SUNDAY of the HOLY FATHERS
On this day, the seventh Sunday of Pascha, we celebrate the First Ecumenical Synod, of the three hundred and eighteen God-bearing Fathers, which took place in Nicæa.
O ye light-bearing stars of the spiritual firmament,
Enlighten my mind with your rays.
Verses Against Arius
Calling the Son a stranger to the Father’s essence,
Arius proved to be a stranger to God’s glory.
This Synod took place under St. Constantine the Great, in the twentieth year of his reign. For, after the persecution of Christians had come to an end, he first ruled in Rome; but subsequently, he founded the all-blessed city that was named after him, in the year 5838 from the creation of the world; it was then that the Arian controversy began. Arius, who hailed from Libya, went to Alexandria, where he was ordained a Deacon by the Holy Hieromartyr Peter of Alexandria. Thereafter, he began to blaspheme against the Son of God, proclaiming that He was a creature, who had come into being from non-existence and was far removed from the Divine dignity, and that He was called the Wisdom and Word of God by a misuse of language. Arius was, as he pretended, opposing the impious Sabellios, who said that the Godhead was one Person and one Hypostasis, being the Father at one time, the Son at another time, and the Holy Spirit at yet another time.
Troparion - Tone 8
You are most glorious, O Christ our God!
Kontakion - Tone 8
The Apostles' preaching and the Fathers' doctrines have established one faith for the Church.
from the Prologue of Ochrid
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
He was a deacon to Archbishop Alexander and accompanied him to the First Ecumenical Council [Nicaea, 325 A.D.]. It was at this Council that Athanasius became renowned for his learning, devotion to and zeal for Orthodoxy.
He contributed greatly to destroy the heresy of Arius and to strengthen Orthodoxy. He wrote the Symbol of Faith [The Creed] which was adopted at the Council.
Following the death of Alexander, Athanasius was elected Archbishop of Alexandria. In his calling as Archbishop of Alexandria, he remained for forty years, although not for the entire time on the archepiscopal throne of the archbishopric.
With few exceptions, throughout his life he was persecuted by heretics. Of the emperors, he was persecuted mostly by Constantius, Julian and Valens; of the bishops, by Eusebius of Nicomedia and many others; and by the heretic Arius and his followers. Athanasius was forced to hide from his persecutors, even in a well, in a grave, in private homes and in the deserts. Twice he was forced to flee to Rome.
Only before his death, did he live peacefully for a while as the good shepherd among his good flock who truly loved him. Few are the saints who were so mercilessly slandered and so criminally persecuted as St. Athanasius. His great soul patiently endured all for the love of Christ and, in the end, emerged victorious from this entire, terrible and long-lasting struggle.
For counsel, for comfort and for moral support, Athanasius often visited St. Anthony, whom he respected as his spiritual father. For a man who formulated the greatest truth, Athanasius had much to suffer for that truth until in the year 373 A.D., the Lord gave him repose in His kingdom as His faithful servant.
A Reflection From His Theology On the Incarnation
To the question: "Why did the Son of God appear on earth in a human body and not in another form of creation?", the brilliant St. Athanasius replied in this manner: "If they ask why did He not appear in some other better form of creation, for example: as the sun or the moon, or the stars or fire, or the wind but just as a man? Let them know that the Lord did not come to show Himself but to heal and teach sufferers. For, to reveal Himself only to amaze the viewers would mean to come for a show. It was necessary for the Healer and the Teacher, not only to come, but to serve for the benefit of the suffering ones and to reveal Himself as such so that this revelation would be bearable for the sufferers. Not one single creature was in error in the eyes of God, except man alone: neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the sky, nor the stars, nor water, nor wind did betray their ranks but, on the contrary, knowing their Creator and their King - The Word [The Logos], they all remained as they were created; only human beings separated themselves from good and replaced truth with deceit, and the honor belonging to God, as well as the knowledge about Him, they transferred to devils and to men carved out of stone [idols]. What is, therefore, so unbelievable in this, that the Logos [The Word - The Son Of God] appeared as a man to save mankind?" Indeed, even as we ask the unbelievers of our day: In what form would you wish God to appear, if not as a man?
Source: MYSTAGOGY Blog
Christ Prays For Our Perfect Joy
Priest Sergey Gankovsky
I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou gavest me out of the world: Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me; and they have kept Thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever Thou hast given me are of Thee. For I have given unto them the words which Thou gavest Me, and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from Thee, and they have believed that Thou didst send Me.
I pray for them, I pray not for the world: but for them which Thou hast given Me, for they are Thine. And all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine: and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep through Thy own name those whom Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, as We are.
While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Thy name: those that Thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition: that the scripture might be fulfilled. And now come I to Thee, and these things I speak in the world, that they might have My joy fulfilled in themselves (John 17:1-13).
The Lord prays for His people. The Lord, like a priest standing before the Holy Table, prays for the little ones of this world. Before ascending the Cross, before accepting horrible torment and terrible shame, our Lord prays for those who will be left orphaned after His departure. He prays for those who will betray Him at the very first sign of danger. The Lord prays for His people because He loves them.
He Who offers this prayer – so full of compassion and sympathy, anxiety and hope – is He Who said to His disciples: I am the light of the world (John 8:12). Of course, the Lord is not praying only for the eleven Apostles. He is God; time does not exist for Him. For Him there is neither “yesterday” nor “tomorrow”; for Him there is only one time: “now.” Therefore our Lord, in His High Priestly Prayer, is praying both for the Apostles and for the bishops and presbyters of the Church of Christ who three centuries later would gather at Nicaea to speak, sing, and proclaim our Symbol of Faith – the Symbol of our faith. He prays for them, that this Symbol might be accepted and proclaimed by the Church: For I have given unto them the words which Thou gavest Me, and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from Thee.
Our Savior sees everything during this prayer: He sees us, lost in our own passions, embittered by grievances and loneliness, mean and trembling from fear; He sees us as we are today, asking of our common Father that He would keep us through His name. He prays for us, because He knows how difficult it will be for us to keep our faith, how difficult it will be for us to keep our child-like trust amidst the allurements and temptations of this world.
God is for us! God is with us! God did not turn away from us when we betrayed the Crucified One, when by our sins we dragged Him again and again onto the Cross. He continues to call us with Him to eternal life: to the joy that only He can give; to the happiness that is only possible with Him. We often make Him out to be a stern judge about to pronounce a fair but terrible sentence over us. But in His prayer to God the Father, the Lord intercedes for us. He does not simply ask for our preservation; He asks neither for rest, nor for truth, nor for justice for the human race; but rather – only listen to this! – He says to His Father and ours: And now come I to Thee, and these things I speak in the world, that they might have My joy fulfilled in themselves.
If only we would not forget this. If only we would, if only once, hear our Savior’s words about perfect joy not just with our ears – which are no longer capable of being surprised by words or astonished by speeches – but with our whole hearts and with all the depths of our souls. Perhaps then joy and truth might return to our lives, as warmth returns to earth wearied from cold. Amen.