History of dialogue. East and West . Todo es un error escolático

8 Aug

 An Early Attempt at Dialogue – Joseph Bryennios and the Discussions Toward a Council of Union (1414-1431)

By Hieromonk Gabriel (Patacsi)

Translator’s Introduction

The following article was published initially in French in the January, 1973 number of Kleronomia, the biannual edition of the Patriarchal Institute for Patristic Studies, Vlatadon Monastery, Thessalonika. The article is translated in its entirety, but without footnotes. Though the latter are copious and scholarly, reflecting extensive and original manuscript research in the Vatican Archives and elsewhere, they neither expand nor modify the focus of Father Gabriel’s well integrated study. The interested reader is thus referred to the original. Father Gabriel was born on May 26, 1932 in Budapest, Hungary. Following theology studies in Budapest and, after the 1956 Hungarian uprising, in Rome, he was ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood, according to the Byzantine Rite. He petitioned for acceptance into the Orthodox Church, in Switzerland, in 1972. Welcomed then to the faculty of Saint Sergius Theological Academy in Paris, France, he resided at the Orthodox Convent in Bussy-en-Othe (Constantinopolitan Patriarchal jurisdiction), as spiritual father, until his death on November 3, 1983. In the assembly of our Holy Fathers, whose teaching he so dearly loved, may his memory be eternal.

The history of the Church during the final period of Byzantium was deeply affected by a struggle between the two camps of those who, in the words of one Orthodox theologian, “hoped that politics alone could resolve the problem of union” and those who “agreed to isolated consideration of the doctrinal problem opposing the East to the West”. Until recently, Western historians were accustomed to classifying the Byzantines quite simply as “unionists” or “anti-unionists”. The occasionally negativist, and singularly defensive attitude of Orthodox theology “in Babylonian captivity” perhaps contributed to creating the impression in the West that Orthodoxy had no clear and positive ideas on Christian unity. Nevertheless, the error underlying the argument of the Western historians was still an a priori prejudice that there cannot, and even could not be, another possible model for union than the one proposed by the Roman Church: acceptance, by all parties involved, of the fundamental points of dogma and ecclesial structure developed in the West after the time of the separation.

Study of the period preceding the council of Florence, the period in which Joseph Bryennios, that monk-theologian of strong personal character, played a considerable role in the Church of Byzantium, demonstrates to what extent an authentic Orthodoxy can be at once firm, realist and constructive on the question of union. In general, that period was rather similar to our own. Flourishing economically and culturally, the Christian West was undergoing nonetheless a double internal crisis. On the one hand, strong conciliar reaction had thrown papal centralism into question while, on the other hand, in a far less consoling way, the doctrinal imbalance of the Latin Middle Ages had finally given rise to a broad current of secularization. As for the Orthodox East, it remained spiritually more integrated. Yet from an external-political, economic and cultural—point of view, it too was passing through critical times, mainly because of the increasing pressures exerted by the Turks. In order to survive, Byzantine statesmen frequently entertained the idea then of an allegiance with the papacy, the religious center of the West, without putting too much faith in the possibility of a real accord on the dogmatic level. But was the diplomatic prowess of the Byzantines able to rival the scholastic prowess of the Roman Curia, interested as it was in strengthening its own position by converting the Greeks?

Born around 1350, Joseph Bryennios probably received his intellectual formation in Constantinople, acquiring his competence in the area of relations with Catholics through dual experience. From about 1381 to 1401 he lived on Crete, then occupied by the Venetians and widowed of Orthodox bishops. At the time it was the monks, forever suspect by the government, who upheld the faith of the Cretan people, on the one hand by their teaching (as “doctors”, didaskaloi) and, on the other hand, by their functioning as representatives and intermediaries (“vicars”, dikaioi) of Orthodox hierarchs residing at some distance from the island. Such was the dual role of Joseph Bryennios. It was he who, around 1397-1400, held the ground against a group of Greek humanists, converts to Catholicism, who had been mandated by the pope to establish a Dominican missionary monastery on Crete in which, according to translations which they had hardly begun to prepare, the Latin liturgy would have been celebrated in Greek…

