Mary is made the Mother of GodBy the pious zeal of Theodosius, "the unity of the faith" had been once more secured, and the empire had been made Catholic. As all his efforts in this direction had been put forth to secure the peace of the church, it might be supposed that this result should have been assured. But peace was just as far from the church now as it ever had been, and a good deal farther from the State than it had ever yet been.
By this time, among the chief bishoprics of the empire, the desire for supremacy had become so all-absorbing that each one was exerting every possible influence to bring the others into subjection to himself. The rivalry, however, was most bitter between the bishopric of Alexandria and that of Constantinople. Of the great sees of the empire, Alexandria had always held the second place. Now, however, Constantinople was the chief imperial city; and, as already related, the Council of Constantinople had ordained that the bishop of Constantinople should hold the first rank after the bishop of Rome. The Alexandrian party argued that this dignity was merely honorary, and carried with it no jurisdiction. Rome, seeing to what the canon might lead, sided with Alexandria. Constantinople, however, steadily insisted that the canon bestowed jurisdiction to the full extent of the honor. The bishop of Constantinople therefore aspired to the complete occupancy of the second place, and Alexandria was supremely jealous of the aspiration.
It will be remembered that when Gregory Nazianzen was first called to the bishopric of Constantinople, Peter of Alexandria had caused Maximus to be ordained, and now this same spirit showed itself again and much more violently than before.
Theodosius died A. D. 395, and was succeeded by his two sons, Arcadius and Honorius, by whom the empire was permanently divided. Arcadius became emperor of the East and Honorius of the West. Although Arcadius occupied the throne and bore the name of "emperor," "the East was now governed by women and eunuchs." -- Milman.1 Eutropius, the eunuch, was prime minister to Arcadius. At the death of Nectarius, Eutropius had brought from Antioch and made bishop of Constantinople, a presbyter, John surnamed Chrysostom -- the golden-mouthed. By the exercise of discipline, Chrysostom undertook to purify the bishopric. He "exposed with unsparing indignation the vices and venality of the clergy, and involved them all in one indiscriminate charge of simony and licentiousness." -- Milman.2 In an episcopal progress through Lydia and Phrygia, he deposed thirteen bishops. He declared his free opinion "that the number of bishops who might be saved, bore a very small proportion to those who would be damned." -- Gibbon.3 In addition to this, and with much more danger to himself, he incurred the enmity of the monks, who now existed in swarms throughout the East, by declaring with evident truth that they were "the disgrace of their holy profession."
These measures set the whole ecclesiastical order against him, and they began to intrigue for his overthrow. This opened the way for the bishop of Alexandria again to assert his authority.
Theophilus, a violent and unscrupulous prelate, was now bishop of Alexandria, and he immediately espoused the cause of the malcontents, who proudly accepted him as their leader. Another new element was now added: Chrysostom had not confined his denunciations to the clergy and the monks, but had uttered them against the women of the court, and especially the empress Eudoxia, a young and beautiful woman of violent disposition, "who indulged her passions, and despised her husband." -- Gibbon.4 Her, Chrysostom reviled as another Jezebel. She was not the kind of woman who would take this without making reply. She called Theophilus to Constantinople to preside over a council to depose Chrysostom. He came with a "stout body of Egyptian mariners" to protect him, and a train of bishops to sit in the council.
Theophilus and his followers joined with the enemies of Chrysostom, numbering thirty-six bishops in all, and held their council at a place or estate Ad Quercem -- at the Oak. Four times the council summoned Chrysostom to appear, and sent the following letter: --
"The holy synod at the Oak to John: Letters complaining of countless offenses committed by you have been delivered to us. Appear, therefore, and bring with you the priests Serapion and Tigrius, for they are wanted."5
Chrysostom on his part assembled a council of forty bishops, and sent three of the bishops and two priests with a letter to Theophilus, telling him that he should not disturb the church, and that if in spite of the Nicene Canon, he wanted to settle a dispute beyond his diocese, he should come to Constantinople itself, and "not like Cain entice Abel into the field." In the letter he also declared that as there was an indictment against Theophilus containing seventy charges, he was the one who ought really to be called to account rather than to be presiding in a council to try another; and besides this that there were more bishops in the council at Constantinople than there were with Theophilus at the Oak. At the same time he wrote privately to other bishops at the Oak telling them that if they would exclude from the council his avowed enemies, he would appear, whenever they desired; but if not, he would not appear, even if they sent ten thousand times for him. In answer to this letter, a notary was sent to Chrysostom with an imperial decree that he "must appear at the synod," and at the same time a priest and a monk brought a fresh summons from the synod at the Oak. Chrysostom then sent authorized representatives to the Oak. "They were roughly treated, and the process against him was put into full swing." -- Hefele.6
The council sat for two weeks, during which time they framed twenty-nine different charges, amongst which those considered the very gravest were that he had "administered baptism after he had eaten,:" and another, that he had "administered the sacrament to those who had in like manner broken their fast." -- Milman.7 He was unanimously condemned, and as there had been accessions to their number, there were forty-five bishops who subscribed to the decree.
