Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A non-Chalcedonian Bishop Converts to Orthodoxy in 1912

The following is a translation from Asad Rustum's History, vol. 3 pp. 357-362. It is not only interesting in terms of the description of the ceremony, but also because the conversion seems to have occurred through the Syriac bishop's contact with Russian pilgrims. Recalling this moment of hope for Christian unity in Syria-- just 100 years ago-- can only bring sadness, as Christians have now been virtually eliminated in Homs. The catastrophe that brought Bishop Boutros' Syriac community to the brink of extinction is now being completed.

A Syriac Bishop Joins the Orthodox Church in Homs (1912)

As Beirut was rejoicing over [a letter from] the Patriarch, Shepherd of Shepherds, the Thirteenth Apostle, Homs rejoiced at the reception of Cyril Boutros, bishop of Sadad, and his flock into the Orthodox Catholic Church. On March 4, 1912 all the Orthodox people of Homs gathered in the Cathedral of the Forty Martyrs. After the chanting of "Pasa Pnoi", Athanasius, Metropolitan of Homs, went from the bishop's throne to the royal doors, vested in the epitrachelion and omphorion, then walked to the western door of the church to receive Boutros, Jacobite bishop of Sadad, accompanied by two priests. Boutros made the sign of the cross and waited for the metropolitan to approach as the choir chanted the troparion for the Forty Martyrs.

 The rest of the account is below the jump.

When the troparion ended, Athanasius asked Boutros, "Do you desire to unite to the Orthodox Church, renouncing that which is incorrect in the teaching of the Jacobites?" Boutros responded, "Yes, I desire this." Then Athanasius blessed him, saying, "In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, One God, amen." He then placed his hand on Boutros' head and read the following prayer:

"O Lord of Truth, look upon Your servant the bishop who is coming to take refuge in your holy Orthodox Church to kept in her care. Return him from his initial error to the true faith in You. Grant him grace to walk in the path of Your commandments. May You continually look upon him in Your mercy and may You hear the sound of his supplication. May he be numbered among Your chosen flock, for all the powers of heaven praise and glorify You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, unto ages of ages."

Then the deacon made the petition, "Let us pray to the Lord" and the choir responded, "Lord have mercy." After the prayer and the end of the petition, Athanasius addressed the following words to Boulos, "Do you reject the teaching of Eutyches, Theodore, Dioscorus, and all those who believe as they do?" Athanasius responded, "Yes, I reject this." Then Athanasius asked, "Do you reject the false teaching that says that our Lord Jesus Christ has only one nature?" Boutros responded, "Yes, I reject this." Athanasius asked, "So do you desire to unite to the Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church and do you promise to be obedient to her?" Boutros responded, "I desire and I promise this from the bottom of my heart." Athanasius asked, "Do you believe in one God glorified in Trinity? How do you believe and how do you worship Him?" Boutros responded, "I believe in one God glorified in Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and I worship Him." He then made a prostration on the ground and read the following confession of faith:

"The confession of faith of the bishop Boutros: In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. I the wretched Boutros, by the grace of God bishop of Sadad and its dependencies, ask the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church by the love of God to accept me into her fold as one of her faithful children.

We [that is, he and the people following him] accept her universal teaching and promise the Orthodox Church our canonical obedience. We abandon our previous rebelliousness and cast aside every heresy, especially the heresy of Eutyches, because he taught a false teaching by saying "Christ our God has one nature." As for us, we believe, confess, and affirm that our Lord begotten of the Father before the ages according to divinity and begotten in the latter times of the Holy Virgin Mary according to humanity is one in his essence, in two natures, one prosopon, one hypostasis, one Christ, one Lord, God and man, one. We also say:

We believe, confess, and affirm that He is of one essence with the Father according to divinity. He Himself is of one essence with us according to humanity. He is one of the Most Holy Trinity, God the Word who took on human nature from the Holy Virgin Mary. That is, a rational soul, a body, human attributes, a human activity, and a human will. When God the Word was united in His hypostasis perfect human nature and  perfect divine nature, He became a man and did not cease to be God, since the attributes of the two natures are not eliminated or weakened in the union. Rather, each of the natures preserves its attributes. Thus, in Jesus Christ our Lord there are two natures, properties, activities, and wills which remain within Him without confusion, change, division, or separation. Thus the theologians make no distinction between them in the statements about Christ our Lord that are written in the Gospel and the Epistles of the Apostles. The Church truly proclaims that Christ Himself is perfect God and is Himself perfect man, preserving the attributes of each of the two natures. We believe and confess that our God Jesus Christ who exists as God by nature and becomes man according to nature is the Only-begotten Son, dual in nature and not in hypostasis.