Exiled from Crete and back at the Monastery of the Studium in Constantinople, Bryennios was sent to Cyprus in 1406 as head (patriarchal “representative”, topoteretes) of an ecclesiastical delegation. On that island the Western occupiers had tolerated the presence of four bishops for the native population, subordinating them, however, to the jurisdiction of the Latin hierarchy. The Greek bishops were accustomed to swearing oaths of fidelity to the pope, a practice which they thought they could justify in conscience by having appended to them such equivocal clauses as “without infringing my faith” or “without infringing my order”. They were obliged to commemorate the pope during their services, and to concelebrate the masses of the Latin hierarchy at which, as “deacons”, they read the Gospel selections. A local council over which Bryennios presided covertly, in a mountain church, could only confirm the feeling of mistrust which he had for these bishops (and for the bishop of Cyzicus who was in communion with them), since their desire to return to Orthodoxy did not prove strong enough to effectuate the severing of their two-centuries-old ties with Rome. Joseph Bryennios preferred disorganization to conformism; for him, it was better to be without bishops than to have bishops who were “uniates”. He believed as well that any equivocal concession on the part of Constantinople risked creating illusions in Rome as dangerous as they would be irremediable. In order to prevent that type of snowballing, he refused to follow the directive which he had received from the Holy Synod, and did not reestablish sacramental communion with the Cypriots. Many of his compatriots, who “esteemed nothing greater than dogmatic rigor”, subsequently had to applaud him, while those among the civil and ecclesiastical authorities, who looked toward union with politicians’ eyes, took up a long-standing grudge against him. The entire episode was a prelude to future discussions of union on a broader plane.

An Equivocal Dialogue

Though he had no desire to arrive at a true union, the Byzantine Emperor Manual II (1391-1425) was quite interested, for obvious political reasons, in organizing meetings and conducting talks with representatives of the papacy. In pursuit of that goal, he chose as future negotiators persons who were particularly able to elicit the sympathy of Westerners. More often than not they were civil diplomats, close to the court but untrained in theological matters, or else Greeks who had converted to the Latin Church. Understandably, the final outcome of the talks was conditioned by that fact.

At the Council of Constance convened in 1414, it was just such a convert, the humanist Manuel Chrysoloras, who established the first contacts be tween the two worlds. In 1416 two other Greek diplomats arrived in Constance: Nicholas Eudemonoioannes and John Bladynteros. The envoys attended the coronation of the “compromise pope” Martin V (1416-31), to whom they presented letters on behalf of their emperor and their patriarch. Those messages contained thirty-six articles concerning the union of the Churches. The interpreter assigned to the Byzantines was a particularly convinced latinophile”, the Greek Dominican and future Archbishop of Rhodes, Andrew Chrysoberges (the brother of Maximos). The envoys achieved one result, which was certain to enhance the prestige of Byzantium by contrast with the Moslem Empire: the pope named a cardinal-legate as ambassador to Constantinople. But the price they paid was high, for the Byzantines had led the Papal Curia to believe that their fellow countrymen were quite ready to convert to the faith and the rites of Rome. Back with a response from the pope, Eudemonoioannes raised false hopes even among his compatriots. Subsequently, talk in Constantinople began to center on the possibility of a union which would have been no more than practical coexistence, despite doctrinal divergences: the Latins would have been able to continue to recite their “credo” with the addition of the “Filioque”, changing nothing in their faith, while the Byzantines, remaining Orthodox, would have had only to insert the commemoration of the pope into their services

