Occasionally my blog feels like background work for a round of Jeopardy.
I’ll take ‘Saints you’ve never heard of’ for 100, Alex.
Today is one of those days.
Mr. Trebek says,
And the answer is — She was a consecrated virgin, a holy martyr, and a theologian who influenced the doctrinal decision at one of the great Ecumenical Councils.
Before I spill the beans, here’s the back story.
Morning prayer took me into the Orthodox service of Matins (on the amazing Digital Chant Stand app, produced by Fr. Seraphim Dedes).
Matins and Vespers always include some hymns that remind worshippers of whichever saint or saints are being commemorated that day. So my prayerful meditations had me time and again praising God for the wonders of “Greatmartyr Euphemia.”
Who is ‘Greatmartyr Euphemia’?
This blows Alex away.
I had, of course, never heard of her. Or if I had, I’d forgotten.
The historian in me listens to these hymns to see how much of the saint’s story I can piece together. It is easy work if I know the person from other sources.
Euphemia? Not so much.
I’ll spare you the trail of breadcrumbs.
Here’s what I learned in a quick bit of research:
She was a martyr in 304, in the great persecution under the Emperor Diocletian — which means she was gone long before the Councils, which started in 325.
But her body, every bone a holy relic, was preserved in the city of Chalcedon.
I’ll take ‘Great Cities in Church History’ for 451, Alex.
Alex looks at me quizzically. He didn’t expect the board to give me so many Church History categories.
And the answer is — This city in Asia Minor played host of the Fourth Ecumenical Council.
Awesome! I’ve put this on Intro Church History exams myself.
What is ‘Chalcedon’?
Alex is not surprised
At Chalcedon, in the year 451, the representative bishops of the Christian world were debating the hot issue dividing the Church:
- Christians had been clear since the Council of Nicaea in 325 that Jesus Christ is true God and true human.
- But, as one Person, does he have one nature, as the so-called “Monophysites” said?
- Or is he mysteriously one Person in two natures — one complete and true divine nature and one complete and true human nature?
You and I probably assume that weighty theological decisions like this were made by rational argument, biblical exegesis, or whatever.
If you had taken my Intro Church History class you’d still think so. You would have heard the famous story of the “tome” of Pope Leo being read and providing a knockout argument against the Monophysites.
The bishops were convinced by Leo’s careful analysis: Christ is one person in two natures, and those natures are not confused, changed, divided, or separated.
It seemed like the Apostle Peter, first bishop of the Church in Rome, was speaking through Leo, the heir to his office. Slam dunk. The Nestorians are out. The Chalcedonian view defines Orthodoxy.
Alex is ready to wrap the show.
For Final Jeopardy our category is ‘Versions of important stories that look totally different when read in hagiographic literature.’
Alex observes that this is a very unusual category.
I’m fine with that.
And the answer is — The resolution to the Monophysite Debate at Chalcedon.
I scribble on my card for the entire length of the Jeopardy song.
What is, ‘When the bishops couldn’t come to agreement, they took two creeds, one from the Monophysite camp and one from the “two natures” camp, and placed them in the crypt of Greatmartyr Euphemia, sealed the tomb and guarded it for three days while they fasted and prayed, then opened it to find the Monophysite creed tossed to her feet, and the “two natures” creed in her right hand — whereupon the long-dead woman reached out and handed the “two natures” creed to the bishops to show her approval’?
Alex is astounded.
The Monophysites were defeated. Many converted to the ‘two natures’ side (which is still the view of Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and most Protestantism). The rest became what is known as the ‘Oriental Orthodox Churches.’
I’ll be back on the show tomorrow night.
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