>   books  >   en  >   ecf  >   214  >   books  >   en  >   ecf  >   214

Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XIV:
The Seventh Ecumenical Council.  The Second Council of Nice.: Section IV

Early Church Fathers  Index     

IV.  The Chief Cause of Trouble a Logomachy.

Now from all this one thing is abundantly clear, that the great point set forth with such learning and perspicuity by the Seventh Synod, to wit, the distinction between λατρεία and προσκύνεσις was wholly lost upon these Frankish writers; and that their translation of both words by “adoro” gave rise to nine-tenths of the trouble that followed.  The student of ecclesiastical history will remember how a similar logomachy followed nearly every one of the Ecumenical Synods, and will not therefore be astonished to find it likewise here.  The “homousion,” the “theotocos,” the “two natures,” “the two wills,” each one gave rise to heated discussion in different sections of the Church, even after it had been accepted and approved by a Synod which no one now for an instant disputes to have been ecumenical.

Moreover, that after this serious error and bungling on the part of the Caroline divines and of the French and Allemanic Churches, the Pope did not proceed to enforce the acceptance of the council will not cause astonishment to any who are familiar with what St. Athanasius said with regard to the Semi-Arians, who even after I. Nice refused to use the word “homousios;” or with the extreme gentleness and moderation of St. Cyril of Alexandria in his treatment of John of Antioch.

Perhaps before leaving the subject I should give here the chief strictures which Hefele makes upon these books (§ 400).

(1)  The Caroline Books condemn passages which they quote (without saying so) from Pope Hadrian’s own letter to the Empress.

p. 583 (2)  They blame St. Basil for teaching that the reverence done to the image passes on to the prototype.

(3)  They treat St. Gregory Nyssen with contempt, and refuse to listen to him (Lib. II., c. xvij.).

(4)  They are full of most careless and inexcusable blunders.

(a)  They attribute to the Emperors a phrase which belongs to the Synod (I. j.).

(b)  They confound Leontius with John (I. xxj.).

(c)  They confound Tarasius with Theodore of Jerusalem (III. v.).

(d)  They impute to the Council the opinions of the Iconoclastic Conciliabulum (IV., xiv. and xx. ).

(e)  They attribute to Epiphanius the deacon the propositions of others when he merely read (IV., xv.)

It had usually been supposed that these Four Books were the “quædam capitula” which Charlemagne had sent by Angelbert to Pope Hadrian “to be corrected by his judgment (ut illius judicio corrigerentur).  Considering the nature of the contents of the Caroline Books as we now have them, such would seem à priori highly improbable, but this matter has been practically settled, as we have already pointed out, by Bishop Hefele, who has shown from Pope Hadrian’s answer “correcting” those “capitula,” that they must have been entirely different in order though no doubt their contents were similar.  The differing views of Petavius and Walch will be found in full in Hefele (§ 401).

In concluding his masterly treatment of this whole matter, Hefele makes (§ 402) a remark well worthy of repetition in this place:

“The great friendship which Charles shewed to Pope Hadrian down to the hour of his death proves that their way of thinking with regard to the cultus of images was not so opposite as many suppose, and—above all—as many have tried to make out.”

I shall close this matter with the admirably learned and judicious words of Michaud.

“No doubt there had been abuses in connexion with the worship of images; but the Council of Nice never approved of these.  No doubt, too, certain marks of veneration used in the East were not practised in Gaul; but the Council of Nice did not go into these particulars.  It merely determined the principle, to wit, the lawfulness and moral necessity of honouring the holy images; and in doing this it did not in any degree innovate.  Charlemagne ought to have known this, for, already in the sixth century Fortunatus, in his Poem on St. Martin, tells how in Gaul they lighted lamps before the images. 550   The great point that Charlemagne made was that what was called in the West ‘adoration,’ in the strict sense (that is to say the worship of Latria) should be rendered to none other than God; now this is exactly the doctrine of the Council of Nice.  Charlemagne himself admits that the learned may venerate images, meaning thereby that the veneration is really addressed to the prototypes, but that such veneration is a source of scandal to the ignorant who in the image venerate 551 nothing but the material image itself (Lib. III., cap. xvj.).” 552



“Here on the wall is an image of the Saint and under its feet a little window, and a lamp, in the glass bowl of which the fire burns.”  Fortun. (Migne., Pat. Lat., Tom. LXXXVIII.) De Vita S. Martin, Lib. iv., 690 (col. 426).


“And adore” in the Latin.


Michaud.  Discussion sur les Sept Conciles Œcuméniques, p. 300.

Next: Excursus on the Council of Frankfort, A.D. 794.

Bible | Daily Readings | Agbeya | Books | Lyrics | Gallery | Media | Links

Short URL (link):