A HOMILY BY PRIEST MICHAEL REAGAN
(For the history and Acts of the First Ecumenical Council see below.)
+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.
Today we commemorate the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, who defended the truth faith of the Orthodox Church against the Arian heresy of the 4th century. This heresy proposed that Christ was merely a being created by the Father, and not the very Son of God Himself, eternally begotten of the Father. It became a wildly popular teaching, spreading throughout the entire Empire, until at one point the Arian heretics far outnumbered the Orthodox faithful.
We might ask how this heresy became so popular that Orthodoxy was nearly eclipsed by it. The simplest answer is that it provided a belief that people could relate to. Bear in mind the timing of these events. Christianity, which had formerly been outlawed, was now the official religion of the Roman Empire. Thus, the Church was flooded with false believers, many of which were pagans simply seeking the advantages in politics and commerce that being a Christian now offered. These people had no real interest in traditional Christian beliefs, and wished for something more in keeping with their residual pagan concepts. The heretic Arias proposed a simple belief that did away with the inconvenient mystery of the Holy Trinity, and gave these people what they wanted. To put it in modern terminology, we might say that Arianism was politically correct, fitting the whims of the contemporary culture far better than traditional Christian beliefs.
I think we can identify an impulse in this that is still present in our day. Whenever there is conflict between the beliefs of the prevalent culture and those of the Church, there will always be people whose instinct is to change the beliefs of the Church. They want the Church to be “relevant” to the culture and not in conflict.
Today, many denominations are doing just that; bending over backwards to accommodate the secular culture through such things as the ordination of women as pastors, the approval of homosexual marriage, and campaigns to keep abortion legal. Some of these issues are obviously incompatible with our Faith; others are more subtle, causing many Orthodox Christians to wonder if they are truly in conflict with our Holy Faith and Tradition at all.
Is the Church out of step with contemporary society? Yes, it would appear so.
In short, should we allow the whims and frequently unwise experiments of the secular culture to define our beliefs and practices within the Church, or should we try to better understand our Holy Tradition and what that has to teach us?
The whole world seems to be telling us that we are wrong. The temptation to be politically correct and to bring change is therefore very great. But what difference does it make if the attack on our Faith takes the form of redefining Christ, or of redefining our humanity, or even the Church itself? The end result will be the same: a loss of truth, a loss of salvation, and perhaps most ironically of all, the loss of our relevancy in the world.
The more a church seeks to become relevant to the darkened culture of its time, the less relevant it becomes to the Kingdom of Heaven and to those who are truly seeking salvation. Orthodoxy still remains a place where one can find the true God, together with the profound spiritual therapies that can restore our humanity, both male and female, and can heal our broken communion with God and with one another. It would be an unspeakable tragedy to replace these treasures with philosophies that may not lead us to God or which may only further confuse our understanding of human nature and gender, and our mutual salvation in Christ.
I pray that God will raise up in our generation truly spiritual men and women who will be able to address these issues and help defend the truth, even as did the Holy Fathers which we commemorate this morning.
+To the glory of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
HISTORY AND ACTS OF THE FIRST ECUMENICAL COUNCIL
In 325, the First Ecumenical Council was held in Nicaea. Because there were disputes and confusion among Christians about what were proper beliefs, in 325 the Emperor St. Constantine called a meeting of all the bishops to pray and study and settle the questions. Emperor St. Constantine had made Christianity the religion of the Empire and it was not good for the civil government if the spiritual government was not united. The Emperor St. Constantine called the meeting in the city of Nicaea, which was a suburb of his capital Constantinople. Hosius, Bishop of Cordova, assisted as legate of Pope Sylvester. Three hundred and eighteen bishops and the Emperor Constantine attended. The First Ecumenical Council lasted two months and twelve days.
Wrote the first portion of The Nicean Creed
Defined against Arius the true Divinity of Holy God the Son within the Holy Trinity / Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ
Fixed the date for Feasts of Feasts Holy and Glorious Pascha
Established the Patriarchates (Sees) of Rome, Antioch, and Alexandria
The Nicean Creed
The First Ecumenical Council also named Council of Nicaea I in 325 produced the first portion of the Nicean Creed.
"I believe in one God, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotton Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages: Light of light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man; who was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried; who rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and is enthroned at the right hand of the Father; who will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; and of whose kingdom there shall be no end."
Incarnation - Holy God the Son within the Holy Trinity / Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ is both fully Holy God and fully Man
The First Ecumenical Council concentrated on clarifying the understanding of Holy God the Son within the Holy Trinity / Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ is both fully Holy God and fully Man.
Holy God the Son within the Holy Trinity / Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ became fully human at the Annunciation. This conception is called the "Incarnation". The Incarnation is commemorated at The Great Feast of the Annunciation (Al Bisharah) of The Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary
In the Nicean Creed, the Fathers of the Council confirmed that Holy God the Son within the Holy Trinity / Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ was "true God from true God, begotten not made, one in essence with the Father." Later, Ecumenical Councils would continue the work of this First Ecumenical Council, more completely stating our understanding of the Holy Trinity, One Holy God in Three Persons.
Holy Father Athanasios the Great, Archbishop of Alexandria
Holy Father Athanasios the Great, Archbishop of Alexandria was the greatest champion of the Incarnation. He was the most brilliant and heroic defender of the Incarnation. He earned the title "Father of Orthodoxy" during his lifetime.
Holy Father Athanasios the Great, Archbishop of Alexandria refuted Arius. Holy Father Athanasios the Great, Archbishop of Alexandria wrote "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God" in De inc., 54, 3: PG, 192B, in his refutation of Arius.The First Ecumenical Council condemned the teachings of Arius, a priest from Alexandria. Arius said that Holy God the Son within the Holy Trinity / Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ was not Holy God, but a perfect creature, inferior to Holy God. Arius and his followers denied the divinity of Holy God the Son within the Holy Trinity / Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. Seeking to preserve the supreme transcenence of Holy God, they taught that Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ was simply the most perfect created being, gifted with saving power by Holy God. This teaching denies that Holy God the Son within the Holy Trinity / Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ is Holy God and that Holy God is Three Divine Persons, the Holy Trinity.