My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
ON THE SEVENTH SUNDAY OF PASCHA THE HOLY ORTHODOX
CHURCH COMMEMORATES THE FIRST ECUMENICAL SYNOD
OF THE 318 GOD-BEARING FATHERS, THAT TOOK PLACE IN
NICAEA IN THE YEAR 325 A.D.
On the Seventh Sunday of Pascha, we celebrate the three hundred and eighteen God-bearing Fathers of the First Ecumenical Synod. It convened in the year 325 A.D., during the reign of Constantine the Great (306-337 A.D.). The Emperor summoned the bishops of the Empire by a letter of invitation, putting at their service the public conveyances, and liberally defraying from the public treasury the expenses of their residence in Nicaea of Bithynia from the end of May until the 25th of August. The Synod was assembled against Arius, who kept spreading his blasphemy. He kept saying that the Son and Logos/Word of God was NOT COESSENTIAL (HOMOOUSIOS) WITHT THE Farther. Thus, Arius was declaring that Jesus is not true God but a creature (ktisma), a Greek word meaning anything that is built.
Many argued that the word HOMOOUSIOS "COESSENTIAL" was not of biblical origin. The reason why this letter term was so precious to the younger contemporaries of the Synod is explained through the mouth of Saint Basil the Great. He affirmed that they were ready to offer their souls for this word, and even for one IOTA (the name of the Greek letter ι), as mentioned by the Savior [Matthew 5:18]; for upon this IOTA hung Orthodoxy itself. The fact of the matter is that only a single iota in Gree distinguishes HOMOOUSIOS ‘CO-ESSENTIAL’ (‘OF ONE AND THE SAME ESSENCE") from HOMOIOUSIOS ‘OF LIKE ESSENCE,’ which was the term used by the blasphemous Arians to refer to the Son of God.
It was Emperor Constantine who decided to assemble the bishops from the entire Roman Empire for the first time since the days of Christ and the Apostles. He refrained from any misuse of his power, for he took a position at the Synod only at the behest of the Fathers and, as the Synaxarion of the Triodion states, "He was not upon a royal throne but upon a seat of little note." The major Sees of the Eastern Empire were well represented. The Orthodox party held firmly to the Deity of Jesus Christ.
That which has been preserved is a list of twenty Canons issued by the Synod, the Symbol of the Faith (Creed), and a synodical letter excommunicating the odious Arius. This Synod, rejecting Arius’ ontological subordination of the Logos/Word to the Father, defined the incarnate Logos/Word as COESSENTIAL. This Synod also DECLARED THE COMPUTATION OF THE PASCHAL DATE, BY ORDERING THIS FEAST OF FEASTS TO BE CELEBRATED ON THE SUNDAY AFTER THE FULL MOON FOLLOWING THE VERNAL EQUINOX.
Saint Constantine the Great desired for the Holy Pascha to be celebrated IN ALL PLACES OF THE INHABITED EARTH ON ONE AND THE SAME DAY. The blessed man could not bear seeing the Church of Christ being divided on account of this festival, resulting in the convocation of many Synods in various parts of the opposition of the Westerners against the Asiatics on account of it.
There ARE FOUR NECESSARY FACTORS TO BE SOUGHT IN CONNECTION WITH THE DATE OF PASCHA. The first is that Pascha must always be celebrated after the occurrence OF THE VERNAL EQUINOX. Second, that IT MUST NOT BE CELEBRATED ON THE SAME DAY AS THE LEGAL PASSOVER OF THE JEWS. (These two factors are ordained by the present Apostolic Canon VII.) Third, THAT IT IS NOT TO BE CELEBRATED SIMPLY AND INDEFINITELY TO OCCUR AFTER THE EQUINOX BUT AFTER THE FIRST FULL MOON OF MARCH THAT HAPPENS TO OCCUR AFTER THE EQUINOX. And fourth, THAT IT MUST NOT BE CELEBRATED ON THE FIRST LORD’S DAY THAT COMES AFTER THE FULL MOON. Hence, in order for these FOUR CONDITIONS TO BE OBSERVED EQUALLY THROUGHOUT THE INHABITED EARTH, AND FOR CHRISTIANS TO CELEBRATE HOLY PASCHAAT THE SAME TIME AND ON THE SAME DAY, AND IN ORDER TO ESCAPE FROM THE NECESSITY OF CONSULTING ASTRONOMERS AND SYNODS EVERY YEAR, the God-wise and God-learned Fathers framed the rule concerning Pascha.
These ministers of God were of all ages. Some were distinguished by wisdom and eloquence, some by the gravity of their lives and patient fortitude of their character, and some by all of these gifts combined…This Synod, at length, produced the divine Symbol of the Faith (the Nicene Creed of 325 A.D.), proclaiming the Son and Logos of God to be True God COESSENTIAL WITH THE FATHER.