Having deposed him, it was necessary to execute the sentence, but on account of the watchfulness of the populace, this had to be done at night. To prevent a riot, he secretly surrendered himself to the imperial officers, who conducted him across the Bosphorus and landed him at a place near the entrance of the Black Sea. Theophilus and his followers had come into the city, and the next day when the populace learned that Chrysostom had been carried off, "they suddenly rose with unanimous and irresistible fury. Theophilus escaped; but the promiscuous crowd of monks and Egyptian mariners were slaughtered without pity in the streets of Constantinople." -- Gibbon.8
The next night there was a harmless earthquake, but it was readily seized upon and made to do service as evidence of the wrath of Heaven against the deposition of Chrysostom. Eudoxia herself, as superstitious as the rest, was frightened by it, and when the mob crowded about the palace asserting the vengeance of Heaven and demanding the return of Chrysostom, she went herself to Arcadius, asked for his recall, and, to appease the populace, published a letter "disclaiming all hostility to the banished prelate, and protesting that she was `innocent of his blood.''" -- Milman.9
Chrysostom returned in triumph. The whole city, men, women, and children, turned out to meet him. The shores were crowded; the Bosphorus was covered with vessels, and both shores were grandly illuminated. When he landed, with hymns of thanksgiving and chants of praise they escorted him to the cathedral. Chrysostom mounted the pulpit, and made the following speech: --
"What shall I say? Blessed be God! These were my last words on my departure, these the first on my return. Blessed be God! because he permitted the storm to rage. Blessed be God! because he has allayed it. Let my enemies behold how their conspiracy has advanced my peace, and redounded to my glory. Before, the church alone was crowded, now the whole forum is become a church. The games are celebrating in the circus, but the whole people pour like a torrent to the church. Your prayers in my behalf are more glorious than a diadem, -- the prayers both of men and women; for in Christ there is neither male nor female."10
Thus exultant in his victory over his opponents, he broke out more violently than ever in denunciation of the empress. The statue of Eudoxia was about to be set up in front of the cathedral. It seems that this was to be performed on a festival day, and on such occasions dances, pantomimes, and all sorts of theatricals were indulged in. Chrysostom uttered a loud protest against this celebration, as his zeal "was always especially directed against these idolatrous amusements which often, he confesses, drained the church of his hearers." --Milman.11 His denunciations were reported to the empress, as personal insults to her. She threatened to call another council, and have him deposed again. He replied with a sermon yet bolder than all before, in which he likened her to Herodias, exclaiming: -- "Again Herodias raves; again she is troubled; she dances again; and again desires to receive John''s head in a charger."12
The emperor immediately suspended him, and a council was appointed, which, under the guidance of Theophilus, again condemned him, but upon the charges that he had resisted the decrees of the former synod, and that he had violated the canons of the church in resuming and exercising the office of bishop, while yet under condemnation of a council. The sentence of exile was again pronounced, and a detachment of barbarian troops was brought into the city to assist the imperial officers in executing the sentence. "In the midst of the solemn celebration of Good Friday, in the great church of Santa Sophia, the military forced their way, not merely into the nave, but up to the altar, on which were placed the consecrated elements. Many worshipers were trodden under foot; many wounded by the swords of the soldiers: the clergy were dragged to prison; some females, who were about to be baptized, were obliged to fly with their disordered apparel: the waters of the font were stained with blood; the soldiers pressed up to the altar; seized the sacred vessels as their plunder; the sacred elements were scattered about! . . . Constantinople for several days had the appearance of a city which had been stormed. Wherever the partisans of Chrysostom were assembled, they were assaulted and dispersed by the soldiery; females were exposed to insult, and one frantic attempt was made to assassinate the prelate." -- Milman.13
Chrysostom was concealed by his friends, but after awhile he escaped from them, and gave himself up again. Again he was taken from the city by night; and now he was banished -- A. D. 404 -- to a town called Caucasus in the mountains of Armenia. And "on the very day of his departure, some of John''s friends set fire to the church, which by means of a strong easterly wind, communicated with the Senate-house." -- Socrates.14
As soon as Chrysostom had been permanently sent away, Theophilus sent to the bishop of Rome the information that he had deposed the bishop of Constantinople, but without telling him why. Chrysostom also from his place of exile addressed the bishop of Rome, giving an account of the proceedings against him, and asking Innocent "to declare such wicked proceedings void and null, to pronounce all who had any share in them, punishable according to the ecclesiastical laws, and to continue to him the marks of his charity and communion." -- Bower.15
As was to be expected, Chrysostom also asked the bishop of Rome to use his influence to have a general council called to settle the matter. Letters were also sent from the clergy of Constantinople and the bishops who sided with Chrysostom, asking Innocent to take an interest in the case. Innocent answered both with the statement that he admitted the bishops of both parties to his communion, and thus left no room for complaints on either side; and that the council which was contemplated might not be biased beforehand. Innocent applied to the Emperor Honorius, asking him to persuade Arcadius to agree to the calling of a general council, to settle the dispute and contention between Chrysostom and Theophilus. Honorius wrote three letters to Arcadius, the last of which was as follows: --
"This is the third time I write to your Meekness entreating you to correct and rectify the iniquitous proceedings that have been carried on against John, bishop of Constantinople. But nothing, I find, has been hitherto done in his behalf. Having therefore much at heart the peace of the church, which will be attended with that of our empire, I write to you anew by these holy bishops and presbyters, earnestly desiring you to command the Eastern bishops to assemble at Thessalonica. The Western bishops have sent five of their body, two presbyters of the Roman Church, and one deacon, all men of strictest equity, and quite free from the bias of favor and hatred. These I beg you would receive with that regard which is due to their rank and merit. If they find John to have been justly deposed, they may separate me from his communion; and you from the communion of the orientals, if it appears that he has been unjustly deposed. The Western bishops have very plainly expressed their sentiments, in the many letters they have written to me on the subject of the present dispute. Of these I send you two, the one from the bishop of Rome, the other from the bishop of Aquileia; and with them the rest agree. One thing I must above all beg of your Meekness: that you oblige Theophilus of Alexandria to assist at the council, how averse soever he may be to it; for he is said to be the first and chief author of the present calamities. Thus the synod, meeting with no delays or obstructions, will restore peace and tranquillity in our days."16
Not only were the letters of Honorius disregarded, but his ambassadors were insulted and abused; which when he learned, he was about to declare war, but was prevented by an invasion of the barbarians.