Nevertheless, for the Greeks, no union was imaginable without the decision of an ecumenical council, which would have to convene, as did many other councils in the past, in Constantinople Commitment to the assembly of such a council would remain, up to the year 1431, the basis for all their demands. Thus, Bladynteros was sent back to Constance with a letter insisting upon the necessity of an ecumenical council. Martin V, however, had no desire to allow discussion of the dogmas of his Church, and rejected the Byzantine proposal. It was only by way of a second equivocation that he was persuaded to change his mind, an equivocation once again confected by the same Eudemonoioannes, sent to Rome in 1420 with the Dominican Bishop Theodore Chrysoberges (the brother of Maximos and Andrew). Superseding the instructions of the emperor and the patriarch, the ambassadors promised that, first, regardless of the opinions of the Orthodox bishops who were not subjects of the emperor, the Byzantines would take effective steps to guarantee that they would acquiesce in accepting the faith of Rome. Only then would they convene in a purely formal council, at which “no one would dare to open his mouth for fear of certain censure”. To preside at such a council, the pope named a new ambassador in the person of Cardinal Peter Fonseca, awaited impatiently in Byzantium. Later, other Byzantine delegations were sent to the pope, without succeeding, however, in convincing him of the true state of affairs in Constantinople.

In the meantime, the Greeks began to discuss the question of the council among themselves. Living in the Monastery of Charsianites (a house in the hesychast tradition which played an important role in the life of the capital), Bryennios was then the most repected theologian in Byzantium. He was court preacher and private secretary to Patriarch Joseph II, who was accustomed to consulting him even in matters of theology.

The difficult question of union was undoubtedly a recurring topic at the meetings of the permanent Holy Synod of the Church of Constantinople. As the official theologian of the patriarchate, Joseph Bryennios was requested to prepare for that body a Deliberative Discourse on the Union of the Churches, presented during a session held in the Church of the Holy Wisom, probably in the spring of 1422. In that important address he proposed different methods for guaranteeing both the disciplined unfolding of discussion, and the unity of the Byzantine constituency at the future council. In order that the council be well-balanced, he recommended the appointment of a “representative” (topotrepetes) who, with the aid of a bishop, a member of the nobility, a translator and a notary, possessed authority equal to that of the Roman cardinal-legate. As spokesperson for the Greeks, that “representative” could have met one or two times a week with the cardinal and his retinue. Among other possibilities, Bryennios further suggested person-to-person discussions or the exchange of letters as practiced at the Council of Constance.

With regard to the problem of union, Bryennios firmly rejected the Byzantine diplomatic proposals which pretended to be able to resolve the division of the Christian Churches without addressing its dogmatic causes. Such a “union” would have been for him the worst of all divisions: it would have sanctioned the existence of profound divergences and of the discord which was manifest even in the solemn proclamation of faith during the liturgy. It would betoken contempt for Tradition and would signal to an entire people, who already had suffered so much, the loss of their sole strength, the Orthodox faith. It could even conjure up, in the form of military aid, renewed occupation of Constantinople by the Westerners….For Bryennios it was truth, not juridical unity, which was the supreme good of the Church: “it is better to separate,” he said, “unbowed by sin, than to bow to an agreement in sin”.

As a positive solution to one of the principal differences, that of the addition of the “Filioque” to the Symbol of Faith, Bryennios bequeathed a spiritual testament which, in the event of his death, would have been presented to the Council by the patriarch of Constantinople. In it, by way of ideal solution, he argued for the suppression of the “Filioque” in the Latin symbol. However, given the possibility of papal resistance, he proposed two other solutions out of “economy” and condescension: either that the Latins recite thereafter that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father through the Son”, or that they retain the “Filioque” by giving it, in solemn definition and “anathema”, an Orthodox interpretation. Bryennios also specified the wording which he desired for such a definition: “in conformity with the theology which we have inherited form the Fathers, we affirm that the Holy Spirit, as a Person, proceeds (prosopikos ekporeuesthai) from the Father alone, the Father being the sole origin of His hypostasis. We believe that the same Holy Spirit is, according to His essence (ousiodos…einai), of the Father and of the Son, for He possesses the same essence as They, and that, concerning His energy (kat’ energeian), He proceeds from the Father through the Son, in order to be given to created beings”.

