The schism between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy

By Paul Shunamon

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In the 11th century, the church broke into two: Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox. There were several reasons. The simplest explanation, I guess, was the cross anathemas declared by Michael Cerularius of Constantinople and Pope Leo IX of Rome in 1054 AD based on arguments about authority, and the Bread of the Eucharist, but actually it was the culmination of tensions that started long before.

The general historical order beginning in the 2nd century would be differences that arose over:
a) The Paschal feast;
b) Authority;
c) The Filioque Clause;
d) The Bread.

The story did not end there; it actually continued on different fronts until in 1204 AD when the Roman Bishop (Innocent III) called for a 4th Crusade, in which they attacked and sacked Constantinople, conquering the Hagia Sophia.

In my humble opinion, the division all started around 110 to 130 AD when a disagreement (though totally peaceful) arose over the Paschal festival (called "Easter" many centuries later). The Bishops of the East, allegedly having always followed the instructions of the Apostles, observed "the feast" celebrating His death till He comes (culminating in celebrating the Resurrection on the 1st day of the week following the Passover which the Jews called "first fruits") while the Bishops of Rome had chosen to focus on the "Sunday" as the day of Resurrection.

Now do not misunderstand. The entire Christian church met on the 1st day of each week and broke bread in commemoration of the Resurrection, that was the foundation of the Church, but I am referring specifically to the Paschal feast.

So Polycarp (student of St. John and Bishop of Smyrna) travelled to Rome to meet and discuss the issue with Anicetus who at that time was the Bishop there. Polycarp pointed to the teaching handed down by St. John, but depending on the viewpoint one can see this in the Scriptures as well.

In Luke 22:19 Jesus commands His followers and says, "And he took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: do this in remembrance of me." (Emphasis added.)

Later we read in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, "For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (Emphasis added.)

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 says, "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, 'Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do you, as oft as you drink it, in remembrance of me.' For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you show the Lord's death till he comes." (Emphasis added.)

So the Bishops of the East would "keep the feast" (Pashca from Pesach or Passover) intending to do so "till He come," which would culminate in an all-night vigil till dawn on the 1st day (the concept of Sunday or a day of the Sun was not even in their frame of reference). Anicetus and his companions felt the importance was the resurrection, not His death (and possibly "to keep the feast" was too Jewish). The two agreed each group would do as they believed in good conscience before the Lord, and would not allow the ritualistic difference to be a cause for division (maintaining unity of the Spirit).

After a few generations, this issue came in question again as Churches interacted and teachers and preachers travelled more. Around 190 AD, Victor (Bishop of Rome) claimed sole authority over all the churches, claiming that because Peter was the first Bishop of Rome he had this right. In his decree he commanded that all churches observe the Pashca only as Rome did. Eastern bishops rejected his claim of ultimate authority. In 193 AD, Polycrates of Ephesus (a church founded by Paul where both Paul and John had taught, and for a while Mary had resided) protested on the former Bishop's apostolic basis and also refuted Victor's alleged authority over all.

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Published 1-10-17