Thus the efforts to obtain a general council upon this question came to naught. When Innocent learned this, he determined to take the side of Chrysostom. He therefore published a letter announcing the fact, and separating from his communion Theophilus and all who were of his party. Chrysostom died in 407; but the quarrel was continued by the bishop of Rome, who refused to communicate with the new bishop of Constantinople, unless he would acknowledge that Chrysostom was lawful bishop of that city until the day of his death. As this would be to acknowledge that his own election to the bishopric of Constantinople was unlawful, Atticus refused; and the contention was kept up seven years longer, but was finally compromised in 414.
The empress Eudoxia died about A. D. 405. The emperor Arcadius died May 1, A. D. 408, leaving a son -- Theodosius II -- seven years of age, heir to the throne, and a daughter, Pulcheria, ten years of age, who, after A. D. 414, held the most important place in the affairs of the empire for forty years. At the age of twenty and by the arts of Pulcheria, Theodosius II was married to Eudocia, who was nearly eight years older than himself, and the incapable youth was kept in a "perpetual infancy, encompassed only with a servile train of women and eunuchs," and ruled by women, eunuchs, and monks.
The war with Chrysostom was ended, yet the roots of bitterness and seeds of strife still remained between Alexandria and Constantinople. And though the two men who were bishops of these two cities were in harmony so far as the confusion about Chrysostom was concerned, the same jealousy as to the dignity of their respective sees still existed, and soon broke out more violently than ever before. The subject of the next dispute was a question of doctrine, and, like that over the Homoousion, was so illusive, and the disputants believed so nearly alike and yet were so determined not to believe alike, and the men who led in it were so arrogant and cruel, that from the beginning the contention was more violent than any that had yet been.
In A. D. 412, Cyril, the nephew of Theophilus, became bishop of Alexandria. He was one of the very worst men of his time. He began his episcopacy by shutting up the churches of the Novatians, "the most innocent and harmless of the sectaries," and taking possession of all their ecclesiastical ornaments and consecrated vessels, and stripping their bishop, Theopemptus, of all his possessions. Nor was Cyril content with the exercise of such strictly episcopal functions as these: he aspired to absolute authority, civil as well as ecclesiastical.
He drove out the Jews, forty thousand in number, destroyed their synagogues, and allowed his followers to strip them of all their possessions. Orestes, the prefect of Egypt, displeased at the loss of such a large number of wealthy and industrious people, entered a protest, and sent up a report to the emperor. Cyril likewise wrote to the emperor. No answer came from the court, and the people urged Cryil to come to a reconciliation with the prefect, but his advances were made in such a way that the prefect would not receive them. The monks poured in from the desert to the number of about five hundred, to champion the cause of Cyril.
Orestes was passing through the streets in his chariot. The monks flocked around him, insulted him, and denounced him as a heathen and an idolater. Orestes, thinking that perhaps they thought this was so, and knowing his life to be in danger, called out that he was a Christian, and had been baptized by Atticus, bishop of Constantinople. His defense was in vain. In answer, one of the monks threw a big stone which struck him on the head, and wounded him so that his face was covered with blood. At this all his guards fled for their lives; but the populace came to the rescue, and drove off the monks, and captured the one who threw the stone. His name was Ammonius, and the prefect punished him so severely that shortly afterward he died. "Cyril commanded his body to be taken up; the honors of a Christian martyr were prostituted on this insolent ruffian, his panegyric was pronounced in the church, and he was named Thaumasius -- the wonderful." -- Milman.17
But the party of Cyril proceeded to yet greater violence than this. At that time there was in Alexandria a teacher of philosophy, a woman, Hypatia by name. She gave public lectures which were so largely attended by the chief people of the city, that Cyril grew jealous that more people went to hear her lecture than came to hear him preach. She was a friend of Orestes, and it was also charged that she, more than any other, was the cause why Orestes would not be reconciled to Cyril. One day as Hypatia was passing through the street in a chariot, she was attacked by a crowd of Cyril''s partisans, whose ring-leader was Peter the Reader.
She was torn from her chariot, stripped naked in the street, dragged into a church, and there beaten to death with a club, by Peter the Reader. Then they tore her limb from limb, and with shells scraped the flesh from her bones, and threw the remnants into the fire, March, A. D. 414.
