History of the Catholic Church – The Council of Chalcedon (Story Series Ep8) [Part 3]

Finally the Bishops Arrive Chalcedon – 451 AD

September 1, 451 AD.

A great number of bishops gather at Nicaea. The legates had arrived Constantinople with correspondence from the Pope. The emperor was delayed by matters of the state. He decided it would be more convenient for the council to hold at Chalcedon just across the Strait of Constantinople.
During this delay, the ill-famed Dioscurus of Alexandria did his utmost. He plotted an excommunication of the pope himself!
The bishops set for Chalcedon and the emperor did not arrive until over a month later.

October 8, 451 AD.

Over five hundred bishops are gathered around the nave in the great Church of St. Euphemia. Arrays of bishops sit on either side of the central divide, facing each other with all episcopal decorum. Two bishops, clearly Western, and a presbyter with them, stand facing the bishops just after the balustrade of the sanctuary. Paschasinus, the bishop from Sicily and most senior of the three legates of Pope Leo at this synod, reads from a parchment he had been unrolled since all three assumed center positions.

“The most blessed successor of the Apostolic See and head of all the church’s requests that this holy synod proceed on the following guidelines:
First. Dioscorus must not sit amongst the bishops nor participate as a member of this council. The major work of this council is to pass judgment on him. If this first is not followed then the entire proceedings cannot continue”, he paused and stared into the synod.

Dioscorus left the place of the bishops sat and took a place in the nave of the church. Eusebius of Dorylaeum played the role of persecuting counsel in a law court. He read the acts of the synod of Flavian of Constantinople (of holy memory), and then the minutes of the Robber Synod.

The bishops approved the acts of Flavian and in strong words condemned Dioscurus.

“I acted on the orders of Emperor Theodosius II”, Dioscurus attempted a defense, “neither did I act alone. Some other bishops aided me. Bishop —”

“Away with Dioscurus the murderer”, the rising of many voices drowned his speech. There were so many bishops. The imperial commissioners and guards came in again and again to maintain decorum.

Eusebius did not finish reading the minutes and acts before the close of the session. Two days later, another session was held to finish the case. During this session, news came from the Emperor Marcian. He wishes the bishops to draw up a creed so as to resolve the issue once and forever.
His emissary was still speaking when one of the bishops said:

“The pope has given us the ruling about Eutyches. We follow the pope. We have signed the letter”

Other bishops agreed and to ratify this they read the Creed of Nicaea and of Constantinople, next the famous letters of St. Cyril against Nestorius and finally the Dogmatic Epistle of St. Leo.

After reading the Tome, the bishops acclaimed:

“It is Peter who says this through Leo. This is what we, all of us believe. This is the faith of the Apostles. Leo and Cyril teach the same thing.”

All the bishops gave their endorsement, each rising from his seat to sign.

The next session was held on October 13. Dioscorus was absent. Three times the council summoned him. Three times he refused to appear before the council. Paschasinus, acting with the authority of the pope and in concord with the council deposed Dioscurus for contumacy, and revoked all he executed in the Robber Synod.

Thirteen other sessions were held before the council closed on November 1, 451. Twenty-eight canons were drawn up touching many matters of discipline. Some canons dealt with the appointment of deaconesses, the rights of bishops over monks in their shoes, the consecration of bishops and the primacy of the see of Constantinople.
The twenty-eight canon attempted to raise the See of Constantinople (New Rome) to the second rank in honor after the Eternal City. The Legates resisted the canon but it was voted irrespective.

At the end of the Synod, the bishops sent the acts of the council to Pope Leo for ratification, together with the encomiums of Emperor Marcian.
The Pope ratified the acts of the council, which dealt with matters of Faith. He, however, in very strong words, rejected Canon 28.

Rome, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, were held in honour not because of the civic importance of the cities, but because of their ties to the Apostles as is clear. Constantinople, the old Byzantium, was only recently dignified by Emperor Constantine and had no apostolic ties. Raising it above Alexandria is contrary to tradition and against the declarations at Nicaea.
Emperor Marcian agreed. Bishop Anatolius of Constantinople whom the pope, especially lambasted, also succumbed.
And thus came to ashes the controversy kindled by Eutyches and bellowed into an inferno by Dioscurus.


Some beautiful excerpts from the awesomely worded Tome of Pope St. Leo the Great:

  • For it must again and again be repeated that one and the same is truly Son of God and truly son of man. God in that, in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God [John 1:1]; man in that the Word became flesh and dwelt in us. God in that all things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made: man in that He was made of a woman, made under law [Galatians 4:4].
  • The nativity of the flesh was the manifestation of human nature: the childbearing of a virgin is the proof of Divine power.
  • The infancy of a babe is shown in the humbleness of its cradle: the greatness of the Most High is proclaimed by the angels’ voices.
  • He who Herod treacherously endeavors to destroy is like ourselves in our earliest stage: but He whom the Magi delight to worship on their knees is the Lord of all.
  • So too when He came to the baptism of John, His forerunner, lest He should not be known through the veil of flesh, which covered His Divinity, the Father’s voice thundering from the sky, said, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased [Matthew 3:17].
  • And thus Him whom the devil’s craftiness attacks as a man, the ministries of angels serve as God.
  • To be hungry and thirsty, to be weary, and to sleep, is clearly human: but to satisfy 5,000 men with five loaves, and to bestow on the woman of Samaria, living water, droughts of which can secure the drinker from thirsting any more, to walk upon the surface of the sea with feet that do not sink, and to quell the risings of the waves by rebuking the winds, is, without any doubt, Divine.
  • But when our Lord and Saviour Himself would instruct His disciples’ faith by His questionings, He said, Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am? And when they had put on record the various opinions of other people, He said, But you, whom do you say that I am? Me, that is, who is the Son of Man, and whom you see in the form of a slave, and in true flesh, whom do you say that I am? Whereupon blessed Peter, whose divinely inspired confession was destined to profit all nations, said, You are Christ, the Son of the living God [Matthew 16:13-16]
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he entire Tome can be found here: Tome of Pope St. Leo the Great

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