7 ecumenical councils - XVII.

These are the opinions therefore of the fathers, which assembled in council with the great Cyprian: but they do not apply to all heretics nor to all schismatics. For the Second Ecumenical Council, as we have just said [i.e. in the Preface he has placed to the acts of the synod. Vide L. and C., Conc., Tom. i., col. 801] makes an exception of some heretics, and give its sanction to their reception without baptism, only requiring their anointing with the holy chrism, and then anathematizing at the same time their own and all heresies.

Balsamon does not print the acts of the Council at all but only the letter of St. Cyprian (Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. I., col. 799). I have not thought it worth while to place here the remarks of the eighty-six bishops, w" mh anagkaiai, oia mhde energousai, to quotequote Zonaras’s words.Binius.

The allusion here is to the decree of Stephen, who was wont, according to the custom of his elders, to be styled “Bishop of bishops,” and because he had acrimoniously threatened excommunication to all not agreeing with him).

On the disputed historical fact as to whether St. Cyprian died in or out of the communion of the See of Rome the reader will do well to consult Puller, The Primitive Saints and the See of Rome.

I place here St. Cyprian’s Seventieth Epistle in the Oxford Translation (Epistle of St. Cyprian, pp. 232 et seqq).. This letter is ad. dressed to Januarius, Satterninus, etc., and is headed in Beveridge’s Synodicon “Canon I.”
Epistle LXX.

Cyprian, Liberalis, Caldonius, etc., to their brethren Januarius, etc. Greeting.

When we were together in council, dear-est brethren, we read the letter which you addressed to us respecting those who are thought to be baptized by heretics and schismatics, whether, when they come to the one true Catholic Church, they ought to be baptized. Wherein, although ye yourselves also hold the Catholic rule in its truth and fixedness, yet since, out of our mutual affection, ye have thought good to consult us, we deliver not our sentence as though new but, by a kindred harmony, we unite with you in that long since settled by our predecessors, and observed by us; thinking, namely, and holding for certain, that no one can be baptized without the Church, in that there is one Baptism appointed in the holy Church, and it is written, the Lord himself speaking, “They have forsaken me, the Fountain of living water, and hewed them out broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Again, holy Scripture admonishes us, and says, “Keep thee from the strange water, and drink not from a fountain of strange water.” The water then must first be cleansed and sanctified by the priest, that it may be able, by Baptism therein, to wash away the sins of the baptized, for the Lord says by the prophet Ezekiel, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be cleansed from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you; a new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.” But how can he cleanse and sanctify the water, who is himself unclean, and with whom the Spirit is not? whereas the Lord says in Numbers, “And whatsoever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean.” Or how can he that baptizeth give remission of sins to another, who cannot himself free himself from his own sins, out of the Church?

Moreover, the very interrogatory which is put in Baptism, is a witness of the truth. For when we say, “Dost thou believe ineternal life, and remission of sins through the holy Church?” we mean, that remission of sins is not given, except in the Church; but that, with heretics, where the Church is not, sins cannot be remitted. They, therefore, who claim that heretics can baptize, let them either change the interrogatory, or maintain the truth; unless indeed they ascribe a Church also to those who they contend have Baptism.

Anointed also must he of necessity be, who is baptized, that having received the chrism—that is, unction, he may be the anointed of God, and have within him the grace of Christ. Moreover, it is the Eucharist through which the baptized are anointed, the oil sanctified on the altar. But he cannot sanctify the creature of oil, who has neither altar nor church. Whence neither can the spiritual unction be with heretics, since it is acknowledged that the oil cannot be sanctified nor the Eucharist celebrated among them. But we ought to know and remember that it is written, “Let not the oil of a sinner anoint my head;” which the Holy Ghost forewarned in the Psalms, lest any, quitting the track, and wandering out of the path of truth, be anointed by heretics and adversaries of Christ. Moreover, when baptized, what kind of prayer can a profane priest and a sinner offer? in that it is written, “God heareth not a sinner; but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.”

But who can give what himself hath not? or how can he perform spiritual acts, who hath himself lost the Holy Spirit? Wherefore he is to be baptized and received, who comes uninitiated to the Church, that within he may be hallowed through the holy; for it is written, “Be ye holy, for I am holy, saith the Lord.” So that he who has been seduced into error and washed without should, in the true Baptism of the Church, put off this very thing also; that he, a man coming to God, while seeking for a priest, fell, through the deceit of error, upon one profane. But to acknowledge any case where they have baptized, is to approve the baptism of heretics and schismatics.

