Were there Church Fathers prior to Chalcedon [or even Ephesus] that used the language of not only “in Two Natures” in reference to Christ, but, more explicitly, “One Person in Two Natures”? In this brief overview, this author believes the evidence clearly indicates as much; and that, still further, the Fathers speak of Christ in this way immediately before the Third Ecumenical Council, and, indeed, immediately after it; seeing no fundamental contradiction between the work of the Third Ecumenical Council and their exposition of the Faith. Thus, the supposedly ‘controversial language’ of the Fourth Ecumenical Council [Chalcedon] was present among the Fathers decades prior to Chalcedon, and found acceptance. This is not meant to be exhaustive, but, to demonstrate that the Fathers prior to Chalcedon, and even Ephesus, taught that Christ is not just “of Two Natures” but He is “in Two Natures”. Please excuse any typos in the text on my part.
Why a Need for Distinct Language?
In the waning years of the dominance of Arianism in the East, some Orthodox opponents of the Arian heresy, in the process of combating the heresy began deviating into the heresy called “Apollinarianism”. This heresy was taught by Apollinaris, the Orthodox Bishop of Laodicea, who, in an effort to fight heresy himself became an heretic. In essence, this heresy teaches that Our Lord has no rational, intellectual soul; it also embraced views that taught that the Natures of Our Lord in the Incarnation were mutated and changed [thus, several Apollinarian forgeries of Letters of St. Athanasius, and others, began to employ “One Nature” language].
In reaction to this, we begin to witness the Fathers becoming more explicit in their definitions. However, this also gives us insight into the minds of the Fathers, and we witness that concordance with the future Fourth Ecumenical Council.
St. Gregory [Nazianzen] the Theologian [+390]
Around 380, St. Gregory the Theologian was translated to the See of Constantinople, becoming the Orthodox Bishop of the city in opposition to the powerful Arians. However, by his teaching and preaching, Orthodoxy gradually grew. Yet, St. Gregory had to fight not only Arianism, but also the Apollinarian heresy [for example, at the Second Ecumenical Council in 381, not only was Arianism condemned again, but, Apollinarianism was subject to the condemnation of an Ecumenical Council].
In St. Gregory’s 38th Oration, “On Theophany”, the Theologian ably explains that Christ is One Person in Two Natures; explaining the aftermath of Mankind’s Fall and how the Incarnation of the Son of God happened in order to save fallen Man:
“And having first been chastened by many means because his sins were many, whose root of evil sprang up through diverse causes and sundry times, by word, by law, by prophets, by benefits, by threats, by plagues, by waters, by fires, by wars, by victories, by defeats, by signs in heaven, and signs in the air, and in the earth, and in the sea; by unexpected changes of men, of cities, of nations (the object of which was the destruction of wickedness) at last he needed a strong remedy, for his diseases were growing worse; and mutual slaughters, adulteries, perjuries, unnatural crimes, and that first and last of all evils, idolatry, and the transfer of worship from the Creator to the creatures. As these required a greater aid, so they also obtained a greater. And that was that the Word of God Himself, Who is before all words, the Invisible, the Incomprehensible, the Bodiless, the Beginning of beginning, the Light of Light, the Source of Life and Immortality, the Image of the Archetype, the Immovable Seal, the Unchangeable Image, the Father’s Definition and Word, came to His Own Image, and Took on Him Flesh for the sake of our flesh, and mingled Himself with an Intelligent Soul for my soul’s sake, purifying like by like; and in all points except sin was made Man; Conceived by the Virgin, who first in body and soul was purified by the Holy Ghost, for it was needful both that Child-bearing should be honoured and that Virginity should receive an higher honour. He came forth then as God with that which He had Assumed, One Person in Two Natures, Flesh and Spirit, of which the Latter Deified the Former. O new commingling; O strange conjunction; the Self-Existent comes into being, the Uncreated is created, That which cannot be contained is contained, by the intervention of an Intellectual Soul, mediating between the Deity and the Corporeity of the Flesh. And He Who gives riches becomes poor, for He Assumed the poverty of my flesh, that I may assume the Richness of His Godhead. He that is Full empties Himself, for He empties Himself of His Glory for a short while, that I may have a share in His Fullness. What is the Riches of His Goodness? What is This Mystery that is around me? I had a share in the Image and I did not keep it; He Partakes of my flesh that He may both save the Image and make the Flesh Immortal. He communicates a Second Communion, far more Marvelous than the first, inasmuch as then He imparted the better nature, but now He Himself Assumes the worst. This is more godlike than the former action; this is loftier in the eyes of all men of understanding.” [Oration 38, “On Theophany”, section 13]
It should also be noted that large sections of this Oration, including the above portion, find themselves repeated, largely verbatim by St. Gregory, in his “Second Oration on Pascha” [see section 9]. Now, to forestall, a possible objection, St. Gregory in section 37 of the “Second Oration on Pascha” says:
“He was sent, but sent according to His Manhood (for He was of Two Natures), since He was hungry and thirsty and weary, and was distressed and wept, according to the Laws of Human Nature.”
