The Orthodoxy of "Nestorian" Christology

Shlama
So I have not made any posts these past few days, and I thought not doing so would be unfair to others like @Alexandria2020 who really do work hard to inform you guys about some important topics.
So I was doing some research about my own tradition, which is the East Syriac Tradition, which is one of the 2 Syriac traditions, with the East Syriac tradition being native to India and Babylon. The 2 Syriac traditions are largely misunderstood, and both churches have some “nickname” associated with it. Our nickname is “Nestorian” while those who follow the West Syriac tradition (besides the Maronites) are known as “Jacobites.”
For a time, I used to believe that being a Nestorian was basically being an Arian and used to find the term as part of the old heretical past we St Thomas Christians had. It wasn’t until a year ago I understood the truth about our theology and it’s Orthodoxy.
First, let’s talk about the who Mar Nestorious was and his “crime.”
Mar Nestorius was an inhabitant of Germencia, Turkey, and was a student of Mar Theodore of Mopsuestia, a member of the School of Antioch. He was known for his great sermons and was also popular among those who belonged to the School of Antioch, which impressed Theodsius II, who had him enthroned as Patriarch of Constantinopole. Upon his arrival, the clergy of Constantinopole where having a major dispute over the title of the Virgin Mary. Many believed that she should have been known as the Mother of God (Emme d’alaha) while others believed that she should have been known as Mother of Man (Emme d’abasha.) Mar Nestorius took a look at the situation and came up with the a new title, the Mother of Christ (Emme d’mshiha.) Mar Nestorious was born in Turkey and knew very well the 2 terms would be heretical. The term “Mother of God” was basically another term for “Mother Goddess” and the time, especially in places like Ephesus, where the cult of Diana, the Mother Goddess, was very strong. Calling her the Mother of God in a time period as such would have people thinking that she was a Goddess herself, which was incorrect. The term “Mother of Man” was also incorrect, as the Blessed Virgin Mary had given birth to Jesus, who is both true God and true Man and therefore calling her Mother of Man would have separated Jesus into 2 different people, which is the crime others had placed upon him. “Mother of Christ” was perfect, because Christ was both perfect Man and perfect God,and Mary had given birth to him. She was not a Mother Goddess like many would have conceived her to be.

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This was a very controversial term among many in Constantinopole, so they decided to report this to the Patriarch of Alexandria, Mar Cyril (Koorilos/Kuriakose.) Mar Cyril believed that Mar Nestorius was stating that Jesus was 2 different person, God, and Christ (Man), and asked the Patriarch of Rome if a council could be conducted to resolve the issue. The Council itself was flawed. It took place in Ephesus, which I as I had said, had been a center of the worship of the Mother Goddess. The Mar Cyril, the accuser, was also the Judge, making the council. The bishops who followed the school of Antioch weren’t even present, and so the 2 appealed to the Emperor. Both Mar Nestorius and Mar Cyril were deported, with Mar Cyril eventually escaping through bribes. Mar Nestorius tried to prove his innocence through the Bazaar of Heracleides, a letter written to Mar Cyril, which directly states that Christ as “ one in twofold.”

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The Church of the East, on the other hand, had already established it’s independence and a new Catholicate in AD 410. The Church of the East could not attend the Council of Ephesus, but upon hearing what had happen, decided that they would uphold the Christology of Mar Nestorius. Mar Abdisho, bishop of Armenia and Nisbis, wrote a treaty on East Syriac Theology, named as “Maragnitha” (Pearl.) He explains the East Syriac position on the title of the Virgin Mary by stating, “The Prophets prophesied of Christ to come, and the Apostles preached of that same Christ, predicted by the Prophets as coming into the world, that this was He Who was born of Mary. Now, were we to use the expression "Mother of Man’ only, we should be like Paul of Samosata, and Photinus of Galatia, who said of our Lord that He was but a mere man like one of the prophets, and on this account they were excommunicated; so if we use the bare expression “Mother of God,” we become like Simon and Menander, who say that God did not take a body from Mary; but that His life and actions were in appearance only and not real, and on that account they also were excommunicated. But we call the Virgin “Mother of Christ,” the name used by Prophets and Apostles, and which denotes the union generally…… Cyril, in the Sentences which he drew up, and in which he excommunicated all who shall distinguish between the divinity and humanity of Christ, virtually excommunicates the Holy Scriptures, since the Apostles and Prophets do distinguish between the natures of the Person respecting Whom the dispute is, and from these the holy Fathers learnt to confess of Christ, that He is perfect God and perfect Man, the Likeness of God and the likeness of a servant, the Son of David and the Son of the Highest, flesh and Word.” We also have a Syriac hymn written by Mar Babai the Great that goes “We adore you, my Lord in your divinity and humanity without doubt” (Sagdīnan mār lālāhūsākh Walnāšūākh d’lāpūlāga.) This song is still sung among us Syro Malabareans.

