52. THE SCHISM BETWEEN THE ROMAN AND GREEK CHURCHES
By these and such other stories, who seeth not how far the Church of Rome hath degenerated from the true image of the right church of Christ, which, by the rule and example of the gospel, ought to be a daughter of peace, not a mother of debate; not a revenger of herself, nor a seeker of wars, but a forgiver of injuries, humbly and patiently referring all revenge to the Lord; not a raker for riches, but a winner of souls; not contending for worldly mastership, but humbling themselves as servants; and not vicars of the Lord, but jointly like brethren serving together, bishops with bishops, ministers with ministers, deacons with deacons; and not as masters separating themselves by superiority one from another, but briefly communicating together in doctrine and counsel, one particular church with another; not as a mother, one over another, but rather as a sister church, one with another, seeking together the glory of Christ, and not their own? And such was the Church of Rome first in the old ancient beginning of her primitive state, especially while the cross of persecution yet kept the bishops and ministers under in humility of heart and fervent calling upon the Lord for help; so that happy was that Christian then which with liberty of conscience only might hold his life, how barely soever he lived. And as for the pride and pomp of the world, as striving for patrimonies, buying of bishoprics, gaping for benefices, so far was this off from them, that then they had little leisure and less desire so much as once to think upon them. Neither did the bishops then of Rome fight to be consuls of the city, but sought how to bring the consuls unto Christ, being glad if the consuls would permit them to dwell by them in the city. Neither did they then presume so high to bring the emperors' necks under their girdles, but were glad to save their own necks in any corner from the sword of the emperors. Then lacked they outward peace, but abounded with inward consolation, God's Holy Spirit mightily working in their hearts. Then was one catholic unity of truth and doctrine amongst all churches against errors and sects. Neither did the east and west, nor distance of place, divide the church; but both the east church and west church, the Greeks and Latins, made all one church. And albeit there were then five patriarchal sees appointed for order's sake, differing in regions, and peradventure also in some rites one from another; yet all these consenting to gether in one unity of catholic doctrine, having one God, one Christ, one faith, one baptism, one Spirit, one Head, and linked together in one bond of charity, and in one equality of honour, they made altogether one body, one church, one communion, called one catholic, universal, and apostolical church. And so long as this knot of charity and equality did join them in one unity together, so long the church of Christ flourished and increased, one ready to help and harbour another in time of distress, as Agapetus and Vigilius flying to Constantinople were there aided by the patriarch; so that all this while neither foreign enemy, neither Saracen, nor soldan, nor sultan, nor caliph, nor Corasmine, nor Turk, had any power greatly to harm it.
But through the malice of the enemy this catholic unity did not long continue, and all by reason of the bishop of Rome; who, not contented to be like his brethren, began to extend himself and to claim superiority above the other four patriarchal sees, and all other churches in the world. And thus as equality amongst Christian bishops was by pride and singularity oppressed, so unity began by little and little to be dissolved, and the Lord's coat, which the soldiers left whole, to be divided. Which coat of Christian unity, albeit of long time it had been seam-ripped by the occasion aforesaid; yet, notwithstanding, in some sort it held together in some mean agreement, under subjection to the see of Rome, till the time of this Pope Gregory the Ninth, A.D. 1230, at which time this rupture and schism of the church brake out into a plain division, utterly dissevering the east church from the west church upon this occasion.
There was a certain archbishop elected to an archbishopric among the Grecians; who, coming to Rome to be confirmed, could not be admitted unless he promised a great sum of money. Which when he refused to do, and detested the execrable simony of the court of Rome, he made his repair home again to his own country unconfirmed, declaring there to the whole nobility of that land the case how it stood. For the more confirmation whereof there were others also, which, coming lately from Rome, and there had proved the same or worse, came in and gave testimony to his saying. Whereupon all the churches of the Grecians, the same time hearing this, departed utterly away from the Church of Rome, which was in the days of this Pope Gregory the Ninth. Insomuch that the archbishop of Constantinople, coming afterward to the general Council at Lyons, there openly declared, that whereas beforetime be had under him above thirty bishoprics and suffragans, now he had not three; adding moreover, that all the Grecians, and certain others, with Antioch and the whole empire of Romania, even to the gates almost of Constantinople, were gone from the obedience of the Church of Rome, &c.
