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Nature of Christ, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III

2- The Orthodox Concept regarding the Nature of Christ

 

The Lord Jesus Christ is God Himself, the Incarnate Logos. Who took to Himself a perfect manhood. His Divine nature is one with his human nature yet without mingling, confusion or alteration; a complete Hypostatic Union. Words are inadequate to describe this union. It was said, that without controversy, "Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, (1 Tim. 3:16).

As this union is permanent, never divided nor separated, we say in the liturgy that His Godhead never departed from His manhood for a single moment nor even for a twinkle of an eye.

The Divine nature (God the Word) was united with the human nature which He took of the Virgin Mary by the action of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit purified and sanctified the Virgin's womb so that the Child to whom she gave birth would inherit nothing of the original sin; the flesh formed of her blood was united with the Only-Begotten Son. This unity took place from the first moment of the Holy Pregnancy in the Virgin's womb.

St-Takla.org Image: Icon of the Council of Ephesus 431 صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: أيقونة مجمع أفسس عام 431 م

St-Takla.org Image: Icon of the Council of Ephesus 431

صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: أيقونة مجمع أفسس عام 431 م

As a result of the unity of both natures-the Divine and the human-inside the Virgin's womb, one nature was formed out of both: "The One Nature of God the Incarnate Logos" as St. Cyril called it.

The Holy Church did not find an expression more reliable, deep and precise than that which was used by St. Cyril the Great, and which St. Athanasius the Apostolic used before him, as we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other sections. Both of them were true leaders in the theological field worldwide.

When I participated in the dialogue arranged by the ProOriente group in Vienna, Austria in September 1971 between the Roman Catholic Church and the ancient Oriental Orthodox Churches concerning the Nature of Christ, the point of discussion was St. Cyril's expression "One Nature of God the Incarnate Logos" (Mia Physis Tou Theou Logou Sesarkwmene).

After the schism which took place in the year 451 AD, when the Coptic Orthodox Church rejected the motions of the Council of Chalcedon and its theological struggles, we were called "Monophysites" that is, those who believe in the "One Nature".

Sharing our belief are the Syrians, the Armenians, the Ethiopians and the Indians; who were also called "NonChalcedonian" Orthodox Churches.

On the other hand, the Chalcedonian Catholic and Greek Churches "The Roman Orthodox" believe in the two natures of Christ; the Protestant Churches also hold this belief.

Consequently, these churches are known as "Diophysites" - believers in the two natures of Christ.

The Roman -or Chalcedonian- Orthodox Churches include those of Constantinople, Greece, Cyprus, Russia, Romania, Hungary and Serbia as well as the Roman Orthodox Churches of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, America and the St. Catherine Monastery in the Sinai desert.

The term "Monophysites" used for the believers in the One Nature has been intentionally or unintentionally misinterpreted throughout certain periods of history. Consequently, the Coptic and the Syrian Churches in particular were cruelly persecuted because of their belief, especially during the period which  started from the Council of Chalcedon held in 451 AD and continued to the conquest of the Arabs in Egypt and Syria (about 641 AD).

This misinterpretation continued along history as though we believed in one nature of Christ and denied the other nature.


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