The advent of Heraclius and monenergism 61638

When the Emperor Heraclius (610-41)17 undertook to recover the lands lost to the Persians, the support of the Christians of this area appeared to him -as to Chosroes several years before - of the utmost strategic importance. That assistance, however, could be obtained only as the result of doctrinal reconciliation. As in the age of Justinian, Heraclius's eastern politics therefore depended on a Christological settlement. Of all the opponents of imperial orthodoxy living in Persia, the theological effort of the emperor - who was of Armenian descent and presumably bilingual - was directed above all to the miaphysites. They were more numerous than the "Nestorians" in the lands lost to the Persians, and their theology was closer to imperial orthodoxy, especially after the Fifth Ecumenical Council which had proposed a rereading of the Chalcedonian Definition in the light of the Christology of Cyril of Alexandria.

Towards 616 Patriarch Sergius of Constantinople (6i0-38)-who was of Syrian miaphysite descent and a close friend of Heraclius - proposed a definition of the unity of the concrete activity (energeia) of the incarnate Logos in the hopes of persuading the miaphysites to accept the Definition of Chalcedon. If the activity were attributed not to the nature but rather to the hypostasis, the doctrine of one single activity could serve as a point of convergence of the two opposing sides, for there was no dissension between the miaphysites and the Chalcedonians concerning Christ's single hypostasis. It would allow the viewing of Christ's two natures not in the perspective of their divergent potentialities, but rather oftheir coming together into one single hypostasis, ofwhich the single activity was the manifestation. To sustain his view, Sergius could notably draw on Cyril of Alexandria and Dionysius the Areopagite (end of the fifth century) who were respected both by miaphysites and Chalcedonians.18 In Cyril's view, on account of the hypostatic union, which implied the definition of Christ's humanity as the Word's own, the Word's divine action tookthe form of human acts. The doctrine of one single activity was consequently accepted by numerous bishops and abbots in the eastern provinces, and by 622 Sergius had won Heraclius over to what came later to be known as monenergism.

Heraclius began his major counteroffensive against Persia in 624, and by 629 succeeded in restoring the Emperor Maurice's frontier. Thus the miaphysites, who had enjoyed relative freedom under Persian rule, found themselves once again subjected to a hostile emperor. In 630 Heraclius personally reinstated in

17 Kaegi, Heraclius, 100-299.

18 Cyril of Alexandria, Scholia de incarnatione Unigeniti 2, p. 221; Pseudo-Dionysius Are-opagita, Epistola 4, p. 161, l. 9.

Jerusalem the True Cross, which had been rescued from Persian possession by Heraclius's four Armenian generals. After this event, which was deeply felt by all of the Christian communities, the Byzantine ruler conceived a new project for reuniting Christendom. The empire urgently needed to secure confessional unity in order to consolidate the reconquest of the East.

Military success encouraged Heraclius to envisage negotiations not only with the miaphysites but also with the Church of the East, which was the best established and most influential Christian community of Persia. At the time, this church was enjoying a phase of rapid expansion and was incorporating large numbers of converts from Zoroastrianism and from various polytheistic religions of Arabia, Asia, and China. On the eve of the Muslim conquest the missions of the Church of the East were by far the widest spread amongst all Christian churches. In 630 Heraclius met Catholicos Iso'yahb II at Berrhoea (Aleppo). The catholicos celebrated a liturgy in the presence of the emperor and a group of Byzantine bishops, and the sovereign himself received communion from his hands. The division, however, between the Byzantine Church and the Church of the East was to prove too great, and the precipitate reunion was immediately contested amongst the East Syrians and soon broke down.

Heraclius next turned to the miaphysites and succeeded in winning numerous bishops and hegumens to the cause of monenergism. The Syro-Byzantine council of 631 at Mabbug (Hierapolis), the Armeno-Byzantine council of 63233 at Karin (Theodosiopolis), and the council of 633 at Alexandria achieved reunion with the Byzantine church of the three miaphysite churches on the bases of monenergist formulae. Nevertheless, following the negotiations of the agreements, many in Syria, Palestine, and especially in Egypt refused to accept Chalcedon in spite of their acceptance of monenergism. Heraclius then attempted to impose imperial orthodoxy by force and inaugurated violent persecution against the intransigent miaphysites. However, the newly elected Chalcedonian patriarch of Jerusalem, Sophronius (634-38), organized opposition to monenergism, and the emperor, now contested by both miaphysites and Chalcedonians, found himself obliged to terminate his initiative in 638.

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