Hymns of the Eastern Church, by J.M. Neale, , at sacred-texts.com
A.D. 726 . . . A.D. 820.
The second period of Greek Hymnology is very nearly, as I said, coincident with the Iconoclastic controversy. Its first writer, indeed, died shortly after the commencement of that stormy age, and took no share in its Councils or sufferings; while the last hymnographer who bore a part in its proceedings, S. Joseph of the Studium, belongs to the decline of his art. With these two exceptions, the ecclesiastical poets of this period were not only thrown into the midst of that great struggle, but, with scarcely one exception, took an active share in it.
A few words on that conflict of one hundred
and sixteen years are absolutely necessary, if we would understand the progress and full development of Greek Hymnography. No controversy has been more grossly misapprehended; none, without the key of subsequent events, could have been so difficult to appreciate. Till Calvinism, and its daughter Rationalism, showed the ultimate development of Iconoclast principles, it must have been well nigh impossible to realize the depth of feeling on the side of the Church, or the greatness of the interests attacked by her opponents. We may, perhaps, doubt whether even the Saints of that day fully understood the character of the battle; whether they did not give up ease, honour, possessions, life itself, rather from an intuitive perception that their cause was the cause of the Catholic faith, than from a logical appreciation of the results to which the Image-destroyers were
tending. Just as in the early part of the Nestorian controversy, many and many a simple soul must have felt intuitively that the title of Theotocos was to be defended, without seeing the full consequences to which its denial would subsequently lead. The supporters of Icons, by universal consent, numbered amongst their ranks all that was pious and venerable in the Eastern Church. The Iconoclasts seem to have been a legitimate outbreak of that secret creeping Manichæism, which, under the various names of Turlupins, Bogomili, or Good-men, so long devastated Christ's fold.
We must keep the landmarks of the controversy in sight. Commenced by Leo the Isaurian, in A.D. 726, the persecution was carried on by his despicable son, Constantine Copronymus, who also endeavoured to destroy monasticism. The great Council of Constantinople, attended by
[paragraph continues] 338 prelates, in 752, which rejected the use of images, was the culminating success of the Iconoclasts. Lulling at the death of Constantine, the persecution again raged in the latter years of his successor Leo, and was only terminated by the death of that prince, and the succession of Constantine and Irene. The Second Council of Nicæa, Seventh (Ecumenical (A.D. 787), attended by 377 Bishops, seemed to end the heresy; but it again broke out under the Iconoclast Emperor, Leo the Armenian (813), and after having been carried on under the usurper Michael, and his son Theophilus, ended with the death of the latter in 842. In the Hymnographers of this epoch, it may be noticed that the Second Council of Nicæa forms the culminating point of ecclesiastical poetry. Up to that date, there is a vigour and freshness which the twenty-eight years of
peace succeeding the Council corrupted, and that rapidly, with the fashionable language of an effete court, and deluged with Byzantine bombast.