For neither can part of what they do be void and part avail. If he could baptize, he could also give the Holy Ghost. But if he cannot give the Holy Ghost because, being set without, he is not with the Holy Ghost, neither can he baptize any that cometh: for that there is both one Baptism, and one Holy Ghost, and one Church, founded by Christ the Lord upon Peter, through an original and principle of unity; so it results, that since all among them is void and false, nothing that they have done ought to be approved by us. For what can be ratified and confirmed by God, which they do whom the Lord calls his enemies and adversaries, propounding in his Gospel, “He that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth.” And the blessed Apostle Jn also, keeping the commandments and precepts of the Lord, has written in his Epistle, “Ye have heard that Antichrist shall come; even now are there many Antichrists, whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us.” Whence we, too, ought to infer and consider, whether they who are the adversaries of the Lord, and are called Antichrists, can give the grace of Christ. Wherefore we who are with the Lord, and who hold the unity of the Lord, and according to this vouchsafement administer his priesthood in the Church, ought to repudiate and reject and account as profane, whatever his adversaries and Antichrists do; and to those who, coming from error and wickedness, acknowledge the true faith of the one Church, we should impart the reality of unity and faith by all the sacraments of Divine grace.

We bid you, dearest brethren, ever heartily farewell).
The Seventh Ecumenical Council. The Second Council of Nice.

a.d. 787.

Emperors—Constantine VI. And Irene.



Gibbon thus describes the Seventh Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church: “The decrees were framed by the president1 Tarasius, and ratified by the acclamations and subscriptions of three hundred and fifty bishops. They unanimously pronounced that the worship of images is agreeable to Scripture and reason, to the Fathers and councils of the Church; but they hesitated whether that worship be relative or direct; whether the godhead and the figure of Christ be entitled to the same mode of adoration.2 Of this second Nicene Council the acts are still extant; a curious monument of superstition and ignorance, of falsehood and folly.” (Decline and Fall, chapter xlix).

And this has been read as history, and has passed as such in the estimation of the overwhelming majority of educated English-speaking people for several generations, and yet it is a statement as full of absolute and inexcusable errors as the passage in another part of the same work which the late Bishop Lightfoot so unmercifully exposed, and which the most recent editor, Bury, has taken pains to correct.

I do not know whether it is worth while to do so, but perhaps it may be as well to state, that whatever may be his opinion of the truths of the conclusions arrived at by the council, no impartial reader can fail to recognize the profound learning3 of the assembly, the singular acumen displayed in the arguments employed, and the remarkable freedom from what Gibbon and many others would consider “superstition.” So radical is this that Gibbon would have noticed it had he read the acts of the synod he is criticising (which we have good reason for believing that he never did). There he would have found the Patriarch declaring that at that time the venerable images worked no miracles, a statement that would be made by no prelate of the Latin or Greek Church to-day, even in the light of the nineteenth century.

As I have noted in the previous pages my task is not that of a controversialist. To me at present it is a matter of no concern whether the decision of the council is true or false. I shall therefore strictly confine myself to two points 1. That the Council was Ecumenical. 2. What its decision was; explaining the technical meaning of the Greek words employed during this controversy and finally incorporated in the decree.
1. This Council Was Certainly Ecumenical.

It seems strange that any person familiar with the facts of the ease could for a moment entertain a doubt as to the ecumenical character of the council which met at Nice in 787.

(a) It was called by the Roman Emperors to be an Ecumenical Council. Vide letter of Tarasius.

(b) It was called with the approval of the Pope (not like I. Constantinople, without his knowledge; or like Chalcedon, contrary to his expressed wish), and two papal legates were present at its deliberations and signed its decrees. (c) The Patriarch of Constantinople was present in person.

(d) The other Patriarchates were represented, although on account of the Moslem tyranny the Patriarchs could not attend in person, nor could they even send proctors. (e) The decrees were adopted by an unanimous vote of the three hundred and fifty bishops. (f) They were immediately received in all the four Eastern Patriarchates.4 (g) They were immediately accepted by the Pope. (h) For a full thousand years they have been received by the Latin and Greek Churches with but a few exceptions altogether insignificant, save the Frankish kingdom.