REGARDING THE HOLY CANONS
The Church’s law, commonly referred to as Canon Law, IS THE SYSTEM OF LAW EMANATING FROM THE HOLY CANONS THAT ARE DERIVED FROM THE CHURCH ON HER OWN AUTHORITY. The word "CANON," which originally meant a carpenter’s or stonemason’s rule, was the stem of a straight reed or relatively long straight piece of wood that was used in chopping and smoothing wood or stone. It came to mean, metaphorically, AN EXAMPLE OR PROTOTYPE, A STANDARD OF EXCELLENCE AND A GRAMMATICAL RULE. The Church is, at the same time, both a human and a Divine institution. As an institution with a human element, the Church HAS NEED OF LAWS TO GOVERN HER ORGANIZATION, HER RELATIONS TO HER MEMBERS, TO THOSE OUTSIDE HER FOLD, TO THE STATE, AND TO OTHER RELIGIOUS AND SECULAR BODIES. Nevertheless, the Church’s law IS FIRST AND FOREMOST SPIRITUAL, SINCE ITS MAIN PURPOSE IS THE SPIRITUAL GROWTH OF THE FAITHFUL. Furthermore, ITS MAIN OBJECT OF CONCERN IS THE INNER DISPOSITION AND INTENTION BEHIND ONE’S ACTIONS.
Contrary to what some have believed, the Church’s law differs essentially from secular law. This lies mainly in the premise that the original source of Canon Law IS FOUND IN THE WILL OF GOD TO ESTABLISH HIS CHURCH ON EARTH. Consequently, the course of the authority of canon law stems from the will of God. Furthermore, the Church’s law differs from secular law in purpose (humanity’s salvation), time, (extending beyond this life into the next life), scope (including one’s conscience), and place (the Universal Church).
The holy canons, which are the basis of the Church’s canonical tradition, stem from THREE MAIN SOURCES: (1) ECUMENICAL SYNODS (representing the Universal Church); (2) LOCAL SYNODS (subsequently ratified b the Ecumenical Synods are representing the tradition of the universal Church), and, (3) THE HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH. At present, all of these canons, which number about one thousand, ARE CONTAINED IN SEVERAL COLLECTIONS. The one most widely used today in the Orthodox Churches IS THE PEDALION (the RUDDER), which takes its name from the metaphor of the Chuch DEPICTED AS A SHIP. As the ship is guided safely to its destination by means of a rudder, IN LIKE MANNER ARE THE MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH GUIDED ON THEIR VOYAGE THROUGH LIFE BY MEANS OF THE HOLY CANONS.
Holy Canons are often invoked in order to define the visible borders of the Church, with the purpose of drawing a line between the Church and the world. The Canons not only manifest Orthodox Doctrine but ALSO STAND AS PROTECTORS FOR THE ORTHODOX FROM HERETICAL INFECTION, AND THEY EVEN EXIST AS REMINDERS AGAINST APATHY, CARELESSNESS, AND NEGLIGENCE IN MATTERS OF FAITH. Threfore, when we examine the Creed of Nicaea or the Creed of Constantinople, we need to turn to the writings of the Holy Fathers who participated in these Synods. We study their texts in order to understand what helped formulate the articles in the Creeds.
It was the First Ecumenical Synod of Nicaea which referred to canons AS THE DISCIPLINARY MEASURES OF THE CHURCH. Penances in Orthodoxy have always had a spiritual character, that is, they have a therapeutic and pastoral pedagogical character. Their PURPOSE IS THE SPIRITUAL PERFECTION OF CHURCH MEMBERS. SERIOUSNESS OF THE SIN, FREQUENCY OF THE SIN, VOLUNTARY CONFESSION, SINCERITY OF REPENTANCE, DISPOSITION, AGE, CLERICAL OR LAY STATUS, ETC. ARE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT BY TEH CONFESSOR, EXERCISING DISCERNMENT GRANTED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, TO DETERMINE THE LENGTH OF PENANCE AND ABSTENTION FROM HOLY COMMUNION. The concept of OIKONOMIA (ECONOMY) CEASES IF ITS CAUSE NO LONGER EXISTS OR THE BASIS FOR ITS APPLICATION RESTED UPON FALSE OR PRETENDED GROUNDS. Once it has been applied, the normal practice is resumed. Furthermore, a temporary departure from the normative practice through OIKONOMIA does not set a precedent.
"…It is in the Church and through the Church that we must in principle attain our salvation. The Church existed IN THE PRE-ETERNAL WILL OF GOD. The term EKKLESIA OR ECCLESIA, in ancient Greek parlance, meant A GATHERING OF THE PEOPLE, AN ASSEMBLY. In the Septuagint Scripture, the term stood for the chosen people of Israel. Now the Church IS THE BODY OF CHRIST, AS WE READ: "The Christ IS HEAD OF THE CHURCH, AND IS HIMSELF, SAVIOR OF THE BODY" [Ephesians 5:23], And again, "He is the head of the body, the Church" [Col. 1:18]. For there is "ONE LORD, ONE FAITH, ONE BAPTISM (Ephesians 4:5). So "WE, WHO ARE MANY, ARE ONE BODY IN CHRIST, AND EACH ONE MEMBERS OF ONE ANOTHER" (Romans 12:5). The Apostle has assigned to the spiritual mysteries their material effects. For He Who is the image of the invisible God is Himself the Head of His body, the Church. Again, CHRIST IS THE HEAD OF HIS BODY, THE CHURCH, AND THE FIRSTBORN FROM THE DEAD, SO THAT IN ALL THINGS HE HAS THE PREEMINENCE."
By the intercessions of the
Three Hundred and Eighteen God-bearing Fathers,
O Christ God, have mercy on us. Amen.
[Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George