St. Photios the Great and the Eighth Ecumenical Synod (2 of 5)
By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou
2. The Minutes of the Synod
When one reads the published Minutes of the Synod of the year 879-880, then they will understand the great value of the Synod that took place in Seven Acts.
The First Act relates to the opening of the Synod that took place on the 14th of November in the year 879, on a Saturday, in the Grand Sekreton of the Patriarchate. There was a meeting of all the Bishops and the representatives of the Pope. This was followed by a prayer, introductions, and addresses were exchanged of initial thoughts on the issues that concerned the Church.
The Second Act of the Synod took place on the 17th of November, a Tuesday, on the right side of the Holy Church of Hagia Sophia which was for the catechumens. In this Act several letters were read, namely that of Pope John to Emperor Basil the Macedonia and to Patriarch Photios; of Patriarch Michael of Alexandria to Emperor Basil and his sons and to Patriarch Photios; of Patriarch Theodosios of Jerusalem to Patriarch Photios of Constantinople; of Patriarch Theodosios of Antioch to Patriarch Photios; and of Metropolitan Abramios of Samosata to Photios.
The Third Act of the Synod took place on the 19th of November, a Thursday, in the same place as before. During this Meeting was read the letters of Pope John to the Synod and of Patriarch Theodosios of Jerusalem to Emperor Basil. Also the Edict of Pope John was read to his deputies in Constantinople, which contained the orders of the Pope to his representatives on their course of action during the Synod, which we will analyze further on.
The Fourth Act took place on Christmas Eve, a Thursday, in the Grand Sekreton of the Patriarchate. During this Meeting was read the letters of Patriarch Theodosios of Antioch to Patriarch Photios, and of Elias, the new Patriarch of Jerusalem, to Patriarch Photios. In this meeting some of the positions of the Edict were discussed as well as the subject of the annulment of the Synod that took place in the year 869-870 which anathematized Photios, as well as the issue of the anathematization of the anti-photian Bishops. Then a Divine Liturgy took place for Christmas, in which all the Bishops participated.
The Fifth Act of the Synod took place on the 26th of January in the year 880, a Tuesday, on the right side of the Holy Church of Hagia Sophia which was for the catechumens. During this the Synod of 869-870 was annulled, and the Seventh Ecumenical Synod was confirmed, which had been annulled by the now annulled Synod of 869-870. Also, three important sacred Canons were issued concerning basic ecclesiastical issues, and these are described in the Canon Law of the Church as sacred Canons “of the Synod in Constantinople in the Church of Hagia Sophia”.
The Sixth Act of the Synod took place on March 3rd, a Thursday, in the luxurious and solemn Hall of the Palace, with Emperors Basil, Leo and Alexander seated among them. The Meeting of the Synod took place in the Palace, due to Basil being in mourning and could not publicly attend, yet he had to sign the decisions of the Synod, in order for them to become the law of the Empire. Emperor Basil spoke during this Meeting, and he said that this Ecumenical Synod had to take place in order for there to be unity in the Church, and he proposed as a seal of unity of the Church the Symbol of Faith of Nicaea/Constantinople, to be applied to all the Churches, without any addition or subtraction. This implied the addition into the Symbol of Faith of the Filioque by the Franks, but it was not specifically named in order to keep the peace of the Church. After this the decisions of the Synod were signed by the Emperor and his sons, and they became the law of the Empire.
The Seventh Act, the last of the Synod, took place on the 13th of March, a Sunday, on the right side of the Holy Church of Hagia Sophia which was for the catechumens. During this Meeting was read a summary of the Minutes of the Synod, in order for all the previous decisions to be accepted by all. What is important is that everyone submitted due respect to Patriarch Photios. Indeed, the deputies of the Pope of Rome praised Photios for his “reputation of benevolence” throughout the world, not only in Gaul and Italy, but throughout the world, and they testify this “not only in the Greek language, but also in the barbarian and similar races.” These words are important, because this characterization by the legates of the Pope had the Franks in mind and their barbaric actions. All of them confessed on behalf of Photios, according to the words of the legates of the Pope: “For no one is equal to him in wisdom and knowledge, nor in mercy and compassion, nor in goodness and humility; and that his works always exceed his words.”
And the Synod ended with a hymn to Photios the Great. The deputies of the Pope and Cardinal Peter said: “Whosoever does not hold him to be a holy Patriarch and embrace him in communion, should have a place with Judas, and should not gather together with the Christians.” And the entire Holy Synod “cried out”: “In all these things we are of like mind and we glorify, and those who do not hold him to be a high priest of God, may they not see the glory of God.” And having said these things, they lauded the Emperor with “Many Years”.
TO BE CONTINUED…