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MONOPHYSITES

The pendulum never seems to cease its swing. No sooner had Nestorius been condemned in his attempt to correct for the errors of Arius by postulating two persons and two natures, than someone else took the pendulum once again to the other extreme, postulating that Our Lord had only one person - but also only one nature. That in some way Our Lord's human nature had been "swallowed up" or "subsumed" in His Divine Nature - therefore the term "Monophysite" - "one-natured." This was condemned only twenty years after Ephesus (431) in 451 at Chalcedon. Once again there were many who refused to submit to the Council of Chalcedon's decision that in Christ there is ONE *divine* Person, and TWO *distinct* natures, human and divine. Again, many Syrians left the Church and became known as Jacobites. There were also many from Egypt who accepted Monophysitism and maintain it to this day. There seems also to have been a heavy element of secular politics involved, with both Egypt and Syria attempting several revolts to achieve independence from New Rome, often with the urging and financial support of the essentially Zoroastrian Persian Empire. Dissent in the Empire served Persia's interests well.

Again, there was a period of return and reconciliation, the Jacobites eventually growing into what is now called the Pure Syrian Rite. Their numbers are currently somewhere in the range of 100,000, their chief bishop is the Patriarch of Antioch and lives in Beirut, Lebanon. A few hundred live here in the United States, but they have no churches of their own at the moment and normally frequent churches of the Maronite rite.

Another group of Indian Christians which uses the Pure Syrian rite returned to the Catholic Church with their charismatic leader, Mar Ivanios in 1930. They form the Malankarese rite, and number nearly a million today. Their chief prelate is the Archbishop of Trivandrum in southern India, and are just beginning to have a presence in the United States.

Egyptian Monophysites also separated from the rest of the Church, taking with them the majority of the faithful of the Alexandrian or Coptic rite. Ethiopians, dependent as they were on Egypt for sustenance, followed Egypt's example. The current head of the Alexandrian Monophysite Church is Pope Shenouda III - excuse me, was. The new Pope of Alexandria was installed only recently, if I remember correctly, and somehow the name Stephanos II comes to mind. It is incorrect to group Monophysites with the Orthodox, though most do. It is as incorrect to identify Monophysites with Eastern Orthodox as it is to identify Eastern Catholics or Byzantine Catholics with Eastern Orthodox. To the Orthodox, the Monophysites are *still* heretics, and they resent greatly being grouped with Monophysites.

There are a number of Coptic Christians who returned to unity with the Catholic Church to the number of about 80,000, and have only a tiny representation in the United States. The chief bishop of Catholic Copts in Egypt is the Patriarch of Alexandria who lives in Cairo. Ethiopian Catholics also number about 50,000 or so, with an Archbishop and a bishop in Abyssinia, and another bishop in Eritrea. They have recently established a presence in the Washington, DC area.

 

Courtesy of Catholic Information Network (CIN)
 

 

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