In the face of such undisputed facts, it would be strange were anyone to doubt the historical fact that the Second Council of Nice is one of the Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church, and indeed so far as I am aware none have done so except such as have been forced into this position for doctrinal consistency.

Nor have all Protestants allowed their judgment to be warped in this matter. As a sample I may quote from that stanch Protestant whom Queen Elizabeth appointed a chaplain in ordinary in 1598, and who in 1610 was made Dean of Gloucester, the profoundly learned Richard Field. In his famous “Book of the Church” (Book V. chap. lj)., he says: “These” [six, which he had just described] “were all the lawful General Councils (lawful, I say, both in their beginning and proceeding and continuance) that ever were holden in the Christian Church, touching matters of faith. For the Seventh, which is the Second of Nice, was not called about any question of faith but of manners. So that there are but Seven General Councils that the whole Church acknowledgeth, called to determine matters of faith and manners. For the rest that were holden afterwards, which our adversaries [the Roman Catholics] would have to be acknowledged general, they are not only rejected by us but by the Grecians also, as not general, but patriarchal only, etc.”

Of course there are a number of writers (principally of the Anglican Communion), who have argued thus: “The doctrine taught by the Second Council of Nice we reject, ergo it cannot have been an Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church.” And they have then gone on to prove their conclusion. With such writers I have no concern. My simple contention is that the Council is admitted by all to have been representative of East and West, and to have been accepted for a thousand years as such, and to be to-day accepted as Ecumenical by the Latin and Greek Churches. If its doctrines are false, then one of the Ecumenical Synods set forth false doctrine, a statement which should give no trouble, so far as I can understand, to anyone who does not hold the necessary infallibility of Ecumenical Synods.5

Among those who have argued against the ecumenical character of the Seventh Council there are, however, two whose eminent learning and high standing demand a consideration of anything they may advance on any subject they treat of, these are the Ap Jn Mason Neale and the Ap Sir William Palmer.

Dr. Neale considers the matter at some length in a foot-note to his History of the Eastern Church (Vol. II., pp. 132–135), but I think it not improper to remark that the author ingenuously confesses in this very note that if he came to the conclusion that the council was ecumenical, “it would be difficult to clear our own Church from the charge of heresy.” Entertaining such an opinion at the start, his conclusion could hardly be unbiassed.

The only argument which is advanced in this note which is different from those of other opponents of the Council, is that it had not the authentication of a subsequent Ecumenical Synod. The argument seems to me so extraordinary that I think Dr. Neale’s exact words should be cited: “In the first place, we may remark that the Second Council of Nicaea wants one mark of authority, shared according to the more general belief by the six—according to the opinions which an English Churchman must necessarily embrace by the first five Coun- cils—its recognition as Ecumenical by a later Council undoubtedly so.” But surely this involves an absurdity, for if it is not known whether the last one is ecumenical or no, how will its approval of the next to the last give that council any certainty? If III. Constantinople is doubtful being the sixth, because there is no seventh to have confirmed it; then II. Constantinople, the fifth, is doubtful because it has only been confirmed by a synod itself doubtful and so on, which is absurd. The test of the ecumenicity of a council is not its acceptance by a subsequent synod, but its acceptance by the whole Church, and this Dr. Neale frankly confesses is the case with regard to II. Nice: “It cannot be denied,” he admits, “that at the present day both the Eastern and the Latin Churches receive it as Ecumenical” (p. 132). He might have added, “and have done so without any controversy on the subject for nearly a thousand years.”

I do not think there is any need of my delaying longer over Dr. Neale’s note, which I have noticed at all only because of his profound scholarship, and not because on this particular point I thought he had thrown any new light upon the matter, nor urged any argument really calling for an answer.