At the conclusion of his discourse, in order to define the dogmatic basis of the problem, Bryennios revived the Trinitarian “schema” illustrated by the diagram of Hieromonk Herotheos, one of the opponents of the Council of Lyons. In this diagram, each hypostasis of the Holy Trinity was identified by two strictly personal names, allowing for the formulation of three reciprocal relationships, which are not to be confused: those of “Father-Son”, of “Producer Product” and of “Word-Spirit”. That “invincible” schema, “theorem of theological theorems”, reappears in many of Bryennios’ writings, including a lengthy unedited treatise and the important concluding sermon in the series on the Holy Trinity. There again our speaker devotes his efforts to explaining the inseparability of the three Divine. Persons. ,The Holy Spirit, for example, is the “Product of His Producer”, Who is the Father alone. But this same Spirit belongs to the “Father” as such only on the condition of there being a third Person Who exists, a “Son”, for Whom the “Producer” is a “Father”. That is why Word and Spirit are inseparable and complementary. Thus the Holy Spirit proceeds “in relationship with the Son”, as the Son is begotten “in relationship with the Spirit”.

The “Pre-Council” of 1422

During the summer of 1422 the Turks laid siege to Constantinople. Under serious threat, the city was temporarily unable to accommodate an entire conciliar assembly. Thus, with the mission of Cardinal Legate Fonseca deferred, the Roman Curia decided to prepare the ground for him by sending a delegation to make an initial direct assessment of the Byzantine situation. The goal of that delegation was above all to assure what the papacy considered a preliminary condition for the council: acceptance, by the Greeks, of the Roman faith. It is undoubtedly for that reason that the delegation was composed of an entire group of persons particularly well prepared for encounters on an intellectual level. Its head, the Franciscan Provincial Anthony da Massa, was accompanied by five of his fellow Franciscans, all doctors of theology, and two renowned lay humanists, Giovanni Aurispa and Francesco Filelfo.

On September 16, 1422, the envoys presented their credentials to the aging Emperor Manuel II. But since the latter was stricken soon after with hemiplegia, Nuncia Anthony da Massa could report the purpose of his mission only to John VIII, co-ruler and son of the infirm sovereign, on October 15. Subsequently he held two official talks with representatives of the Byzantine Church, the primary interested party in the question of union: on October 19 he was introduced to the Holy Synod and, the following day, to a larger group in the Church of Saint Stephen. At those meetings, Anthony expounded in nine articles everything that the pope hoped to obtain from the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He stated that, in view of her long theological development and of the number of her theologians, far exceeding that of their Eastern counterparts, the Latin Church was very sure of her positions and believed that the Byzantines should yield and convert to the Roman faith, in conformity with the promises which were, made by their own envoys in 1420. Consequently, he expressed an interest in what conditions the Byzantines set for the council and promised, in the event of developments conforming with the wishes of Rome, the immediate departure of the cardinal legate and the dispatch of political aid.

The nuncio’s demands were rejected on the spot by Patriarch Joseph II, who then proceeded to expound the position of the Byzantine Church: that it was rather the Westerners who should return to ancient Tradition. If the Byzantine envoys added verbal promises, it was by “wrongful appropriation of their mission”. Questions of dogma should be discussed freely, in a council which would unite all the bishops of the Orthodox nations. Despite the small number of their theologians, the Patriarch stated, the Greeks believed they would emerge victorious because the criteria of truth are qualitative rather than quantitative. Finally, he added, political promises were not acceptable if they involved abuses on the spiritual plane.

Those “summit” meetings, however, were only an official expression of the broader contacts which the Roman delegation had initiated in Constantinople. On the one hand, the envoys entered into relations with the Catholic circles of the city; on the other hand, they became acquainted with representatives of the opposition party, notably its principal theologian, Joseph Bryennios. The public debates which he held with one of them, most probably’ Nuncio Anthony himself, were a general rehearsal for the person-to-person discussions he had suggested for the future council.

