ON THE SUNDAY OF THE HOLY 318 FATHERS OF THE HOLY FIRST ECUMENICAL COUNCIL (325ad—2009ad)
By Metropolitan Parthenius of Citium EXARCH OF THE GENUINE ORTHODOX CHURCH OF CYPRUS
Metropolitan Parthenius of Citium at his Enthronement (2008)
CONSTANTINE THE GREAT, the first Christian King, realized that the Church of Christ was plagued with various (incorrect) dogmatic opinions of Arius, the protopresbyter of Alexandria. Constantine therefore organized in 325 AD the first Great Ecumenical Council at Nicea in Asia Minor. 318 God-bearing Fathers from all the ends of the Orthodox Christian world hurried to meet so as to deliver (protect) the Church from heresy. King Constantine was present throughout the council. Many of the Fathers that were present had suffered greatly for their confession in the name of Christ, during the reign of the previous King. Some had one eye removed, others had their noses or their ears cut off, others had their hands cut off or other injuries. The first day of this event was amazing, for at the day’s conclusion after the prayer, the earth trembled. This bore witness that the decisions made at the holy gathering, were not of the will of man, but by the very breath of the Holy Spirit.
The main topic of discussion was the Divinity of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, in other words Jesus Christ. The Holy Fathers were saying that Christ was the Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages. Arius though, was saying that while Christ was the Son of God, He was not begotten of the Father, but created by the Father at some point in time, that is, there was a time that He did not exist. Arius blasphemed against Christ, saying that Christ received flesh from the Virgin Mary only in appearance and not in actuality. Because Arius and his supporters used great and eloquent words, and the Holy Fathers were humble and not able to speak so eloquently, the Holy Fathers found themselves at the gates of the heretics.
Then, the Archbishop of Myra in Lycea, Nicholas, consumed with sadness, slapped Arius across the cheek. Arius reported this to the King and succeeded in having the Saint thrown in jail. There in the middle of the night, St. Nicholas of Myra was visited by Christ the Saviour and the Ever-virgin Theotokos. From them he received a golden Gospel Book and a golden weavedOmophorion (Pallium). The King, having heard about the miracle and seeing the miraculous gifts, released St. Nicholas.
Yet another Hierarch who participated in the Synod was St. Spyridon of Trimythus. Because the Saint was Cypriot, I believe that everyone here knows of the miracle he performed with the potsherd.[Translator’s note: St. Spyridon used a piece of potsherd to illustrate how one single entity (a piece of pottery) could be composed of three unique entities (fire, water and clay); a metaphor for the Orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. As soon as St. Spyridon finished speaking, the shard is said to have miraculously burst into flame, water dripped on the ground, and only dust remained in his hand.]
As glorious as the miracle is of the heavenly gifts that St. Nicholas received, equal is the miracle that St. Spyridon performed. Both gave courage to the pious to prevail over the heretics. Slowly-slowly, like this, the Holy Fathers—with the help of the Holy Spirit—triumphed. Although they were full of divine love towards others, with mercy and with tears in their eyes, they anathematized and removed Arius from the Synod as an enemy of the Son of God and an antichrist.
Later, the Fathers composed theSymbol of the Faith, and 20 canons, for the smoothing of the liturgical unity of the Church. They also decided that the Orthodox Church must follow the Julian calendar to the end of the ages, and they wrote a Paschalion, in other words, when Pascha was to be celebrated for every year till the end of time. Two of the Fathers reposed which caused the Synod great tears. The King placed the decisions of the Synod signed by the remaining 316 Fathers in the two reposed Fathers’ coffins. The morning of the second day, to the astonishment of all, they found the signatures of the 2 reposed Fathers on the documents, in other words 318 signatures.
Like we said in last Thursday’s homily, on the Ascension of Christ, it is a feast that concludes the cycle of the events of the Incarnate God, for the deliverance of mankind from death. Today the first Sunday after the Ascension, we commemorate those Fathers who preached and defended the truth, proclaiming that Christ the Son of God, was begotten of the Father before all ages, that He descended from the heavens, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, that He was crucified, suffered, and was buried, and arose on the third day and ascended into the Heavens and sits at the right hand of the Father as"consubstantial [coessential or of same essence] with the Father."
For Orthodoxy, the First Ecumenical Council is a lighthouse which bestows light and sustains all of the hierarchs, clergy, monastics, and the faithful, or whoever wishes to keep the truth of the Gospel. Today, more than ever before, the true faith is threatened by beasts more fearful than then. The Ecumenists, the New Calendarists, and thepapophiles (pope-lovers) find themselves in a much worse state than the Arians. Is there in our days a St. Nicholas or St. Spyridon? Is there a saint to humiliate them by words alone, or with miracles, or with fear tactics? We are fooled by the convenient freedom which has been bestowed on us by those who tore the seamless tunic of Christ into a thousand pieces. Every one of us has an obligation to always remember the valour and faith of those who suffered danger to their lives to protect the Church from the poison of false brethren. Obviously we are joyous today, because we have inherited the true faith and we have the possibility of salvation. But lately, who struggles towards this? Do we? Definitely not! The Holy Fathers of the Seven Ecumenical Councils struggled for this, the Holy Confessors of ages past, for example: St. Photius the Great, Patriarch of Constantinople; St. Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica; St. Mark Eugenicus, Bishop of Ephesus; St. Cosmas the Aetolian; St. Nicodemus the Athonite; and many more. They never rested, day or night, from delivering the teachings and dogmas of the faith. They were bright lamps from whom their successors received the light of Orthodoxy.
