Thursday, November 15, 2018

Iconoclasm by Fr. Adrian Fortescue -- Part II

For Part III
For Part I

Catholic Encyclopedia (1913): Iconoclasm

The Empress Irene was regent for her son Constantine VI (780-97), who was nine years old when his father died. She immediately set about undoing the work of the Iconoclast emperors. Pictures and relics were restored to the churches; monasteries were reopened. Fear of the army, now fanatically Iconoclast, kept her for a time from repealing the laws; but she only waited for an opportunity to do so and to restore the broken communion with Rome and the other patriarchates. The Patriarch of Constantinople, Paul IV, resigned and retired to a monastery, giving openly as his reason repentance for his former concessions to the Iconoclast Government. He was succeeded by a pronounced image-worshipper, Tarasius. Tarasius and the empress now opened negotiations with Rome. They sent an embassy to Pope Adrian I (772-95) acknowledging the primacy and begging him to come himself, or at least to send legates to a council that should undo the work of the Iconoclast synod of 754. The pope answered by two letters, one for the empress and one for the patriarch. In these, he repeats the arguments for the worship of images, agrees to the proposed council, insists on the authority of the Holy See, and demands the restitution of the property confiscated by Leo III. He blames the sudden elevation of Tarasius (who from being a layman had suddenly become patriarch), and rejects his title of Ecumenical Patriarch, but he praises his orthodoxy and zeal for the holy images. Finally, he commits all these matters to the judgment of his legates. These legates were an archpriest Peter and the abbot Peter of St. Saba near Rome. The other three patriarchs were unable to answer, they did not even receive Tarasius’s letters because of the disturbance at that time in the Moslem state. But two monks, Thomas (abbot of an Egyptian monastery) and John (Syncellus of Antioch), appeared with letters from their communities explaining the state of things and showing that the patriarchs had always remained faithful to the images. These two seem to have acted in some sort as legates for Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem.

Tarasius opened the synod in the church of the Apostles at Constantinople in August of 786; but it was at once dispersed by the Iconoclast soldiers. The empress disbanded those troops and replaced them by others; it was arranged that the synod should meet at Nicaea in Bithynia, the place of the first general council. The bishops met here in the summer of 787, about 300 in number. The council lasted from 24 September to 23 October. The Roman legates were present; they signed the Acts first and always had the first place in the list of members, but Tarasius conducted the proceeding, apparently because the legates could not speak Greek. In the first three sessions Tarasius gave an account of the events that had led up to the Council, the papal and other letters were read out, and many repentant Iconoclast bishops were reconciled. The fathers accepted the pope’s letters as true formulas of the Catholic Faith. Tarasius, when he read the letters, left out the passages about the restitution of the confiscated papal properties, the reproaches against his own sudden elevation and use of the title Ecumenical Patriarch, and modified (but not essentially) the assertions of the primacy.