The possible objection is that many Monophysite Anti-Chalcedonians will admit that Christ is “of Two Natures”, but, deny that He is “in Two Natures”. However, St. Gregory already uses the language of “One Person in Two Natures”. There is no fundamental contradiction by St. Gregory’s usage of “in Two Natures” and “of Two Natures”. Christ is both God by Nature from His Father and Man by Nature from His Mother; but, He is also God in His Divinity and Man in His Humanity. It would be obscene to say that using “in Two Natures” is Nestorian, since St. Gregory the Theologian uses this, and sees no conflict with Orthodoxy.
St. Ambrose of Milan [+397]
At the same time that St. Gregory the Theologian was expounding Our Lord as One Person in and of Two Natures, St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, was teaching likewise. St. Ambrose teaches that Christ is One Person in Two Natures, and that These Natures can be spoken of after, and not just before, the Incarnation.
In his “Exposition on the Christian Faith” we find:
“A truce, then, to vain wranglings over words, for the Kingdom of God, as it is written, consisteth not in persuasive words, but in power plainly shown forth. Let us take heed to the Distinction of the Godhead from the Flesh. In Each there speaks One and the Same Son of God, for Each Nature is Present in Him; yet while it is the Same Person Who speaks, He speaks not always in the Same Manner. Behold in Him, now the Glory of God, now the affections of Man. As God He speaks the things of God, because He is the Word; as Man He speaks the things of Man, because He speaks in my Nature.” [Book II, Ch. 9, sec. 77, Exposition on the Christian Faith]
And, a little before, in reference to the Crucifixion of the Lord of Glory:
“When we read, then, that the Lord of Glory was Crucified, let us not suppose that He was Crucified in His Glory. It is because He Who is God is also Man, God by virtue of His Divinity, and by Taking upon Him of the Flesh, the Man Christ Jesus, that the Lord of Glory is said to have been Crucified; for, Possessing Both Natures, that is, the Human and the Divine, He Endured the Passion in His Humanity, in order that without distinction He Who Suffered should be called Both the Lord of Glory and Son of Man, even as it is written: ‘Who Descended from Heaven.’ ” [Book II, Ch. 7, sec. 58]
St. Ambrose speaks of Each Nature being Present in Him after the Incarnation; it is a continuing reality. The Saviour is not simply “of Two Natures” but, He is also in Them. We can also distinguish between the Two Natures, thus, in Our Lord’s Operations and actions, yet, without this, of course, making two Sons.
St. Ambrose goes further and speaks of the full Manhood of Our Lord:
“But how can the Son say here that He was without help, when it has already been said: ‘I have laid help upon One that is mighty”? Distinguish here also the Two Natures Present. The Flesh hath need of help, the Godhead hath no need. He is free, then, because the chains of death had no hold upon Him. He was not made prisoner by the power of darkness, it is He Who exerted power amongst them. He is “without help,” because He Himself, the Lord, hath by no office of the messenger or ambassador, but by His Own Might saved His people. How could He, Who raised others to life, require any help in order to raise His Own Body?” [Book III, Ch. 4, On the Exposition of the Christian Faith].
St. Ambrose continues about Christ having His Human Nature Present after the Incarnation, and expounds on the matter in Book I of “On the Decease of Satyrus”:
“He wept for what affected us, not Himself; for the Godhead sheds no tears; but He Wept in That Nature in Which He was sad; He wept in That in Which He was Crucified, in That in Which He Died, in That in Which He was Buried. He Wept in That Which the Prophet this day brought to our minds: ‘Mother Sion shall say, A Man, yea, a Man was made in her, and the Most High Himself established her.’ He Wept in That Nature in Which He called Sion ‘Mother’, Born in Judaea, Concevied by the Virgin. But according to His Divine Nature He could not have a Mother, for He is the Creator of His Mother. So far as He was made, it was not by Divine but by Human Generation, because He was made Man, God was Born.
“But you read in another place: ‘Unto us a Child is Born, unto us a Son is given.’ In the word ‘Child’ is an indication of age, in that of ‘Son’ the Fullness of the Godhead. Made of His Mother, Born of the Father, yet the Same Person was Both Born and Given, you must not think of two [Persons] but of One. For One is the Son of God, Both Born of the Father and Sprung from the Virgin, differing in order, but, in name agreeing in One, as, too, the lesson just heard teaches for ‘a Man was made in her’; Man indeed in the Body, the Most High in Power. And though He be God and Man in Diversity of Nature, yet is He at the same time One in Each Nature. One Property, then, is Peculiar to His Own Nature, Another He has in Common with us, but in Both is He One, and in Both is He Perfect.” [Book I, sec. 11-12, “On the Decease of Satyrus”]
St. Ambrose clearly confesses the One Person of the Son of God to be God and Man, in a Diversity of Nature, yet One in Each Nature. In His Own Divine Nature He has His Divine Properties, yet, in Another Nature, that of Manhood, the Eternal God share Commonality with us! This, in truth, is why the Holy Apostle Peter in 2 Peter 1:4 states we are become partakers in the Divinity. God in His Manhood, in His Human Nature, Wept and He Endured the Passion, Crucifixion, and Death, and, indeed, the Resurrection and Ascension; but, preserving the Distinction between the Natures, the Uncreated Nature did not experience passibility. Yet, as with all the Fathers who speak on this, St. Ambrose truly believed and taught the Hypostatic Union of the Two Natures; for how else could St. Ambrose confess the Pure Virgin Lady to be “Mother of God” as he does in the “Hexaemeron” and “De Virginibus“; indeed, St. Ambrose, while guarding the integrity of the Divine Impassibility, clearly confesses in “The Sacrament of the Lord’s Incarnation” that the “Word of God Suffered by the Flesh.”