This was Cyril, -- now Saint Cyril, -- bishop of Alexandria. And in addition to his naturally tyrannical and murderous disposition, "jealousy and animosity toward the bishop of Constantinople was a sacred legacy bequeathed by Theophilus to his nephew, and Cyril faithfully administered the fatal trust." -- Milman.18
In 428, there was appointed to the bishopric of Constantinople a monk of Antioch, Nestorius by name, who in wickedness of disposition was only second to Cyril of Alexandria. In his ordination sermon before the great crowd of people, he personally addressed to the emperor these words: --
"Give me, my prince, the earth purged of heretics, and I will give you heaven as a recompense. Assist me in destroying heretics, and I will assist you in vanquishing the Persians."19
The fifth day afterward, in accordance with this proposition, Nestorius began his part in purging the earth of heretics. There was a little company of Arians who met in a private house for worship; these were surprised and attacked, and as they saw the house being torn to pieces and sacked, they set fire to it, which burned that building and many others adjoining. On account of this, Nestorius received from both parties the appropriate nickname of the "Incendiary." This attack upon the Arians was followed furiously upon the Quarto-Decimans, who celebrated Easter on a day other than the Catholic Sunday; and also upon the Novatians. The authority of the emperor somewhat checked his fury against the Novatians, but it raged unmolested against the Quarto-Decimans throughout Asia, Lydia, and Caria, and multitudes perished in the tumults which he stirred up, especially at Miletus and Sardis.
And now these two desperate men, Nestorius and Cyril, became the respective champions of the two sides of a controversy touching the faith of the Catholic Church, as to whether Mary was the Mother of God or not. In the long contention and the fine-spun distinctions as to whether the Son of God is of the same substance, or only of like substance with the Father, Christ had been removed entirely beyond the comprehension of the people. And owing to the desperate character and cruel disposition of the men who carried on the controversy as the representatives of Christ, the members of the church were made afraid of him. And now, instead of Jesus standing forth as the mediator between men and God, he was removed so far away and was clothed with such a forbidding aspect, that it became necessary to have a mediator between men and Christ. And into this place the Virgin Mary was put.
This gave rise to the question as to what was the exact relationship of Mary to Christ. Was she actually the mother of the divinity of Christ, and therefore the Mother of God? or was she only the mother of the humanity of Christ? For a considerable time already the question had been agitated, and among a people whose ancestors for ages had been devout worshipers of the mother goddesses -- Diana and Cybele -- the title "Mother of God" was gladly welcomed and strenuously maintained. This party spoke of Mary as "God-bearer;" the opposite party called her only "man-bearer;" while a third party coming between tried to have all speak of her as "Christ-bearer."
As before stated, this question had already been agitated considerably, but when two such characters as Cyril and Nestorius took it up, it speedily became the one all-important question, and the all-absorbing topic. Nestorius started it in his very first sermon after becoming bishop of Constantinople. He denied that Mary could properly be called the Mother of God. Some of his priests immediately withdrew from his communion, and began to preach against his heresy, and the monks rushed in also. Nestorius denounced them all as miserable men, called in the police, and had some of them flogged and imprisoned, especially several monks who had accused him to the emperor. From this the controversy spread rapidly, and Cyril, urged on by both natural and inherited jealousy, came to the rescue in defense of the title, "Mother of God." "Cyril of Alexandria, to those who esteem the stern and uncompromising assertion of certain Christian tenets the one paramount Christian virtue, may be the hero, even the saint: but while ambition, intrigue, arrogance, rapacity, and violence are proscribed as unchristian means -- barbarity, persecution, bloodshed as unholy and unevangelical wickedness -- posterity will condemn the orthodox Cyril as one of the worst of heretics against the spirit of the gospel." -- Milman.20
It is not necessary to put into this book the blasphemous arguments of either side. It is enough to say that in this controversy, as in that regarding the Homoousion, the whole dispute was one about words and terms only. Each determined that the other should express the disputed doctrine in his own words and ideas, while he himself could not clearly express his ideas in words different from the others. "Never was there a case in which the contending parties approximated so closely. Both subscribed, both appealed, to the Nicene Creed; both admitted the pre-existence, the impassibility, of the Eternal Word; but the fatal duty . . . of considering the detection of heresy the first of religious obligations, mingled, as it now was, with human passions and interests, made the breach irreparable." -- Milman.21
Cyril demanded of Nestorius that he should confess Mary to be the Mother of God, without any distinction, explanation, or qualification. And because Nestorius would not comply, Cyril denounced him everywhere as a heretic, stirred up the people of Constantinople against him, and sent letters to the emperor, the empress, and to Pulcheria, to prove to them that the Virgin Mary "ought to be called" the Mother of God. He declared that to dispute such a title was rank heresy, and by adulation,and by declaring that whoever disputed this title was unworthy of the protection of the imperial family, he sought to have the court take his side at once against Nestorius. But Nestorius had the advantage with respect to the court, because he was present in Constantinople.
Fierce letters also passed between Cyril and Nestorius, and both sent off letters to Celestine, bishop of Rome. Nestorius sent his first, but he wrote in Greek, and Celestine had to send it to Gaul to be translated into Latin, so that he could read it. Before the letter of Nestorius was returned from Gaul, Cyril''s letter had arrived, which was written in Latin; with which also he had sent some of the sermons of Nestorius which he had translated into Latin for the benefit of Celestine. Yet further he gave citations to Athanasius and Peter of Alexandria, where they had given to Mary the title of Mother of God. Celestine called a council in Rome, A. D. 430. The letters and papers of both Cyril and Nestorius were read, after which Celestine made a long speech to prove that "the Virgin Mary was truly the Mother of God." He supported his views by quotations from the Eastern bishops, whom Cyril had cited, and also from his predecessors Damasus and Hilary, and from Ambrose of Milan who had caused the people on Christmas day every year to sing a hymn in honor of Mary, in which she was called the Mother of God.