By the occasion of which separation aforesaid of the Grecians from Pope Gregory it happened shortly after, being the year of our Lord 1237, that Germanus, archbishop and patriarch of Constanti nople, wrote to the said Pope Gregory the Ninth, humbly desiring him to study and seek some means of unity, how the seamless coat of the Lord Jesus, thus lamentably rent, not with hands of soldiers, but by discord of prelates, may be healed again; offering this moreover, that if he will take the pains to stir out, he for his part, notwithstanding his old age and feeble body, would not refuse to meet him in the midway, to the intent that the truth on both sides being debated by the Scriptures, the wrong part may be reduced, the slander stopped, and unity reformed between them.
This request of the patriarch, as it was both godly and reasonable, so it had been the bishop's part again with like humility to have condescended to the same, and to have been glad with all his might to help forward the reformation of Christian unity in the church of Christ, and so to have showed himself the son of peace; but the proud bishop of Rome, more like the son of discord and dissen sion, standing still upon his majesty, refused thus to do; but writing again answer to his letters with great disdain, seeking nothing else but only how to advance his see above all other churches; and not only that, but also shortly after sent forth his preaching friars to move all Christians to take the sign of the cross, and to fight against the Grecians, no otherwise than against the Turks and Saracens; in somuch that in the isle of Cyprus many good men and martyrs were slain for the same, as by the letters of the said Germanus, patriarch of Constantinople, is to be seen.
The tenor of the which letter to the pope, with the pope's answer again to him, being long and tedious to read, are extant in the history of Mat. Parisiensis, there to be seen and found. The summary effect whereof, notwithstanding, I thought here briefly to notify for the simple and unlearned multitude, which, understanding not the Latin, may hereby perceive the fault of this schism not so much to rest in the Greek Church, as in the Church of Rome, as by the contents of his letter may appear.
In the which letter the said Germanus, patriarch of Constantinople, writing to Pope Gregory, first, after his reverent salutation and preamble following upon the same, entering then towards the matter, showeth the occasion of his writing, which was by five Observant Friars repairing that way, whom he gently receiving into his house, had conference with them touching this discord between the two churches, how it might be reduced again to unity; and afterward perceiving the said friars to make their journey towards Rome, he thought therefore by them to write his letters. Wherein he first lamenting this division in the house of God, and reciting the in conveniences which come thereof, hy the example of Judah and Israel, Jerusalem and Samaria, Cain and Abel, Esau and Jacob, also of other such like, both private and public societies, where brother fighteth against brother, like as amongst fishes the greater devoureth the lesser; he proceedeth then further gently to exhort Pope Gregory to the study of unity.
And forasmuch as the pope had accursed (belike) those churches of the Greeks before, he therefore, taking his ground upon the words of St. Paul, (Gal. i.,) where he accurseth every such person and persons, whatsoever they be, either man or angel of heaven, that shall preach any other gospel than hath been preached, willeth the pope to stand with him upon the same ground of the apostle's curse; so that if the stroke of that curse have lighted upon him or his churches, be desireth him to show the wound, and to help to wipe away the blood, to minister some spiritual plaster, to bind up the sore, and to save his brethren from perishing which lay in danger, according to the saying of the wise man, "A brotherly friend is tried in adversity."
"But if we (saith he) of the Greek Church be free from the stripe of this curse of the apostle, and that you Italians and of the Latin Church be stricken therewith, and lie thereby in danger of destruction, I trust that you, through ignorance and wilful obstinacy, will not so suffer yourselves to be separated from the Lord, but rather will suffer a thousand deaths before, if it were possible for a man so often to die.
