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Theology

THEOLOGY

The Miaphysite Churches (or “Oriental Orthodox Churches”), all in communion with each other are :

  • Armenian Apostolic Church
  • Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin
  • Holy See of Cilicia
  • Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople
  • Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem
  • Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch
  • Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
  • Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria
  • French Coptic Orthodox Church
  • Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
  • Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church

Other Miaphysite Churches, not in communion with the Oriental Orthodox Churches, include

  • the Celtic Orthodox Church,
  • the Ancient British Church,
  • the British Orthodox Church.

ABOUT MIAPHYSITISM

Sometimes it is called as henophysitism. Miaphysitism is Cyril of Alexandria’s Christological formula holding that in the one person of Jesus Christ, divine nature and human nature are united (μία, mia – “one” or “unity”) in a compound nature (“physis”), the two being united without separation, without mixture, without confusion and without alteration.

Historically, Chalcedonian Christians have considered Miaphysitism in general to be amenable to an orthodox interpretation, in contrast to Monophysitism. Oriental Orthodoxy uses the term “Miaphysite” for themselves but prefer to call themselves non-Chalcedonians.

History of Miaphysitism

The term “miaphysitism” arose as a response to Dyophysite criticisms of Monophysitism. As Nestorianism had its roots in the Antiochene tradition and was opposed by the Alexandrian tradition, Christians in Syria and Egypt who wanted to distance themselves from the extremes of Nestorianism and wished to uphold the integrity of their theological position adopted this term Miaphysite to express their position.

The theology of miaphysitism is based on an understanding of the nature (Greek φύσις physis) of Christ: divine and human. After steering between the heresies of docetism (that Christ only appeared to be human) and adoptionism (that Christ was a man chosen by God), the Church began to explore the mystery of Christ’s nature further. Having agreed that Christ is both divine and human, the first difficulty was Nestorianism, which was perceived as stressing the two natures of Christ to such an extent that it appeared, to opponents, that two persons were living in the same body. Nestorianism taught that Christ’s humanity but not His divinity was born of the Virgin Mary.

Two positions in particular caused controversy:

  • Nestorianism stressed the distinction between the divine and the human in Christ to such an extent that it appeared that two persons were living in the same body. The view was condemned at the Council of Ephesus.
  • Eutychianism stressed the unity of Christ's nature to such an extent that Christ's divinity consumed his humanity as the ocean consumes a drop of vinegar. The view was condemned at the Council of Chalcedon.

In response to Eutychianism, the latter Council adopted dyophysitism, which clearly distinguished between person and nature, stating that Christ is one person in two natures, but emphasizes that the natures are “without confusion, without change, without division, without separation”.

The Monophysites rejected this definition as verging on Nestorianism and instead adhered to a wording of Cyril of Alexandria, the chief opponent of Nestorianism, who had spoken of the “one (mia) nature of the Word of God incarnate” (μία φύσις τοῦ θεοῦ λόγου σεσαρκωμένη mía phýsis toû theoû lógou sesarkōménē)[3] but they failed to see the distinction between the emphatic masculine form Mono and the less emphatic feminine form Mia[citation needed]. The distinction of this stance was that the incarnate Christ has one nature, but that nature is still of both a divine character and a human character, and retains all the characteristics of both.

The Council of Chalcedon (451) was often seen as a watershed for Christology among the Chalcedonians as it adopted dyophysitism. However, as Oriental Churches, especially the Copts in Egypt, who held to Miaphysitism, rejected the decision, the controversy became a major socio-political problem for the Eastern Roman Empire. There were numerous attempts at reunion between the two camps (including the Henoticon in 482), and the balance of power shifted several times. However, the decision at Chalcedon remains the official teaching of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and traditional Protestants. The non-Chalcedonian Orthodox Churches are usually grouped together as Oriental Orthodox. Over recent decades, leaders of the various branches of the Church have spoken about the differences between their respective christologies as not being as extreme as was traditionally held.

John Meyendorff, a historian of this period of Church history, held that the official teaching of the Eastern Orthodox Church is not expressed by Chalcedon alone, but by “Chalcedon plus Cyril” – i.e., the dyophysite position expressed by Chalcedon, plus Cyril’s miaphysite expression quoted above in its Orthodox interpretation – with the former attempting to express the inexpressible from one side (the dyophysite side) and the latter doing the same from the miaphysite side, both approaches being necessary and neither sufficient by itself.

Joint Commission of the Theological Dialogue
Between the Orthodox Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches
1989
Agreed Statement

We have inherited from our fathers in Christ the one apostolic faith and tradition, though as churches we have been separated from each other for centuries. As two families of Orthodox Churches long out of communion with each other we now pray and trust in God to restore that communion on the basis of the common Apostolic faith of the undivided church of the first centuries which we confess in our common Creed. What follows is a simple reverent statement of what we do believe, on our way to restore communion between our two families of Orthodox Churches .

Throughout our discussions we have found our common ground in the formula of our common Father, St. Cyril, of Alexandria : mia physis (hypostasis) Theou Logou sesarkomene, and in his dictum that ” it is sufficient for the confession of our true and irreproachable faith to say and to confess that the Holy Virgin is Theotokos (Hom: 15, cf. Ep. 39)”

Great indeed is the wonderful mystery of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, on e True God, one ousia in three hypostases or three prosopa. Blessed be the name of the Lord our God, for ever and ever.

Great indeed is also the ineffable mystery of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, for us and for our salvation.

The Logos, eternally consubstantial with the Father and the Holy Spirit in his Divinity, has in these last days, become incarnate of the Holy Spirit and Blessed Virgin Mary Theotokos, and thus became man, consubstantial with us in His humanity but without sin. He is true God and true Man at the same time, perfect in his Divinity, perfect in His humanity. Because the one she bore in her womb was at the same time truly God as well as fully human we call the Blessed Virgin Theotokos.