The council declared that Nestorius was "the author of a new and very dangerous heresy," praised Cyril for opposing it, declared the doctrine of Cyril strictly orthodox, and condemned to deposition all ecclesiastics who should refuse to adopt it. Celestine conveyed to Nestorius the decision of the council, and in the name of the council and in his own name, commanded him publicly and in a written apology, to renounce his heretical opinions within ten days after the receipt of this letter, or else incur the penalty of excommunication. On the same day Celestine also wrote a letter to Cyril, appointing him as his agent to execute the decision of the council, and empowering him in the name, and with the authority, of the apostolic see, to excommunicate and depose Nestorius, if by the expiration of ten days he had not recanted. Other letters were also sent at the same time to the clergy and laity of Constantinople and to the principal bishops of the East, exhorting them to steadfastness in the faith, and declaring that whomever Nestorius had excommunicated or deposed on account of this question, should be counted as in communion with the bishop of Rome.
All these letters were sent to Cyril, who upon receiving them, called a council of the Egyptian bishops, and drew up twelve propositions with their respective curses, which Nestorius was to sign if he would obey the sentence of the council at Rome, and recant his opinions. It was also required that Nestorius should not only acknowledge the creed of Nice, but that he must add a written and sworn declaration that he did so, and that he would condemn all his previous "pernicious and unholy assertions," and agree in future to "believe and teach the same as Cyril, and as the synod, and the bishops of the East and West." -- Hefele.22
All this with the decree of the Council of Rome was sent by four bishops to Nestorius at Constantinople. These bishops to make as great a display of their authority as possible, went to the cathedral on Sunday, at the time of public service, and delivered the document to Nestorius, while he was performing the principal service of the day. In answer to these decrees Nestorius, in a sermon preached on the following Sabbath, declared that to maintain the peace and tranquillity of the church, "he was ready to grant the title of `Mother of God'' to the Virgin Mary, providing nothing else was thereby meant but that the man born of her was united to the Divinity." But Cyril insisted that he should adopt the twelve propositions and their curses which the Alexandrian Synod had sent. As a final reply Nestorius then drew up twelve counter propositions with their respective curses, to which he demanded that Cyril should subscribe.
It was now the middle of December, 430. All the time that these contentions had been going on, both parties had been calling for a general council; and as early as November 19, the emperors Theodosius II and Valentinian III had issued letters ordering a general council to meet at Ephesus in the spring of 431.
Of all places in the world, Ephesus was the very one where it would be the nearest to an impossibility to obtain anything like a fair examination of the question. Like Diana of old, the Virgin Mary was now the patroness of Ephesus; and the worse than heathen Catholics were more fanatically devoted to her than even the heathen Ephesians had been to Diana. But a fair examination of the question, or in fact any real examination, was not intended by Celestine and Cyril. Their only intention was either the unconditional surrender or the condemnation of Nestorius. Cyril was appointed by Celestine to preside at the council. He addressed Celestine, asking whether Nestorius should be allowed to sit as a member of the council. Celestine told him that he should do everything to restore peace to the church and to win Nestorius to the truth: but that if Nestorius was quite determined against this, "then he must reap what, with the help of the devil, he had sown." -- Hefele.23
Celestine also sent a letter to the emperor Theodosius II, saying that he could not personally attend the council, but that he would take part by commissioners. He desired that the emperor "should allow no innovations, and no disturbance of the peace of the church. He should even regard the interests of the faith as higher than those of the State; and the peace of the church as much more important than the peace of the nations." Celestine''s instructions to his commissioners were to the same intent. He commanded them to "hold strictly by Cyril," but at the same time to be sure "to preserve the dignity of the apostolic see." They were directed to attend all the meetings of the council, yet to take no part in any of the discussions, but to "give judgments" on the views of others. And finally, the letter which Celestine sent by these legates to the bishops in the council exhorted them "to preserve the true faith," and closed with these words: --
"The legates are to be present at the transactions of the synod, and will give effect to that which the pope has long ago decided with respect to Nestorius; for he does not doubt that the assembled bishops will agree with this."24
Neither of the emperors was present at the council, but they jointly appointed Count Candidian, captain of the imperial bodyguard, as the "Protector of the Council." Nestorius came with sixteen bishops, accompanied by an armed guard composed of bathmen of Constantinople and a horde of peasants. In addition to this, by the special favor of the emperor, an officer, Irenaeus, with a body of soldiers, was appointed to protect him. Cyril came with fifty Egyptian bishops and a number of bathmen and "a multitude of women" from Alexandria, and such sailors in his fleet as he could depend upon. Arrived at Ephesus, he was joined by Memnon, bishop of that city, with fifty-two bishops, and a crowd of peasants whom he had drawn into the city. Juvenalis, bishop of Jerusalem, came with his subordinate bishops, we know not the number; these also were hostile to Nestorius, and joined Cyril and Memnon. Others came from Thessalonica, Apamea, and Hieropolis, and when the council opened, there were one hundred and ninety-eight bishops present, including the pope''s legates, and not including Nestorius. John of Antioch, with the bishops of his diocese, was on the way, but did not reach Ephesus until Cyril''s part of the council was over.
