son,' thereby be ginning its separation from the Church of the Ecumenical Councils.

The Council also issued several canons relating to the organization and discipline of the Church.

For its proclamation of the Creed, setting forth so concisely the teaching of the Orthodox Church, the Second Ecumenical Council is fittingly celebrated by all Orthodox Christians. May its teaching be upheld to the very end of the age as the Orthodox confession of faith!

"Let us bid farewell to all contentious shiftings and balancings of the truth on either side, neither, like the Sabellians, assailing the Trinity in the interest of the Unity, and so destroying the distinction by a wicked confusion; nor, like the Arians, assailing the Unity in the interest of the Trinity, and by an impious distinction overthrowing the Oneness For our object is not to exchange one evil for another, but to ensure our attainment of that which is good ... Walking along the royal road which lies between the two extremes, which is the seat of the virtues, believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, of one Substance and glory. And thus we are regenerated, acknowledging the Unity in the Essence and in the undisturbed worship, and the Trinity in the Hypostases or Persons.