"And as touching this great discord between us, if either contrariety of doctrine, or swerving from the ancient canons, or diversity of rites received of our forefathers, be any cause thereof, we here take heaven and earth to witness, that we for our parts are ready, and desire also, upon due trial of profound truth by God's word, and invocation of the Holy Ghost, to join hands with you, or you to join with us. But, to say the very truth, and to tell you plain, this we suppose, that many mighty and noble potentates would sooner incline to your obedience, were it not that they feared your unjust oppressions, your insatiable exactions, and inordinate provisions, wherewith you wring your subjects. By reason whereof have then amongst us cruel wars, one fighting against another, desolation of cities, bulls and interdictions set upon church doors, division of brethren, and churches of the Grecians left without service, where God should be praised. So that now only one thing lacketh, which I believe to be predefined and appointed from above long before to us Grecians, the time I mean of martyrdom, which also now hasteneth fast upon us, that the tribunal of tyrants should be opened, and the seats of torments be set, that the blood of martyrs should he spilled, and we brought to the stage of martyrdom, to fight for the crown of glory.
"This that I do speak, and wherefore I speak it, the noble island of Cyprus doth already know and feel, which hath made many new martyrs, and hath seen valiant soldiers of Christ, which of long time before, passing by water and tears of sorrow, now at last have also passed through fire, and so entered into the heavenly rest. How say you? be these good and seemly, O holy pope, the successor of St. Peter the apostle? Is this the bidding of that good Peter, the meek and humble disciple of Christ? Doth he thus instruct the seniors and elders in his Epistle, where he writeth in this wise: The elders which are among you I beseech, which am also a fellow elder with them, and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be opened; feed the flock of God which is amongst you, having care and oversight of it, not of coaction, as compelled against your wills, but willingly, of your own accord; not for filthy lucre sake, but freely and heartily; neither as bearing dominion and lordship over the church, but showing yourselves as an example to the flock: and when the chief Pastor shall appear, you shall receive an incorruptible crown of eternal glory, &c.? And this is the doctrine of Peter, as they shall see which do not obey it. As for us, the other part of the said Epistle is sufficient; wherein he willeth them to rejoice which are in heaviness through manifold temptations, that the trial of their faith, being much more precious than gold that perisheth, and is tried in fire, may be their laud, honour, and glory, at the appearing of the Lord Jesus, &c. But bear with me, I pray you, (O holy father, and of all your predecessors most meek,) and suffer my words, though they be something sharp, for they be sighings of a sorrowful heart.
"Wherefore gird about your loins with fortitude, and light up the candle of your discretion, and seek the groat that is lost, of the unity, I mean, of faith. And we will also with like compassion join with your Holiness, and I will not spare this weak body of mine, in pretending any excuse either of age or length of the way; for the more laborious the travel is, the more crowns it bringeth. And St. Paul saith, Every man shall receive reward according to his travail, &c.
"Neither are we ignorant (if it please your Holiness) that like as we Grecians for our parts do labour in all respects to keep and observe the sincerity of true faith and doctrine, not to err nor swerve in any part or point from the statutes of the blessed apostles and ancient fathers; so the Church likewise of old Rome doth for her part labour also (we know well) to follow the sincere verity of Christian doctrine, and thinketh herself to err in nothing, nor to need any remedy or reformation. And this we know is the judgment and saying of both the churches, as well of the Greeks as of the Latins. For no man can see any spot in his own face, without he stoop down to the glass, or else be admonished by some other, whether his face be blotted or no. Even so have we many great and fair glasses set before us; first, the clear gospel of Christ, the Epistles of the apostles, and divinity books of ancient writers. Let us therefore look in them well; they will show every man's mind and judgment, whether he go right or wrong. The God of peace tread down Satan speedily under our feet. The Author of peace confound the sower of discord. He that is the cause of all goodness destroy the hater of all that which is good, and which giveth cause of offence and slander. And he which is God of all joy and peace send to us, which are the shepherds of his sheep reasonable, the angel of peace, and the messenger of great glad tidings, as he did in the nativity of Christ, to the shepherds of brute sheep and unreasonable, and make us worthy to sing that joyful song of God's praise, Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bona voluntas; and to receive one an other with a holy kiss. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the peace of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you al ways. Amen."