The council was to have met June 7, 431, but owing to delays on the part of the bishops of Jerusalem, Thessalonica, and Antioch, it did not open until June 22, and even then the bishops of Antioch had not arrived. But all the time was spent in preliminary disputes, winning partisans, and working up the populace. As Cyril had the great majority of the bishops on his side, and as the city was already devoted to the "Mother of God." Nestorius was at a great disadvantage, and his enemies did not hesitate to let him know it, and to make him feel it. Cyril preached a sermon in which he paid the following idolatrous tribute to Mary: --
"Blessed be thou, O Mother of God! Thou rich treasure of the world, inextinguishable lamp, crown of virginity, scepter of true doctrine, imperishable temple, habitation of Him whom no space can contain, mother and virgin, through whom He is, who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed be thou, O Mary, who didst hold in thy womb the Infinite One; thou through whom the blessed Trinity is glorified and worshiped, through whom the precious cross is adored throughout the world, through whom heaven rejoices and angels and archangels are glad, through whom the devil is disarmed and banished, through whom the fallen creature is restored to heaven, through whom every believing soul is saved."25
Cyril and his party urged that the council should be opened without any more delay. As the emperor had particularly required the presence of John of Antioch, Nestorius insisted on waiting till he came; and Candidian sustained Nestorius. Cyril refused, and he and his partisans assembled in the Church of the Virgin Mary to proceed with the council. As soon as Count Candidian learned of this, he hastened to the church to forbid it, and there he fell into an ecclesiastical trap. He declared that they were acting in defiance of the imperial rescript which was to guide the council. They answered that as they had not seen the rescript, they did not know what it required of them. The Count read it to them. This was just what they wanted. They declared thatthe reading of the rescript legalized their meeting! They greeted it with "loud and loyal clamors," pronounced the council begun, and commanded the Count to withdraw from an assembly in which he had no longer any legal place.
Candidian protested against the unfairness of the proceedings; and then, he himself says, they "injuriously and ignominiously ejected" him. They next expelled all the bishops, sixty-eight in number, who were known to favor Nestorius, "and then commenced their proceedings as the legitimate Senate of Christendom." -- Milman.25
One of Cyril''s presbyters was secretary, and he formally opened the business of the council by reading a statement of the dispute that had brought them together. Then the emperor''s letter calling the council was read. They sent four bishops to notify Nestorius to appear. He courteously refused to acknowledge the legality of their assembly. A second deputation of four bishops was sent, and they returned with the word that they were not allowed by the guard to go near him, but received from his attendants the same answer as before. A third deputation of four was sent, and they returned with the report that they were subjected to the indignity of being kept standing in the heat of the sun, and receiving no answer at all. Having made such an earnest effort to have Nestorius present, but in vain, they "sorrowfully" commenced the proceedings without him.
The Nicene Creed was first read, and then Cyril''s letter to Nestorius, with the twelve propositions and their accompanying curses, all of which were solemnly confirmed by all the bishops in succession.
Then was read the letter of Nestorius to Cyril, with the twelve counter-propositions and their curses. One after another the bishops arose and declared the propositions blasphemous, and vehemently uttered the appended curses. Then when the list was completed, they all arose, and with one mighty roar that made the arches of the great church echo and re-echo, they bawled, "Anathema to him who does not anathematize Nestorius! Anathema! Anathema! The whole world unites in the excommunication! Anathema on him who holds communion with Nestorius!"25
Next were read the letters of Celestine, condemning him, which were made a part of the acts of the council. Then followed the reading of statements from the writings of Athanasius, Peter of Alexandria, Julius I, Felix I of Rome; Theophilus of Alexandria, Cyprian, Ambrose, Gregory Nazianzen, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Atticus of Constantinople, and Amphilochius of Iconium, all to the effect that Mary was the Mother of God. Then the tender-hearted, pious souls, according to their own words, proceeded "with many tears, to this sorrowful sentence:" --
"As, in addition to other things, the impious Nestorius has not obeyed our citation, and did not receive the holy bishops who were sent by us to him, we were compelled to examine his ungodly doctrines. We discovered that he had held and published impious doctrines in his letters and treatises, as well as in discourses which he delivered in this city, and which have been testified to. Urged by the canons, and in accordance with the letter of our most holy father and fellow-servant Celestine, the Roman bishop, we have come, with many tears to this sorrowful sentence against him, namely, that our Lord Jesus Christ, whom he has blasphemed, decrees by the holy synod that Nestorius be excluded from the episcopal dignity, and from all priestly communion."27
This sentence the bishops all signed, and then it was sent to Nestorius, addressed, "To Nestorius, a second Judas." All these proceedings, from the visit and protest of Candidian to the notice to Nestorius, were carried through in a single day and one prolonged sitting.
It was now night. Criers were sent all through the city to post up the decrees of the council, and to announce the joyful news that Mary was indeed the Mother of God. Everywhere they were met with loudest shouts of joy. The multitude rushed into the streets and poured toward the church. With lighted torches they escorted the bishops to their abodes, the women marching before and burning incense. The whole city was illuminated, and the songs and exultations continued far into the night. The demonstration far outdid that of their lineal ancestors, who, when they tried to kill the apostle Paul, "all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians."
