On this, the seventh Sunday after Pascha, our blessed Orthodox Church is in between two of the 12 Great feasts which happen to fall closely together, namely, the Ascension of our Lord, which we celebrated this past Thursday, and the Descent of the Holy Spirit, or Pentecost, which we’ll celebrate next Sunday. On this Sunday, we remember the Fathers of the 1st Ecumenical Council, who met in Nicea. This council of Holy Fathers proclaimed and confessed that the Son is of the same essence and honor as the Father. This council stated our faith as we profess today in the Nicean Creed, which is a part of each and every Divine Liturgy celebrated in the Church. So, following the feast of the glorious Ascension, today’s commemoration has been set forth in order to prove the Divinity of Christ.
This is an appropriate Sunday to receive converts into the Church; it is an appropriate Sunday for First Penance and Corporate Communion, because during these parochial celebrations, individuals make their Profession of Faith by reciting publicly the Nicean Creed as a testimony to what they believe. And it’s a good refresher for all of us to listen to these words and ponder on them, for the Fathers of the First Council prayed and argued and fought over these articles of our Faith.
How did it all come about?
This council took place during the twentieth year of the reign of St. Constantine the Great, following a period in which the early Christians were persecuted by pagans. During that time, there was a Deacon named Arius, who began to blaspheme against the Son of God, saying that He is a creature, born out of nonexistence. He claimed that is was wrong to call Jesus the Wisdom and the Word of God. Arius was ultimately removed from the diaconate, but was granted forgiveness when he promised to correct his false teaching. Some time later, after his ordination to the priesthood, it was discovered that Arius was spreading the same blasphemy, and that he had made the blasphemy even worse. A council was summoned, which deposed Arius from the Church in 321 AD.
It is recorded that Arius drew many astray with his errant teaching. The great St. Constantine gathered the early Fathers whom we commemorate from all parts of the world to
What then, are we to learn from all of this? I believe the underlying theme of this 1st Ecumenical Council was that of unity. The bishops, priests, deacons, and monks who attended this council were all united in their beliefs about Jesus. And our early church fathers were wise to select the Epistle and Gospel readings we read this morning, for these readings speak of this same unity.
Listen again to a portion of this mornings Epistle reading from the Acts of the Apostles. In it,
Listen again to the Gospel account of
Unity….that they may be one…a concept our world still hasn’t quite mastered.
But, there is some progress, for a great milestone occurred just this past week, which was not covered by the secular, godless media.
As we celebrated our Lord’s Glorious Ascension into heaven on Thursday, two of our sister Orthodox jurisdictions celebrated their own reunification. The Act of Canonical Communion between the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate was signed at Christ the Saviour Cathedral in
Now think about this for just a moment. Did you ever believe in your lifetime, you would hear of a Russian leader acting as a catalyst to church reunification? Less than 20 years ago,
My brothers and sisters in Christ, these actions show me that there is still hope for the rest of us. Unity is something that still can be achieved in our lives; unity among churches, unity among families, unity among all mankind. The words of the Lord are clear. Our unity happens when He becomes in us as the Father is united to Him. Our perfection and growth becomes possible when Jesus abides in us, so that we become perfected in Him and united to Him.
This is what the Church celebrates today, the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Council.
The Holy Fathers with their personal example, their teachings, their kindness, and self-denial gave courage to the faithful during times of persecution and tribulation.
We, the Orthodox Christians of today, honor and give gratitude to all those who struggled for our blessed Orthodox faith. And so, my brothers and sisters in Christ, my prayer for all of us this day, as we continue our journey as Disciples of Christ, is that our loving Father in Heaven gives us the same strength, so that we too may be able to be defenders of Faith, imitating those holy men, who sacrificed even their own lives for the Truth, and became Shepherds and Teachers of the Church. Let us imitate their example by making our Lord’s words in today’s Gospel our own motto, “that they may be one.”