THE SYNODICON

 

The Bulgarian version of the Synodic on, sometimes called "Boril's Synodicon," is a product of the Byzantine-Slavic cultural symbiosis. The Greek prototype was created in 843 A.D. in the synodal resolution ending iconoclasm. The Synodicon offered I twenty-four articles exposing and condemning the tenets of the "image-destroyers," who had prevailed in the Byzantine Empire I for more than one hundred years; it also anathematized a variety of other heresies, including Arianism, Manichaeism, Nestor-ianism, Neoplatonism, the "Armenian heresy" or Paulicianism, and the dogmas of Origen and the gnostics.The Synodicon condemned these beliefs and their propagators, while proclaiming "eternal remembrance" for church leaders and rulers who upheld the faith, including the Empress Theodora, who convened the Synod of 842-43 A.D., and Theodore Studite (d. 829 A.D.), who led the monastic opposition to the iconoclasts. The Synodicon is traditionally read in churches on the first Sunday in Lent, called "Orthodox Sunday" in commemoration of the restoration of icons.

The Byzantine document was added to over the centuries, as new villains and new heresies arose, including Bogomilism, as well as worthy emperors and churchmen to be remembered. Its mutability helps explain why the Bulgarian King Boril, who had convened a synod against native Bogomil heretics in 1211 A.D., felt authorized to add sixteen new articles against the Bogomils, replacing the original Greek pronouncements against that sect.1 The Bulgarian version also included a narrative about Boril's convening of the subor ("synod") and his unmasking of the Bogomil leader — a story reminiscent of the account in the "Alexiad" (Ch. 14) concerning Emperor Alexius Comnenus's exposing of the Bogomil leader Basil.

Boril's Synodicon, dated February 11, 1211, was amended over the following two centuries to include the reestablishment of the Bulgarian Patriarchate under King John Asen II (1235 A.D.), as well as a list of kings and queens, from Boris and Maria

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down to John Sisman. The entries acquire a poignant tone toward the second half of the fourteenth century, as they proclaim "eternal remembrance" for those who died fighting the Turkish marauders. Most touching is the mention of Kera Tamara, daughter of King John Alexander, who was given as "fiancee" to the Sultan Amurat, "for the sake of the Bulgarian people." The Synodicon also mentions the Macedonian King Vulkasin and his brother Uglesa, who died at the battle of the Marica in 1371, as well as "others who showed bravery against the godless Turks and shed their blood for the Orthodox faith."
    The breakdown of Bulgarian society in the period before the Turkish conquest is reflected in the anathemas against "those who rob Christian homes" or "do banditry on the roads." It also condemns opponents of the hesychast reform of the Church, namely, the followers of Barlaam of Calabria and Akindin, as well as Piropul (Piron) and Fudul, who are mentioned in Gregory Camblak's "Eulogy to Euthemius." Thus, the Synodicon is a memory document, which remembers the bad and the good, and a teaching document, alerting bishops and priests against dangerous fancies — their own as well as those from outside.
    There are Russian and Serbian versions of the Synodicon, created with the aid of the Bulgarian.2 It played a particularly important role in Russia, where there were at least two versions, the second of which was expanded to include a long list of local heretics and rebels, including Avaakum and Stenka Razin.
    For background on the Bulgarian version, consult Popruzenko (1928), and on the Russian, Petuhov (1893) and Uspenskij (1895). The selections below are from Popruzenko; since there exists no complete Bulgarian version, he combined the "Palauzov copy" and the "Drinov." He makes a case for Euthemius's role in the preparation of the prototype of the Drinov MS.
Like many religious works, the Synodicon has a drama com­ponent, since it was intended to be read aloud. There are directions in the margins and text concerning reading dynamics ("low voice," "loud voice") and gestures ("raise the hand and point, as in remembering the dead"). Sometimes musical nota­tions are included.

T.Butler

 

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                                                            THE BULGARIAN SYNODICON (PALAUZOV MS.)

 (Pages follow in this specific order, because for the moment we skip the original Bulgarian text).


Art. 38. Since our very sly Enemy disseminated the Manichaean heresy /Bogomilism/ throughout the Bulgarian land, mixing it with the Messalian — to the originators of such a heresy, anathema!