Another letter the said Germanus, patriarch of Constantinople, wrote also the same time to the pope's cardinals, wherein he first commendeth them for their wisdom and counsel, and showeth what utility cometh by good counsel. He saith, "Forasmuch as God many times, that which he hideth from one, inspireth to another, so that that good thing which by the Almighty God is sparingly dispensed to divers, through common counsel and conference spreadeth to the public utility of many," &c. After this, eftsoons he beginneth to exhort them, that they, like charitable ministers, and discreet counsellors, will take in hand the spiritual armour of God, to cast down the stop and partition wall of the old discord between the Greek and Latin Church, and that they will be a means to the bishop of Rome, that they, which so long have been dissevered by dissension, may now be conjoined in unity of peace, in brotherly charity and communion of faith.
"Concerning which matter I have (saith he) already written to his Holiness. And now I beseech the King of heaven, which took the shape of a servant to help his miserable servants, and was exalted upon the cross to raise them up which were fallen into the profundity of desolation, that he will vouchsafe to put from your hearts all elation of mind, extolling itself over and above the unity of your brethren and fellow servants, and to enlighten your consciences with the true light of understanding, that we may all together agree in one, and that there be no schism amongst us. Let us therefore, as we are instructed, so abide in one mind, that it be not said of us as it was of the Corinthians before us, I hold of Paul, I of Apollo, I of Cephas, and I of Christ; but that all we, as we hold the name of Christ, and are all called Christians, so may also abide in that wherein we are instructed, in one mind, that is, to follow love and charity in Christ Jesus, having always in our hearts the words of the apostle, saying, One Lord, one faith, one baptism.
"And now, to be plain with you in that I have to say, I shall desire you not to be offended with me in uttering the truth as a friend unto you. The words (saith Solomon) of a wise man, telling truth, be like to nails which be driven in deep; and truth for the most part hreedeth enemies. And therefore, though I am partly afraid, yet will I simply confess the truth unto you. Certes this division of Christian unity amongst us proceedeth of no other cause but only of the tyranny, oppression, and exactions of the Church of Rome, which of a mother is be come a stepdame, and hath put her children from her whom long time she nourished (after the manner of a ravening bird, which driveth her young from her); which children, how much the more humble and obedient they are to her, the less she esteemeth them, and treadeth them under foot, not regarding the saying of the Gospel, Whoso humbleth himself shall be exalted.
"Let modesty therefore something temper you, and let the avarice of the court of Rome, although it cannot well out of the flesh which is bred in the bone, yet surcease awhile, and let us together condescend to the trial of the truth; which truth being found out on both sides, let us constantly embrace the same.
"For why? we have been altogether sometimes both Italians and Grecians in one faith, and under the same canons, having peace each with other, and defending one another, and confounding the enemies of the church. At what time many flying out of the west parts (while the tyranny of the heretics endured) made their concourse to us, and were received; and part fled unto you, that is, old Rome, as to a strong tower of refuge; and so received they comfort in both places; and one brother was thus received into the bosom of another by mutual love for their defence.
"Then after, when Rome had been often distressed by the barbarous and heathen nations, the Grecians were ever ready to rescue and deliver them. Did not Agapetus and Vigilius flee unto Constantinople by reason of the dissensions then at Rome, and, being honourably received, were here defended under our protection? although the like kindness was never yet showed of your part to us again in our like necessities. Notwithstanding, we ought to do good to them also that be ungrateful; for so doth the sea participate her smooth and calm tides even unto the pirates. And so 'God causeth the sun to shine upon the just and unjust.' But (alas for sorrow!) what bitter division is this that hath thus sequestered us asunder? One of us detracteth another, shunning the company one of another, as the damnation of his soul. What a mortal hatred is this come among us! If you think we are fallen, then do you help to lift us up, and be not to us a stumbling-block to our bodily ruin, but helpers unto the spiritual resurrection of our souls. So shall we acknowledge ourselves bound unto you to give you condign thanks accordingly.