The first of those debates took place before November 11 and centered mainly on the addition of the “Filioque” to the profession of faith without, however, overlooking its doctrinal implications. When the Latin spokesman accused the Greeks of imposing a restriction on the traditional faith by affirming that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father “alone”, Bryennios responded first that what was involved here was a reaction provoked by that very “Filioque”. A creditor who had falsified the amount of a debt by transforming the  letter I (equivalent to the number 10) into a P (equivalent to 100t had no right to malign his debtor if he in turn transformed the P into a B (equivalent to 2). On the other hand, Joseph remarked, even without being declared explicitly, a restriction such as “from the Father alone” was rather self-evidently dictated: neither did the “credo” state that the Son was begotten by the Father “alone”, yet no one ever doubted it. Adapting his argumentation to the scholastic methods of his opponents, Bryennios then called attention to the contradictions in Thomist doctrine among others, which, in order to escape the absurd conclusion of two sources of divinity, declared that the Father and the Son were, together, the unique principle of the Holy Spirit. But nothing new, he said, could result from the conjoining of two persons, just as two personal forces, concurring, were incapable of bringing forth the Holy Spirit, for a person can proceed only from another person.

Mistaking the ecclesiological sense of the Greeks, Nuncio Anthony da Massa had not failed to emphasize from the outset of his mission the absolute authority which his Church attributed to the Roman pontiff, whom he even extolled as “lord of the universe” and “god on earth”. On their part, the Byzantine theologians surely did not deny the special charisma which should have developed upon the first among the bishops in the Church, but they believed that, by the schism, the popes had become unfaithful to Tradition and were therefore unworthy to exercise their charismatic functions. In the 14th century the Archbishop of Thessalonika, Nilos Kabasilas, elucidated the Orthodox teaching that every doctrinal proclamation should have as a necessary condition, on the part of the pope, profound respect for the conciliar character of the Church and care for the safeguarding of her unity.

It was by developing the thought of Kabasilas that Joseph Bryennios answered the questions of one of his Catholic compatriots during a second discussion with the papal envoy, on November 11, 1422.

Even if he was convinced of the truth of the doctrine expressed by the “Filioque”, he said, the Pope should suppress it out of “economy” because, without serving any purpose, it divided the Church. The first among the bishops should build, not destroy, seeking that which is agreeable to all and worthy of the trust of all. Everything is permitted, says, Saint Paul, but not everything builds up (cf. 1 Cor. 10:23), while power is given for the edification of the faithful and not for their rain (cf. Il Cor. 10:8). The same apostle professes not to have laid claim to his rights so as not to create an obstacle to the Gospel (cf. I Cor. 9:12), and to be willing to give up eating meat if it causes his brother to fall (cf. I Cor. 8:13). Peter in turn, the head of the apostles, accepts the correction of his brothers at the Council of Jerusalem for, in the words of the Lord, If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all (Matt. 9:35). Let the Pope be as well, Bryennios concluded, for the good of the Church, a true “servant of the servants of Christ”.

The “pre-council” which they planned to marshal in Constantinople was decidedly a failure for the theologians who had been sent there by the pope in 1422. Without doubt, Joseph Bryennios was a central figure in the resistance to the Roman project. After repeated though fruitless talks with Patriarch Joseph II, Nuncio Anthony da Massa tried to bring the influence of the young co-ruler to bear on the representatives of the Byzantine Church. But the churchmen remained impervious and the Court could only defer its response. Then, in order to obtain a favorable decision from the emperors themselves, Anthony, on November 3, requested the help of two persons close to the Court, one of whom was Joseph Bryennios. But the latter had a very negative opinion of the Roman enterprise, an enterprise which he characterized as an attempt to “lay hold” of the Byzantines. His intervening, then, could yield no result to favor the nuncio’s wishes. On November 14, hardly three days after his second defeat in the public debates with Bryennios, Anthony received his answers from the Emperor and the Patriarch, both of whom explicitly disavowed the verbal promises which their ambassadors had made in 1420 and, while reaffirming their readiness to discuss the question of union, declared the moment inopportune.

