After the fullness of the forty days of Pascha, and the Lord’s glorious Ascension, we find ourselves on the door step of the blessed feast of Pentecost (June 8th). And it is here that the Church gives us the remembrance of the Fathers of the first Ecumenical council.
This first of the Ecumenical councils was convened by the Emperor Constantine in 325 to bring a resolution to the dispute over the divinity of Jesus Christ. The Presbyter Arius and his followers contended that Jesus was a creature (someone created like you or me), and not true God, whereas saints like Nicholas of Myra (the one and same St. Nick), Athanasius of Alexandria, Spyridon and others contended that Jesus was true God (not created).
The long and short of this council was that the teaching of Arius was condemned as heresy, and the first part of the Nicene Creed (that we read to this day) was composed, stating emphatically that Jesus is “true God of true God, begotten not made, of one essence with the Father by whom all things were made”.
The gravity of this event seems strange for us ‘moderns’. That something like this could be so important enough for anyone to fight about . We would now just say “you go to your Church and I will go to my Church”, but it was for us and our salvation, that these Fathers whose lives were touched by the reality of a God who not only revealed Himself to us, but emptied Himself for us, taking the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:7), could say that “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us”(Acts. 15:28)
It is not that any of us will ever have to face the challenges that these bishops, priests and deacons did six hundred years ago (unless we encounter modern day Arians like Jehovah’s Witnesses), but rather we have to struggle for the “faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). We have to be able to say Amen daily, to not only the creed that was given to us, but to the whole life of the Church, that throughout history has lived and died for Christ.
Providentially this council occurred on the Sunday before Pentecost, as if it were an icon showing us that our faith in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, must always be worked for and fought for, whether it is at school, work, or at home. And it is in this that we prepare ourselves for the constant and eternal Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; not as bystandereds, or passive Church goers, but as men and women committed to Him who is the “the way, the truth and the life”(Jn. 14:6).
By the prayers of St. Constantine and the fathers of the first Ecumenical council, may we be strengthened and ever prepared for this blessed Pentecost.