His Holiness Pope Shenouda III
His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I
The Oriental Orthodox Churches
Keepers of the
Alexandrian Christological Tradition
In 451 Pope St. Leo of Rome sent legates into the city of Chalcedon with orders to issue his Tome and allow no compromise regarding
its complete acceptance.  The Pope knew the Emperor would accept nothing short of a united Church and an end to the controversy
plaguing the empire.  The council of bishops assembled there had an ultimatum:  accept the
Tome without debate or face the prospects of
a divided Church.  This Council was called in reaction to a previous Council of Ephesus (449) which had one-sidedly denounced the
adherents of the Antiochian Christological tradition.  Thus the bishops at Chalcedon welcomed Rome's ultimatum and support.  Yet a third
of the Church did not yield under Roman and Imperial pressure.
These Churches were committed to the Alexandrian Christological tradition which was affirmed at the Council of Ephesus (431), the
Third Ecumenical Council.  The
Tome of Pope Leo sought to re-affirm the Antiochian Christological tradition which had been brought into
question because of Nestorianism.  Whereas the Antiochian school of Christology emphasized the distinction between Christ's divinity and
humanity, the Alexandrian school emphasized the unity of divinity and humanity in one composite nature of the person (hypostasis) of
God the Word.  
Pope Leo's attempt at a new theological formula of "two natures" was considered novel by the Oriental Churches and an offense to the
Church's Christology taught by St. Cyril of Alexandria and affirmed by the (above mentioned) Council at Ephesus.  Questions also arose
due to the fact that Nestorians were claiming victory as a result of Leo's
Tome and the Chalcedonian definition.  Although the next two
Councils (Constantinople II and III) worked to establish a balance between Ephesus and Chalcedon, complete agreement could not be
reached.  The ensuing political intrigues which followed, including regrettable actions by both sides, solidified divisions between the
Churches of these two great Christological traditions.
The Oriental Orthodox Churches, consisting of the Coptic, Syrian, Armenian, Indian, Ethiopian, and Eritrean Churches, did not accept
the Council of Chalcedon but upheld the first three Ecumenical Councils.  They were in turn accused of following the heresy of
Monophysitism.  Monophysites taught that Christ is solely Divine and that His humanity was "swallowed up" by His Divinity.  Oriental
Orthodox instead are
Miaphysites following St. Cyril of Alexandria (and St. Athanasius the Great before him) who taught the "one nature
mia physis) of God the Word incarnate."  While the prefix "mono" connotes numerical oneness, "mia" conveys the idea of composite or
unified oneness
The Byzantine and Latin Churches, upheld the Antiochian Christological position and accepted the Chalcedonian definition and the three
Councils which followed.  Because the word "nature," is understood differently in these respective traditions, Chalcedonians teach that
Christ is "
in two natures."  Oriental Orthodox teach that Christ has one composite nature (Divine & human) "from two natures."  The
Neo-Chalcedonian Christology which developed in the Byzantine East and was confirmed by the Fifth Ecumenical Council
(553), was an amazing achievement to bridge the gap in Christology between the Eastern Churches (for more info see my Master's
The Neo-Chalcedonian Christology of the Fifth Ecumenical Council and It's Importance for the Church Today).  
The culmination of 1500 years of theological dialogue and exchange between these ancient Churches has revealed that the two respective
Alexandrian and Antiochian -if properly understood- can be recognized as Orthodox and compatible.  Both Christological
schools have always agreed that our Lord's true Divinity and real humanity are united "without confusion, change, separation or division."  
Thus, this 1500 year old schism between these Churches has been theologically agreed upon in our day.  This was recognized in the
Agreed Statement on Christology where Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches stated together:

"We have now clearly understood that both families have always loyally maintained the same authentic Orthodox Christological
faith, and the unbroken continuity of the apostolic tradition, though they have used Christological terms in different ways.  It is this
common faith and continuous loyalty to the Apostolic Tradition that should be the basis for our unity and communion."

In addition there have also been numerous joint Christological Statements between the Latin Church and each of the Oriental Orthodox
Churches (see below) as they also work towards a restoration of unity.  This rediscovered unanimity in faith was recognized long ago by
the 12th century Armenian Catholicos-Patriarch,
St. Nersess the Grace-filled, who wrote in his Pontifical Letter, "If one says 'one nature'
in the sense of the indissoluble and indivisible union and not in the sense of confusion, and if one says 't
wo natures' as being without
confusion, alteration or signifying division, then both positions are within the orbit of orthodoxy."
                                                                                                                    -Sub-Deacon Lazarus W. Der-Ghazarian, M.A.

Note:  For more info on Orthodox Christology see my Master's Thesis:  
The Neo-Chalcedonian Christology of the Fifth Ecumenical
Council & Its Importance for the Church Today
available at:  Sacred Heart Major Seminary's Szoka Library, Sts. Cyril & Methodius
Byzantine Seminary Library, the Antiochian Village Heritage Library, and the Alex & Marie Manoogian Library.

Helpful Links on Christology and the Council of Chalcedon

1.  Documents and Websites related to Orthodox Christology:
- Common Declaration on Christology -by H.H. John Paul II and H.H. Karekin I
The Christological Schools of Alexandrian & Antioch -Sub-Dn. Der-Ghazarian
Orthodox Unity -An Oriental Orthodox website promoting union of Orthodox
The Monophysite Heresy -by Ms. Veronica Der-Ghazarian -Byzantine Armenian
The Oriental Orthodox Churches -by Rev. Fr. Ronald Roberson, Latin Catholic
Problems of Consensus in Christology & the Function of Councils by Most Rev. Abp Tiran Nersoyan, Armenian Orthodox
Monophysitism Reconsidered -by Rev. Fr. Matthias F. Wahba, Coptic Orthodox
The Council of Chalcedon:  Re-Examined -by Fr. V.C. Samuel, Indian Orthodox
A detailed historical account of the proceedings of the Chalcedonian Council.
St. Nersess Theological Review -Essays by theologians of both Orthodox traditions on Orthodox Christology

2.  Special Resources from the Byzantine Orthodox Monachos website :
- The Formula of Reunion to John of Antioch -by St. Cyril of Alexandria
The Third Epistle to Nestorious and Twelve Anathemas - St. Cyril of Alexandria
St. Cyril of Alexandria -Background on this Great Father
The Christological Controversy and other areas of Patristic Themes - Resources

- Return to St. Gregory the Enlightener Institute Home Page
Oriental Orthodox
The Alexandrian and Antiochene Traditions
The Coptic Patriach of Alexandria
His Holiness Pope Shenouda III
The Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch:
His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I
The Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos
of all Armenians:  His Holiness Karekin II
"Holy God, holy mighty, holy and immortal,
Who was crucified for us, have mercy on us."

"Soorp Asdvadz, soorp yev huzor, soorp yev anmah,
vor khachetsar vasun mer, voghormya mez."

-The traditional Trisagion of the Armenian Church,
sung to the Second Person of the Holy Trinity
Hymn of the Only-Begotten, (Monogenes, Gk. / Meeyadzeen, Arm)

"Only-begotten Son and Word of God and Being immortal, Who deigned
to take body through the holy Mother of God and Ever-Virgin.
You, the unchangeable One, became man and you were crucified,
O Christ our God, and you trampled down death by death.
You, one of the Holy Trinity, are equal in glory with
the Father and the Holy Spirit; save us."

-A credal formula, composed by St. Justinian the Emperor (6th c.),
to heal the schism over Chalcedon; it was accepted by all Orthodox Churches.
St. Athanasius and Cyril
Holy Fathers of the Alexandrian
Christological Tradition
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