"But if the blame and first original of this offence proceedeth from Rome, and the successors of Peter the apostle, then read ye the words of St. Paul to the Galatians, saying, When Peter came to Antioch, I withstood him in the face, because he was to be rebuked, &c. Howbeit this resistance was no cause of any discord or breach between them, but the cause rather of further search and profounder disputations, provoking temporal agreement. For they were fast joined together in the bond of charity in Christ, agreeing in faith and conformity of doctrine, separated by no ambition or avarice. In which points would God we also were like unto them. This to us in our minds gendereth a great offence, that you, gaping so greedily after terrene possessions, scrape together all that you can scratch and rake. You heap up gold and silver, and yet pretend that you be the disciples of him which said, Gold and silver I have none, &c. You make whole kingdoms tributary to you, and kings and princes your vassals You augment your money by usury, and by feats of merchandise. You unteach by your deeds that which you teach in words.
"Moderate yourselves therefore with more temperance, that you may be an example to us and to all the world. You see how good a thing it is one brother to help another, Only God alone needeth no help or counsel, but men need to be holpen one of another. And were it not that I do reverence the blessed apostle Peter, the chief of Christ's apostles, the rock of our faith, I would here put you in remembrance how greatly this rock was shaken and removed from the foundation at the sight of a silly woman; and Christ of his secret purpose permitted the same, which by the crowing of the cock brought him again to remembrance of that which was foretold him, and raised him from the slumber of desperation. Then he, being thus waked, washed his face with tears, confessing himself before God and all the world to be a true pattern of repentance, which before bare the keys of the kingdom, as saying thus unto us; May not he which falleth rise again? O you which are fallen, rise up and be hold me, and hearken unto me, travelling towards paradise; the gates whereof to open I have received power.
"And thus do I write unto you, not for any in struction, but only to put you in remembrance; for I know how God hath endued you with all wis dom and knowledge, as Solomon saith, Give only occasion to the wise, and he will learn wisdom; Teach the just man, and he will be glad to take instruction.
"This one thing more I will say, and so make an end; there be great and mighty nations that are of like mind and opinion with us. First, the Ethiopians that inhabit the chiefest part of the East. After that the Syrians, and other more of greater number than they, and more disposed to virtue, as the Hiberi, Alani, Gothi, Charari, with innumerable people of Russia, and the kingdom of great victory, that of the Vulgarians. And all these are obedient unto us as their mother church, persisting hitherto constantly in the ancient and true orthodox faith immovable.
"The God of all holiness, which for our sakes became man, and which only is the Head of his church and congregation, vouchsafe to gather us again to gether in unity, and grant that the Grecian Church, together with her sister Church of old Rome, may glorify the same Christ, the Prince of peace, by the unity of faith, to the restitution of sound and whole some doctrine, wherein many years agone they have agreed and were united. God grant unto you brotherly charity, and the hand of the most mighty God govern you all, holy cardinals, till that joy fully ye arrive in the haven of everlasting tranquillity. The grace of God he with you all. Amen."
Shortly after the sending of these letters, Pope Gregory prepared to send men of war, signed with the cross, to fight against the Grecians; whereupon the archbishop of Antioch, with the said Germanus, solemnly excommunicated the pope, after he first had excommunicated them. In the mean time, by the tenor of these letters of the patriarch sent to the pope and to the cardinals, it is evident to all men that have eyes in their heads to see, first, how the whole universal church of Christ, from the east parts to the west, in ancient times were altogether united in one consent of doctrine, and linked to gether in brotherly charity, one church brotherly to help another, both with temporal aid and spiritual counsel, as case required. Neither was then any one mother church above other churches, but the whole universal church was the mother church and spouse of the Lord to every faithful believer. Under which universal church in general were comprehended all particular churches in special, as sister churches together; not one greater than another, but all in like equality; as God gave his gifts, so serving one another; ever holding together the unity of faith and sisterly love. And so long was it and rightly might so be called the catholic church, having in it true unity, universality, and free consent; unity in doctrine, universality in communicating and joining together of voices, consent in spirit and judgment. For whatsoever was taught at Rome touching faith and salvation, it was no other than was taught at Antioch, Syria, &c.
