Jesus Christ Savior | This difference in perception of Church authority produced the conflict over the addition of the word filioque – and the Son – to the Nicene Creed by the Roman Catholic Church. Theological thought on the Trinity had progressed with time, particularly with St. Augustine, who saw the Holy Spirit as an expression of love between the Father and the Son (image, Wikimedia Commons).

One of the most tragic events in Church history has been the Schism of 1054 between what is now the Catholic Church in Rome and the Byzantine or Eastern Orthodox Church in Constantinople.

The actual event occurred on July 16, 1054. What began as a diplomatic effort between Pope Leo IX of Rome and the Byzantine Patriarch Michael Cerularius of Constantinople ended in disaster. The abrasive Cardinal Humbert laid a papal bull of excommunication (after Pope Leo had died) on the altar right during the Liturgy at the Church of Hagia Sophia, which led the Eastern Church to excommunicate the envoy. While the event did not end the relationship between the Eastern and Western Churches, it became symbolic for the distrust and strain between the East and the West that developed through the centuries. The break was sealed in 1204 with the sacking of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade.

Rome and Constantinople had been able to agree through three more Councils. The fifth ecumenical council at Constantinople II in 553 was called by the Emperor Justinian and reaffirmed that there is only one person or hypostasis in our Lord Jesus Christ. In response to the Monothelites, that Christ had only one will, the sixth ecumenical council affirmed the efforts of St. Maximus the Confessor at Constantinople III in 681 and confessed that Christ had two wills and two natural operations (John 6:38), divine and human in harmony. The seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea II in 787 resolved the iconoclast controversy thanks to the writings of St. John of Damascus: since Jesus had a true humanity and his body was finite, it was only proper to venerate holy images of the human face of Jesus, as well as Mary and the saints.

However, the language of Rome was Latin, and that of Constantinople Greek.

There was a difference in perception of Church authority between the East and West. Latin Rome believed the Pontiff, as the representative of Peter, was Pastor and Shepherd to the whole Church, whereas the Greek East saw the Pope, the Bishop of Rome and representative of Peter, as presiding with love in the sense of collegiality, as a first among equals.

This difference in perception of Church authority produced the conflict over the addition of the word filioque – and the Son – to the Nicene Creed by the Roman Catholic Church. Theological thought on the Trinity had progressed with time, particularly with St. Augustine, who saw the Holy Spirit as an expression of love between the Father and the Son. King Recared and his Visigothic bishops converted from Arianism to Catholicism at the Third Council of Toledo, Spain in 587 and were required to add the word filioque to the Creed. Charlemagne in 794 insisted on its addition, so that the phrase read “the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son”. Pope Leo III at the time refused to allow the change and supported the original Creed; however the Papacy finally accepted the addition of filioque at the coronation of King Henry II of the Holy Roman Empire in 1014. The Eastern Orthodox Churches claim that the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed is the common possession of the whole church and that any change must be made by an ecumenical Council.

Many of the Christian Churches of Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, except the Maronites and the Italo-Albanians, joined the Byzantine or Greek Orthodox Church of Constantinople.

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

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