Five days afterward John of Antioch with his bishops, arrived, and was greatly surprised to learn that the council was over. He got together about fifty bishops, who unanimously condemned the doctrines of Cyril and the proceedings of the council, and declared accursed all the bishops who had taken part in it. Cyril and Memnon answered with counter-curses. Letters came from Celestine, and Cyril''s council re-assembled formally to receive them. When they were read, the whole company arose and again cried with one voice: "The council renders thanks to the second Paul, Celestine; to the second Paul, Cyril: to Celestine, protector of the faith; to Celestine, unanimous with the council. One Celestine, one Cyril, one faith in the whole council, one faith throughout the world!"28
Cyril''s council next sent messengers with overtures to John, who refused to see them. Then the council declared annulled all the acts of John''s council, and deposed and excommunicated him and all the bishops of his party. John threatened to elect a new bishop of Ephesus in the place of Memnon, whom his council had deposed. A party tried to force their way into the cathedral; but finding it defended by Memnon with a strong garrison, they retreated. Memnon''s forces made a strong sally, and drove them through the streets with clubs and stones, dangerously wounding many.
On learning that the council had been held, and Nestorius deposed before the arrival of John of Antioch, a letter had been sent down from the court, but was not received till this point in the contest. This letter annulled all the proceedings of the council, and commanded a re-consideration of the question by the whole assembly of the bishops now present. The letter also announced the appointment of another imperial officer, one of the highest officials of the State, to assist Count Candidian.
The court had not made known in Constantinople the proceedings of the council, and the deposition of Nestorius. Cyril sent away a secret message to the monks of Constantinople, announcing that Nestorius had been deposed and excommunicated. The object of this was by stirring up those fanatics to influence the court. The weak-minded Theodosius II stood in great awe of the holiness of the monks. "His palace was so regulated that it differed little from a monastery." In 422 there died one of these who was noted for that kind of holiness that attaches to a monk, and Theodosius secured "his cassock of sack-cloth of hair, which, although it was excessively filthy, he wore as a cloak, hoping that thus he should become a partaker, in some degree, of the sanctity of the deceased." -- Socrates.29 And now, on receipt of Cyril''s message, a certain Dalmatius, who was famous for his filthy sanctity, left his cell and put himself at the head of the whole herd of monks and archimandrites in and about Constantinople. They marched solemnly through the streets, and everywhere as they passed, the populace burst into curses against Nestorius. They marched to the palace and lounged about the gates; but the chief influence at court was yet favorable to Nestorius, and their demonstrations had no immediate effect.
By this time the reports of both parties had reached the court. Theodosius, after examining both accounts, approved both, and pronounced Nestorius, Cyril, and Memnon, all three deposed. As for their faith, he pronounced them "all three alike orthodox," but deposed them as a punishment which he said they all three alike deserved as being the chief authors of continual disturbances.
The new imperial commissioner was sent down to Ephesus with the letter announcing the emperor''s decision. As soon as he arrived, he summoned the bishops before him. Memnon refused to appear. Those who did come, however, had no sooner arrived than each party began to denounce the other. Cyril and his party pronounced the presence of Nestorius unendurable, and demanded that he be driven out. The party of Nestorius and John of Antioch, just as sternly demanded that Cyril should be expelled. As neither party could have its way, they began to fight. The imperial commissioner had to command his soldiers to separate the pugilistic bishops and stop the fight. When order had thus been enforced, the imperial letters were read. As soon as the sentence of deposition against Cyril and Memnon was read, the uproar began again, and another fight was prevented only by the arrest of the three chiefs. Nestorius and John of Antioch submitted without remonstrance; but Cyril made a speech "in which he represented himself as the victim of persecution, incurred by apostolic innocence, and borne with apostolic resignation," and then yielded to the "inevitable necessity." Memnon was hunted up and also taken into custody. Cyril escaped, and with his body-guard of bathmen, women, and sailors, sailed away to Alexandria.
The emperor next commanded that eight bishops of each party should appear in his presence at Constantinople. They were sent, but, on account of the desperate temper of the monks of Constantinople, it was counted unsafe for them to enter the city, and therefore they were stopped at Chalcedon, on the opposite side of the Bosphorus. There the emperor met them. The whole summer had been spent in these contentions of the council, and it was now September 4, when the emperor granted them the first audience. Four times the emperor had them appear before him, and heard them fully.
He appeared so decidedly to favor the party of Nestorius, that they thought the victory was already won. So certain were they of this that they even sent off letters to their party at Ephesus, instructing them to send up a message of thanks to him for his kindness. But at the fifth meeting all their brilliant prospects were blasted. Cyril, from his post in Alexandria, had sent up thousands of pounds of gold, with instructions to Maximian, bishop of Constantinople, to add to it, not only the wealth of that church, but his utmost personal effort to arouse "the languid zeal of the princess Pulcheria in the cause of Cyril, to propitiate all the courtiers, and, if possible, to satisfy their rapacity." -- Milman.30
As avarice was one of the ruling passions of the eunuchs and women who ruled Theodosius II, "Every avenue of the throne was assaulted with gold. Under the decent names of eulogies and benedictions, the courtiers of both sexes were bribed according to the measure of their rapaciousness. But their incessant demands despoiled the sanctuaries of Constantinople and Alexandria; and the authority of the patriarch was unable to silence the just murmur of his clergy, that a debt of sixty thousand pounds had already been contracted to support the expense of this scandalous corruption." -- Gibbon.31
The efforts of Cyril were at last effective. The eunuch Scholasticus, one of the chief ministers of the emperor and the supporter of the cause of Nestorius at court, was bought; and it was this that caused the sudden revolution in the emperor''s conduct toward the party of Nestorius. In the fifth and last audience that he gave the deputies, the emperor told them at once that they had better abandon Nestorius, and admit both Cyril and Memnon to their communion. They remonstrated, but he would listen to nothing. He put an end to the hearings, and returned the next day to Constantinople, taking with him the bishops of Cyril''s party, regularly to ordain the successor of Nestorius in the bishopric of Constantinople.