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We also have more evidence in India too. The Song Bar Mariam (Son of Mary) testifies this in it’s lyrics several times:
|1.The Son of Mary, the Son of Mary, the Son of God whom Mary brought forth
2.For us was born in Bethlehem, the Son of Mary, the Son of Mary
3.The Magi came to the honor of adoration of King Christ whom Mary brought forth
4. The Son of Mary, the Son of Mary, the Son of God whom Mary brought forth
5.The Son of Mary, made angels come down for the praise of His birth, Son of Mary
6. And they invited the shepherds for the adoration of King Christ
7. The Son of Mary called first the keepers of sheep, the Son of Mary
8. And they adored in the manger the great shepherd, the King Christ
9. The Son of Mary, His star showed according to prophesy, the Son of Mary
10. And the Magi of Pares acknowledged that to the earth had come down King Christ whom Mary brought forth
11.The Son of Mary shook the king, and he sought to kill Him, Son of Mary
12. He ordered His angel and He warned Joseph to flee to Egypt with Him, King Christ, whom Mary brought forth
13.The Son of Mary offered sacrifice to His hidden Father, the Son of Mary
14. The sucklings were sacrificed at the coming of King Christ
15. The Son of Mary was baptized in Jordan by John, the Son of Mary
16. On Him descended the Holy Spirit, King Christ
17. The Father testified about the Son of Mary from the heaven of heavens, the Son of Mary
18. That this is my Son in whom I am pleased, King Christ
19. The Son of God sanctified the waters of His baptism, the Son of Mary
20. And He made them the cleansing womb that brings forth life, King
21. With you his soul the Son of Mary to raise our fall, Son of Mary
22. From his servant King Christ asked for baptism
23. The Son of Mary gave us an example of humility, the Son of Mary
24. Through it he pacified the Father that we may be brothers of Kind Christ
25.The Son of Mary fasted in the desert for forty days, the Son of Mary
26. And He defeated and conquered the devil, King Christ
27. The Son of Mary showed His glory on Mount Thabor, the Son of Mary
28. He appeared to Moses and Elijah, King Christ
29. The Son of Mary rode on a colt and entered Jerusalem, the Son of Mary

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  1. And the children praised Him by their Hosana, King Christ
  2. The Son of Mary ate the pasch with His disciples, the Son of Mary
  3. He gave His body in bread and wine, King Christ
  4. The Son of Mary suffered on the cross through the Jews, the Son of Mary
  5. He bent His head and gave up His spirit, King Christ
  6. The Son of Mary was placed in the tomb for three days, the Son of Mary
  7. And He rose up and raised up Adam who had been corrupt, King Christ
  8. The Son of Mary rose from the tomb with great glory, the Son of Mary
  9. And he conquered death by His resurrection, King Christ
  10. The son of Mary ascended into heaven to the One who sent him, the son of Mary
  11. And sat there at the right, King Christ
  12. The Son of Mary sent the Spirit, the paraclete, the Son of Mary
  13. On the disciples and made them wise, King Christ
  14. The Son of Mary, the wood of your crucifixion was found, (O) the Son of Mary on the thirteenth of September, King Christ
  15. The Son of Mary took to Him as spouse the Holy Church, Son of Mary
  16. Through Simon Kepa, the son of Jonah, King Christ
  17. Praise to your name, the Son of Mary, from all mouths, the Son of Mary
  18. Let us all call out and say all together, “Blessed is Christ, forever and ever, the Son of Mary, Emmanuel, the Son of Mary”|
    There is an ancient Church in Kurvalingad which also contains and ancient bell which contains the inscription “Mother of God.”
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For further reasearch:
Please read the Marganitha


and these are the 2 songs I had mentioned:

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Nestorius and the Church of the East have definitely been misunderstood by the churches within the Roman Empire. All the controversial stuff of the 5th and 6th centuries that separated the apostolic churches were all really communication misunderstandings and other politics.

Thanks for the explanation Elvis!

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Wow! That is a lot of information, especially since Nestorian Christology is new to me. Thank you for the education.

