Seven Ecumenical Councils

325 - Council of Nicea, (First Ecumenical - Imperial Council),  convened by Roman Emperor, St. Constantine the Great. It is attended by 318 fathers, including Sts. Athanasius the Great, Nicholas of Myra, Spyridon of Trimythus, Alexander of Constantinople, Alexander of Alexandria, Eustace of Antioch, Macarius of Jerusalem, and the legates of St. Sylvester of Rome. It condemns the Arians (also known as Lucianists, who believe the Son was created), Paulians (also known as Sabellians, who believe the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the same person), Quartodecimans (those who celebrate Pascha on Nisan 14) and Meletians (those who caused a schism and parallel hierarchy in Egypt). This council also formulates the Nicene Creed, sets a united date for celebrating Pascha, condemns mandatory celibacy for clergy, establishes regulations on morality and discipline, decides Christians ought to stand, not kneel, while praying on Sunday, and establishes Rome, Alexandria and Antioch as the three equal spiritual centers (Patriarchates) of Christianity.

381 - Council of Constantinople (Second Ecumenical), convened by Roman Emperor Theodosius the Great, presided over at first by St. Meletius of Antioch, and, following his repose, by St. Gregory the Theologian, Patriarch of New Rome, and attended by 150 bishops of both east and west. It condemns the Arians (also known as Eunomians or Eudoxians, who believe Christ is created, and of a completely different essence to the Father), Semi-Arians (who believe Christ is of a similar, yet different, essence to the Father), Macedonians (or Pneumatomachi, who believe the Holy Spirit is a mere creature), Apollinarians (who believe Christ has a human body and soul, but not a human rational mind), Sabellians (who believe the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one and the same person), Marcellians (who believe the Son and Holy Spirit are not eternal persons, but are transitions of the Father that would again unite into one person with the Father at the end of time), Photinians (who believe Christ is a mere man), Millenarians (who believe in the literal thousand-year reign), and Quartodecimans (who celebrate Pascha on Nisan 14). This council reaffirms that Christians must stand while praying on Sundays and the days from Pascha to Pentecost. It recognizes Old Rome, Constantinople (New Rome), Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem as the five spiritual centers (Patriarchates) of the Christian Empire. This council also attempts to resolve the Antiochian schism since St. Meletius had reposed. St. Flavian is elected and enthroned as his successor. However, he is later rejected by the bishops of the West, Egypt, Arabia, Africa and Cyprus, who recognize Paulinus, and later his successor, Evagrius, as Bishop of Antioch.

431 - Council of Ephesus (Third Ecumenical), convened by Emperor Theodosius II, presided over by Pope St. Cyril of Alexandria, and attended by more than 200 fathers. It condemns Nestorianism (the belief that the person of Christ consists of two hypostases, a human and a divine, and that the Theotokos is therefore to be called Christotokos, as if Christ is not God). It also confirms the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, and declares any additions or subtractions to it are henceforth forbidden. It is also declared that bishops are not to interfere in the vicinities and dioceses of other bishops.

451 - Council of Chalcedon (Fourth Ecumenical), convened by Emperor Marcian and his wife Empress Pulcheria, presided over by Eusebius of Dorylaeum, and attended by 630 bishops all together. It condemns Eutychianism as well as the Monophysitism of Dioscorus (the belief that the two natures of Christ had become one nature after the Incarnation), exonerates those who had been unlawfully deposed by the Robber Council, rejects the acts of that council, except those found to be Orthodox and canonical.

553 - Council of Constantinople (Fifth Ecumenical), convened by Roman Emperor Justinian I, presided over by Menas of Constantinople, and attended by 165 bishops. It is convened firstly in order to condemn Origenism (belief in the preexistence of souls, reincarnation, that hell is only temporary, that demons will be saved, that there will not be a bodily resurrection, that various inanimate objects contain souls), and secondly in order to condemn the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrus and Ibas of Edessa, on the charge of Nestorianism. These latter condemnations are hurled mainly to please the Monophysites, making union more possible. Thereby it appears that the council is siding with the Monophysites. Pope Vigilius of Rome disagrees at first but is later convinced to sign the edict. This, however, causes schisms in the West.

680-681 - Council of Constantinople  (Sixth Ecumenical), convened by Emperor Constantine Pogonatus, presided over by St. George of Constantinople, and attended by 170 fathers. It condemns Monothelitism and anathematizes the Monothelite Patriarchs Cyrus of Alexandria, Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul and Peter of Constantinople, Pope Honorius of Rome, and Bishop Theodore of Pharan. They are then replaced with Orthodox successors.

787 - Council of Nicea (Seventh Ecumenical), convened by Empress Irene and her infant son Constantine VI, presided over by Patriarch Tarasius of Constantinople, and attended by 350 Orthodox bishops, and 17 iconoclastic bishops who repent and are received back into Orthodoxy by the council itself. It annuls the decisions of the Mock Council of 754 and condemns Iconoclasm, while restoring the veneration of the sacred icons.
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