Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Class notes for the 4th week


1. Nicaea, 325
2. Constantinople, 381
3. Ephesus, 431
4. Chalcedon, 451
5. Constantinople II, 553
6. Constantinople III, 680-681
7. Nicaea II, 787

8. Constantinople IV, 879-880 (Pro-Photian Council) - called the "Eighth Ecumenical Council" and referred to as such in "Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs" (1848).

9. Constantinople V, 1341, 1347 and 1351 (Pro-Palamite Councils) - frequently called the "Ninth Ecumenical Council" [St Gregory Palamas is appointed for commemoration in all Orthodox Churches on the 2nd Sunday of Lent every year.]

Nota Bene:

A. The "Quinisext Council", or "Synod in Trullo", 692 (re: "the only purpose" of ecclesiastical canons is fostering the salvation of human souls !!!)

B. The final "Triumph of Orthodoxy" (i.e. the veneration of the holy icons and the finalization of the victory of the 7th Ecumenical Council) occurred in 843 and is commemorated every year on the 1st Sunday of Lent.

C. The Christological Councils held in Constantinople in 1077, 1082 and 1117 (see "The Synodicon of Orthodoxy" for more information).

D. "The Tomos of 1285" as the Orthodox reply to the "union" Council of Lyons (1274) and as laying the theological foundation for the later Ninth Ecumenical Council, the Palamite Synods (see "Crisis in Byzantium: The Filioque Controversy in the Patriarchate of Gregory II of Cyprus [1283-1289]", Aristeides Papadakis [SVS Press]).



Athanasius the Great (300's)

Basil the Great
Gregory the Theologian
Gregory of Nyssa (late 300's)

Cyril of Alexandria (early 400's)

Dionysius the Areopagite (extremely important figure, called "an unerring beholder of noetic truth" by no less a Church Father than St Gregory Palamas himself; for more info on the Dionysian Corpus of writings, see "Et Introibo ad Altare Dei" by Archimandrite, now Bishop-Elect, Alexander Golitzin)

Maximus the Confessor (600's)

Symeon the New Theologian (1000's)

Gregory Palamas (1300's)


Crucial Notes regardings some specific Fathers and categories of Fathers:

1a. As will be seen throughout any Patristic discussion, the writings of St John of Damascus, most especially his Festal Hymns (he wrote the Service of Holy Pascha!) have been acknowledged as an authoritative touchstone of Ecumenical Orthodoxy, universally appointed for singing and reading in ALL Orthodox Churches, not to mention his unbending theological and scriptural defense of the veneration of the Holy Icons !!!

1b. In Byzantium, the writings of St Gregory the Theologian were accorded authority second only to Holy Scripture (!!!), and Festal Orations of his were appointed by the Church to be read at various services of various Feasts. It is for this reason that St Maximus the Confessor took on the task of explaining any difficult sections found in St Gregory's writings, or any parts that were ambiguous or hard to discern. (The tone and themes of the Theologian's writings hearkens very much to tones and themes in the writings of St Dionysius the Areopagite.)


A. St John Chrysostom: 1. "Paschal Homily" as "The Ecumenical Sermon" appointed to be read in ALL Churches on Pascha (contrast this with the most famous non-Orthodox Sermon in American history) ; also, 2. Commentator/Preacher on writings of Apostle -- icon of St Paul whispering in his ear!

B. St Macarius the Great: 50 Homilies and the Great Letter --  among other things, includes a discussion of the prophetic "chariot-vision" and an in-depth discussion of the goings-on of the human heart.

C. St Gregory Palamas as a Great Homilist: especially 1. Theotokos as "a seasoned hesychast" at age three, at her Entrance into the Temple; and 2. compare his Resurrection Homily on the Mother of God to the content of the Paschal Theotokion Hymn "Shine, Shine, O New Jerusalem")

D. Collections of Sermons on the Mother of God:

- "Wider Than Heaven" (8th c.) (SVS Press) -- St Andrew of Crete, St Germanos of Constantinople, St John of Damascus, et alii

- "On the Dormition: Early Patristic Homilies" (SVS Press) -- the 3 Fathers mentioned above, plus St Modestos of Jerusalem et alii


A. St Ephraim the Syrian (Antiochian) as "Harp of the Spirit": see 1. "Spiritual Psalter of St Ephraim the Syrian," compiled by St Theophan the Recluse (SJKP); and 2. "Hymns on Paradise" (SVS Press)

B. St John of Damascus and his fellow monks of Mar Sabbas' Monastery in Palestine (near Jerusalem) as compilers of the "Eight Tones" weekly cycle of hymns (Octoechos/Paraklitiki) and the services of Pascha and the 12 Great Feasts.

C. St Theodore and other monks of the Studite Monastery in Constantinople as Hymnographers who completed the task begun by St John of Damascus

D. St Romanos the Melodist's "Akathist Hymn" as the pinnacle of Orthodox Hymnographic composition

E. "Trisagion Prayers" and "Axion Estin" as revealed hymnography


A. St Maximus the Confessor (secretary to Emperor, then coenobitic monk)

B. St John of the Ladder (abbot of coenobium)

C. St Isaac the Syrian (bishop, then hermit)

A. St Photius the Great
B. St Gregory Palamas
C. St Mark of Ephesus

6. GREAT ICONOGRAPHERS (just a few):
A. Cappadocian School
B. Theophanes the Greek et alii
C. St Andrei Rublev et alii

Note: any attempt to "downplay" the importance of icons and iconography in the Tradition is doomed to utter and complete failure. To reject visual iconography and embrace "only word-images" is to reject Christ who became visible and manifested Himself in the flesh for our salvation! The icons of the Church enshrine and encapsulate and manifest the Orthodox Tradition.

7. THE PHILOKALIA - a large collection of spiritual and theological writings of the Fathers, especially on the "Jesus Prayer" and "Prayer of the Heart", compiled on Mount Athos by Ss. Nikodimos the Hagiorite and Makarios of Corinth, influential in the revitalizing of monasteries -- and the spiritual life of monastics and laymen -- throughout the entire Orthodox world.

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