Sir William Palmer’s argument (A Treatise on the Church of Christ, Pt. IV., Chapter X., Sect. IV). is one of much greater force, and needs an answer. He points out how, long after the Council of Nice, the number of the General Councils was still spoken of as being Six, and that in some instances this council is referred to as the “pseudo” General Council of Nice. Now at first sight this argument seems to be of great force. But upon further consideration it will be seen to be after all of no great weight. We may not be able to explain, nor are we called upon to do so, why in certain cases writers chose still to speak of Six instead of Seven General Councils, but we would point out that the same continuance of the old expression can be found with regard to others of the General Councils. For example, St. Gregory the Great says that he “revered the four Ecumenical Councils as he did the four Gospels,” but the fifth Ecumenical Synod had been held a number of years before. Will anyone pretend from this to draw the conclusion that at that time the Ecumenical character of the Fifth Synod (II. Constantinople) was not recognized at Rome? Moreover, among the instances cited (and there are but a very few all told) one of them is fatal to the argument. For if Pope Hadrian in 871 still speaks of only six Ecumenical Synods, he omits two (according to Roman count), for this date is after the synod which deposed Photius—a synod rejected indeed afterwards by the Greeks, but always accepted by the Latins as the Eighth of the Ecumenical Councils. Would Sir William pretend for an instant that Hadrian and the Church of Rome did not recognize that Council as Ecumenical and as the Eighth Synod? He could not, for on page 208 he ingenuously confesses that that Council “had been approved and confirmed by that Pope.”

But after all, the contention fails in its very beginning, for Sir William frankly recognizes that the Popes from the first espoused the cause of the council and were ready to defend it. Now this involved the acknowledgment of its ecumenical character, for it was called as an Ecumenical Synod, this we expressly learn from the letter of Tarasius to the other Eastern Patriarchs (Labbe, Conc., Tom. VII., col. 165), from the letter of the Emperor and Empress to the bishops throughout the empire (L. and C., Conc., Tom. VII., col. 53), and (above all) from the witness of the Council itself, assuming the style of the “Holy Ecu-menical Synod.” In the face of such evidence any further proof is surely uncalled for.

We come now to the only other argument brought against the ecumenical character of this council—to wit, that many writers, even until after the beginning of the XVIth century, call the Seventh a “pseudo-Council.” But surely this proves too much, for it would seem to imply that even down to that time the cultus of images was not established in the West, a proposition too ridiculous to be defended by anyone. It is indeed worthy of notice that aH the authors cited are Frankish, (1) the Annales Francorum (a.d. 808) in the continuation of the same (a.d. 814), in an anonymous life of Charlemagne, and the Annales written after 819; (2) Eginhard in his Annales Francorum (a.d. 829); (3) the Gallican bishops at Paris, 824;6 (4) Hincmar of Rheims; (5) Ado, bishop of Vienne (died 875); (6) Anastasius acknowledges that the French had not accepted the veneration of the sacred images; (7) The Chronicle of St. Bertinus (after 884); (8) The Annales Francorum after the council still speak of it as pseudo; (9) Regino, Abbot of Prum (circa 910); (10) the Chronicle of St. Bertinus, of the Xth Century. (11) Hermanus Contractus: (12) the author who continued the Gestes Francorum to a.d. 1165; (13) Roger Hoverden (a.d. 1204); (14) Conrude a Lichte-nan, Abbot of Urspurg (circa 1230); (15) Matthew of Westminster.

No doubt to these, given in Palmer, who has made much use of Lannoy, others could be added; but they are enough to shew that the council was very little known, and that none of these writers had ever seen its acts.

Sir William is of opinion that by what precedes in his book he has “proved that for at least five centuries and a half the Council of Nice remained rejected in the Western Church.” I venture to think that the most he has proved is that during that period of time he has been able to find fifteen individuals who for one reason or another wrote rejecting that council, that is to say three in a century, a number which does not seem quite sufficient to make the foundation of so considerable a generalization as “the Western Church.” The further conclusion of Sir William, I think, every scholar will reject as simply preposterous, vie.: “In fact the doctrine of the adoration of images [by which he means the doctrine taught by the II. Council of Nice] was never received in the West, except where the influence of the Roman See was predominant” (p. 211).

Sir William is always, however, honest, and the following quotation which he himself makes from Cardinal Bellarmine may well go far toward explaining the erroneous or imperfect statements he has so learnedly and laboriously gathered together. “Bellarmine says: ‘It is very credible that St. Thomas, Alexander of Hales, and other scholastic doctors had not seen the second synod of Nice, nor the eighth general synod;’ he adds that they ‘were long in obscurity, and were first published in our own age, as may be known from their not being extant in the older volumes of the councils; and St. Thomas and the other ancient schoolmen never make any mention of this Nicene Synod.’ (Bell. De Imag. Sanct. Lib. II. cap. xxij).”
2. What the Council Decreed.

