Synaxarion for the Sunday of the God-bearing Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council.

On the seventh Sunday of Pascha, we celebrate the three hundred eighteen God-bearing Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council held in Nicaea of Bithynia.

The reason we celebrate this feast today is as follows: after our Lord Jesus Christ took flesh and fulfilled His ineffable dispensation for us, He returned to the throne of the Father. It was the desire of the Saints to show that the Son of God had truly become man, that He had ascended as perfect man and perfect God into Heaven and is seated at the right of the glory on high. This council of Holy Fathers proclaimed and confessed that the Son is of the same essence and honor as the Father. Therefore, following the feast of the glorious Ascension, this present feast has been set forth in order to add to the already large number of Fathers who preached that He Who has Ascended in the flesh is both perfect God and perfect Man in the flesh.

This Council took place during the twentieth year of the reign of St. Constantine the Great, following the period in which the Christians were persecuted by the pagans. At first, St. Constantine reigned in Rome, but later, in the year 5838 from the creation of the world (330 A.D.), he built the beautiful city that bears his name. It was also at this time that the situation regarding Arius arose. Arius was originally from Libya but came to Alexandria and was ordained to the diaconate by the Hieromartyr Peter of Alexandria (comm. Nov. 25). However, in 315 Arius began to blaspheme against the Son of God, loudly vilifying Him and saying that He is a creature, born out of nonexistence, and distant from the honor of the Godhead. He claimed that it was wrong to call Him the Wisdom and Word of God, thinking that he was thus opposing the lawless Sabellius who claimed that the Godhead is one single person and essence who is at times the Father, at times the Son, and at times the Holy Spirit. The great Peter had a vision in which he beheld Christ at the Holy Sacrifice as an Infant dressed in a torn garment which, Christ told him, had been rent by Arius. After this, Peter removed Arius from the ranks of the clergy because of his blasphemy.

When Achilas succeeded Peter as Archbishop of Alexandria; he granted forgiveness to Arius when the latter promised to correct his false teaching. In addition, he then ordained him to the priesthood and appointed him to the school of Alexandria. Following the death of Achilas, the next Archbishop of Alexandria, Alexander, found that Arius was spreading the same blasphemy and that, in fact, he had made the blasphemy even worse; then the Archbishop summoned a council, which deposed Arius from the Church in 321.

It is said that it was Theodoret who was the first to belch forth the dogma that Christ was of a mutable nature and that the Lord assumed flesh with neither nous nor soul. It is recorded that Arius led many astray with his lawless teaching and that he drew even Eusebius of Nicomedia, Pauline of Tirus, and Eusebius of Cesarea into his court. He turned against Alexander, but Alexander made the blasphemy and deposition of Arius known everywhere and turned many people against him.

With the Church in a state of turbulence and with no one showing the care and love to resolve the problem, the great St. Constantine used state means of transport and in 325, gathered the Fathers of whom we speak from all parts of the world to Nicaea to which place he himself also journeyed. Thus, when all the Fathers had come together, the emperor also took his place, not on an imperial throne, but on a chair, which was beneath the honor due to an emperor. The Fathers spoke in regard to Arius and anathematized not only him, but all those who were in agreement with him. The Holy Fathers confessed that the Word of God is of the same essence and honor with the Father and co-unoriginate with the Father. They then formulated the Symbol of Faith as far as the article, “And I believe in the Holy Spirit...”; for the rest of the Creed was completed at the Second Ecumenical Council. It was this same First Council that established, in addition to these above matters, the date of Pascha, saying how and when it should be celebrated and that it should not be celebrated at the same time as the Jewish Passover, which had been the former practice. They further laid down twenty canons regarding entrance into the Church. The great and Equal-to-the Apostles St. Constantine sealed the final version of the holy Symbol of Faith with his own signature in red ink.

Of the Fathers who attended the First Ecumenical Council, two hundred thirty-two were hierarchs, while eighty-six were priests, deacons, and monks, thus bringing the total number present to three hundred eighteen. Among those not present but most distinguished were Archbishop Sylvester of Rome and Metrophan of Constantinople, who sent representatives on their behalf. Also attending were: Alexander of Alexandria together with the great Athanasius, who was then an archdeacon; Eustathius of Antioch and Macarius of Jerusalem; Hosius, bishop of Cordova; Paphnutius the Confessor; Nicholas the myrrh-gusher; and Spyridon of Trimithius who baptized a philosopher who was present and won over to the faith when Spiridon revealed the Light in three Rays[1].

Two of the hierarchs departed to the Lord during the proceedings of the Council. However, the great St. Constantine placed the decisions of the Holy Council in their coffins and sealed them well; these were later found signed and sealed by the departed Fathers in indescribable divine words.

At the conclusion of the Council, the construction of Constantinople was also completed. St. Constantine the Great then called all these Holy Fathers to the city where they formed a procession and encircled its fortress, offering prayers and proclaiming it to be the Queen of Cities, dedicating it, at the request of the emperor, to the Mother of the Word. Following this, each of the Holy Fathers returned to his own town.

After St. Constantine the Great departed to the Lord and the scepter of the kingdom was held by his son, Constantius, Arius approached the emperor saying that he wanted to abandon all his heresy and be reunited with the Church of God. He then wrote out his heresy upon a tablet and hung it about his neck; then, as if he were submitting to the Council, he struck the tablet with his hand declaring that he submitted himself to their decisions. The Icing then commanded the Patriarch of Constantinople to accept Arius absolutely into the bosom of the Church. After the death of Mitrophan, Alexander ascended the hierarchal throne of Constantinople. Knowing the wicked nature of Arius, he found himself doubting his reversal and prayed to God to reveal to him whether Arius’s acceptance into the bosom of the Church was in accordance with divine will. When the time came for Arius to serve together with him, his prayer became even more fervent.

On his way to church, near the edge of the marketplace, Arius felt great pain in his abdomen and went to a public latrine. There his inner organs disintegrated and were expelled from his body, j and he suffered the same fate as Judas with his body torn apart, for he was, likewise, a traitor of the Word. Thus, just as he had torn the Son of God from the essence of the Father, so was he torn apart and later found dead. In this way the Church was delivered from the calamity that he had caused.

 

Through the prayers of the three hundred eighteen God-bearing Fathers,

О Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us.

Amen.

 

The Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and the Pentecostarion, ed. Fr David (Kidd) and Mother Gabriella (Ursache), Rives Junction, MI: HDM, 1999, pp. 221-225.

 

[1] St. Spyridon took a brick in his hand, and when he squeezed it, the fire rose up, the water fell to the earth, and he remained with only clay in his hand. By this he demonstrated the truth of the Holy Trinity: God one in essence but three Persons.

30.05.2020