When we speak of the one composite (synthetos) hypostasis of our Lord Jesus Christ, we do not say that in Him a divine hypostasis and a human hypostasis came together. It is that the one eternal hypostasis of the Second Person of the trinity has assumed our created human nature in that act uniting it with his own uncreated divine nature, to form an inseparably and unconfusedly united real divine-human being, the natures being distinguished from each other in contemplation (theoria) only.

The hypostasis of the Logos before the incarnation, even with His divine nature, is of course not composite. The same hypostasis, as distinct from nature, of the Incarnate Logos, is not composite either. The unique theandric person (prosopon) of Jesus Christ is one etern~1 hypostasis who has assumed human nature by the Incarnation. So we call that hypostasis composite, on account of the natures which are united to form one composite unity. It is not the case that our Fathers used physis and hypostasis always interchangeably and confused the one with the other. The term hypostasis can be used to denote both the person as distinct from nature, and also the person with the nature, for a hypostasis never in fact exists without a nature.

It is the same hypostasis of the Second Person of the Trinity, eternally begotten from the Father who in these last days became a human being and was born of the Blessed Virgin. This is the mystery of the hypostatic union we confess in humble adoration – the real union of the divine with the human, with all the properties and functions of the uncreated divine nature, including natural will and natural energy, inseparably and unconfusedly united with the created human nature with all its properties and functions, including natural will and natural energy. It is the Logos Incarnate who is the subject of all the willing and acting of Jesus Christ.

We agree in condemning the Nestorian and the Eutychian heresies. We neither separate nor divide the human nature in Christ from His divine nature, nor do we think that the former was absorbed in the latter and thus ceased to exist.

The four adverbs used to qualify the mystery of the hypostatic union belong to our common tradition – without commingling (or confusion) (asyngchytos), without change (atreptos), without separation (achoristos) and without division (adiairetos). Those among us who speak of two natures in Christ, do not thereby deny their inseparable, indivisible union; those among us who speak of one united divine-human nature in Christ do not thereby deny the continuing dynamic presence in Christ of the divine and the human, without change, without confusion.

Our mutual agreement is not limited to Christology, but encompasses the whole faith of the one undivided church of the early centuries. We are agreed also in our understanding of the Person and Work of God the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father alone, and is always adored with the Father and the Son.

Oriental-Reformed Dialogue
Agreed Statement on Christology
1994

‘We confess our Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten son of God, perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, consisting of a rational soul and a body, begotten of the Father before the ages according to His divinity, the same, in the fullness of time, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, according to his humanity; thc Same consubstantial with the Father according to His divinity, and consubstantial with us according to His humanity. For a union has been made of two natures. For this cause we confess one Christ, one Son, one Lord.

‘In accordance with this sense of the unconfused union, we confess the holy Virgin to be Theotokos, because God the Word became incarnate and was made human, and from the very conception united to Himself the temple taken from her. As to the expressions concerning the Lord in the Gospels and Epistles, we are aware that theologians understand some as common, as relating to one Person, and others they distinguish, as relating to two natures, explaining those that befit the divine nature according to the divinity of Christ, and those of a humble sort according to His humanity.’ [Based on the Formula of Union, AD 433]

The four adverbs used to qualify the mystery of the hypostatic union belong to our common Christological tradition: ‘without commingling’ (or confusion) (asyngchtos), ‘without change’ (atreptos),·’without separation’ (achoristos) and ‘without division’ (adiairetos). Those among us who speak of two natures in Christ are justified in doing so since they do not thereby deny their inseparable indivisible union; similarly, those among us who speak of one united divine-human nature in Christ are justified in doing so since they not thereby deny the continuing dynamic presence in Christ of the divine and the human without change, without confusion.Both sides agree in rejecting the teaching which separates or divides the human nature, both soul and body in Christ, from His divine nature or reduced the union of the natures to the level of conjoining. Both sides also agree in rejecting the teaching which confuses the human nature in Christ with the divine nature so that the former is absorbed in the latter and thus ceased to exist.

The perfect union of divinity and of humanity in the incarnate Word is essential for the salvation of the human race. ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.’ (Jn 3.16 KJV).

About Orthodox Churches:

Three main Christian Groups:

  • Roman Catholic
  • Orthodox
  • Protestant

Essentially the Orthodox Church shares much with the other Christian Churches in the belief that God revealed himself in Jesus Christ, and a belief in the incarnation of Christ, his crucifixion and resurrection. The Orthodox Church differs substantially in the way of life and worship and in certain aspects of theology.

The Holy Spirit is seen as present in and as the guide to the Church working through the whole body of the Church, as well as through priests and bishops.

Around 200 million people follow the Orthodox tradition.

It is made up of a number of self-governing Churches which are either ‘autocephalous’ (meaning having their own head) or ‘autonomous’ (meaning self-governing).

The Orthodox Churches are united in faith and by a common approach to theology, tradition, and worship. They draw on elements of Greek, Middle-Eastern, Russian and Slav culture.

Each Church has its own geographical (rather than a national) title that usually reflects the cultural traditions of its believers.

The word ‘Orthodox’ takes its meaning from the Greek words orthos (‘right’) and doxa (‘belief’). Hence the word Orthodox means correct belief or right thinking.

The Orthodox tradition developed from the Christianity of the Eastern Roman Empire and was shaped by the pressures, politics and peoples of that geographical area. Since the Eastern capital of the Roman Empire was Byzantium, this style of Christianity is sometimes called ‘Byzantine Christianity’.