The Great Doctor of Milan confesses that Christ is in Two Natures. The Union of Natures is maintained in the One Person of the Son of God, yet, These Natures do not disappear. St. Ambrose, again, speaks of the Lord Suffering in His Manhood, His Human Nature:
“For of a truth He Died in That Which He took of the Virgin, not in That Which He had of the Father, for Christ Died in That Nature in Which He was Crucified.” [Book I, sec. 107, “On the Holy Spirit”]
Our Lord Jesus Christ is not simply “of Two Natures”, but, He is also “in Two Natures”, Operating Each Nature, the respective Properties of Each Natures Preserved and Maintained by the Hypostatic Union; the subject of the Eternal God the Word Preserves and Maintains Them as such.
In the aforementioned work of St. Ambrose, “The Sacrament of the Lord’s Incarnation”, the Archbishop of Milan speaks again, saying:
“And yet I had promised to bring my reply on the Divinity of the Father and the Son to an end in my earlier works, but in this book the treatment of the Mystery of Our Lord’s Incarnation has been made fuller as it should have been. For, when that which the Lord says: ‘My Soul is Sorrowful even unto death,’ and later, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this chalice pass from Me. Nevertheless, not as I Will, but as Thou Wilt,’ is referenced not to the suffering of the Holy Spirit but to His Assumption of a Rational Soul and to the affection of a Human Nature, it follows that in the assertion of the Lord’s Sacrament we add also that there was also the Fullness of Human Nature in Christ, and that we separate the Holy Spirit from a judgment of weakness.” [St. Ambrose, Ch. 7, “The Sacrament of the Lord’s Incarnation”]
Of course, in all of this, St. Ambrose, does not deny the Confession that Christ is “of Two Natures”; like St. Gregory the Theologian, there is no contradiction between the Orthodox Confession of the Lord as being “in Two Natures” and “of Two Natures”; St. Ambrose speak of the Union of the Natures in Christ:
“Perchance you will ask how I came to cite, as referring to the Incarnation of Christ, the place, ‘The Lord created Me,’ seeing that the creation of the universe took place before the Incarnation of Christ? But consider that the use of Holy Scripture is to speak of things to come as though already past, and to make imitation of the Union of Two Natures, Godhead and Manhood, in Christ, lest any should deny either His Godhead or His Manhood. In Isaiah, for example, you may read: ‘A Child is Born unto us, and a Son is given unto us;’ so here also [in the Proverbs] the Prophet sets forth first the creation of the Flesh, and Joined thereto the declaration of the Godhead, that you might know that Christ is not two, but One, being Both Begotten of the Father before the worlds, and in the last times created of the Virgin. And thus the meaning is: I, Who Am Begotten before the world, Am He Who was created of mortal Woman, created for a set purpose.” [Book III, Ch.9, “Exposition on the Christian Faith”]
Indeed, during the time of Pope St. Celestine, at a Council in Rome in 431, shortly before the Third Ecumenical Council [Ephesus], mention was made of St. Ambrose’s famous Hymn for Advent, “Veni Redemptor gentium”, wherein Each Nature of Christ was mentioned:
“Proceeding from His Own Chamber, The Royal Court of Purity, A Giant of Twin Substance, With Rejoicing that He Might run the way.”
In St. Arnobius the Younger’s “An Altercation with Serapion”, we find the following:
“For he [Pope St. Celestine] says in that Council: “I call to mind Ambrose, of Blessed Memory, in the Day of Our Lord Jesus Christ’s Nativity, that he made all the people to sing with one voice to God: ‘Come Thou, Redeemer of the nations, Do Thou Show the Birth from the Virgin, May every age marvel, That Such a Birth befits God.” Is it possible that so Excellent a Birth befits a man?” [Book II, Sec. XIII]
St. Ambrose, in his “Letter to Irenaeus” speaks of this Diversity of Christ’s Two Natures in the One Son of God, the “Giant of Salvation”, as mentioned in the Hymn of the Archbishop of Milan:
“Zerubbabel, therefore of the tribe of Judah, and Jesus the High Priest, thus designated both by tribe and name seem to represent two persons, though One Only is meant; for He Who as Almighty is Born from the Almighty, as Redeemer is Born of the Virgin, being the Same in the Diversity of His Two Divisible Natures, hath fulfilled as the Giant of Salvation the Verity of the One Son of God.” [Letter 31, sec. 10]
And, once more, the Great Doctor of Milan, expounding on the Mystery, the Sacrament, of the Lord’s Incarnation says:
“The day will fail me sooner than the names of heretics and the different sects, yet against all is this General Faith—that Christ is the Son of God, and Eternal from the Father, and Born of the Virgin Mary. The Holy Prophet David describes him as a “Giant” for the reason that He, One, is of Double Form and of Twin Nature, a Sharer in Divinity and Body, Who ‘as a Bridegroom, coming out of His Bride-Chamber, hath rejoiced as a Giant to run the way.’ The Bridegroom of the Soul according to the Word, a Giant of Earth, because in going through the duties of our life, although He was always God Eternal, He Assumed the Sacrament of the Incarnation, not divided, but One, because He, One, is Both, and One in Both, that is, as regards Both Divinity and Body. For One is not of the Father, and the Other from the Virgin, but the Same is of the Father in one way, and from the Virgin in the other.” [Ch. 5, “On the Sacrament of the Lord’s Incarnation”]
And, thus, many other examples from the work of St. Ambrose in his “On the Sacrament of the Lord’s Incarnation” can be given demonstrating how the Saint taught that Each Nature of the One Son of God is still in Christ after the Incarnation.