The council decreed that similar veneration and honour should be paid to the representations of the Lord and of the Saints as was accustomed to be paid to the “laurata” and tablets representing the Christian emperors, to wit, that they should be bowed to, and saluted with kisses, and artended with lights and the offering of incense. But the Council was most explicit in declaring that this was merely a veneration of honour and affection, such as can be given to the creature, and that under no circumstances could the adoration of divine worship be given to them but to God alone.

The Greek language has in this respect a great advantage over the Hebrew, the Latin and the English; it has a word which is a general word and is properly used of the affectionate regard and veneration shown to any person or thing, whether to the divine Creator or to any of his creatures, this word is proskunhsi"; it has also another word which can properly be used to denote only the worship due to the most high, God, this word is latreia. When then the Council defined that the worship of “latria “was never to be given to any but God alone, it cut off all possibility for idolatry, mariolatry, iconolatry, or any other “larry” except “theo-larry.” If therefore any of these other “latries” exist or ever have existed, they exist or have existed not in accordance with, but in defiance of, the decree of the Second Council of Nice.

But unfortunately, as I have said, we have neither in Hebrew, Latin, nor English any word with this restricted meaning, and therefore when it became necessary to translate the Greek acts and the decree, great difficulty was experienced, and by the use of “adoro” as the equivalent of proskunew many were scandalized, thinking that it was divine adoration which they were to give to the sacred images, which they knew would be idolatry. The same trouble is found in rendering into English the acts and decrees; for while indeed properly speaking “worship” no more means necessarily divine worship in English than “adoratio” does in Latin (e.g. I. Chr. 29,20, “All the congregation bowed down their heads and worshipped the Lord and the King” [i.e. Solomon]; Lc 14,10, “Then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee “), yet to the popular mind “the worship of images” is the equivalent of idolatry. In the following translations I have uniformly translated as follows and the reader from the English will know what the word is in the original.

Proskunw, to venerate; timaw, to honour; latreuw, to adore; aspaxomai to salute; douleuw, to serve; eikwn, an image.

The relative force of proskunhsi" and latreia cannot better be set forth than by Archbishop Trench’s illustration of two circles having the same centre, the larger including the less (New Testament Synonyms, sub vote Datreuw).

To make this matter still clearer I must ask the reader’s attention to the use of the words abadh and shachah in the Hebrew; the one abadh, which finds, when used with reference to God or to false gods its equivalent in latreuw; the other shachah, which is represented by proskune. Now in the Old Testament no distinction in the Hebrew is drawn between these words when applied to creator or creature. The one denotes service primarily for hire; the other bowing down and kissing the hand to any in salutation. Both words are constantly used and sometimes refer to the Creator and sometimes to the creature—e.g., we read that Jacob served (abadh) Laban (Gn 29,20); and that Joshua commanded the people not to serve the gods of their fathers but to serve (abadh) the Lord (Jos 24,14). And for the use of shachah the following may suffice: “And all the congregation blessed the Lord God of their fathers and bowed down their heads and worshipped (Hebrew, shachah; Greek, proskunew; Latin, adoro) the Lord and the King” (1Ch 29,20). But while it is true of the Hebrew of the Old Testament that there is no word which refers alone to Divine Worship this is not true of the Septuagint Greek nor of the Greek of the New Testament, for in both proskunew has always its general meaning, sometimes applying to the creature and sometimes to the Creator; but latreuw is used to denote divine worship alone, as St. Augustine pointed out long ago.

This distinction comes out very clearly in the inspired translation of the Hebrew found in Matthew 4,10, “Thou shalt worship proskunhsei") the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve latreusei").” “Worship” was due indeed to God above all but not exclusively to him, but latria is to be given to “him only.”7

I think I have now said enough to let the reader understand the doctrine taught by the council and to prove that in its decree it simply adopted the technical use of words found in the Greek of the Septuagint and of the New Testament. I may then dose this introduction with a few remarks upon outward acts of veneration in general).

