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NESTORIUS AND THE CHALDEAEANS

After a prolonged and protracted struggle which frequently involved the use of military force and resulted in civil war in many areas of the empire, Arianism disappeared, at least formally, from the intellectual scene of the age, and Nestorius of Constantinople taught, apparently in an attempt to rectify the damage done by the Arian schisms, that in Christ there really ARE two natures. All well and good, so far. Unfortunately, he also predicated that conclusion upon another statement, that there were also two PERSONS, one human, one divine. Mary, therefore, cannot be called the Mother of God (Theotokos), he said, because she was only the mother of the human person, not the divine one. In only a century after Nicaea, it became necessary to call another council to deal with the new threat to unity. The bishops once again met in Ephesus in 431 and condemned this doctrine as heretical as well, and proclaimed Mary to be the Theotokos, the true Mother of God, not so much in veneration of Mary, but to uphold the singleness of the personhood of Jesus Christ. One person, divine AND human, at one and the same time.

There was much less violence this time, though many Syrians refused to accept the decision, even though Ephesus lay within the confines of the province of Syria at the time, and they fled to the Persian Empire, the ancient and persistent enemy of the Roman Empire from time immemorial, fleeing ever eastward until they had built solid communities as far east as Khitai and the Hidden Islands. As late as the 13th century they held powerful and valued positions in the court of the Great Khan, and Nestorian communities exist to this very day. There are several Nestorian communities extant in the United States even now.

Most of the Nestorians, however, returned to the Church in Eastern Syria and, in time with changes that occurred naturally over a church ever more widely scattered, developed into what is now known as the Chaldaean Rite of the Catholic Church. Their chief bishop, who is known as the Patriarch of Babylon, still lives at Mosul in Iraq. They number about 195,000 at last counting, with a few thousand in the United States. There is a small parish in Chicago, and another in Detroit.

Many of the Nestorian churches which were established in India also returned to the Catholic Church in the 16th century, as a result of the diligent efforts of the Jesuits under the Portuguese expansion following Prince Henry the Navigator and Vasco da Gama's circumnavigation of the Cape, and forms today what is known as the Syro-Malabar Rite, somewhat latinized, but lately, under the urging of Pope John II, revising their liturgies and spiritual practices to conform more closely to their more ancient and more classical customs as they existed prior to latinization. The chief Prelate of the Syro-Malabarese is the Archbishop of Ernakulam, are well over a million in number in India currently and growing rapidly. Rapidly enough in fact, to have become the target of official governmental repression in law and in practice, and rapidly enough to have generated some very angry Roman Rite letters to Rome complaining about their success in what some Indian Roman Rite Catholics bishops have come to view for some reason as their sole purview. There is no official representation of the Syro-Malabarese in America that I know of, though I know of quite a few individuals who, having no parishes or ecclesiastical jurisdiction of their own, quite naturally attend another rite wherever they find themselves.

Courtesy of Catholic Information Network (CIN)
 

 

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