The First Seven Ecumenical Councils
325-Nicaea condemned Arianism and formulated the Nicene Creed.
381 – I Constantinople furthered condemned Arianism and added doctrines on the Holy Spirit to the Nicene Creed.
431 – Ephesus condemned Nestorianism and proclaimed Mary as the Mother of God.
451 – Chalcedon condemned Monophysitism and taught the hypostatic union of the two natures of Christ.
553 – II Constantinople condemned Nestorianism.
680-681 – III Constantinople condemned Monothelitism (that Jesus did not have a human will in addition to his divine will.)
787 – II Nicaea condemned Iconoclasm and permitted the veneration of icons.
What were the councils trying to accomplish? Their chief goal was maintaining the purity of the faith. The councils investigated whether a theologian’s doctrine conformed to the faith passed on by the apostles to the bishops. The second goal was to maintain the balances that underline each mystery of the faith.
St. Paul mentions the term “mystery” in three of his epistles to describe the faith, while at the same time also mentioning knowledge of the faith.
Romans 16: 25-26 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed and through the prophetic writings is made known to all nations, according to the command of the Eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith
[You might want to stop here and read the following verses in your own Bible. (Ephesians 1: 9-10; 3: 1-6, 8-10) (Colossians 1: 24-28; 2: 1-4; 4: 2-4)]
Mysterion (Gk): This term is used 6 times in Ephesians and 22 times in the rest of the NT. St. Paul often teaches his readers about the hidden plan of God now manifest in the reign of Christ. (refer to the verses you just read.) The most likely background for this notion is the Book of Daniel where “mystery” (Aramaic: raz) appears 8 times in a single Chapter.(Dan 2: 18-19, 27-30, 47)
How do knowledge and mystery fit together when we speak of faith?
We assert that the mysteries of faith have been revealed by God in both Scripture and Sacred Tradition. This means that we know many elements of the Christian mysteries. The mysterious aspect rests in maintaining these elements of revelation even when it get hard.
For example: we read that God is one (Deut 6: 4; Mk 12: 29) yet Jesus reveals that the one God is three persons. At His baptism, the Father speaks, the Son is baptized, and the Holy Spirit hovers over Jesus. (Mt 3: 16-17; Lk 3: 21-23) A question then follows: How are there three persons in one God?
As Catholics we hold all that God has revealed in the mysteries and profess faith in them. We recognize that the mysteries of faith come from God and concern God. Since God is infinite, the mysteries are infinite. These mysteries intrigue our mind, heart and soul. For all eternity, these mysteries will fascinate us. Never will we be sated or bored and forever we will be drawn into the mysteries of God. That’s why our Catholic faith is an adventure and should bring us joy both here on earth and definitely in heaven.
Next time: The Creed and Scripture (Get your Bibles ready!)
Meditation: Which of the mysteries of faith is the easiest for me to accept? Which is the most challenging and why?
One response to “When the Church Calls a Council”
I just love your blog! God Bless, SR