Finally, though, we give the “Exposition” that St. Ambrose gave on the Orthodox Faith against heretics, which is given by Blessed Theodoret in Book II of his “Dialogues”:
“We confess that Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-Begotten Son of God, was Begotten before all ages, without beginning of the Father, and that in these last days the Same was made Flesh of the Holy Virgin Mary, Assuming the Manhood, in its Perfection, of a Reasonable Soul and Body, of One Substance with the Father as touching His Godhead and of One Substance with us as touching His Manhood. For Union of Two Perfect Natures hath been after an Ineffable Manner. Wherefore we acknowledge One Christ, One Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ; knowing that being Co-Eternal with His Own Father as touching His Godhead, by virtue of Which also He is Creator of all, He deigned, after the assent of the Holy Virgin, when she said to the Angel, ‘Behold the Handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word’, to build after an Ineffable Fashion a Temple out of her for Himself, and to Unite This Temple to Himself by her Conception, not taking and uniting with Himself a body co-eternal with His Own Substance, and brought from Heaven, but of the matter of our substance, that is of the Virgin. God the Word was not turned into Flesh; His Appearance was not unreal; keeping ever His Own Substance Immutably and Invariably He took the First Fruits of our Nature, and united them to Himself. God the Word did not take His beginning from the Virgin, but being Co-Eternal with His Own Father He of Infinite Kindness deigned to unite to Himself the First Fruits of our Nature, undergoing no mixture but in Either Substance Appearing One and the Same, as it is written ‘Destroy This Temple and in Three Days I will Raise It Up.’ For the Divine Christ, as touching my Substance which He took is destroyed, and the same Christ Raises the destroyed Temple as touching the Divine Substance in Which also He is Creator of all things. Never at any time after the Union Which He deigned to make with Himself from the moment of the Conception did He depart from His Own Temple, nor indeed through His Ineffable Love for Mankind could depart.
“The Same Christ is Both Passible and Impassible; as touching His Manhood Passible and as touching His Godhead Impassible. ‘Behold, Behold Me, It is I, I have undergone no change’—and when God the Word had Raised His Own Temple and in It had wrought out the Resurrection and Renewal of our Nature, He shewed This Nature to His Disciples and said, ‘Handle Me and see, for a spirit hath not Flesh and Bones as ye see Me,’ not ‘be’ but ‘have’. So He says, referring to both the Possessor and the Possessed in order that you may perceive that what had taken place was not mixture, not change, not variation, but Union. On this account too He shewed the Prints of the Nails and the Wound of the Spear and ate before His Disciples to convince them by every means that the Resurrection of our Nature had been Renewed in Him; and further because in accordance with the Blessed Substance of His Godhead Unchanged, Impassible, Immortal, He lived in need of nought, He by confession permitted all that can be felt to be brought to His Own Temple, and by His Own Power Raised It up, and by means of His Own Temple made Perfect the Renewal of our Nature.
“Them therefore that assert that Christ was mere man, that God the Word was passible, or changed into Flesh, or that the Body which He had was consubstantial, or that He brought it from Heaven, or that it was an unreality; or assert that God the Word being mortal needed to receive His Resurrection from the Father, or that the Body which He Assumed was without a Soul, or Manhood without a mind, or that the Two Natures of the Christ became One Nature by confusion and commixture; them that deny that Our Lord Jesus Christ was Two Natures Unconfounded, but One Person, as He is One Christ and One Son, all these the Catholic and Apostolic Church condemns.” [Dialogue II, “The Unconfounded”]
St. Augustine of Hippo [+430]
While St. Ambrose was thus teaching the Faith in the Two Natures of the Incarnate Son of God, we see the beginnings of the ministry of St. Augustine of Hippo in the late 380s and early 390s. St. Augustine himself had to defend against the Apollinarian predecessors of Monophysitism, as did St. Ambrose, St. Gregory, and others.