Can it be that our descendants will have these examples from which to learn how they must keep the faith? The Saints were teachers of the world and we cannot even direct our own families. Do not think that for your children to be obedient to you, many words are needed. What are needed are many examples. But let us look what the father does. By the time he reaches church he smokes a cigarette. He enters the church for half an hour and then goes outside for another cigarette. At the end of Liturgy he rushes to receive antidoron. Then in the courtyard of the church, while in the company of others of like mind, he lights another cigarette. Do you think there is a bigger insensibility than this? What shall we call these people? Shall we call them Christians? Shall we call them zealots? What kind of Orthodoxy are they going to teach their children?
But enough about the father. Now let us look at what the mother does. When she comes to church, she has only one care: what to wear and how to decorate herself. She concerns herself with two things: how to not draw the attention of the clergy because she is not dressed properly, and for others to not form the opinion that she is not beautiful. Thus, one hangs earrings on her ears; another paints her nails; one wears several bracelets on her wrists; another, rings on her fingers. And, with child in hand, she comes to church. Once she enters the church, she remembers to wear her head cover. But she wears it in a manner where she must take it off, put it back on, over and over, until the end of the Liturgy.
Now if anyone thinks I am overdoing it, I will say a few words of St. John Chrysostom, from his homily "Regarding Herodias and Salome the Murderers of the Baptist." And if anyone opposes, they can complain to the Saint and not to me. Just like you do not like people saying things against you, I do not like it either. So, this is what St. John Chrysostom says: "Woman! You come to church with bright garments; you file (sharpen) your nails like a dragon; you hang metal on your hands, ears, and around your throat, like a slave, but you don’t think that your soul is black. Do you forget that you came here to cry, and not to display yourself?" In another homily of his, about the woman who washed the feet of Christ with myrrh, he says this: "The harlot that washed the feet of Christ with her hair should have washed His feet with her head-covering (scarf). But because she did not have one, she washed with her hair." Why though did she not have a head-covering? Because without a head-covering is how harlots roamed the streets! "Honourable women," says St. John Chrysostom, "from the moment the clergyman blesses their wedding, should not allow for the sun to ever see their hair." Firm words! But we must say them. If I, who am your Shepherd, do not say them to you, then who will tell you?
The Sixth Ecumenical Synod says: "The women who beautify themselves and cut their hair, or the man who cuts his beard and his moustache, cannot commune for one year. And if they die like this, God will not recognize them as His creation, because they have a demonic face, and are an icon of Satan, and are not ‘according to the image and likeness’ of their Creator." I do not say these things. I only repeat the words of the Holy Fathers, because if I don’t say these things to you, on the day of judgement, you will accuse me that I never told you. It is good for me to say these things, but it is better for you to listen and to apply these things, so that neither you nor I may be judged. I know that we live in the world and many say we must keep up with the times. But listen to what Christ said in today’s Gospel: "Holy Father, I ask on their behalf," and then, "I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine." So, we have heard that He does not defend the world but defends those that live in the world and want to do His will and not the will of the world. Maybe some people say, "God does not care about our looks (i.e., about clothes and beards), God cares about a clean heart." Yes, this is so. But a tree cannot bear fruit, if it first doesn’t sprout leaves. All of the trees sprout leaves easily, but few trees bear fruit. Like this, first do the things that are easy (i.e., practice the sprouting of leaves), so that you can later do the more difficult things (i.e., bear fruit). If you believe that you have a clean heart, you are deceived by the demons. Earlier Christians were not like that. The people today think that they are clever. The earlier Christians were smarter, and more educated than us. Now, the human culture grows in everything except wisdom. Brethren, because today we remember the Holy Fathers, this is why I remembered various teachings of these Fathers, even if [these latter teachings] are not dogmatic. For, just as knots are used to knit, so also do all Christian teachings complete Orthodoxy. If we undo a knot, slowly-slowly, we undo the whole knit. It is the same with the Christian. If he tramples on one small commandment, he will become negligent, from negligence he passes to apathy (i.e., lack of caring), and then, slowly-slowly, he loses Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is a pearl of great value. It is found with great difficulty but is easily lost. But whoever possess it, is the most blessed among people. This pearl is what must be given as an inheritance to our descendants (i.e., to our children).
Now we send our children to remote schools to be educated, where the name of the God of the Christians is never mentioned. There they are vaccinated with the atheist poison. I wonder: if they ever return, will they still find that sweet milk of strong faith which conquers the poison? And whose fault will this be? Theirs, because they went? Or ours, because we sent them? Which of these two is better: a) to live in the city with people and eat bread every two days; or, b) to live in the forest with the beasts and eat meat every day? I believe that in the city is better. There you are sure that you will eat a little bread every two days and will not die. In the forest, even though you are eating meat every day, every moment you are in danger of being devoured by the beasts. Thus, if we leave from the road of the demons and walk on the road of the Saints, we will have our daily bread, and we will be protected from the seven-headed beasts of Ecumenism and Papism: by the mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and through the prayers of our Holy Fathers. Amen.
+PARTHENIUS, by the Mercy
of God, Metropolitan of Citium, Neapolis, Limasol, Amathus &
Curium, & Exarch of the Genuine Orthodox Church of Cyprus (of
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