The Question of Venue

    Following the failure of the mission of Anthony da Massa, the crucial issue in the talks between Rome and Byzantium became the site of the future conciliar assembly. Since the Greeks insisted upon the need for truly free conciliar discussions, the Westerners began “to fear the Catholic position endangered” at a council in which “the schismatics would constitute a majority by the fact that it would take place in Constantinople”. That is why Pope Martin V broke off relations for a time with Byzantium. [Such an avowal, on the part of a Latin chronicler, only confirms the reasoning of the Greeks who later questioned the freedom which they seemed to have enjoyed at the Council of Florence.] Indeed, Rome did everything it could to ensure victory for itself at the council and, by proposing that it be held in the West, where the representation of the hierarchy, clergy and laity of the Orthodox nations could hardly be full, it aimed at subjecting the Byzantines to the psychological influence of an environment which not only would be foreign to them, but also would restrain them necessarily from any real indictment of the Latin positions.

More inclined than his father to reach an accord with the Westerners, the new emperor of Byzantium, John VIII Paleologos, resumed negotiations with Rome around 1426. Receiving the Byzantine ambassadors, Martin V demanded that the Ecumenical Council be held in Italy and, to offset the subterfuge, made an offer of funds intended to cover the expenses of the Greek participants at the Council. On its return to Constantinople, the Byzantine delegation was accompanied by the new pontifical nuncio, Andrew Chrysoberges, then head of the Dominican missions in the Orient. Arriving in the imperial city, the nuncio set about making preliminary arrangements for the council and, initially, John VIII favored the idea that the assembly be held in Italy But after Patriarch Joseph II consulted with the emperor, the latter’s enthusiasm seemed to have cooled Postponing action on the question to a later date, he announced that he wanted to respond to the Pope through an intermediary of his own choosing. Nuncio Andrew Chrysoberges then began to complain about what appeared to be a lack of confidence in him, despite his Greek origins.

The question involved was in fact one of personal confidence. Ecclesiastical circles in Byzantium surely had to remember the dubious role which the “latinophile” negotiators, especially the Chrysoberges brothers, had been playing for years. With their patriarch as intermediary, those circles wanted probably to protest to the emperor the communication of any response through Andrew, whom they did not consider a true representative of their nation, as well as the projects which the latter was occupied in promoting. It is probable that the major figure secluded behind the scenes of the patriarch’s intervention was Bryennios, who, as a leader of the resistance to the Latin project, was able to exert decisive influence on Joseph II.

In Byzantium, the four years which followed were marked by an internal struggle between the representatives of two tendencies: those who came more and more to consider acquiescence to the Roman project for a council in Italy as the only means of salvation for the empire, and those who continued to argue that the council be held in Constantinople. Joseph Bryennios, and the majority of the Byzantine churchmen, had good reasons to support, un-hypocritically, that second idea. The presence of the Westerners who, besides, were divided among themselves, would not have been a burden on the Byzantine capital, while the expenses of the Greek participants could have been covered by the bishops of the various Orthodox nations. From that point of view the Greeks especially counted on the presence at the council of the ruling hierarch from the rich metropolitan province of Kiev-Moscow, Photios, a great benefactor of the Byzantine Church. A Greek by birth, and consecrated metropolitan for Russia in 1408, Photios was also a personal friend of Joseph Bryennios, whom he had wanted at first to accompany him to Moscow in order to become his permanent co-worker.

Yet it was the party favoring the plans of Martin V which slowly gained ground and, around 1430, Emperor John VIII decided to agree to the council’s being held in the West. First of all, he established a personal accord with the pope, sending him a letter through two ambassadors. In Rome it was agreed that the Latins should take charge, on the one hand, of the travel and lodging of the Greeks and, on the other hand, of the defense of Constantinople during the council. The assembly would convene in a city to be selected by the Byzantine emperor, provided that it was in Italy. Around the beginning of the year 1431, prior to giving a definite response to the pope, and in order to assure broad-based support for the accord, so far removed from the line which had been followed until then by Constantinople, John VIII summoned the ecclesiastical dignitaries of the empire to a private consultation in the palace of the Empress-Mother. Having participated in that meeting, Joseph Bryennios later affirmed that, despite all resistance on his part, approval of the pro-Roman project was a foregone conclusion. It was then that he must have realized that “nothing good was going to be clone anymore in that affair” and, thus, disassociated himself from the sponsors of the negotiations, confiding to himself that: “since Joseph will not be there (at the council, G.P.) and will not see what will have been decided, let them do as they please”!