Of course, the outward manifestation in bodily acts of reverence will vary with times and with the habits of peoples. To those accustomed to kiss the earth on which the Emperor had trodden, it would be natural to kiss the feet of the image of the King of Kings. The same is manifestly true of any outward acts whatever, such as bowing, kneeling, burning of lights, and offering of incense. All these when offered before an image are, according to the mind of the Council, but outward signs of the reverence due to that which the image represents and pass backward to the prototype, and thus it defined, citing the example of the serpent in the wilderness, of which we read, “For he that turned himself toward it was not saved by the thing that he saw, but by thee, that art the Saviour of all” (Wisdom 16,17). If anyone feels disposed to attribute to outward acts any necessary religious value he is falling back into Judaism, and it were well for him to remember that the nod which the Quakers adopted out of protest to the bow of Christians was once the expression of divine worship to the most sacred idols; that in the Eastern Church the priest only bows before the Lord believed to be present in the Holy Sacrament while he prostrates himself before the infidel Sultan; and that throughout the Latin communion the acolytes genuflect before. the Bishop, as they pass him, with the same genuflection that they give to the Holy Sacrament upon the Altar. In this connexion I quote in closing the fine satire in the letter of this very council to the Emperor and Empress. St. Paul “says of Jacob (He 11,2I), ‘He worshipped the top of his staff,’ and like to this is that said by Gregory, surnamed the theologian, ‘Revere Bethlehem and worship the manger,’ But who of those truly understanding the Divine Scriptures would suppose that here was intended the Divine worship of latria? Such an opinion could only be entertained by an idiot or one ignorant of Scriptural and Patristic knowledge. Would Jacob give divine worship to his staff? Or would Gregory, the theologian, give command to worship as God a manger!”8
The Divine1 Sacra2 Sent by the Emperors Constantine and Irene to the Most Holy and Most Blessed Hadrian, Pope of Old Rome.

 (Found in Zabbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. VII., col. 32).

They who receive the dignity of the empire, or the honour of the principal priesthood from our Lord Jesus Christ, ought to provide and to care for those things which please him, and rule and govern the people committed to their care according to his will and good pleasure.

Therefore, O most holy Head (Caput), it is incumbent upon us and you, that irrepre-hensibly we know the things which be his, and that in these we exercise ourselves, since from him we have received the im-peratorial dignity, and you the dignity of the chief priesthood.

But now to speak more to the point. Your paternal blessedness knows what hath been done in times past in this our royal city against the venerable images, how those who reigned immediately before us destroyed them and subjected them to disgrace and injury: (O may it not be imputed to them, for it had been better for them had they not laid their hands upon the ’l Church!)— and how they seduced andbrought over to their own opinion all the people who live in these parts—yea, even the whole of the East, in like manner, up to the time in which God hath exalted us to this kingdom, who seek his glory in truth, and hold that which has been handed down by his Apostles together with all other teachers. Whence now with pure heart and unfeigned religion we have, together with all our subjects and our most learned divines, had constant conferences respecting the things which relate to God, and by their advice have determined to summon a General Council. And we entreat your paternal blessedness, or rather the Lord God entreats, “who will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” that you will give yourself to us and make no delay, but come up hither to aid us in the confirmation and establishment of the ancient tradition of yen-erable images. It is, indeed, incumbent on your holiness to do this, since you know how it is written— “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, ye priests, saith the Lord,” and “the lips of the priest shall keep knowledge, and the law shall go forth out of his mouth, for he is the angel of the Lord of Hosts.” And again, the divine Apostle, the preacher of the truth, who, “from Jerusalem and round about unto Il-lyricum, preached the Gospel,” hath thus commanded— “Feed with discipline the flock of Christ which he purchased with his own blood.” As then you are the veritable chief priest (primus sacerdos) who presides in the place and in the see of the holy and superlaudable Apostle Peter, let your paternal blessedness come to us, as we have said before, and add your presence to all those other priests who shall be assembled together here, that thus the will of the Lord may be accomplished. For as we are taught in the Gospels our Lord saith— “When two or three are met together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” —let your paternal and sacred blessedness be certified and confirmed by the great God and King of all, our Lord Jesus Christ, and by us his servants, that if you come up hither you shall be received with all honour and glory, and that everything necessary for you shall be granted. And again, when the definition (capitulum) shall be completed, which by the good pleasure of Christ our God we hope shall be done, we take upon us to provide for you every facility of returning with honour and distinction. If, however, your blessedness cannot attend upon us (which we can scarcely imagine, knowing what is your zeal about divine things), at least, pray select for us men of understanding, having with them letters from your holiness, that they may be present here in the person of your sacred and paternal blessedness. So, when they meet with the other priests who are here, the ancient tradition of our holy fathers may be synodically confirmed, and every evil plant of tares may be rooted out, and the words of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ may be fulfilled, that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against her.” And after this, may there be no further schism and separation in the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, of which Christ our true God is the Head.

