The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Councils of Faith: Constantinople III (680-681)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Those who find that the Church uses highly complicated theological words to define her dogmas might not know much about the events that led to those terms. Passionate and often violent councils led to the definitions of the articles of the Catholic faith. Many reasons led to those councils and there were not always religious but often political.

The Church having asserted two natures in Christ (human and divine) in its first five ecumenical councils, one would obviously have expected the discussion to go further, especially trying to understand how both natures work in one person. The Church had been divided, many churches remaining monophysites. The main cause was of course the disagreement with the doctrine of two natures in Christ but also political issues. It had become obvious that the Roman Empire was losing territories in the East. That is why Sergius, Patriarch of Constantinople, with the approval of Emperor Heraclius I, introduced monothelitism in order to reunify the Church. Monothelitism affirmed the two natures of Christ but also professed one will (thelema in Greek) and one activity (or operation). Although monothelitism succeeded to bring a few monophysites back to the Church, it was rejected by many theologians, including Sophronius of Jerusalem. It was unthinkable to them to say that the divine and human natures of Christ had a same activity. Sergius, convinced by that approach, abandoned the idea of one activity and expressed that by promulgating a decree, Psephos, which forbade all Christians to mention ‘the number’ of Jesus’s activities.

Honorius the First accepts the Psephosbut keeps the idea of one will in Christ and writes it in the Ecthesis in 638, confirming the Psephos and stressed his belief in a unique activity of Christ. Much later, in 648, Constans II abolishes the Ecthesis and promulgates the Typus. He intended to stop the debate but carries on being a monothelite quietly. In the end, in 678 Constantin IV calls for an Ecumenical Council to put an end to a strong division between the churches in the East and those in the West.

The Council lasted for two years (680-681) having taken two more years to start after it had been summoned. Papal legates and bishops gathered at Constantinople and studied the Holy Scripture and the texts of the fathers of the Church, trying to understand the whole question of will and activity in Christ. The Council fathers adopted the theory that affirmed that there are two wills and two activities in Christ. Among them was the Patriarch of Constantinople. In the last paragraphs of the Acts, one can read: “And we proclaim equally two natural volitions or wills in him and two natural principles of action which undergo no division, no change, no partition, no confusion, in accordance with the teaching of the holy fathers”. Their greatest opponent became Macarius of Antioch who was later anathematised together with all those who previously had held the monothelite view. Pope Honorius the First was also condemned for not having condemned but supported monothelitism. Although Agatho was Pope when the Council convened, at its end Pope Leo II had succeeded him and it was to him that the council fathers sent a letter for the confirmation of the Acts.

The Council of Constantinople III might be the one that could confuse us very much as it condemned a thought that intended to reunify the divided Church. But at the same time, one should understand the need of a sound doctrine. And, although the influence of politics in the Church's vital decrees cannot be denied, one could hardly also reject the good will and the honesty of the Councils’ fathers who kept the true doctrine in those councils even when they were not the most powerful or influential. It would thus be unchristian to doubt the work of the Holy Spirit in those councils.
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What I did in the summer...La Route Dominicaine

Monday, November 26, 2012
Walking long distances is a very Dominican activity. St Dominic walked countless miles preaching the Gospel in southern France and northern Italy in the earliest days of the Order.
Later that century, St Albert the Great, as Provincial of Teutonia then Bishop of Regensburg, had such a job visiting his priories and parishes that he earned the nickname 'The Boot'. It was to send a clear signal of evangelical poverty that these early Dominicans refused to ride horses. Just as Jesus sent out the first disciples on foot, so do we poor preachers follow in their footsteps. We still don't ride horses! Now, while modern transportation has of course become indispensable, we must always strive for a prudent poverty and simplicity of lifestyle, suitably to adorn our preaching of spiritual riches. And so, occasionally, it is good to get back to basics, and leave behind the settled comforts of community or family life.
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Councils of Faith: Constantinople II (553)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

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What I did in the Summer.....France

Monday, November 19, 2012

Dies Irae – Requiem Mass Sequence

Friday, November 16, 2012
November is traditionally the month of the dead. In our private prayers and public liturgy, this is the time when we remember especially those who have gone to the Lord. We believe their passing is not a final alienation from us, but an inevitable stage on their journey to God. We miss them and mourn for them, but we are still united with them in spirit and prayer. After all, the Church is the one Body of Christ, in which all the living are bonded together, both we who remain on earth and those who 'have gone before us marked with the sign of faith' (Roman Canon). As Jesus teaches:

'They are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the burning bush, when he called the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.'

Fittingly for November, then, the Oxford University Philharmonia (in which I play 1st flute) will be performing Verdi's Requiem next week at the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford. Details are on the poster below.
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Councils of Faith: Chalcedon (451)

Thursday, November 15, 2012
The ‘Christological Settlement’ promulgated by the Council of Chalcedon is one of the most decisive texts of Christian theology, serving as the point of reference for the resolution of all future Christological disputes. Chalcedon was principally attempting to respond to a new heretical view espoused by a certain Archimandrite from Constantinople called Eutyches, who proposed that in the incarnation the divine and human substances somehow became ‘mixed’ as a ‘tertium quid’ (a third thing), something more than human but less than divine. Chalcedon’s decree, however, effectively summarises the whole trajectory of Christological thought that developed through four centuries of sustained reflection on the Church’s faith and practice, as has has been reflected in the first three Ecumenical Councils. Read more

What I Did in the Summer ... Placement in St Petersburg

Monday, November 12, 2012
At the beginning of July I was ordained deacon and, soon afterwards, I set out for my placement in a parish, which is quite a common place for deacons to be sent during the summer after their ordination. It’s not quite so common, though, for that parish to be in Russia, which is where I went, to our Dominican house and parish of St Catherine of Alexandria in St Petersburg. Why Russia? you might well ask. Wasn’t there somewhere in England I could have gone? Of course, I could have stayed in England, but I had studied Russian at university before I joined the Order and so asked the Student Master if I might be able to go to Russia to brush up my Russian and to get to know the brethren and their work in that country. He said yes, so off I went. Read more

Councils of Faith: Ephesus I (431)

Wednesday, November 07, 2012
The dogmatic definition of the Holy Trinity in the Nicene Creed did not shut down debate in the Church, but enabled theologians to explore ever deeper the mystery of God. In particular, how was it possible for divinity and humanity to be reconciled in the one person, Jesus Christ? Read more

What I Did in the Summer ... Hospital Chaplaincy

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Councils of Faith: Constantinople I (381)

Thursday, November 01, 2012
The question that dominated the First council of Nicaea (325) was in essence: Is Jesus merely a super-being that God created, or is he God himself? The Arians had insisted that if Christianity is to be consistently monotheistic it must acknowledge that only God the Father is Divine. For the Arians, then, the Son and Spirit are more like immensely powerful angels. As we have seen in a previous post, Nicaea forcefully rejected this idea and preserved the scriptural truth of the Divinity of Christ via a non-scriptural term: homoousios, translated into English as ‘consubstantial’. The Son is consubstantial with the Father, God from God, begotten not made.  Read more
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