• Gospel Reading
  • In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be! It’s very difficult to choose what to talk about today. We commemorate the Father’s of the 1st Ecumenical Council today. And we also read a portion of what is known as Christ’s High Priestly Prayer for mankind.And we read a very important address of St. Paul to the leaders of the Church in Asia Minor. I promised at the Feast of the Ascension to talk more about the 1st Ecumenical Council today, and most especially about the theology of the 1st Council, which is formative for almost every Christian in the world today. So first a tiny bit of background—the 1st EC took place in Nicea in the year 325. The Fathers of the Church don’t tend to theologize; in our Saints we tend to see people living a life in Christ in whatever situation God has put them in. And when the Fathers “theologize,” it’s because the salvation of man is being threatened by some false teaching. This is the case with the 1st EC. There was a priest in Alexandria by the name of Arius, who was teaching that Christ was not equal with the Father, and in fact was not even God in His own nature. Arius taught that Christ was a creature, just like everything else had been created by God the Father. Christ’s “godhead” came only as a gift bestowed on Him by the Father. He wasn’t God in His nature. So not only was Jesus of Nazereth not God, in Arius’ mind the Logos, God the Son, was also a created being. Well, Arius’ bishop recognized that this teaching was not in accord with the witness of the Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers. So at first he tried to correct Arius, and eventually he called a local council in Alexandria to condemn these false teachings. But Arius refused to be corrected, and he refused to be silent. He continued to teach his heresy, and he wrote letters and sent disciples throughout the Christian world. And many Christians were swayed and became Arians. It was a very difficult and scary time in the Christian world—the Truth, man’s salvation in the Godman Jesus Christ, was being attacked. So in 325 a council of all the bishops in the Christian world was convened in Nicea to consider the teachings of Arius, and by the grace of God to reach a decision stating what the teaching of the Church about Christ really was. They weren’t coming together to simply “figure it out.” A decision based on human reasoning wouldn’t be good enough. This is what has caused the heresy of Arius to begin with—his trying to figure out how to understand passages in the Scriptures that he struggled with. The teaching of the Church, the decision of the Council, had to be expressed by men of God who were under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Many of the bishops who came to Nicea had suffered in the persecution of the Christians, and many of the bishops who came are now saints in our Church. And we know that the decision of the Council was inspired by the Spirit of God because the Church—under the guidance of the Holy Spirit—received the teaching of this council, and has lived and believed it ever since. So how did the council respond to Arius? The teaching of Arius was condemned, and he was excommunicated from the Church for refusing to reject his false teachings. He was branded a heretic—which is a term reserved not only for false teachers, but those who persist in their error even after having been corrected by the Church. [As a side note, the date of Pascha was also determined at the council, and has been calculated that way in the Eastern Churches ever since.] To combat the false teachings of Arius, the 1st EC composed the Nicean Creed that we say at every Liturgy and in our daily prayers. To be totally accurate, the Creed we say is the Nicean-Constantinopolitan Creed…the section on the Holy Spirit was added at the 2nd EC when a similar heresy denying the divinity of the Spirit arose. And it’s important to see that this Creed has been in use in the Christian Church, has been the rule of faith for Christians since 325AD. There are groups today that continue to accept the teachings of Arius; some of those groups even identify themselves as Christian. So it’s important to know what our Faith is, so that we can proclaim it and know when we’re hearing something that’s not in accord with our Faith. We say the Creed, confessing and learning our Faith. We listen to the hymns of the Church, the readings from the Scriptures, the texts of our liturgical services, and in them we not only pray to Christ but we also are taught by Him. The Fathers of the 1st EC gathered to protect mankind’s salvation. If we don’t believe in Christ as He really is, then we don’t believe in Christ. Our path to salvation was secured by these God-inspired Fathers, and that’s why we commemorate them every year on the Sunday between the Ascension and Pentecost.

    We say the Creed all the time…but I’d like us to end with the language of the Creed specifically chosen by the Fathers of the 1st EC to preserve the ancient teaching about the Incarnate Godman, Jesus Christ. “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten [so there can only be one of whoever we’re going to say this Jesus Christ is], begotten of the Father before all ages, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made [not a creature], of one essence with the Father [this is the key phrase, to be of one essence with God means to be God—if He was created and then allowed to be God, then He would have a created essence, but He is of one essence with the Father], by whom all things were made [not only was He not a creature, but all of creation was made and ruled by the Son and Word of God].” In the Gospel reading we also heard Christ say that He has authority over all flesh [He’s not a creature, but the Lord of all creation], and that He would soon be glorified with the glory that He shared with the Father [because they are one essence], the glory they shared from the time when there was no creation. Thank God for His amazing condescension to take on our human nature and to live among us for our salvation, and for continuing to be with and guide His Holy Body the Church as we spread the Fullness and the Truth of the Gospel to all mankind. Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

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