The outcome of the talks was the departure for Rome of a delegation, instructed to deliver the response of the Byzantines. In Rome, not even the unexpected death of Pope Martin V could impede the rather rapid establishment of an accord with his successor, Eugene IV. As for Joseph Bryennios he died before 1438, the beginning of the Council and his relics were interred in the Monastery of Charsianites.

A “Word Out of Reach” on Union

   In Constantinople the times were not conducive to profound theological thought. The Greeks themselves were aware of it: they even felt the need to reproach one of their most notable representatives, Saint Mark of Ephesus, for not conducting himself with the requisite dignity which his predecessors would have exhibited had they been present at the Council. But the Greek participants in the Council of Florence were still unaware of the theological positions of Bryennios. It was only out of ignorance that Patriarch Joseph II, for example, could have attested to his former co-worker’s having been unacquainted with the Trinitarian doctrine of Saint Epiphanios of Cyprus, whereas in reality Bryennios had attempted to integrate the most daring affirmations of the great heresiologist into an Orthodox theological context. Even more surprisingly, when a Westerner, Cardinal Giuliano Cesarini, took it upon himself to remind the Byzantines that they had discussed the problem of union with their theologians in the past, having determined the means toward its realization, Saint Mark of Ephesus replied that no solution had been found by the Greeks for healing the schism.

Among the Byzantines, however, the rumor spread that during his lifetime Joseph Bryennius had found the means which would lead unerringly to union. It would be mistaken to try to explain that rumor by a lie, either on the part of Bryennios himself or on that of Emperor John VIII. Admittedly, exploiting it in order to create a “pro-unionist atmosphere at the council, the emperor did later twist the information about the deceased theologian’s means “out of reach”. But he could have never deceived an entire generation of Bryennios’ contemporaries with such a story if it had been no more than his own fabrication. Yet neither was Joseph Bryennios the type who would want to lead his fellow countrymen into error, especially where questions of faith were concerned. The myth of his “means to a union” probably has as its historical basis his Deliberative Discourses on the Union of the Churches, a discourse to which he attributed such central importance that he recommended its presentation to the future council as his spiritual testament.

It was only after the Council of Florence, during the period of anti-uniate resistance, that the activity of Joseph Bryennios seemed to produce results, at least partially, in that a number of the opponents to the council were his former disciples. Though not having been his student in the strict sense of the term, Saint Mark of Ephesus considered Joseph his “master”, an attitude also shared by his brother, Deacon John Eugenikos. As we have ‘been able to determine, Photios, Metropolitan of Kiev/Moscow, was also a friend of Bryennios. Though he died before the Council of Florence, Photios had been undoubtedly one of the teachers of the Russian Church who, during his long rule, had predisposed the faithful toward the anti-uniate attitude which they would subsequently assume.

Outstanding among the pillars of resistance to Florence were the Grand Ecclesiastical Sylvester Syropoulos and the chronicler George Sphrantzes, brother of a monk in the Monastery of Charsianites, both of whom had been influenced by Bryennios. But the chief propagators of his work were found primarily among his brothers in the monastic life. After Florence, the Monastery of Charsianites, where Joseph spent the last years of his life, became a veritable stronghold of Orthodoxy. It was in the Monastery of Charsianites that the confessor to the Court and to the Byzantine aristocracy, one of the main opponents to the council, Hieromonk Neophytes, resided until 1453, and it was in the same monastery that a defender of the Orthodox faith, George Scholarios, became a monk under the name Germadios and lived during the years 1450-52.

Although in the beginning his theological orientation diverged considerably from that of Bryennios, in his later writings Scholarios often quoted the testimony of Joseph, that final link in the “golden chain” which constitutes the Tradition of the Fathers. Joseph Bryennios was indeed one of those who incarnate the patristic heritage in its fullness without forgetting its authoritative character. Careful to leave doors wide-open for those who sincerely desire Christian unity, he possessed sufficient discernment to resist all attempts at unity founded upon delusion: upon the spirit of this age


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