As for Our Lady the Holy Ever-Virgin Mary, we confess that she is Mother of God because she truly gave birth to Christ our God.

We also accept those Ecumenical Councils that previously had been rejected by us, namely: the fourth Council of Chalcedon, held in the time of Marcian, which rejected the teaching of Eutyches and those who taught with him one nature in Christ our Lord after the union; the fifth council, the Second Council of Constantinople, held in the time of Justinian, which anathmatized Theodore and his teaching; the sixth council, the Third Council of Constantinople, held in the tie of Constantine IV, which taught that in Christ our God there are two natures, two activities, and two wills, even though these two wills do not contradict each other and His human will did not contradict His divine will, but rather was in agreement and submission to it; the seventh council, the Second Council of Niceaea, held in the time of Constantine and Irene, which taught the righteousness of giving icons, that is the holy images, veneration of honor and it anathamatized those who blasphemed against the Holy Church by saying that she worships icons in the manner of the pagans who worship their idols. We children of the Church venerate them not with the veneration of worship, as a creature must worship his Creator, but rather only with the veneration of honor, as we venerate the cross of Christ and the Gospel. We also accept the canons of the seven holy ecumenical councils and the canons of the local councils, looking to them as the model of good order in the holy churches of God.

We promise to commune only with those with whom the Holy Orthodox Church communes. All those whom she considers to be outside communion, we also consider to be outside communion. We explained in our letter what was summarized here. Now I confirm this also with my lips before you and before this holy altar. We believe that the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ blesses this action of ours, to Him be glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit, unto ages of ages. Amen."

After reading this declaration, Boutros signed it and handed it to Athanasius to keep in the church archives as long as God desires. Athanasius took it and said, "Blessed be God who enlightens every person who comes into the world." He then addressed the following questions to Boulos: "Do you accept all seven ecumenical councils? Do you accept the dogmas and canons that these councils defined?" Boutros responded, "Yes, I accept them and agree with them." Athanasius asked, "Do you promise that you honor the holy icons that are accepted in the Orthodox Church according to the belief of this Church that returns the honor offered to them to the prototype depicted on them?" Boutros responded, "I promise to honor them as the Orthodox Church commands." Athanasius asked, "Do you accept the Apostolic Canons and all the other canons that were defined at the seven ecumenical councils and the nine local councils, as well as all traditions and teachings in the Orthodox Church?" Boutros replied, "Yes, I accept them."

Then Metropolitan Athanasius gave Bishop Boutros the corner of his omphorion and said to him in a solemn voice, "Enter the Orthodox Church. Reject everything she rejects. Honor the Father, the Master of All, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, Trinity one in essence and undivided." They then walked together to the royal doors, as the  the choir chanted Psalm Sixty-Six [LXX], "May God be merciful to us." When they reached the royal doors, they stood before a table upon which was the Holy Gospel and the Venerable Cross. Bishop Boutros knelt before the table with the Gospel and the cross, made two prostrations, saying, "You send Your spirit and they are created. You renew the face of the earth. Save O Lord Your servant who relies on You. Be, O Lord, a pillar of strength for him against the enemy. O Lord, listen to my prayer and may my cry reach you." Then the deacon said, "Let us pray to the Lord" and the choir chanted, "Lord have mercy." Boutros confessed to a canonical priest as Athanasius read the prayer:

"O Lord God, Master of All, who puts before sinners the ways of repentance and leads those astray to the right path that none of them might perish but that all might accept salvation, we thank You for enlightening Your servant the bishop Boutros with the light of the knowledge of Your truth and making him worthy of taking refuge in Your Holy Catholic Orthodox Church. Grant him to be united to her with sincerity and steadfastness of purpose. Number him with Your chosen flock. Make him a pure vessel and dwelling-place of Your Holy Spirit, so that he may be enlightened and guided by Him, keeping Your saving commandments without the stain of sin, so that he may thus be worthy of Your heavenly good things, for You are a God of mercy, compassion, and love for mankind and You desire that all may be saved. To You we send glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen."