We have had Constantine, beloved in Christ, most holy Bishop of Leontina in our beloved Sicily, with whom your paternal blessedness is well acquainted, into our presence; and, having spoken with him face to face, have sent him with this our present venerable jussio to you. Whom, after that he hath seen you, forthwith dismiss, that he may come back to us, and write us by him concerning your coming—what time we may expect will be spent in your journeying thence and coming to us. Moreover, he can retain with him the most holy Bishop of Naples, and come up hither together with him. And, as your journey will be by way of Naples and Sicily we have given orders to the Governor of Sicily about this, that he take due care to have every needful preparation made for your honour and rest, which is necessary in order that your paternal blessedness may come to us. Given on the with before the calends of September, the seventh indic-tion, from the Royal City.
The Imperial Sacra. Read at the First Session.

 (Found in Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. VII, col. 49).

Constantine and Irene—Sovereigns of the Romans in the Faith, to the most holy Bishops, who, by the grace of God and by the command of our pious Sovereignty, have met together in the Council of Nice.

The Wisdom which is truly according to the nature of God and the Father—our Lord Jesus Christ, our true God—who, by his most divine and wonderful dispensation in the flesh, hath delivered us from all idolatrous error: and, by taking on him our nature, hath renewed the same by the co-operation of the Spirit, which is of the same nature with himself; and having himself become the first High Priest, hathcounted you holy men, worthy of the same dignity.

(He is that good Shepherd who, bearing on his own shoulders that wandering sheep —fallen man, hath brought him back to his own peculiar folds-that is, theparty of angelic and ministering powers (Ep if. 14, 15), and hath reconciled us in himself and having taken away the wall of partition, hath broken down the enmity through his flesh, and hath bestowed upon us a rule of conduct tending to peace; wherefore, preaching to all, he saith in the Gospel, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God (Mt 5,9). Of which blessedness, confirming as it does the exaltation of the adoption of sons, our pious Sovereignty desiring above all things to be made partakers, hath ever applied the utmost diligence to direct all our Roman Commonwealth into the ways of unity and concord; and more especially have we been solicitous concerning the right regulation of the Church of God, and most anxious in every way to promote the unity of the priesthood. For which cause the Chiefs of the Sacerdotal Order of the East and of the North, of the West and of the South, are present in the person of their Representative Bishops, who have with them respectively the replies written in answers to the Synodical Epistle sent from the most holy Patriarch; for such was from the beginning the synodical regulation of the Church Catholic, which, from the one end of the earth to the other, hath received the Gospel. On this account we have, by the good will and permission of God, caused you, his most holy Priests, to meet together —you who are accustomed to dispense his Testimony in the unbloody sacrifice—that your decision may be in accordance with the definitions of former councils who decreed rightly, and that the splendour of the Spirit may illumine you in all things, for, as our Lord teaches, No man lighteth a candle and putteth it under a bushel, but on acandlestick, that it may give light to allthat are in tim house; even so, should ye make such use of the various regulations which have been piously handed down to us of old by our Fathers, that all the Holy Churches of God may remain in peaceful order.

As for us, such was our zeal for the truth—such our earnest desire for the interests of religion, our care for ecclesiastical order, our anxiety that the ancient rules and orders should maintain their ground—that though fully engaged in military councils—though all our attention was occupied in political cares—yet, treating all these affairs as but of minor importance, we would allow nothing whatever to interfere with the convocation of your most holy council. To every one is given the utmost freedom of expressing his sentiments without the least hesitation, that thus the subject under enquiry may be most fully discussed and truth may be the more boldly spoken, that so all dissensions may be banished from the Church and we all may be united in the bonds of peace.