Art. 39. And to the priest Bogomil, who in the time of the Bulgarian King Peter adopted the Manichaean heresy and disseminated it in the Bulgarian land, adding that Christ our God was born of the Holy Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary as an illusion, and as an illusion he was crucified, but that he took this assumed flesh up with him, leaving it in the air — to him and to his past and present disciples, called apostles, anathema!

Art. 40. And to all who are in that heresy and who /maintain/ their customs, their nocturnal gatherings and mysteries, and their useless teachings, as well as those who associate with them, anathema!

Art. 41. And to those who are in friendly relations with them, and who eat and drink with them in harmony and accept gifts from them as like-believers, anathema!

Art. 42. To those who on the twenty-fourth of June — on the birthday of John the Baptist — pluck fruit and tell fortunes, and during that night perform certain foul mysteries similar to Hellenic ritual, anathema!3

Art. 43. To those who call Satan the creator of the visible world, and name him the master of rain, hail and of everything that crawls out of the ground, anathema!

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Art. 44. To those who say that Satan created Adam and Eve, anathema!

Art. 45. To those who reject Moses the Godseer and Elijah the Tishbite, as well as the holy prophets and patriarchs and their sacred writings, which are from God, saying that they come from Satan and that these men were moved by him to write what they wrote and said about Christ, and that they were speaking involuntarily and under compulsion, and for this reason the Bogomils reject what is written in the Old Testament, as well as the holy prophets who are illumined in it, anathema!

Art. 46. To those who say that a woman conceives in her womb through the agency of Satan, who dwells there continuously from then until the very birth of the child, /and/ that he can't be driven out by holy baptism but only by prayer and fasting — to those who say such things, anathema!

Art. 47. To those who revile John the Baptist and say that he is from Satan, as is baptism with water, and who baptise without water, saying only the "Our Father" — anathema!

Art. 48. To those who reject all singing in the sacred and divine churches, and /who reject/ the very house of God, which is the church, and who say that one should only sing the "Our Father" at whatever place they happen to gather, anathema!

Art. 49. To those who reject and revile the holy and sacred liturgy and the whole episcopal organization, saying that these are the Devil's inventions, anathema!

Art. 50. To those who reject and revile the communion of the holy body of our Lord Jesus Christ, as well as the mystery of all that our Lord Jesus Christ /did/ for our salvation, anathema!

Art. 51. To those who reject the veneration of the holy and life-giving cross, and the holy and sacred icons, anathema!

Art. 52. To those who accept any of these heretics in God's holy church, before they confess and curse the whole heresy, as has been described, anathema!

Art. 53. To Basil-the-doctor, who sowed in Constantinople this thrice-cursed Bogomil heresy in the time of the Orthodox Emperor Alexius Comnenus, anathema!4

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Art. 87. /A List of Bulgarian Kings and Saints from the Drinov MS./ The beginning of the Bulgarian kings: To Boris, the first Bulgarian king, called in holy baptism Michael, who brought the Bulgarian people to prudence by holy baptism, eternal remem­brance! To Symeon his son, and to Peter the holy King, his grandson; to Plenimir, Boris, Roman, Samuel, Radomir, Gabriel, Vladimir, Vladislav -- ancient Bulgarian kings who together with the earthly kingdom inherited the heavenly one — eternal remembrance! To Maria, the ancient Queen of Bulgaria, eternal remembrance!

Art. 88. To Cyril the Philosopher, who translated the holy scriptures from the Greek language into Bulgarian, and who was a new second apostle,5 who baptized6 the Bulgarian people during the rule of the Emperor Michael7 and Theodora the Orthodox Empress, his mother, who beautified the divine church with holy icons and strengthened Orthodoxy -- eternal remembrance!

Art. 89. To Methodius his brother, Archbishop of Moravia and Pannonia, since he labored greatly for the sake of Slavonic books, eternal remembrance!

Art. 90. To Clement his disciple, Bishop of Great Moravia, and to his disciples Sava and Gorazd and Naum, since they labored greatly for the sake of Slavonic books, eternal remembrance!

Art. 91. To John Asen the King, /called/ Belgun8 who freed his people from Greek slavery, eternal remembrance!

Art. 92. To Theodore, called Peter — his brother and king — and to King Kalojan, his brother who had many victories over the Greeks and the Franks, eternal remembrance!

