FRANKS AND BYZANTINES: THE WIDENING GULF


The ninth century was in many ways propitious for both Western and Eastern Christendom. The 'Carolingian Renaissance' and political renewal of Charlemagne's reign was matched by a genuine revival of the arts and learning in the Byzantine world. But it was also a period in which it became clear that the now mostly nominal unity between the two halves of the ancient Catholic order could not persist indefinitely. In matters of faith and practice, East and West had always been strikingly distinct from one another. In matters of theology, they had been drifting apart for centuries. And, in matters of culture, they were now strangers one to the other.


Certain of the differences between Eastern and Western Church practices might seem rather trivial to us today: for instance, the Latin use of unleavened bread in the Eucharist as opposed to the Greek use of leavened; or the Latin preference for a celibate priesthood as opposed to the Greek preference for a married priesthood. But, when it proved convenient to make an issue of such differences, they could be an inexhaustible source of contention and recrimination.


There was, moreover, a more general atmosphere of theological incongruity between the two cultures on some issues. For instance, from at least the time of Augustine certain themes had emerged within Latin theology that were alien, or even repugnant, to Eastern tradition. Such themes included the notion of original sin as an inherited guilt, and the idea of predestination, and a rather distinctive understanding of the relation between created nature and divine grace.


For example, when Gregory of Nyssa in the fourth century wrote his treatise on infants who die prematurely, he assumed that unbaptized infants — having committed no sins — would enter into the presence of God. But when Augustine, some decades later, considered the fate of children who died before baptism, his understanding of sin and grace forced him to conclude that they must suffer eternal punishment. The opinions of individual theologians may not prove much; but so enormous a difference in perspectives, surely, reflected an immense difference also in the theological tempers of East andWest.


(THE  ROMAN  MOTHER  HAD  HAD  HER  FIRST  DAUGHTER  BREAK  AWAY,  AND  MORE  DIFFERENCES  AROSE,  BUT  THEY  WERE  STILL  BOTH  FROM  THE  CHURCH  THAT  BROKE  WITH  APOSTOLIC  CHRISTIANITY  -  Keith Hunt)


The Procession of the Spirit


The single doctrinal dispute, however, that would ultimately become most emblematic of the division between East andWest was the so-called Filioque Controversy. The Latin term filioque means simply 'and from the Son'; it was a phrase added to the Latin form of the Nicene Creed over a period of centuries though no equivalent phrase had been introduced into the Greek text.The form of the Creed produced by the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople had merely repeated the assertion of John 15:26 that the Holy Spirit'proceeds from the Father', and no subsequent council had ever modified it.


It is true that there was a theological tradition in the East of speaking of the Holy Spirit as proceeding 'through the Son', and a similar formula had been advanced by Augustine in the West. But there was also a pronounced tendency among western theologians — Augustine most influentially — to condense this formula into the simple assertion that the Spirit proceeds 'from the Father and the Son'. Such language would not have been any cause for controversy had it remained confined to the realm of theology; but, in entering into the Creed — the universal declaration of the Orthodox Catholic faith — it became a poignantly obvious symbol of the growing division between the Greek and Latin Churches.


[Pope John VIII's support of the council that reinstated Photius as successor to the patriarchate of Constantinople in 879 somewhat ameliorated relations between East and West. He is depicted in a drawing presiding over the Synod of Troyes, France, a year earlier, in 878]


The 'filioque' clause was added to the Creed originally in Spain in 447, at the Synod of Toledo. Its purpose was to affirm the full divinity of the Son, over against the Arianism of the western barbarians, most particularly the Visigoths. And it was this modified version of the Creed that was adopted by the Catholic Franks of Gaul and that thus was favoured by Charlemagne. Rome, however, resolutely resisted the innovation. Pope Leo III (d.816) refused to acknowledge the revised Creed. He even had the original text of the Creed inscribed on twin tablets of silver (one in Greek, one in Latin) and displayed in St Peter's. It was not until 1014, scholars believe, that the version of the Creed including the filioque was first employed in Rome, at the behest of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry II (972-1024), on the occasion of his coronation mass.



Pope and Patriarch


Even so, the filioque clause became an ancillary issue of dispute in the course of a larger struggle over jurisdictional prerogatives between the sees of Constantinople and Rome in the ninth century. Pope Nicholas 1 (c.820—67) attempted to insert himself into the internal affairs of the Constantinopolitan patriarchate in 862, after Emperor Michael III had removed Patriarch Ignatius I (d.877) from his position and replaced him with Patriarch Photius (r.820—after 900), a brilliant scholar and layman. The appointment seemed contrary to Western canons — though it was perfectly in keeping with Eastern practices - and in 863 the pope called a council in Rome that 'deposed' Photius. Photius responded simply by convoking a large ecumenical synod that 'excommunicated' and 'deposed' Nicholas. The sequel of this fracas is too complicated to recite in detail. As emperors and popes changed, so did the fortunes of Ignatius and Photius, and councils, condemnations, depositions and reinstatements multiplied. In 879, with the support of Pope John VIII (d.882), a council in Constantinople vindicated Photius.


