The Third Ecumenical Council

Commemorated on September 9

      The Third Ecumenical Council was convened in the year 431 in the city of Ephesus (Asia Minor) during the reign of the emperor Theodosius the Younger (408‑450). The Council was convened for the purpose of an investigation by the Church of the false-teachings of the Constantinople patriarch Nestorius (428-431). 

Contrary to the dogmas of the OEcumenical Church, Nestorius dared to assert that the Son of God Jesus Christ is not one Person (Hypostasis), as Holy Church teaches, but is rather two distinct persons – the one Divine, and the other human. Regarding the Mother of God, he impiously asserted, that She ought not to be called the Mother of God but rather only the mother of the man Christ. The heresy of Nestorius conflicts against one of the basic dogmas of the Christian faith – against the dogma of the God-manhood of our Lord Jesus Christ, since according to the false-teaching of Nestorius, Jesus Christ was born as an ordinary man, and afterwards because of sanctity of life the he was conjoined with the Divinity, and abode in Him. With this blasphemous teaching of Nestorius the enemy of the race of man the devil attempted to undermine the Christian faith on these points: that the Praeternal God the Word, the Son of God, actually was incarnated in the flesh from the All-Pure Birthgiver of God, having therein become Man, He thereby redeemed by His suffering and death the human race from slavery to sin and death, and by His glorious resurrection He trampled down Hades and death and opened to believers in Him, and those striving to live in accord with His commandments, the path to the Kingdom of Heaven.

      A long while prior to the convening of the OEcumeical Council, Saint Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria, repeatedly tried to reason with the heretic Nestorius. Saint Cyril in his letters explained the mistakes of judgement by Nestorius, but Nestorius stubbornly continued with his pseudo-teachings. Saint Cyril wrote about the danger of the rising heresy to Celestine, the Pope of Rome, and to other Orthodox bishops, who also attempted to reason with Nestorius. When it became clear, that Nestorius would continue with his pseudo-teachings and that they were becoming widespread, the Orthodox bishops appealed to the emperor Theodosius the Younger for permission to convene an OEcumenical Council. The Council was convened on the Day of the MostHoly Trinity,  7 June 431. At the Council arrived 200 bishops. Nestorius also arrived in Ephesus, but despite the fact that the fathers of the Council three times suggested that he attend the sessions there, he did not appear. Then the fathers began to sort out matters concerning the heresy in the absence of the heretic. The sessions of the Council continued from 22 June to 31 August. At the Ephesus Council were present such famed fathers of the Church, as the Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Juvenal of Jerusalem, Memnon of Ephesus (Saint Celestine, Pope of Rome, was unable to attend because of illness, but he sent papal legates). The Third OEcumenical Council condemned the heresy of Nestorius and confirmed the Orthodox teaching on these matters: that it is necessary to confess the Lord Jesus Christ as One Person (Hypostasis) and of two natures – the Divine and the Human, and that the All-Pure Mother of the Lord be acclaimed as Ever-Virgin and in truth the Birthgiver of God. In the guidance of the Church the holy fathers issued 8 rule-canons, and the “Twelve Anathemas against Nestorius” by Saint Cyril of Alexandria.

© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.