The fourth session established the reasons for which the use of holy images is lawful, quoting from the Old Testament passages about images in the temple (Ex., xxv, 18-22; Num., vii, 89; Ezech., xli, 18-19; Hebr., ix, 5), and also citing a great number of the Fathers. Euthymius of Sardes at the end of the session read a profession of faith in this sense. In the fifth session Tarasius explained that Iconoclasm came from Jews, Saracens, and heretics; some Iconoclast misquotations were exposed, their books burnt, and an icon set up in the hall in the midst of the fathers. The sixth session was occupied with the Iconoclast synod of 754; its claim to be a general council was denied, because neither the pope nor the three other patriarchs had a share in it. The decree of that synod was refuted clause by clause. The seventh session drew up the symbol (horos) of the council, in which, after repeating the Nicene Creed and renewing the condemnation of all manner of former heretics, from Arians to Monothelites, the fathers make their definition. Images are to receive veneration (proskynesis), not adoration (latreia); the honour paid to them is only relative (schetike), for the sake of their prototype (for the text of this, the essential definition of the council, see IMAGES, VENERATION OF). Anathemas are pronounced against the Iconoclast leaders; Germanus, John Damascene, and George of Cyprus are praised. In opposition to the formula of the Iconoclast synod, the fathers declare: “The Trinity has made these three glorious” (he Trias tous treis edoxasen). A deputation was sent to the empress with the Acts of the synod; a letter to the clergy of Constantinople acquainted them with its decision. Twenty-two canons were drawn up, of which these are the chief:
·       canons 1 and 2 confirm the canons of all former general councils;
·       canon 3 forbids the appointment of ecclesiastical persons by the State; only bishops may elect other bishops;
·       canons 4 and 5 are against simony;
·       canon 6 insists on yearly provincial synods;
·       canon 7 forbids bishops, under penalty of deposition, to consecrate churches without relics;
·       canon 10 forbids priests to change their parishes without their bishops consent;
·       canon 13 commands all desecrated monasteries to be restored;
·       canons 18-20 regulate abuses in monasteries.
An eighth and last session was held on 23 October at Constantinople in the presence of Irene and her son. After a discourse by Tarasius, the Acts were read out and signed by all, including the empress and the emperor. The synod was closed with the usual Polychronia or formal acclamation, and Epiphanius, a deacon of Catania in Sicily, preached a sermon to the assembled fathers. Tarasius sent to Pope Adrian an account of all that had happened, and Adrian approved the Acts (letter to Charles the Great) and had them translated into Latin. But the question of the property of the Holy See in Southern Italy and the friendship of the pope towards the Franks still caused hard feeling between East and West; moreover an Iconoclast party still existed at Constantinople, especially in the army.
Twenty-seven years after the Synod of Nicaea, Iconoclasm broke out again. Again, the holy pictures were destroyed, and their defenders fiercely persecuted. For twenty-eight years, the former story was repeated with wonderful exactness. The places of Leo III, Constantine V, and Leo IV are taken by a new line of Iconoclast emperors — Leo V, Michael II, Theophilus. Pope Paschal I acts just as did Gregory II, the faithful Patriarch Nicephorus stands for Germanus I, St. John Damascene lives again in St. Theodore the Studite. Again, one synod rejects icons, and another, following it, defends them. Again, an empress, regent for her young son, puts an end to the storm and restores the old custom — this time finally.

The origin of this second outbreak is not far to seek. There had remained, especially in the army, a considerable Iconoclast party. Constantine V, their hero had been a valiant and successful general against the Moslems, Michael I (811-13), who kept the Faith of the Second Council of Nicaea, was singularly unfortunate in his attempt to defend the empire. The Iconoclasts looked back regretfully to the glorious campaigns of his predecessor, they evolved the amazing conception of Constantine as a saint, they went in pilgrimage to his grave and cried out to him: “Arise, come back, and save the perishing empire”. When Michael I, in June 813, was utterly defeated by the Bulgars and fled to his capital, the soldiers forced him to resign his crown and set up one of the generals, Leo the Armenian (Leo V, 813-20), in his place. An officer (Theodotus Cassiteras) and a monk (the Abbot John Grammaticus) persuaded the new emperor that all the misfortunes of the empire were a judgment of God on the idolatry of image-worship. Leo, once persuaded, used all his power to put down the icons, and so all the trouble began again.

In 814, the Iconoclasts assembled at the palace and prepared an elaborate attack against images, repeating almost exactly the arguments of the synod of 754. The Patriarch of Constantinople was Nicephorus I (806-15), who became one of the chief defenders of images in this second persecution. The emperor invited him to a discussion of the question with the Iconoclasts; he refused since it had been already settled by the Seventh General Council. The work of demolishing images began again. The picture of Christ restored by Irene over the iron door of the palace was again removed. In 815, the patriarch was summoned to the emperor’s presence. He came surrounded by bishops, abbots, and monks, and held a long discussion with Leo and his Iconoclast followers. In the same year, the emperor summoned a synod of bishops, who, obeying his orders, deposed the patriarch and elected Theodotus Cassiteras (Theodotus I, 815-21) to succeed him. Nicephorus was banished across the Bosporus. Till his death in 829, he defended the cause of the images by controversial writings (the “Lesser Apology”, “Antirrhetikoi”, “Greater Apology”, etc. in P. G., C, 201-850; Pitra, “Spicileg. Solesm.”, I, 302-503; IV, 233, 380), wrote a history of his own time (Historia syntomos, P. G., C, 876-994) and a general chronography from Adam (chronographikon syntomon, in P. G., C, 995-1060). Among the monks who accompanied Nicephorus to the emperor’s presence in 815 was Theodore, Abbot of the Studium monastery at Constantinople (d. 826).

