17- THE PATRIARCHATE OF BYZANTIUM/ CONSTANTINOPLE

Go To the Beginning of this Booklet The Spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the First Millennium of the Undivided Early Church: An Overview of the Family Theology that Revolutionizes Bible Reading and its Implications Towards the Eventual Re-Establishment of the Undivided Early Church’s Unity in Diversity

Some Undivided Early Church First Millennium Highlights of the Pentarchy of the First Five Christian Patriarchates and their Contributions to the One Universal Church of Christ

THE PATRIARCHATE OF BYZANTIUM/CONSTANTINOPLE

Center of the Greek Culture as Renewed in Jesus, the Byzantine (Greek) Rite of the Catholic (Universal) Christian Church

Recognized as a Patriarchate at the 4th Ecumenical Council 451 AD, Which Defined That Jesus Is Fully God and Fully Man Against the Monophysite Christian Heretics

Byzantium was renamed Constantinople by Roman Emperor Constantine who moved his capital there (he ended the Roman persecution of Christianity in 313 AD).  The Eastern (Christian) “Byzantine Empire” centered there lasted almost 1000 years after the fall of the Western (Christian) Roman Empire fell to barbarian invaders in 476 AD, lasting until the Muslim conquest of Constantinople in 1453.  The stability of the Byzantine Empire helped the Byzantine/Greek Rite of the Church to reach out to the world and so the Patriarchate of Constantinople has the largest number of daughter Rites or daughter Churches, distinct Eastern cultures renewed in Jesus through the ministry of Byzantine/Greek Christian missionaries, notably Saints Cyril and Methodius, known as the “Apostles to the Slavic Peoples,” whose groundbreaking missionary work was given hearty approval by the Pope in Rome when they sought it from him.  Though each have their cultural distinctives, the ritual Christian worship of the many Byzantine daughter Churches retained much from their Greek “Mother Rite” based in Constantinople which brought the Gospel to them, notably the beautiful, completely-sung Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom who was Archbishop or Archeparch of Constantinople before it was declared a Patriarchate headed by a Patriarch.  While the Roman Patriarchate (discussed next) emphasized the Passion and Death of Jesus in its ritual, the Byzantine Patriarchate emphasized the Resurrection of Jesus and the Eternal Life He won for us, which emphasis perhaps led to the development of very beautiful, “heavenly” typically Byzantine expressions of Christian worship in music, architecture and artwork.  Constantinople became famous for the Hagia Sophia, the Church of Holy Wisdom, the largest and most beautiful Church in all of Christendom.  Byzantine religious art or icons are still greatly admired and borrowed by Western Christians, both Roman Catholic and Protestant.  The story is told of how when Vladimir, the ruler of Kiev (capital of Ukraine and first capital of Russia) wanted a common religion to unify his people and sent emissaries to investigate the religious options, the delegation to Constantinople, experiencing the beautifully sung Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom resounding through the vast Hagia Sophia Church, its great dome and its walls covered in glittering gold and beautiful mosaics and other icons, reported to the king “we did not know if we were in Heaven or on Earth” and heartily recommended (Byzantine Rite) Christianity be adopted by the kingdom, which it was, heartily, in 988 AD.

The older Eastern Patriarchates of Antioch and Alexandria had been devastated in the First Millennium.  The Nestorians, heretics mostly of the Antiochene Rite, did not accept the 3rd Ecumenical Council of 431 AD which dogmatically clarified that the Bible must be interpreted to mean that Jesus is one Person with two natures, Divine and human, and broke away from the Catholic (Universal) Church Communion.  The Monophysites, heretics mostly of the Alexandrian Rite, did not accept the 4th Ecumenical Council of 451 AD which dogmatically clarified that the Bible must be interpreted to mean more specifically that Jesus is in fact “fully God and fully man,” and they also broke away from the Catholic (Universal) Church.  Both the unorthodox/heretical Nestorian and Monophysite churches are still around today as the small “Lesser Eastern Churches.”  With so many Eastern heretics around, the 5th Century Eastern Sister Churches still in the Catholic Church Communion started calling themselves “Eastern Orthodox Churches” to clarify that they were Eastern Churches who belonged to the Catholic Communion of Western and Eastern Orthodox Christian Churches and were not Eastern heretical Churches .  What remained of the Antiochene and Alexandrian Patriarchates after the heretics left was later mostly wiped out by Muslim conquest, and the Patriarch of Constantinople came to influence what was left of the these older Patriarchates, as well as the Jerusalem Patriarchate which was always small since the pagan Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the Jews.  With such influence over the other 3 ancient Eastern Christian Patriarchates, the Patriarch of Constantinople is still known as the “Ecumenical Patriarch” of the Christian East today, though his city is now called Istanbul in the Muslim country of Turkey.  The Muslim conquerors of Constantinople in 1453 later, in 1472, forced the separation of the Eastern Christians under their dominion from the Catholic Church Communion of West and East which had recently been joyfully reaffirmed at the 1439 17th Ecumenical Council .  The Muslims did this because Catholic Church popes in the West had sent Crusaders to free the Holy Land from Muslim dominion, and the First Crusade had even protected Constantinople from being overrun by Muslims centuries earlier.  Since the Patriarch of Constantinople influenced all of the Eastern Patriarchates, the Muslim-forced separation resulted in the creation of today’s Eastern Orthodox Churches of all Eastern Patriarchates which are no longer Catholic, no longer part of the Universal (Catholic) Christian Communion of the Eastern and Western Patriarchates.  Some of the Eastern Sister Churches (like the Antiochene Maronite Rite) were never out of the Catholic (Universal) Communion, and portions of all of the others later came back into the Catholic Church Communion of Eastern and Western Sister Churches afterwards, including half of the Byzantine Ukrainian Church in 1595, after 123 years out of the Catholic (Universal) Christian Communion.

© 2008 Peter William John Baptiste SFO

Go To the Next Section Some Undivided Early Church First Millennium Highlights of the Pentarchy of the First Five Christian Patriarchates and their Contributions to the One Universal Church of Christ: THE PATRIARCHATE OF ROME

Go To the Beginning of this Booklet The Spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the First Millennium of the Undivided Early Church: An Overview of the Family Theology that Revolutionizes Bible Reading and its Implications Towards the Eventual Re-Establishment of the Undivided Early Church’s Unity in Diversity