In the course of the dispute, however, certain issues had been raised that until then had remained largely unaddressed. Many of them merely concerned the relative rights of the two sees - such as which should exercise episcopal jurisdiction over the Slavs — but others were of a more fundamental nature. Photius accused Rome of attempting to arrogate to itself authority it did not possess, and it was he who first made an explicit issue out of the filioque clause - even though Rome had not yet actually adopted it.


One Church in Two Empires


Disputes between the Constantinopolitan and Roman sees were matters not merely of ecclesiastical concern, but of imperial policy as well. The iconoclast controversy, for example, had a direct, and ultimately defining, effect upon the relations between the Byzantine and Carolingian courts. Early in the eighth century, before the Carolingian period, the policies of Leo the Isaurian had already alienated Pope Gregory II (669-731), who — though officially a subject of the eastern emperor and under the protection of the Byzantine exarchate in Ravenna — refused to obey Leo's iconoclast decrees. In 731, Pope Gregory III (d.741) convened a council in Rome that condemned iconoclasm as a heresy.


And so, when Ravenna was sacked by the Lombards in 739 and Rome lay largely unprotected against Lombard forces, Gregory turned to Pepin for aid, rather than to a heretical emperor. The new liaison between the papacy and the Franks was then fortified when Pope Stephen II (d.757) anointed Pepin king of the Franks and the latter obligingly inaugurated a military campaign against the Lombards in Italy. And, when Charlemagne came to power, he did so as a Catholic monarch in an age of imperial heterodoxy, and so as a theological as well as political ally of Rome.


It is true that Charlemagne's 'unexpected' coronation occurred after the restoration of the icons in 787, but this did nothing to reconcile the Frankish court with the Byzantine. The Latin translation of the council's decrees failed to make the distinction — so vital to the Greek — between 'veneration' and 'worship', and so gave the impression that the labile Byzantines had abandoned iconoclasm only to embrace iconolatry. Thus, in 791, Charlemagne issued a condemnation of the iconodule council as well — proving that, even when East and West were actually in agreement, they were at odds.


(SO  WENT  THE  QUARRELING  AMONG  THE  SAME  FAMILY  OF  THE  FALSE  CHURCH  NOW  RULING  THE  EAST  AND  WEST.  CHRIST'S  TRUE  DISCIPLES  REMAINED  THE  "LITTLE  FLOCK"  -  "THE  SALT  OF  THE  EARTH"  -  SPRINKLED  HERE  AND  THERE  -  Keith Hunt)


THE GREATEST OF THE PALADINS



Throughout the Middle Ages, the legends of Charlemagne and his knights, or paladins, were among the most popular tales in western Europe, and inspired a rich and varied literature that persisted into (and reached some of its grandest heights during) the Renaissance. And, of all

of Charlemagne's paladins, none enjoyed a more splendid mythic aggrandizement than Roland, that same Hruolandus (in Italian, Orlando), Lord of the Breton March, whose death in the Pyrenees in 778, during the Franks' retreat from Spain, was briefly recounted by Charlemagne's official biographer Einhard.


The massacre at Roncesvalles was the subject of the earliest of the Roland poems of which we know, the old French Chanson de Roland. The actual perpetrators of the ambuscade at Roncesvalles were Basques, but in the poem they are Moors, acting in league with Roland's wicked uncle Ganelon. In later chansons de geste, however, stories of Roland's early years began to multiply, with ever more fanciful elements

mixed in. And his exploits - and those of his fellow paladins - soon began to appear in other tongues: German, Spanish, English and Italian.


This last language was especially hospitable, to Roland's mythology. In Paradiso, Dante numbered Orlando among the great warrior martyrs whose souls shine like rubies in the sphere of Mars. And, in the 15th and 16th centuries, Orlando became the protagonist of the three greatest Italian Renaissance 'romances': Luigi Pulci's Alorgonte, Matteo Boiardo's Orlando Innamorato and Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso. In these delirious, violent, whimsical and fabulous epics, the Lord of the Breton March attained literary dimensions that no other figure in chivalric fiction - not even any of the knights of Arthur - ever equalled.


Coming as he did from a warrior culture, with a healthy appreciation for posthumous glory, the real Hruolandus - had he been able to foresee his literary posterity - might have thought his death at Roncesvalles an acceptable price to pay.

....................


TO  BE  CONTINUED


YES  WE  SEE  BY  THIS  TIME  IT  WAS  QUITE  NORMAL  TO  LITERALLY  FIGHT  AND  KILL,  IN  THE  NAME  OF  "CHRISTIAN."


A  DEPARTURE  FROM  THE  GOSPELS  AND  APOSTOLIC  CHRISTIANITY,  LIKE  DAY  FROM  NIGHT.


Keith Hunt

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