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Well, you forgot to mention that Pope Celestine in Rome gave a general condemnation of the teaching of Nestorius BEFORE any council was convened. And St Cyril of Alexandria never received a proper response from Nestorius. And Nestorius did not attend the council anyway and was deposed as Bishop of Constantinople.

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Thank you for posting this, @Elvis_George.

In addition to your recommended reading (which I hope to obtain a copy of some day), I also recommend checking out the book The Church of the East: Apostolic and Orthodox by Mar Bawai Soro. In it he defends the theologies of both Theodore of Mopsuestia (who, I believe, was also the teacher of St. John Chrysostom) and Mar Nestorius.

I think the history of Nestorius and the Council of Ephesus is a good illustration of why dialogue (even lengthy dialogue) is important before condemnations are issued. It’s possible that, had the dialogue been extended, we as a Church would’ve had one less schism to heal.

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From what I have heard, they were friends who were both part of the School of Antioch

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Whether Nestorious did or didn’t wasn’t nesscary because he had already written to Mar Cyril about his beliefs, with the Bazaar of Heracleides being one of them and also, from what I have read, Mar Nestorius did attend the Council of Ephesus. He himself writes, " When the followers of Cyril saw the vehemence of the emperor… they roused up a disturbance and discord among the people with an outcry, as though the emperor were opposed to God; they rose up against the nobles and the chiefs who acquiesced not in what had been done by them and they were running hither and thither. And… they took with them those who had been separated and removed from the monasteries by reason of their lives and their strange manners and had for this reason been expelled, and all who were of heretical sects and were possessed with fanaticism and with hatred against me. And one passion was in them all, Jews and pagans and all the sects, and they were busying themselves that they should accept without examination the things which were done without examination against me; and at the same time all of them, even those that had participated with me at table and in prayer and in thought, were agreed… against me and vowing vows one with another against me… In nothing were they divided."

Funny thing, I’ve recently heard of dioceses that overlapped each other anathematizing each other in South India (during the 16th century). But since those dioceses were under Rome they were able to sort it out.

I guess anathematizing was a common thing they did back in the days due to whatever politics.

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On the positive note, glad to know that the Assyrian Church of the East and the Catholic Church has been able work out their differences now and are much more closer in relationship now. Certain theological discussions are still on going and I think we will hear more good news in the coming years.

Both the Armenian Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox churches share warm relations with the Assyrian Church of the East, but the Coptic Church still sees the Church of the East as heretical to this day… which is mainly why Oriental Orthodoxy has not been able to reconcile with the Assyrian Church of the East.

In terms of the situation with the Eastern Orthodox (EO), I’ve heard it’s a mixed bag situation here. Some bishops approve but some do not and still view the Church of East as heretical. So that’s what’s keeping them away from closer relations. And I guess there’s no centralized power to bring all these EO bishops together. The irony I find with EOs is that they consider Church of the East theologian Isaac of Nineveh to be a saint.

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And not just a saint, but one of the greatest spiritual masters ever! (And who in their right mind would deny this?) :smile:

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@Alexandria2020 and @Elvis_George Can you share some of the unique characteristics of Nestorian theology/Christology that are expressed in your Liturgy/liturgical life to this day?

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well I’m from the latinized SyroMalabar Church - so I wouldn’t call myself someone from a purely East Syriac Church.

Anyway our liturgical year is definitely from the East Syriac tradition. It’s divided up into 9 seasons.

  1. Annunciation (Subara) (usually from Dec 1- the whole month of Dec)
    Weeks of Annunciation (Subara) is the first liturgical month of the Syro Malabar Church. The Syro-Malabar liturgical year begins with the proclamation and celebration of the historical encounter between God and Man in the person of Jesus Christ, the human appearance of the Divine Person. In these weeks we prepare & celebrate the historical event of the birth of Jesus Christ. This period is also a time to remember and honor the Blessed Virgin Mary in a special way. We know for sure that the divine plan of human salvation is realized only through her fiat, her consent.

  2. Epiphany (Denha) (around Jan)
    Weeks of Denha is centered on the great solemnity of Denha, Epiphany, baptism of Jesus in Jordan. The month provides the faithful an occasion for meditating deeper on the Trinity and of human salvation. Also, we remember the most important Saints related to the manifestation of our Lord during the weeks of Denha. Baptism in Jordan was the first historical event when the Holy Trinity is revealed to humans. The weeks of Denha begins on the Sunday nearest to January 6, the solemnity of Denha, Epiphany and runs to the beginning of Great Fast.

