‘There was unquestionably some people in the council [of Chalcedon]’, my friend says, ‘who were found to have formerly belonged to Nestorius.’
By way of granting this point to them as a provisional concession – recognizing the weak point of their argument, we have no wish to further extend our defense – how is it that all of Sodom, and all of Gomorrah, were saved for the sake of only five just men, though the clamor of their lawlessness rose all the way to heaven, whereas on account of two or three individuals among the [Chalcedonians] (even though those individuals kept their impiety a secret when they were with the participants) the entire blessed assembly and the holy members of the priesthood, all six hundred and thirty of them, have been included under the same sentence (as being ungodly in thought on the grounds of not looking closely into the truth) by the God who says when two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them? This is so because, given that the divine tolerance extends not only to them, but also, and even more generously, to all the holy Church of Christ throughout the world, the Church of all peoples and all nations, He intended the doctrines voted on at Chalcedon to endure, not for a season, but as an everlasting tradition, one which we with God recognize at the present. Isn’t any man a prime sinner against the concept of divine providence who denies that the meaning of the faith about Christ’s Incarnation has been proclaimed to the world through the holy councils, yet considers it to have been confirmed in succeeding generations? If you don’t take an acceptable stance towards the holy synod, not even in the light of this understanding of divine providence, but still suspect, on the basis of your long-standing prejudice, that certain of the men at it, acting as individuals and in secret, continued to hold, even then, the false opinion of Nestorius, even though they accommodated themselves to what was said by the majority, then let’s also investigate what justice there is in condemning the synod on that score. Tell us, then: was it impossible for people who at one time didn’t hold correct opinions to the later learn piety instead, and become orthodox? The very action they took proclaims, so to speak, the fact that, when they anathematized Nestorius’ ideas in writing, they were utterly pious at that moment, if not before, for isn’t this the action of approved people? Likewise, was it impossible for certain other participants in the council, who were pious at that moment, to later fall into impiety? Didn’t Paul, the one-time persecutor, later preach the faith he once tried to destroy? Didn’t Judas, who once proclaimed the Lord along with the eleven when He sent them out two by two, later plot against Him? On the contrary, even if, at the very time of the council, there were certain evil-minded people among those present, and they were likewise included among those who acted and spoke rightly, what are the grounds for complaint against the council in that? It’s said, after all, that it’s for God alone to test hearts and minds.
‘But if it had a part that was altogether blameworthy,’ my friend says, ‘then the whole is condemned as spurious too.’
Well then, you have to find fault with the entire threshing-floor because of a single weed, and with the whole troop of the apostles because Judas was numbered among them! If the whole really is to be judged from the part, the reasonable conclusion clearly follows that, since many people from the Council of Ephesus participated in the Council of Chalcedon, the intent of the latter council was all the more anti-Nestorian as a result of their presence! Are you unaware of the fact that, even out of the 318 at Nicea, seventeen subscribed against Arius for fear they’d be deposed, but later on made terrible war against the great Athanasius, yet the entire council isn’t impugned because of it? If you refuse to understand the goodness of the whole from the part of it that’s sound, but attempt to impugn the whole on the basis of the dubious part, then consider the implications: since the latter holy council [of Chalcedon] in its entirety is attacked by you on the basis of one part of it, and since the people from the Council of Ephesus who were found at it are included in the attack on the whole – men who were part of the former council – it follows that the entirety of that former council [of Ephesus] must be attacked along with Chalcedon as an ‘act of zeal for Nestorius’ on the basis of the selected blameworthy part! The Council of Nicea, too, must be set aside as an act of zeal for Arius on account of the remnant of seventeen. Just so that you don’t fail to realize how rash your illegitimate abuse is, you should remember that even holy Symeon, who displayed his personal virtue to us on a pillar, was one of those who subscribed in the precincts of the Council [of Chalcedon] – Symeon, to whom even your patriarch Severus himself offered eulogies and worshipful hymns – as were Baradatus and James the wonder-workers. But why do you set these snares – exaggerated views based on plausible-seeming arguments on the part of people who are pugnaciously eager for assault on piety – for our feet, and hinder those who want to run well from obeying the truth? So as to demonstrate, as may be, before God and men that your secession from the Church isn’t reasonable, look, we set aside every argument we might make against your allegations, and make you the following offer: If you’ll join with us in confessing the tried and true doctrines, saying both ‘one incarnate nature of God the Word’ and that there are two natures of Christ united in His one hypostasis, and if you also don’t repudiate the Council, and Leo, and ourselves, then we, for our part, anathematize even an angel from heaven sooner than we do you, if he doesn’t think and speak and write likewise; we praise and accept Severus, Dioscorus, Timothy, and you, and anyone at all who shares such views; we add nothing to this, but we leave the judgment on those who think in this way, or who speak in one way and think in another, to God, the judge of all. (Testimonies of the Saints)