Then Athanasius said, "Stand aright, stand with fear," and he placed the contract he had been given before the Gospel and the cross. Then Boutros said, "I promise, relying on God, to keep firm the Orthodox Catholic faith in which I now believe, with complete conviction and without stain until the last breath of my life. By fulfilling the commandments willingly and with joy I will guard my heart free from impurity, as much as I am able. In support of my promise, I kiss all the words of my Savior and His cross." Then he kissed the Gospel and the cross. Athanasius said, "Blessed be God who desires that all people be saved and approach knowledge of the truth. Blessed is He unto the ages," and the choir responded, "amen." He then addressed Boutros, "Bow before the Lord God whom you have confessed and you shall receive forgiveness of your sins." Boutros bowed his head and Athanasius read over him the following:

"May the Lord Jesus Christ our God who entrusted the Apostles with the keys of the heavenly kingdom and gave them and their successors after them the authority to bind and loosen people's sins forgive you my brother, Bishop Boulos, through me, the unworthy bishop, and may He release you from all your sins. I, by the authority given to me by Him, unite you to the Orthodox Church, and bring you to partake in the Holy Mysteries of the Church. I bless you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen."

Then the choir started to chant "Ton Despotin" and the two bishops walked up together and entered the altar. Athanasius sprinkled Boutros with holy water from a vessel containing relics of the Forty Martyrs, and afterwards they embraced, put on bishops' vestments, and served the holy mysteries together and Boutros assisted Athanasius in some of the exclamations. After the transformation [of the bread and wine], the bishop declared his recognition of the headship of Patriarch Gregory IV.

After partaking, Athanasius congratulated Boutros with a speech filled with love and encouragement. Boutros responded with a long speech, the most important part of which was that the reasons for the estrangement between the eastern churches were not on account of faith and that the time has come for the union of these groups under the banner of Orthodoxy, and that ever sense he saw true piety in the souls of the Russian pilgrims he had not ceased thinking about returning to the bosom of the Mother Church and this inclination continued to grow in him until he had the good fortune to meet Athanasius, who added to correct belief good works.


Jon Marc said...

An interesting account to be sure. The emphasis on rejecting Eutyches is odd - he is rejected by all Orthodox, pro and anti-Chalcedon alike. Ditto the reference to the icons - they are universal, in Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian Orthodoxy.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting indeed. I wonder: What became of Bishop Boutros? The large town of Sadat with still five functioning Churches, east of the highway Damascus, Homs, Aleppo, close to Qaryat-Ain and MAr Moussa, to this day remains entirely Syriac orthodox, resp. catholic. Prior to the year 2000 I had the priviledge to partake in an ecumenical pilgrimage starting in Sadat going to Qaryat-Ain, were all xpctian leaders of Homs, Metr. George Abu-Zakhm (orth.), Metr. Ibrahim Nehme (melkite gr.-cath), Metr. Silouanos an-Nehme (syr.-orth.), Metr. Theophilus Geroge KAssab (syr.-cath.), Choreposcopa MAssoud Massoud (maronite) and a protestant pastor took part. The thoroughly syriac character of these town east of Homs, starting in AN-Nabk startled me - they become syriac-melkite west of the High way, like the frecoes in the orthodox parish church of Deir-Attieh show.
MAy the Lord grant HIS PEACE to this blessed land.

Joseph said...


The reception in St. Petersburg in 1898 of the group mentioned in this obituary - was it related? I have always been fascinated by this development.

Samn! said...


The group mentioned in the link is from what is now called the 'Assyrian Church of the East' (Nestorians), while the bishop mentioned in this post is from what is now called the Syriac Orthodox Church (Jacobites). The link here is largely the enormous influence that Russia was exerting in the Middle East in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.