For, when the most holy Patriarch Paul, by the divine will, was about to be liberated from the bands of mortality and to exchange his earthly pilgrimage for a heavenly home with his Master Christ, he abdicated the Patriarchate and took upon him the monastic life, and when we asked him, Why hast thou done this? he answered, Because I fear that, if death should surprise me still in the episcopate of this royal and heaven-defended city, I should have to carry with me the anathema of the whole Catholic Church, which consigns me to that outer darkness which is prepared for the devil and his angels; for they say that a certain synod hath been held here in order to the subversion of pictures and images which the Catholic Church holds, embraces, and receives, in memory of the persons whom they represent. This is that which distracts my soul—this is that which makes me anxiously to enquire how I may escape the judgment of God—since among such men I have been brought up and with such am I numbered. No sooner had he thus spoken in the presence of some of our most illustrious nobles than he expired.When our Pious Sovereignty reflected on this awful declaration (and truly, even before this event, we had heard of similarquestionings from many around), we took counsel with ourselves as to what ought to be done; and we determined, after mature deliberation, that when a new Patriarch had been elected, we should endeavour to bring this subject to some decisiveconclusion. Wherefore, having summoned those whom we knew to be most experienced in ecclesiastical matters, and having called upon Christ our God, we consulted with them who was worthy to be exalted to the chair of the Priesthood of this Royal and God-preserved city; and they all with one heart and soul gave their vote in favour of Tarasius—he who now occupies the Pontifical Presidency. Having, therefore, sent for him, we laid before him our deliberations and our vote; but he would by no means consent, nor at all yield to that which had been determined. And when we enquired, Wherefore he thus refused his consent?—at first he answered evasively, That theyoke of the Chief Priesthood was too much for him. But we, knowing this to be a mere pretext coveting his unwillingness to obey us, would not desist from our importunity, but persisted in pressing the acceptance of the dignity of the Chief Priesthood upon him. When he found how urgent we were with him, he told us the cause of his refusal. It is (said he) because I perceive that the Church which has been founded on the rock, Christ our God, is rent and torn asunder by schisms, and that we are unstable in our confession, and that Christians in the East, of the same faith with ourselves, decline communion with us, and unite them with those of the West; and so we are estranged from all, and each day are anathematized by all: and, moreover, I should demand that an Ecumenical Council should be held, at which should be found Legates from the Pope of Rome and from the Chief Priests of the East. We, therefore, fully understanding these things, introduced him to the assembled company of the Priests —of our most illustrious Princes—and of all our Christian people; and then, in their presence, he repeated to them all that he had before said to us; which, when they heard, they received him joyfully, and earnestly entreated our peace-making and pious Sovereignty that an Ecumenical Council might be assembled. To this their request, we gave our hearty consent; for, to speak the truth, it is by the good will and under the direction of our God that we have assembled you together. Wherefore as God, willing to establish his own counsel, hath for this purpose brought you together from all parts of the world, behold the Gospels now lying before you, and plainly crying aloud, “Judge justly;” stand firm as champions of religion, and be ready with unsparing hand to cut away all innovations and new fangled inventions. And, as Peter the Chief of the Apostolic College, struck the mad slave and cut off his Jewish ear with the sword, so inlike manner do ye wield the axe of the Spirit, and every tree which bears the fruit of contention, of strife, or newly-imported innovation, either renew by transplanting through the words of sound doctrine, or lay it low with canonical censure, and send it to file fires of the future Gehenna, so that thepeace of the Spirit may evermore protect the whole body of the Church, compacted and united in one, and confirmed by the traditions of the Fathers; and so may all our Roman State enjoy peace as well as the Church.

We have received letters from Hadrian, most Holy Pope of old Rome, by his Legates—namely, Peter, the God-beloved Archpresbyter, and Peter, the God-beloved Presbyter and Abbot—who will be present in council with you; and we command that, according to synodical custom, these be read in the hearing of you all; and that, having heard these with becoming silence, and moreover the Epistles contained in two octavos sent by the Chief Priest and other Priests of the Eastern dioceses by John, most pious Monk and Chancellor of the Patriarchal throne of Antioch, and Thomas, Priest and Abbot, who also are present together with you, ye may by these understand what are the sentiments of the Church Catholic on this point).
Extracts from the Acts. Session I.

7 ecumenical councils - XVII.