The Eastern Schism
(Από την “ΚΑΘΟΛΙΚΗ ΕΓΚΥΚΛΟΠΑΙΔΕΙΑ / NEW ADVENT”)
ΔΕΙΤΕ ΚΑΙ ΑΠΟΣΠΑΣΜΑΤΑ ΤΟΥ ΚΕΙΜΕΝΟΥ ΣΕ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗ ΜΕΤΑΦΡΑΣΗ
From the time of Diotrephes (3 John 1:9-10) there have been continual schisms, of which the greater number were in the East. Arianism produced a huge schism; the Nestorian and Monophysite schisms still last. However, the Eastern Schism always means that most deplorable quarrel of which the final result is the separation of the vast majority of Eastern Christians from union with the Catholic Church, the schism that produced the separated, so-called “Orthodox” Church.
Remote preparation of the schism
The great Eastern Schism must not be conceived as the result of only one definite quarrel. It is not true that after centuries of perfect peace, suddenly on account of one dispute, nearly half of Christendom fell away. Such an event would be unparalleled in history, at any rate, unless there were some great heresy, and in this quarrel there was no heresy at first, nor has there ever been a hopeless disagreement about the Faith. It is a case, perhaps the only prominent case, of a pure schism, of a breach of intercommunion caused by anger and bad feeling, not by a rival theology. It would be inconceivable then that hundreds of bishops should suddenly break away from union with their chief, if all had gone smoothly before. The great schism is rather the result of a very gradual process. Its remote causes must be sought centuries before there was any suspicion of their final effect. There was a series of temporary schisms that loosened the bond and prepared the way. The two great breaches, those of Photius and Michael Caerularius, which are remembered as the origin of the present state of things, were both healed up afterwards. Strictly speaking, the present schism dates from the Eastern repudiation of the Council of Florence (in 1472). So although the names of Photius and Caerularius are justly associated with this disaster, inasmuch as their quarrels are the chief elements in the story, it must not be imagined that they were the sole, the first, or the last authors of the schism. If we group the story around their names we must explain the earlier causes that prepared for them, and note that there were temporary reunions later.
The first cause of all was the gradual estrangement of East and West. To a great extent this estrangement was inevitable. The East and West grouped themselves around different centres — at any rate as immediate centres — used different rites and spoke different languages. We must distinguish the position of the pope as visible head of all Christendom from his place as Patriarch of the West. The position, sometimes now advanced by anti-papal controversialists, and that all bishops are equal in jurisdiction, was utterly unknown in the early Church. From the very beginning we find a graduated hierarchy of metropolitans, exarchs, and primates. We find, too, from the beginning the idea that a bishop inherits the dignity of the founder of his see, that, therefore, the successor of an Apostle has special rights and privileges. This graduated hierarchy is important as explaining the pope’s position. He was not the one immediate superior of each bishop; he was the chief of an elaborate organization, as it were the apex of a carefully graduated pyramid. The consciousness of the early Christian probably would have been that the heads of Christendom were the patriarchs; then further he knew quite well that the chief patriarch sat at Rome. However, the immediate head of each part of the Church was its patriarch. After Chalcedon (451) we must count five patriarchates: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.
The difference between the East and West then was in the first place that the pope in the West was not only supreme pontiff, but also the local patriarch. He represented to Eastern Christians a remote and foreign authority, the last court of appeal, for very serious questions, after their own patriarchs had been found incapable of settling them; but to his own Latins in the West he was the immediate head, the authority immediately over their metropolitans, the first court of appeal to their bishops. So all loyalty in the West went direct to Rome. Rome was the Mother Church in many senses, it was by missioners sent out from Rome that the local Western Churches had been founded. The loyalty of the Eastern Christians on the other hand went first to his own patriarch, so there was here always a danger of divided allegiance — if the patriarch had a quarrel with the pope — such as would have been inconceivable in the West. Indeed, the falling away of so many hundreds of Eastern bishops, of so many millions of simple Christians, is explained sufficiently by the schism of the patriarchs. If the four Eastern patriarchs agreed upon any course it was practically a foregone conclusion that their metropolitans and bishops would follow them and that the priests and people would follow the bishops. So the very organization of the Church in some sort already prepared the ground for a contrast (which might become a rivalry) between the first patriarch in the West with his vast following of Latins on the one side and the Eastern patriarchs with their subjects on the other.
Further points that should be noticed are the differences of rite and language. The question of rite follows that of patriarchate; it made the distinction obvious to the simplest Christian. A Syrian, Greek or Egyptian layman would, perhaps, not understand much about canon law as affecting patriarchs; he could not fail to notice that a travelling Latin bishop or priest celebrated the Holy Mysteries in a way that was very strange, and that stamped him as a (perhaps suspicious) foreigner. In the West, the Roman Rite was first affecting, then supplanting, all others, and in the East the Byzantine Rite was gradually obtaining the same position. So we have the germ of two unities, Eastern and Western. Undoubtedly both sides knew that other rites were equally legitimate ways of celebrating the same mysteries, but the difference made it difficult to say prayers together. We see that this point was an important one from the number of accusations against purely ritual matters brought by Caerularius when he looked for grounds of quarrel.
Even the detail of language was an element of se