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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : LESSON XXX. THE FIRST SCHISM.

The Chosen People by Charlotte Mary Yonge

LESSON XXX. THE FIRST SCHISM.

|While men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat.| -- St. Matt. xiii.25

Is the West there was no heresy as there was in the East. The simple Teutons believed what they were taught, and grew softened by little and little, as their clergy gained more influence over them. The clergy were usually bred up in the convents, and there read the good old books which had come down from learned times, St. Jerome's Latin Bible, and the writings of the holy Fathers of the Church, from St. Clement, the friend of St. Paul, down to St. Gregory the Great. Each monastery had a few of such books, as well as of the Liturgy, or Communion Service, and Breviary, or Daily Service; and they were worth much more than their weight in gold. The monks used to copy them out, and adorn the borders and first letters of the chapters with beautiful colours and gilding; but such writing took a long time, and when it was done, few but the clergy could read. Except the clergy, only such persons as were partly Roman by birth had any notion of Latin, or cared to read at all; and so changed were things now that the new race were the conquerors, that to be a Roman was thought quite contemptible, and in France there was a less heavy punishment for killing a Roman than for killing a Frank. The fierce Teuton nobles thought nothing but war worth their attention, and yet they were very devout, and would weep bitterly over their sins. They gave richly to churches, founded convents, and paid great honour to clergymen, and to everything belonging to religion.

Sometimes this honour began to run into idolatry. They treated relics, that is, remains, or things that had belonged to holy persons, as having some sacredness of their own, and fancied that they would save him who carried them from harm. And when they glorified God for His saints in Heaven, and thought of the Communion of saints, they began to entreat their prayers, and the more ignorant would even pray to the saints themselves, as if they could by their own power grant the things that were asked. The blessed Virgin was more sought in this manner than any other saint. The pictures and images of saints, and the crucifix or figure of our blessed Lord on His Cross, which stood in all the churches, often had lights burning before them, and people kneeling round in prayer, till there was danger that, in their ignorance, they might be bowing down to the likeness, and breaking the Second Commandment.

One of the Greek emperors named Leo, was much displeased at this practice, and tried to put a stop to it. There was a great uproar at Constantinople, and many profane things were done and said, which shocked the western branch of the Church. At last the Greeks made a rule that there might be pictures of sacred subjects in their churches, but no images, and to this they have kept ever since. The Latins would not agree to this, and kept both images and pictures; and thus began a feeling of distrust between the two branches.

The great Frank king, Charles le Magne, grandson of Charles Martel, was a very religious man, and did a great deal to convert the heathens in Germany, and spread the power of the Church. He saved Rome from some dangerous enemies, and made the Pope a sort of prince over the city; and the Pope, in return, crowned him Emperor of Rome, though without any right to give away that title. He died in 814, and after his time all the Christian west suffered horribly from the Teuton heathens, who lived in Norway and Denmark, and who used to come down in their ships and ruin and ravage all the countries round, especially England and France. They loved nothing so well as burning a convent; and such a number of learned monks and their books perished under their hands, that the world was growing more ignorant than ever, when our good King Alfred rose up in 880, taught himself first, and then his people; and though he died early, left such good seed behind him, that at last his Saxons converted their enemies themselves, and Norway and Denmark became Christian too, through kings who had learnt the faith in England. But all the errors grew the faster from the ignorance of the people; and at Rome, where there was plenty of learning, the power the Pope enjoyed had done little good, for it made ambitious men covet the appointment, and they ruled their branch of the Church so as to ensure their own gain, more than for the sake of what was right. The Patriarchs of Constantinople greatly disapproved of this, and made the most of all the differences of opinion and practice. When the Council of Constantinople had added to the Nicene Creed the sentence which asserts the Godhead of the Third Holy Person of the Ever Blessed Trinity, the third clause had been |Who proceedeth from the Father.| Of late the Western Church had added the words |and the Son.| Now though the Greeks believed with all their hearts that the blessed Spirit doth come forth from the Father and the Son, yet they said that the Latins ought not to put words into the Creed that no Council had yet authorized; and thus a great dispute arose. Besides, the Popes had begun to think themselves universal Bishops, heads over all other Patriarchs; and to this the Patriarch of Constantinople would not submit, and rightly said that from the old times all Patriarchs had been equal, and had no right to take authority over one another. At last matters ran so high, that the Pope sent three legates or messengers, who laid on the altar of St. Sophia an act breaking the communion between the two Churches, and then shook off the dust from their feet. This was in the year 1056, a very sad one, for here was the first great rent in the Church, the first breach, and one that has never been repaired, for the Greeks will not, to this day, hold communion with anyone belonging to the Western Church, nor will the Roman Church with them; and after the first happy thousand years when the Church was one outwardly as well as inwardly, thus began the time when her unity has become a matter of faith, and not of sight. But it is our duty to believe that all good Christians are joined together, because they are joined to our blessed Lord, as the boughs of a tree belong to one another by their union with the root, though they may grow apart on different branches.

There were many other differences. The Greeks and Latins reckoned the time of keeping Easter in different ways, and had not the same way of shaving the heads of their clergy. Besides, the Greeks thought that when St. Paul said an elder might be the husband of one wife, he meant that a parish priest must be married; so if a clergyman's wife died, they put him into a convent, and took away his parish. The Roman Catholics said, on the contrary, that the clergy were better unmarried; and by-and-by they forbade even those who were not monks to have wives; and in process of time a far more serious evil gradually arose in the Western Church. The clergy said that there was no need for the people to partake of the Cup at the Holy Eucharist, so they were cut off from that privilege, though our Lord had said, |Drink ye ALL.| The clergy said it was all the same whether the people drank of it or not, since Flesh and Blood were one; but this was thinking for themselves, and over explaining, and so by-and-by they lost the real spiritual devout way in which they ought to have reverently spoken of that great and holy mystery, and thought of it in a manner that answered better to their mere human understanding.

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