Secondly, how in process of time, through occasion of the bishop of Rome's tyranny and violent oppression, this ring of equality being broken, all flew in pieces, the east Church from the west, the Greeks from the Latins; and that which was one before, now was made two; unity turned to division, universality to singularity, and free consent to dissension.
Thirdly, here is also to be noted, after this pitiful breach of equality, how many and what great nations departed from the communion of the Church of Rome, and especially about this time above specified of Pope Gregory the Ninth, A.D. 1230; so that both before and after that time many councils were holden, and many things concluded, in the west Church, whereunto the one half of Christendom, lying in the east parts, did never agree; and, contrary, many councils holden with them which in the Latin Church were not received. So that the church now, as she lost the benefit of universal consent, so also she lost the name catholic. Where upon this question is to be asked, that when the Council of Lateran,under Pope Innocent the Third, ordained the doctrine of transubstantiation, and auricular confession, here in the west Church, without the free consent of the east Church, whether the same doctrine is to be counted catholic or not? &c.
Fourthly, in the departing of these churches from the bishop of Rome, here also is to be noted, that the same churches of the Greeks, notwithstanding they sequestered themselves, and fell out with the Church of Rome, and that justly, yet they kept their unity still with their God, and received still the true [Greek] that is, the true and sincere doctrine of faith, ready to debate and try the truth of their religion by the Scriptures, as they here in their own writings desire to have the truth examined, according as ye have heard. Wherefore the Church of Rome hath done them open wrong, which being offered so gently to try and to be tried by the truth of God's word, not only would stand to no trial, nor abide conference, but also hath excommunicated them as heretics, which appear here to be more orthodox Christians than they themselves.
Fifthly, these things thus standing, then have we to conclude that the Church of Rome falsely pretendeth itself catholic. For if the name of catholic must needs import a universal consent of the whole, how can that be catholic where the consent of so many famous and true Christian churches hath been lacking; and furthermore, where the consent that hath been amongst themselves hath rather been coacted than any true or free consent? Which is easy to be proved; for let these fires and faggots cease, let kings and princes leave to press their subjects with the pope's obedience, let the Scripture and the bishops alone every one in his own diocess to govern their flock after the rule of God's word, and how few be there in this west end of the world (trow you) that would not do the same that these Grecians,ethiopians, and Syrians have done before us? And thus much by the occasion of this patriarch's letters sent to Pope Gregory concerning the Grecians.
Whose doings when I consider, as I cannot but commend their wisdom, and judge their state happy, and blessed, in shaking off from their necks the miserable yoke of the pope's tyranny; so, on the other side, considering with myself the wretched thraldom of these our churches here in the west part of the world under the bishop of Rome, I can not tell whether more to marvel or to lament their pitiful state, who were brought into such oppression and slavery under him, that neither they could abide him, nor yet durst cast him off. So intolerable were his exactions, so terrible was his tyranny, his suspensions and excommunications much like to a mad-man's dagger, drawn at every trifle, that no Christian patience could suffer it, nor nation abide it. Again, so deep did he sit in their consciences, they falsely believing him to have the authority of St. Peter, that for conscience' sake neither king nor Cæsar durst withstand him, much less poor subjects once mute against him. And although his takings and spoilings, namely, in this realm of England, were such, that neither the laity nor spiritualty could bear them; yet was there no remedy, bear them they must, or else the pope's sentence was upon them, to curse them as black as pitch.