In his “Letter to Volusianus,” St. Augustine says:
“The fact that He took rest in sleep, and was nourished by food, and experienced all the feelings of Humanity, is the evidence to men of the reality of That Human Nature Which He Assumed but did not destroy. Behold, this was the fact; and yet some heretics, by a perverted admiration and praise of His Power, have refused altogether to acknowledge the Reality of His Human Nature, in Which is the Guarantee of All That Grace by Which He Saves those who believe in Him, Containing Deep Treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge, and Imparting Faith to the minds which He Raises to the Eternal Contemplation of Unchangeable Truth. What if the Almighty had created the Human Nature of Christ not by causing Him to be Born of a Mother, but by some other way, and had presented Him suddenly to the eyes of Mankind? What if the Lord had not passed through the stages of progress from Infancy to Manhood, and had taken neither food nor sleep? Would not this have confirmed the erroneous impression above referred to, and have made it impossible to believe at all that He had taken to Himself True Human Nature; and, while leaving what was marvellous, would eliminate the element of Mercy from His Actions? But now He has so Appered as the Mediator between God and men, that, Uniting Two Natures in One Person, He both Exulted What was Ordinary by What was Extraordinary, and tempered What was Extraordinary by What was Ordinary in Himself.” [Letter 137, “To Volusianus”, sec.9]
And, again, St. Augustine confirms the teaching that the Two Natures are United in the One Person of the Son of God; Christ is One Person in Two Natures, or Two Substances:
“Let us then love Him, for He is Sweet. Taste and see that the Lord is Sweet. He is to be feared, but to be loved still more. He is Man and God; the One Christ is Man and God; as one man is soul and body: but God and Man are not two persons. In Christ indeed that are Two Substances, God and Man; but One Person, that the Trinity may remain, and that there be not a quaternity introduced by the addition of the Human Nature.” [Sermon 80 (130), sec. 3, “On the Gospel of John”]
These Two Natures or Substances, again, are “in Christ”; Christ is simply not “of Two Natures” but “in Two Natures”; the very language that Dioscoros and other Anti-Chalcedonians scorned and attacked as heretical, is used by St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, and St. Gregory, and, others.
Again, in his “Enchiridion” [composed around 420], St. Augustine confirms that the Incarnate Son of God has Both Natures; not simply is composed “of” Them. St. Augustine says:
“Wherefore Christ Jesus, the Son of God, is Both God and Man; God before all worlds; Man in our world; God, because the Word of God (for “the Word was God”); and Man, because in His One Person the Word was Joined with a Body and a Rational Soul. Wherefore, so far as He is God, He and the Father Are One;; so far as He is Man, the Father is greater than He. For when He was the Only Son of God, not by Grace, but by Nature, that He might be also Full of Grace, He became the Son of Man; and He Himself United Both Natures in His Own Identity, and Both Natures Constitute One Christ; because, ‘being in the Form of God, He thought it not robbery to be,’ what He was by Nature, ‘Equal with God’. But He made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the Form of a Servant, not losing or lessening the Form of God. And, accordingly, He was both made less and remained Equal, being Both in One, as has been said: but He was One of These as Word, and the Other as Man. As Word, He is Equal with the Father; as Man, less than the Father. One Son of God, and at the same time Son of Man; One Son of Man, and at the same time Son of God; not two Sons of God, God and Man, but One Son of God: God without beginning; Man with a beginning, Our Lord Jesus Christ.” [Enchiridion, Chapter 35]
And, again, in the same work:
“Hence, as we confess, ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who of God is God, and as Man was Born of the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary, having Both Natures, the Divine and the Human, is the Only Son of God the Father Almighty, from Whom Proceedeth the Holy Ghost.’ ” [Enchiridion, Ch. 38]
The Unity of Person, the Hypostatic Union, as taught by the Fathers and confirmed by Chalcedon is again presented by St. Augustine in his “Sermon on the Nativity”:
“Before He was made, He was; and His was the Power, because He was All-Powerful, to be made and to remain what He was. Abiding with His Father, He made for Himself a Mother; and when He was made in the Womb of His Mother, He Remained in the Heart of His Father. How could He have ceased to be God when He began to be Man, when He gave His Mother the privilege of not losing her Virginity when she gave Birth? Precisely so, because the Word was made Flesh, the Word did not become Flesh by ceasing to be; on the contrary, the Flesh, lest it should cease to be, was joined to the Word, so that, just as man is body and soul, Christ might be God and Man, not in a confusion of Nature, but in the Unity of a Person.” [Sermon 186, On the Nativity]
And, like St. Ambrose, and others, St. Augustine, not dividing the Hypostatic Union in a Nestorian fashion, the Doctor of Hippo has not qualms about plainly confessing that the Incarnate God died in the Flesh:
“What hath God promised thee, O mortal? That thou shalt live for ever. Dost not thou believe? Believe it, believe it. For greater is what He hath done already, than what He hath promised. What hath He done? He hath Died for thee. What hath He promised? That thou shalt live with Him. More incredible is it, that the Immortal should Die, than that the mortal should live for ever. Already we have what is the more incredible. If God Died for man, shall not man live with God? Shall not the mortal live for ever, for whom He, Who Liveth For Ever, Died?” [Exposition on Psalm 148, sec 8]
St. John Cassian [+435]
We have made steady progress from the Apollinarian heresy and into the beginnings, now, of the Nestorian heresy. Here we find St. John Cassian, a most vocal and vociferous opponent of Nestorianism and Pelagianism, writing books against Nestorius in the West. In his “Seven Books Against Nestorius”, St. John Cassian mentions the well-known connection between the Nestorian and Pelagian heresies; indeed, the Third Ecumenical Council, in condemning the heresiarch Caelestus and his heresies, condemned the Eastern leader of Pelagianism.