Shortly afterward an imperial edict was issued declaring Nestorius justly deposed, re-instating Cyril and Memnon in their respective sees, pronouncing all the other bishops alike orthodox, and giving them all leave to return to their homes. This dissolved the council.
Even before the dissolution of the council the emperor had sent an order to Nestorius, commanding him to leave Ephesus and return to the monastery whence he had been called to the archbishopric of Constantinople. By the persistent efforts of Celestine, bishop of Rome, and others, the emperor was induced -- A. D. 436 -- to banish him and two of his friends -- a count of the empire and a presbyter of Constantinople -- to Petra in Arabia. July 30, in the same year, an imperial edict was issued, commanding all who believed with Nestorius, to be called Simonians; that all the books by Nestorius should be sought for and publicly burnt; forbidding the Nestorius to hold any meetings anywhere, in city, in village, or in field; and if any such meeting was held, then the place where it was held should be confiscated, as also the estates of all who should attend the meeting. Nestorius was not allowed to remain long at Petra. He was taken from there to a place away in the desert between Egypt and Libya, and from there dragged about from place to place till he died of the hardships inflicted, at what date is not certainly known, but about A. D. 440.
Such was the cause and such the conduct of the first Council of Ephesus, the third general council of the Catholic Church. And thus was established the Catholic doctrine that the Virgin Mary was the Mother of God.
The controversy went on, however, nor did it ever logically stop until December 8, A. D. 1854, when Pope Pius IX established the actual divinity of the Virgin Mary, by announcing the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which reads as follows: --
"By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, as well as by our own, we declare, promulgate, and define that the doctrine which teaches that the most blessed Virgin Mary, at the very instant of her conception, was kept free from every stain of original sin solely by the grace and prerogative of the omnipotent God, in consideration of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, was revealed by God, and must on that account be believed firmly and continually by all the faithful ones."32
1 [Page 404] "History of Christianity," book iii, chap. ix par. 36.
2 [Page 404] Id., par. 45.
3 [Page 404] "Decline and fall," chap. xxvii. par. 9, note.
4 [Page 405] Id.,par. 13.
5 [Page 405] Hefele, "History of the Church Councils," sec. 115, par. 4.
6 [Page 406] Id., par 6.
7 [Page 406] "History of Christianity," book iii, chap. ix, par. 46, note.
8 [Page 406] "Decline and Fall," chap. xxxii, par. 11.
9 [Page 407] "History of Christianity," book iii, chap. ix, par. 50.
10 [Page 407] Id., par. 51.
11 [Page 408] Id., par. 54.
12 [Page 408] Socrates''s "Ecclesiastical History," book vi, chap. xviii.
13 [Page 408] "History of Christianity," book iii, Chap. ix, par 56.
14 [Page 409] "Ecclesiastical History," book vi, chap. xviii.
15 [Page 409] "History of the popes," Innocent I, par. 8.
16 [Page 410] Bower, Id., par. 14.
17 [Page 412] "History of Latin Christianity," book ii, chap. iii, par. 23.
18 [Page 413] Id., par. 21.
19 [Page 413] Socrates''s "Ecclesiastical History," book vii, chap. xxix.
20 [Page 415] "History of Latin Christianity," book ii, chap. iii, par. 20.
21 [Page 415] Id., par. 15.
22 [Page 417] "History of the Church Councils," sec. 131, par. 1.
23 [Page 418] Id., sec. 133.
24 [Page 419] Id., par. 3.
25 [Page 420] "Schaff''s "History of the Christian Church," Vol. iii, section 171, par. 10.
25 [Page 421] "History of Latin Christianity, book ii, chap.iii, par. 49.
25 [Page 422] Id., par. 22.
27 [Page 422] Hefele''s "History of the Church Councils," sec. 134, par. 6.
28 [Page 423] Milmah''s "History of Latin Christianity," book ii, chap. iii, par. 56.
29 [Page 424] "Ecclesiastical History," book vii, chap. xxii.
30 [Page 426] "History of Latin Christianity," book ii, chap. iii, par. 64.
31 [Page 426] "Decline and Fall," chap. xlvii, par. 15.
32 [Page 428] "Encyclopedia Britannica," article "Immaculate Conception." The following is the original as there given; "Auctoritate Domini Nostri Jesu Christi, beatorum Apostolorum Petri et Pauli, ac Nostra, declaramus, pronuntiamus et definimus, doctrinam, quae tentet Beatissimam Virginem Mariam in primo instanti suae Conceptiois fuisse singulari Omnipotentis Del gratia et privilegio, intuitu meritorum Christi Jesu, Salvatoris humani generis, ab omni originalis culpae labe praeservatam immunem, esse a del revelatm, atque idecireco ab omnibus fidelibus firmiter constanterque credendam."