/The following description of the convening of Boril's subor in 1211, which led to the preparation of the prototype of the Bulgarian Synodicon, is taken from the Drinov MS. It is incom­plete, so that those who wish to read a bit more on the subor should consult the Palauzov MS., which, however, lacks this opening section./
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Art. 93. After these /kings/, when their nephew — the most pious King Boril — had taken over the kingdom, there sprung up like thorns the thrice-cursed and godhated heresy of Bogomilism, whose leader at the time was the most foul priest Bogomil, with his disciples. Just as with Jannes and Jambres, who opposed Moses,9 like fierce wolves they mercilessly ravaged Christ's flock, for which he shed his most holy blood.

Now when he found out about this, the most pious King Boril became inflamed with divine fervor. He sent out orders for them to be gathered up throughout his state, like weeds into sheaves. And he ordered that a synod be convened. And there gathered all the bishops as well as the priests and monks, and all the boyars, and a very large number of other people. And when the King ascertained that they had all gathered, he immediately came out in his shining purple robes. He sat in one of the great churches of the time, and the synod was seated all around. He ordered that they bring in those sowers of impiety; and he didn't confront them immediately and vainly, but he trapped them with great cleverness.

He told them to lay aside every fear, and to express their blasphemous teaching with boldness. And they, in order to ensnare the King and those who were with him, told in detail their whole scandalous heresy. The King and those who were with him answered them on many things, by means of wise questions from the divine scriptures, until they had exposed their scandalous philosophizing. And they were standing there, mute as fish, overcome by bewilderment on all sides, while the pious King was filled with joy at having seen them utterly humiliated, the devil fallen and overthrown, and Christ magnified. And he gave orders that they be put under guard, as well as those who had been seduced by them.10

/The last part of the Synodicon is replete with references to those who fought or otherwise gave their lives to save their society. Typical is this memorial to Princess Kera Tamara, daughter of King John Alexander, from the Palauzov MS./
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Art. 124. To Kera Tamara, daughter of John Alexander, a great lady and fiancee to the great Emir Amurat, who was given to him for the sake of the Bulgarian people. And going there she preserved her Orthodox faith and freed her people; and she lived a good and pious life, dying in peace. Eternal remembrance!

Notes

1. M. Loos (p. 229) states that these sixteen new articles have been traced to an epistle of the Patriarch Cosmas of Constan­tinople, addressed to the Metropolitan of Larissa.

2. Popruzenko claims that Patriarch Euthemius sent his revision of the early Bulgarian text to Metropolitan Cyprian of Russia, influencing the preparation of the first Russian version.

3. The ancient Bulgarian attempts to prophesy on St. John's Eve, particularly regarding marriage, are still preserved in the folklore (see the Folklore section). This festival is called Kupalo or Ivan Kupalo. Gregory Camblak discusses Euthemius's attempt to extirpate such practices in his "Eulogy to Euthemius."

4. "Basil the doctor, who sowed in Constantinople this thrice-cursed heresy" — this unfortunate man, sometimes called "Basil the Bulgarian," was burned at the stake in 1114. He was tricked by Alexius Comnenus into confessing the details of his belief. See Anna Comnena's "Alexiad," ch. 14, 8. Also Zigavin's Panoplia (ch.28). The motif of the ruler who tricks heretics into divulging their beliefs is found in the accounts of other heresies, including Boril's unmasking of the Bulgarian Bogomils (Art. 93).

5. "a new second apostle," i.e. a second Paul.

6. The Church Slavonic word prosv^st'somu can mean either "enlightened" or "baptized." There is no evidence, however, that Constantine-Cyril took part in the baptism of the Bulgarians.

7. The reference is to Michael III of Byzantium, who sent Constantine-Cyril and Methodius to Moravia in 863 A.D.

8. "To John Asen the King /called/Belgun" ... Ivan Dujcev claims that Belgun is a Cuman word, and that the Asenovci dynasty had Cuman as well as Bulgarian blood. See his "The Uprising of 1185 and the Restoration of the Bulgarian State" (1985), a translation of his Vustanieto v 1185 g.

9. Jannes and Jambres were Egyptian sorcerers who opposed Moses when he set out to free the Jews. See II Timothy, III 8.

10. Here the Drinov MS breaks off its description of Boril's synod. The Palauzov MS tells how Boril gave the order that this "synod be written into the Orthodox synods /the Synodicon/, so that it would be read on the first Sunday of Lent."

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