Indeed, before the outbreak publicly of Nestorianism in Constantinople, we find the poison of Nestorianism in the mouths of the Pelagians. Thus, in circa 420 AD, when the Presbyter Leporius repented of the Pelagian heresy, he was made by the Fathers to also recant the false Christology of Pelagius. St. John Cassian, in Book I of “Against Nestorius”, records the following Orthodox Confession of the Presbyter Leporius:
“”I scarcely know, O my most venerable lords and blessed priests, what first to accuse myself of, and what first to excuse myself for. Clumsiness and pride and foolish ignorance together with wrong notions, zeal combined with indiscretion, and (to speak truly) a weak faith which was gradually failing, all these were admitted by me and flourished to such an extent that I am ashamed of having yielded to such and so many sins, while at the same time I am profoundly thankful for having been able to cast them out of my soul.” And after a little he adds: “If then, not understanding this power of God, and wise in our conceits and opinions, from fear lest God should seem to act a part that was beneath Him, we suppose that a man was born in conjunction with God, in such a way that we ascribe to God alone what belongs to God separately, and attribute to man alone what belongs to man separately, we clearly add a fourth Person to the Trinity and out of the One God the Son begin to make not one but two Christs; from which may Our Lord and God Jesus Christ Himself preserve us. Therefore we confess that Our Lord and God Jesus Christ the only Son of God, Who for His Own Sake was Begotten of the Father before all worlds, when in time He was for our sakes made Man of the Holy Ghost and the Ever-Virgin Mary, was God at His Birth; and while we confess the Two Substances of the Flesh and the Word, we always acknowledge with pious belief and faith One and the Same Person to be Indivisibly God and Man; and we say that from the time when He took upon Him Flesh all that belonged to God was given to Man, as all that belonged to Man was joined to God. And in this sense `the Word was made Flesh:’ not that He began by any conversion or change to be what He was not, but that by the Divine Economy the Word of the Father never left the Father, and yet vouchsafed to become Truly Man, and the Only Begotten was Incarnate through that Hidden Mystery Which He Alone understands (for it is ours to believe: His to understand). And thus God `the Word’ Himself receiving everything that belongs to man, is made Man, and the Manhood which is Assumed, Receiving everything that belongs to God cannot but be God; but whereas He is said to be Incarnate and Unmixed, we must not hold that there is any diminution of His Substance: for God knows how to Communicate Himself without suffering any corruption, and yet truly to Communicate Himself. He knows how to receive into Himself without Himself being increased thereby, just as He knows how to impart Himself in such a way as Himself to suffer no loss. We should not then in our feeble minds make guesses, in accordance with visible proofs and experiments, from the case of creatures which are equal, and which mutually enter into each other, nor think that God and man are mixed together, and that out of such a fusion of flesh and the Word (i.e., the Godhead and Manhood) some sort of body is produced. God forbid that we should imagine that the two natures being in a way moulded together should become one substance. For a mixture of this sort is destructive of both parts. For God, Who contains and is not Himself contained, Who enters into things and is not Himself entered into, Who fills things and is not Himself filled, Who is everywhere at once in His Completeness and is Diffused everywhere, Communicates Himself Graciously to Human Nature by the Infusion of His Power.” And after a little: “Therefore the God-Man, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is Truly Born for us of the Holy Ghost and the Ever-Virgin Mary. And so in the Two Natures the Word and Flesh become One, so that while Each Substance continues Naturally Perfect in Itself, what is Divine imparteth without suffering any loss, to the Humanity, and what is human participates in the Divine; nor is there one person God, and another person man, but the Same Person is God Who is also Man: and again the Man Who is also God is called and indeed is Jesus Christ the Only Son of God; and so we must always take care and believe so as not to deny that Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Very God (Whom we confess as Existing Ever with the Father and Equal to the Father before all worlds) became from the moment when He took Flesh the God-Man. Nor may we imagine that gradually as time went on He became God, and that He was in one condition before the resurrection and in another after it, but that He was always of the Same Fulness and Power.” And again a little later on: “But because the Word of God vouchsafed to come down upon Manhood by Assuming Manhood, and Manhood was taken up into the Word by being Assumed by God, God the Word in His Completeness became Complete Man. For it was not God the Father who was made man, nor the Holy Ghost, but the Only Begotten of the Father; and so we must hold that there is One Person of the Flesh and the Word: so as faithfully and without any doubt to believe that One and the Same Son of God, Who can never be divided, Existing in Two Natures (Who was also spoken of as a “Giant” ) in the days of His Flesh truly took upon Him all that belongs to man, and ever truly had as His Own what belongs to God: since even though He was Crucified in weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God.”” [St. John Cassian, Book I, Ch. 5, “Seven Books Against Nestorius]