Throughout this second Iconoclast persecution, St. Theodore (Theodorus Studita) was the leader of the faithful monks, the chief defender of the icons. He comforted and encouraged Nicephorus in his resistance to the emperor, was three times banished by the Government, wrote a great number of treatises controversial letters, and apologies in various forms for the images. His chief point is that Iconoclasts are Christological heretics, since they deny an essential element of Christ’s human nature, namely, that it can be represented graphically. This amounts to a denial of its reality and material quality, whereby Iconoclasts revive the old Monophysite heresy. Ehrhard judges St. Theodore to be “perhaps the most ingenious [der scharfsinnigste] of the defenders of the cult of images” (in Krumbacher's “Byz. Litt.” p. 150). In any case, his position can be rivalled only by that of St. John Damascene. (See his work in P. G., XCIX; for an account of them see Krumbacher, op. cit., 147-151, 712-715; his life by a contemporary monk, P. G., XCIX, 9 sq.) His feast is on 11 Nov. in the Byzantine Rite, 12 Nov. in the Roman Martyrology.

The first thing the new patriarch Theodotus did was to hold a synod which condemned the council of 787 (the Second Nicene) and declared its adherence to that of 754. Bishops, abbots, clergy, and even officers of the Government who would not accept its decree were deposed, banished, tortured. Theodore of Studium refused communion with the Iconoclast patriarch, and went into exile. A number of persons of all ranks were put to death at this time, and his references; pictures of all kinds were destroyed everywhere. Theodore appealed to the pope (Paschal I, 817-824) in the name of the persecuted Eastern image-worshippers. At the same time Theodotus the Iconoclast patriarch, sent legates to Rome, who were, however not admitted by the pope, since Theodotus was a schismatical intruder in the see of which Nicephorus was still lawful bishop. But Paschal received the monks sent by Theodoret and gave up the monastery of St. Praxedes to them and others who had fled from the persecution in the East. In 818, the pope sent legates to the emperor with a letter defending the icons and once more refuting the Iconoclast accusation of idolatry. In this letter, he insists chiefly on our need of exterior signs for invisible things: sacraments, words, the sign of the Cross, and all tangible signs of this kind; how, then, can people who admit these reject images? (The fragment of this letter that has been preserved is published in Pitra, “Spicileg. Solesm.”. II, p. xi sq.).

The letter did not have any effect on the emperor; but it is from this time especially that the Catholics in the East turn with more loyalty than ever to Rome as their leader, their last refuge in the persecution. The well-known texts of St. Theodore in which he defends the primacy in the strongest possible language — e. g., “Whatever novelty is brought into the Church by those who wander from the truth must certainly be referred to Peter or to his successor ... Save us, chief pastor of the Church under heaven” (Ep. i, 33, P. G.., XCIX, 1018); “Arrange that a decision be received from old Rome as the custom has been handed down from the beginning by the tradition of our fathers” (Ep. ii, 36; ibid., 1331 —were written during this persecution).

