Sunday, May 24, 2020
The 7th Sunday of Pascha
The Fathers of the First Council of Nicaea
Readings at the Liturgy: 1) Acts 20:16-18, 28-36. 2) 1 Peter 4:12-5:5. 3) John 17:1-13.
GLORY TO JESUS CHRIST! GLORY FOREVER!
My dear parishioners and friends,
Today, the Sunday before Pentecost, the Church remembers the 318 bishops who met at the First Ecumenical Council, held in the city of Nicaea, not far from Constantinople, in the year 325. The Council was called by St. Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman Emperor. He and his mother, St. Helena, are honoured each year on May 21st, which this year also happened to be Ascension Thursday. At the time of the Council of Nicaea, Christianity was in turmoil. In the patriarchate of Alexandria in Egypt, a priest named Arius was preaching that it is only God the Father who has always existed. According to Arius, there was a time when Jesus Christ, the Son and Word of God, did not exist. Therefore Jesus had to have been made, created. And since no created thing can be God, Jesus Christ is only a human and not divine.
This, the first major heresy against the orthodox — that is, the true — Christian faith flew in the face of Scripture which in the very first verse of John’s Gospel boldly proclaims, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” and continues in verse 14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, the glory as of the Father’s only-begotten Son, full of grace and of truth.” Then in John 14:8 the Apostle Philip says to Jesus, “Master, show us the Father.” To which Jesus replies, “Have I been with you so long, Philip, and you still do not know Me? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father... Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?... The Father who dwells in Me is doing His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me, or else believe because of the works themselves.”
The Council of Nicaea drew up what is called the “Symbol of Faith.” The Greek word “symbolon” means “core aim” or “core belief.” The Nicaean Symbol is a kind of “mission statement” that itemizes what the Church teaches about the Holy Trinity — the + Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. With regard to our Saviour Jesus Christ, the symbol, responding to Arius, proclaims, “I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, One in Essence with the Father...” Jesus Christ is God. He was not made, and is of one and the same Essence with the Father. The Nicaean Symbol is recited at the Divine Liturgy and at baptisms, and is, throughout the Church — Eastern and Western — the most important profession or acknowledgment of our faith in the Holy Trinity.
St. Constantine the Great became sole Roman Emperor in 324, a year before Nicaea. He was the first Christian emperor and under him the persecutions against Christians finally came to an end. Many of the fathers who met in Nicaea had endured torture, exile and all kinds of suffering in the persecutions, and now were proud to have the opportunity of the Council, and of their various ministries throughout the then known world, to bear witness to Christ. What an example they give us of pride and joy in publicly professing the faith, in practicing and spreading it! They were links in that long, long chain of believers that goes back to the earthly sojourn of Christ Himself and continues on, as the Symbol of Faith says, to His coming again in glory. We too — together with our parents and all who went before us with the sign of Faith — are links in that great spiritual chain. May we be strong links, convinced links, unbreakable links, passing it on in our own day and continuing it forward to that awesome second coming again. Amen.
— Father Conrad.
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