Now, how was this Confession of Christ as One Person, Existing in Two Natures, received? St. John Cassian says the following:
“This Confession of his therefore, which was the Faith of all Catholics was approved of by all the Bishops of Africa, whence he wrote, and by all those of Gaul, to whom he wrote. Nor has there ever been anyone who quarreled with this Faith, without being guilty of unbelief: for to deny what is right and proved is to confess what is wrong. The agreement of all ought then to be in itself already sufficient to confute heresy: for the authority of all shows undoubted truth, and a perfect reason results where no one disputes it: so that if a man endeavours to hold opinions contrary to these, we should in the first instance rather condemn his perverseness than listen to his assertions, for one who impugns the judgment of all announces beforehand his own condemnation, and a man who disturbs what has been determined by all, is not even given an hearing. For when the truth has once for all been established by all men, whatever arises contrary to it is by this very fact to be recognized at once as falsehood, because it differs from the truth. And thus it is agreed that this alone is sufficient to condemn a man; viz., that he differs from the judgment of truth. But still as an explanation of a system does no harm to the system, and truth always shines brighter when thoroughly ventilated, and as it is better that those who are wrong should be set right by discussion rather than condemned by severe censures, we should cure, as far as we can with the Divine Assistance, this old heresy appearing in the persons of new heretics, that when through God’s Mercy they have recovered their health, their cure may bear testimony to our Holy Faith instead of their condemnation proving an instance of just severity. Only make the Truth indeed be present at our discussion and discourse concerning it, and assist our human weakness with that goodness with which God vouchsafed to come to men, as for this purpose above all He willed to be Born on Earth among men; viz., that there might be no more room for falsehood.” [St. John Cassian, Book I, Ch. 6, “Seven Books Against Nestorius”]
Thus, St. John Cassian, and so many other Orthodox Westerners at the time [and today], considered the matter with Nestorius to be closed from the very start. The defeat of Pelagianism was synonymously held by them [and us] to be equal to the defeat of Nestorianism. But, one need not wonder at this; for Julian of Eclanum and some 18 deposed Bishops in Italy, refusing to anathematize Pelagianism, being exiled from Italy, found ready refuge with one of the fathers of the Nestorian pestilence, Theodore of Mopsuestia; he found himself in agreement with their false Soteriology and they with his false Christology. Thus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, with the advice of the anathematized heretic Julian of Eclanum, composed a libellous book of heresies and lies against St. Jerome; written under a pseudonym, but well-known to many soon enough. And what wonder if, Diodore of Tarsus, once so well-respected, fell in his own ways, and though ostensibly excommunicated by the Orthodox West for his intransigence in Antioch, by the Mysterious Judgments of God, was found out for his part in this heresy (Diodore was later posthumously Anathematized in Capitula 18 of the 649 Lateran Synod).
The books that St. John Cassian wrote against Nestorius were, of course, done so at the urging and request of St. Leo the Great, though, while St. Leo was but Archdeacon in Rome.
St. Vincent of Lerins [+445]
As with St. John Cassian, we also find St. Vincent of Lerins writing against Nestorianism and Pelagianism, and other heresies. Thus did he compose his famous “Commonitory.” How does this great Saint of the Church of Gaul, speaking for the Orthodox West on this matter, proclaim the Dogmatic Truth in the immediate aftermath of the Third Ecumenical Council, which he and all our Orthodox Western saints accepted? He plainly confirms and preaches Christ as One Person in and of Two Substances / Natures. The Holy Monk of Lerins thus says:
“For, denying that there are Two Substances in Christ, One Divine, the Other Human, One from the Father, the Other from His Mother, he [Apollinaris] holds that the Very Nature of the Word was divided, as though one part of it remained in God, the other was converted into flesh: so that whereas the truth says that of Two Substances there is One Christ, he affirms, contrary to the truth, that of the One Divinity of Christ there are become two substances. This, then, is the doctrine of Apollinaris.” [Commonitory, sec. 34]
Apollinaris, who sought to teach the mutation of the Divine Nature into “two substances” is thus condemned. But, St. Vincent uphold that Christ is in Two Substances and of Two Substances, yet One Christ. For the Human Substance of Christ and in Christ is not from a mutated Divine Substance, for such is impossible; but, the Son of God Assumed His Manhood, the Human Substance, from His Mother, and Abides in It still.
