Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ is Risen!
This time of the year is particularly beautiful here in our parish community—the
temperatures have not quite reached the blazing highs of the summer, our daily schedules
and routines are fairly predictable, and we continue to rejoice in the joy the Lord’s
Resurrection. Although the eggs and candy and other special treats have been eaten,
it is still Pascha and the Paschal hymns with continue to sing and the Paschal greeting
with which we continue to greet one another are reminders of the fact that the Paschal
season continues for a full forty days—The joy with which our parish community celebrated
the Feast of Feasts continues, until right before the vigil of the Feast of the
Lord’s Ascension. Our celebration was particularly beautiful this year—and so many
people are to be thanked for all that was done to make it as beautiful as it was.
May the Risen Lord bless all who prepared for the Feast, all who labored, served,
sang, and participated in the moving services of Great Lent, Holy Week, and Pascha.
Without a doubt, the Church’s celebration of Christ’s triumph over sin and death
through His own death and resurrection from the dead is the annual highlight of our
year. At the same time, we can say that the Church’s proclamation of the Lord’s
Resurrection is the highlight of each and every day of the Church year. It is not
limited to the 40 days after Pascha. It I not limited, even, to our Sunday celebration
of the Lord’s Paschal Mystery which is the Divine Liturgy. After all, how can we
limit the message that is at the heart of the Gospel. How can we contain in a few
days, a few hymns, and a few words, the message that even death has been overthrown?
Indeed, the Gospel itself—proclaimed daily by the way we live our lives— is the
proclamation that God has intervened in human life and human history and, through
this intervention, human death has been destroyed and human life has been transformed.
It is my prayer that these Forty Days of Pascha will continue to bring joy to you,
your homes and your families. And once these Forty Days have passed that the message
and reality of Christ’s victory will continue to bless your lives and give you hope.
Indeed He is Risen!
With love in the Risen Lord,
Commemoration of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council
On the seventh Sunday of Pascha, we commemorate the holy God-bearing Fathers of the
First Ecumenical Council.
The Commemoration of the First Ecumenical Council has been celebrated by the Church
of Christ from ancient times. The Lord Jesus Christ left the Church a great promise,
“I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt.
16:18). Although the Church of Christ on earth will pass through difficult struggles
with the Enemy of salvation, it will emerge victorious. The holy martyrs bore witness
to the truth of the Savior’s words, enduring suffering and death for confessing Christ,
but the persecutor’s sword is shattered by the Cross of Christ.
Persecution of Christians ceased during the fourth century, but heresies arose within
the Church itself. One of the most pernicious of these heresies was Arianism. Arius,
a priest of Alexandria, was a man of immense pride and ambition. In denying the divine
nature of Jesus Christ and His equality with God the Father, Arius falsely taught
that the Savior is not consubstantial with the Father, but is only a created being.
A local Council, convened with Patriarch Alexander of Alexandria presiding, condemned
the false teachings of Arius. However, Arius would not submit to the authority of
the Church. He wrote to many bishops, denouncing the decrees of the local Council.
He spread his false teaching throughout the East, receiving support from certain
Investigating these dissentions, the holy emperor Constantine (May 21) consulted
Bishop Hosius of Cordova (Aug. 27), who assured him that the heresy of Arius was
directed against the most fundamental dogma of Christ’s Church, and so he decided
to convene an Ecumenical Council. In 325, 318 bishops representing Christian Churches
from various lands gathered together at Nicea.
Among the assembled bishops were many confessors who had suffered during the persecutions,
and who bore the marks of torture upon their bodies. Also participating in the Council
were several great luminaries of the Church: St Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia
(December 6 and May 9), St Spyridon, Bishop of Tremithos (December 12), and others
venerated by the Church as holy Fathers.
With Patriarch Alexander of Alexandria came his deacon, Athanasius (who later became
Patriarch of Alexandria (May 2 and January 18). He is called “the Great,” for he
was a zealous champion for the purity of Orthodoxy. In the Sixth Ode of the Canon
for today’s Feast, he is referred to as “the thirteenth Apostle.”
The emperor Constantine presided over the sessions of the Council. In his speech,
responding to the welcome by Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, he said, “God has helped
me cast down the impious might of the persecutors, but more distressful for me than
any blood spilled in battle is for a soldier, is the internal strife in the Church
of God, for it is more ruinous.”
Arius, with seventeen bishops among his supporters, remained arrogant, but his teaching
was repudiated and he was excommunicated from the Church. In his speech, the holy
deacon Athanasius conclusively refuted the blasphemous opinions of Arius. The heresiarch
Arius is depicted in iconography sitting on Satan’s knees, or in the mouth of the
Beast of the Deep (Rev. 13).
The Fathers of the Council declined to accept a Symbol of Faith (Creed) proposed
by the Arians. Instead, they affirmed the Orthodox Symbol of Faith. St Constantine
asked the Council to insert into the text of the Symbol of Faith the word “consubstantial,”
which he had heard in the speeches of the bishops. The Fathers of the Council unanimously
accepted this suggestion.
In the Nicean Creed, the holy Fathers set forth and confirmed the Apostolic teachings
about Christ’s divine nature. The heresy of Arius was exposed and repudiated as an
error of haughty reason. After resolving this chief dogmatic question, the Council
also issued Twelve Canons on questions of churchly administration and discipline.
Also decided was the date for the celebration of Holy Pascha. By decision of the
Council, Holy Pascha should not be celebrated by Christians on the same day with
the Jewish Passover, but on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the vernal
equinox (which occured on March 22 in 325).
The First Ecumenical Council is also commemorated on May 29.