The protestations of loyalty to old Rome made by the Orthodox and Catholic Christians of the Byzantine Church at the time are her last witness immediately before the Great Schism. There were then two separate parties in the East having no communion with each other: the Iconoclast persecutors under the emperor with their anti-patriarch Theodotus, and the Catholics led by Theodore the Studite acknowledging the lawful patriarch Nicephorus and above him the distant Latin bishop who was to them the “chief pastor of the Church under heaven”. On Christmas Day, 820, Leo V ended his tyrannical reign by being murdered in a palace revolution that set up one of his generals, Michael II (the Stammerer, 820-29) as emperor. Michael was also an Iconoclast and continued his predecessor’s policy, though at first he was anxious not to persecute but to conciliate every one. But he changed nothing of the Iconoclast law and when Theodotus the anti-patriarch died (821) he refused to restore Nicephorus and set up another usurper, Antony, formerly Bishop of Sylaeum (Antony I, 321-32).

In 822, a certain general of Slav race, Thomas, set up a dangerous revolution with the help of the Arabs. It does not seem that this revolution had anything to do with the question of images. Thomas represented rather the party of the murdered emperor, Leo V. But after it was put down, in 824, Michael became much more severe towards the image-worshippers. A great number of monks fled to the West, and Michael wrote a famous letter full of bitter accusations of their idolatry to his rival Louis the Pious (814-20) to persuade him to hand over these exiles to Byzantine justice (in Manse, XIV, 417-22). Other Catholics who had not escaped were imprisoned and tortured, among whom were Methodius of Syracuse and Euthymius, Metropolitan of Sardes. The deaths of St. Theodore the Studite (11 Nov., 826) and of the lawful patriarch Nicephorus (2 June, 828) were a great loss to the orthodox at this time. Michael’s son and successor, Theophilus, (829-42), continued the persecution still more fiercely. A monk, Lazarus, was scourged till he nearly died; another monk, Methodius, was shut up in prison with common ruffians for seven years; Michael, Syncellus of Jerusalem, and Joseph, a famous writer of hymns, were tortured. The two brothers Theophanes and Theodore were scourged with 200 strokes and branded in the face with hot irons as idolaters (Martyrol. Rom., 27 December). By this time, all images had been removed from the churches and public places, the prisons were filled with their defenders, the faithful Catholics were reduced to a sect hiding about the empire, and a crowd of exiles in the West. But the emperor’s wife, Theodora, and her mother, Theoctista, were faithful to the Second Nicene Synod and waited for better times.

Those times came as soon as Theophilus died (20 January, 842). He left a son, three years old, Michael III (the Drunkard, who lived to cause the Great Schism of Photius, 842-67), and the regent was Michael’s mother, Theodora. Like Irene at the end of the first persecution, Theodora at once began to change the situation. She opened the prisons, let out the confessors who were shut up for defending images, and recalled the exiles. For a time she hesitated to revoke the Iconoclast laws, but soon she made up her mind and everything was brought back to the conditions of the Second Council of Nicea. The patriarch John VII (832-42), who had succeeded Antony I, was given his choice between restoring the images and retiring. He preferred to retire and his place was taken by Methodius, the monk who had already suffered years of imprisonment for the cause of the icons (Methodius I, 842- 46). In the same year (842) a synod at Constantinople approved of John VII’s deposition, renewed the decree of the Second Council of Nicaea and excommunicated Iconoclasts. This is the last act in the story of this heresy.

On the first Sunday of Lent (19 February, 842) the icons were brought back to the churches in solemn procession. That day (the first Sunday of Lent) was made into a perpetual memory of the triumph of orthodoxy at the end of the long Iconoclast persecution. It is the “Feast of Orthodoxy” of the Byzantine Church still kept very solemnly by both Uniats and Orthodox. Twenty years later, the Great Schism began. So large has this, the last of the old heresies, loomed in the eyes of Eastern Christians that the Byzantine Church looks upon it as a kind of type of heresy in general that the Feast of Orthodoxy, founded to commemorate the defeat of Iconoclasm, has become a feast of the triumph of the Church over all heresies. It is in this sense that it is now kept. The great Synodikon read out on that day anathematizes all heretics (in Russia, rebels and nihilists also) among whom the Iconoclasts appear only as one fraction of a large and varied class. After the restoration of the icons in 842, there still remained an Iconoclast party in the East, but it never again got the ear of an emperor, and so gradually dwindled and eventually died out.

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