Explaining further, St. Vincent says explicitly that Christ is in Two Natures:
“In these ways then do these rabid dogs, Nestorius, Apollinaris, and Photinus, bark against the Catholic Faith; Photinus, by denying the Trinity; Apollinaris, by teaching that the Nature of the Word is mutable, and refusing to acknowledge that there are Two Substances in Christ, denying moreover either that Christ had a soul at all, or, at all events, that He had a Rational Soul, and asserting that the Word of God supplied the place of the Rational Soul; Nestorius, by affirming that there were always or at any rate that once there were two Christs. But the Catholic Church, holding the Right Faith both concerning God and concerning Our Saviour, is guilty of blasphemy neither in the Mystery of the Trinity, nor in that of the Incarnation of Christ. For she worships both One Godhead in the Plenitude of the Trinity, and the Equality of the Trinity in One and the Same Majesty, and she confesses One Christ Jesus, not two; the Same Both God and Man, the One as Truly as the Other. One Person, indeed, she believes in Him, but Two Substances; Two Substances but One Person: Two Substances, because the Word of God is not mutable, so as to be convertible into Flesh; One Person, lest by acknowledging two sons she should seem to worship not a Trinity, but a “quaternity”.
“In God there is One Substance, but Three Persons; in Christ Two Substances, but One Person. In the Trinity, Another and Another Person, not another and another Substance (distinct Persons, not distinct Substances); in the Saviour Another and Another Substance, not another and another Person (distinct Substances, not distinct Persons). How in the Trinity Another and Another Person (distinct Persons) not another and another Substance (distinct substances)? Because there is One Person of the Father, Another of the Son, Another of the Holy Ghost; but yet there is not another and another nature (distinct natures), but One and the Same Nature. How in the Saviour Another and Another Substance, not another and another Person (Two Distinct Substances, not two distinct Persons)? Because there is One Substance of the Godhead, Another of the Manhood. But yet the Godhead and the Manhood are not another and another Person (two distinct Persons), but One and the Same Christ, One and the Same Son of God, and One and the Same Person of One and the Same Christ and Son of God, in like manner as in Man the Flesh is one thing and the Soul another, but One and the Same Man, Both Soul and Flesh. In Peter and Paul the soul is one thing, the flesh another; yet there are not two Peters,—one soul, the other flesh, or two Pauls, one soul, the other flesh,—but one and the same Peter, and one and the same Paul, consisting each of two diverse natures, soul and body. Thus, then, in One and the Same Christ there are Two Substances, One Divine, the Other Human: One of (ex) God the Father, the Other of (ex) the Virgin Mother; One Co-Eternal with and Co-Equal with the Father, the Other Temporal and Inferior to the Father; One Consubstantial with His Mother, but One and the Same Christ in Both Substances. There is not, therefore, One Christ God, the other man, not one uncreated and the other created; not one impassible, the other passible; not one equal to the Father, the other inferior to the Father; not one of His Father (ex), the other of His Mother (ex), but One and the Same Christ, God and Man, the Same Uncreated and Created, the Same Unchangeable and Incapable of Suffering, the Same Acquainted by experience with both change and suffering, the Same Equal to the Father and Inferior to the Father, the Same Begotten of the Father before time, the Same Born of His Mother in time, Perfect God, Perfect Man. In God Supreme Divinity, in Man Perfect Humanity. Perfect Humanity, I say, forasmuch as It hath both Soul and Flesh; the Flesh, Very Flesh; our Flesh, His Mother’s Flesh; the Soul, Intellectual, endowed with Mind and Reason. There is then in Christ the Word, the Soul, the Flesh; but the Whole is One Christ, One Son of God, and One Our Saviour and Redeemer: One, not by I know not what corruptible confusion of Godhead and Manhood, but by a certain and entire Singular Unity of Person. For the Conjunction hath not converted and changed the one nature into the other, (which is the characteristic error of the Arians), but rather hath in such wise Compacted Both into One, that while there always remains in Christ the Singularity of One and the Self-Same Person, there abides Eternally withal the Characteristic Property of Each Nature; whence it follows, that neither doth God ever begin to be body, nor doth the body ever cease to be body. The which may be illustrated in human nature; for not only in the present life, but in the future also, each individual man will consist of soul and body; nor will his body ever be converted into soul, or his soul into body; but while each individual man will live for ever, the distinction between the two substances will continue in each individual man for ever. So likewise in Christ each Substance will for ever retain Its Own Characteristic Property, yet without prejudice to the Unity of Person.” [Commonitory, sections 36-37]
And, then, to show further that in Christ there is One Person in Two Natures, St. Vincent says:
“Blessed, I say, be the Church, which believes that in Christ that are Two True and Perfect Substances but One Person, so that neither doth the Distinction of Natures divide the Unity of Person, nor the Unity of Person confound the Distinction of Substances.” [Commonitory, sec. 41]
There is a great deal more to be said. But, from this brief examination of some of the great Teachers of the Orthodox Church of the late 4th and very early 5th century, we see that they approved of, and taught, that Christ is One Person, Who is not just “of Two Natures”, but truly “in Two Natures”. In order to embrace the Consensus of the Fathers on this, it is, therefore, necessary to maintain a truly Catholic understanding of the Faith as Orthodox Christians. It would be most ridiculous to say, for example, that St. Cyril’s usage of “of Two Natures” or “One Nature of the Word Incarnate” somehow overrides and destroys the testimonies of the Fathers not only before Ephesus, but in the after years of Ephesus before Chalcedon. The Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, in this proper context, represents not a break with Orthodox Tradition, but a continuation of the Patristic teaching and consensus, and does not violate previous Patristic language by describing Christ as One Person in Two Natures.