  3. Great Fast (Sawma Ramba) (Feb-April time)
    During the weeks of Great Fast, the faithful reflect on and meditate over the public life of Jesus and especially on its culmination in his passion, death and burial. It is a God-given time for turning to one’s own life more deeply and to become convinced of the abundant blessings of the loving God – the creation, the providential caring, the human fall, the helplessness of man to save himself, the promise of salvation, the redemption through His Son Jesus, the invaluable Gift of the Holy Spirit and the inheritance of the heavenly Kingdom. The weeks of Great Fast is also an occasion to keep up the memory of the beloved Departed through special prayers, renunciation and almsgiving.

  4. Resurrection (Qyamta) (April- May time)
    The Church celebrates the Resurrection of our Lord during the seven weeks of liturgical month of Resurrection. Church rejoices on Messiah’s victory over death, sin, suffering and Satan. The empty Tomb, the empty Cross (St Thomas Cross), the blooming or living or flourishing or flowering or fruit bearing Tree, and so on are speaking icons or images in the Church of this unique victory of Jesus.

  5. Apostles (Sleeha)
    The descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles (Pentecost) marks the beginning of this particular liturgical month. During its seven weeks the Church meditates deeply on the work of the Holy Spirit in humanity, sanctifying, transforming and elevating it to the heights of divinity.

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  1. Summer (Qaitha) (July time)
    The maturity and fruitfulness of the Church are specially meditated on during the weeks of Liturgical month of Qaita (summer). The Syriac word Qaita means “summer”. Summer is the time when grains and fruits mature and ripen. Thus it is a time of plentiful harvest for the Church. The fruits of the Church are those of holiness and martyrdom.

  2. Elijah-Cross (Eliah-Sleeva) (Sept time)
    The great solemnity of the Glorious Cross that we celebrate on September 14th is the basic theme meditated on and absorbed in all through this liturgical month of Eliah-Sleeva. This feast emerged as the second Easter, especially in Eastern Traditions, in the second half of the liturgical year, parallel to the Easter in the first half. During this period the faithful try their best to have an experience of the heavenly bliss here on earth itself, a foretaste of the intimate union with the Divine Person.

  3. Moses (Musha) (mostly Oct)
    Weeks of Moses is a God-given occasion for meditating on the end of time and the last judgement. This is a liturgical period whose duration is in fact uncertain. This particular nature is typical of the end of time and last judgement, which are always uncertain.

  4. Dedication of the Church (Qudas-Edta) (Nov month)
    Dedication of the Church is the last four weeks of the Syro-Malabar liturgical year. They are precisely arranged to have an in-depth heavenly experience for the faithful. Christ the Bride-groom leads His bride the Church to the heavenly bride chamber and offers her to the Father, giving her the fullness of heavenly bliss. The church being the sign of heavenly Kingdom here on earth, every time the believer enters it, he/she is invited to such a heavenly experience and sing praises to the Lord in the company of the celestial choirs. The faithful reach to the climax of such experience during the Holy Qurbana celebration, the full and integral expression of their faith and life.

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then we have our Liturgy of the hours. Ordinary Syro Malabar faithful do Ramsha (after Sunset), Lelya (before bedtime) & Sapra (after Sunrise) and thus pray minimum three times a day. Most parishes that do the liturgy of hours do Ramsha, Lelya, and Sapra. But sadly the majority of the parishes are latinized and focus more on rosaries and novenas.

Syro Malabar Church’s liturgical day begins from the sunset and ends in sunset. It is in connection with God’s creation in Genesis & Passover in Egypt and continuation of Jewish tradition.

“Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.” Psalms 119:164

Basically it covers the Psalms. and I’m told doing the prayers over a certain period of time will have you eventually cover over the whole book of Psalms.

  • Ramsha / The evening Liturgy (Sunset / 6PM)
  • Lelya / the Night Liturgy (before sleep / 9PM)
  • Qala d-Shahra / the Vigil Liturgy (3 AM)
  • Sapra / the Morning Liturgy (9 AM)
  • Quta’a / the Third Hour Liturgy (9 AM)
  • Endana / the Noon Liturgy (12 PM)
  • D’Batsha Shayin / NInth Hour Liturgy (3 PM)
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hmmm sometimes the 2 seasons are mushed into 1, so it would be Elijah, Cross, and Moses and don’t forget the memorial of the dead, which rlly isn’t a season but yeah

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