Today we are celebrating the memory of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council. It took place more than 1600 years ago, in 325 A.D., in the city of Nicaea. It was attended by 318 bishops from all over Christendom. For what reason did they gather in Nicaea?
The Church faced several important questions that needed to be solved. For example, regarding the celebration of Pascha. Christians in different countries had celebrated it at different times. During the Council it was decided to celebrate this great feast on the first Sunday after the first new moon, after the vernal equinox. This is how the calculation of Pascha is made to this day.
The second important issue was the teaching of the Alexandrian protopresbyter Arius. He was a scholar and even taught at the famous Catechetical School of Alexandria. Arius didn’t recognize Jesus Christ as equal to God the Father, and considered Him a creation of God the Father. He gained many followers and ultimately angered the entire Church with his heresy.
During the council Arius argued with everyone and stubbornly defended his delusion. St. Nicholas of Myra, who was present at the Council, was no longer able to bear his blasphemy and gave him a slap on the face. The Council Fathers first denounced St. Nicholas and even deprived him of his rank. However, the next night some of them saw the Mother of God returning the omophorion and the Gospel to him.
St. Nicholas gives Arius a slap in the face at the First Ecumenical Council
Therefore, they decided to forgive the famous miracle-worker his action caused by his zeal for the glory of God. At the same Council it was decided to anathematize the teaching of Arius and send the heretic into exile.
Another issue that was considered at the First Ecumenical Council was the Creed. It began with the words: I believe in one God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. It briefly outlined the essence of the Orthodox faith; and in order to denounce the Arian heresy about the Lord Jesus Christ it was said that He was born of God the Father, and not created. At the Second Ecumenical Council this Creed was supplemented with the teaching about the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, about Baptism (that it is only permissible to be baptized once), and the Resurrection (I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come). The Creed remains in this form to this day, and is sung in churches by all the faithful during the Divine Liturgy.
It would seem that the First Ecumenical Council and the teachings of Arius are matters of the days long gone past, and they cannot have anything to do with us. But that isn’t true!
Nowadays, many are ready to recognize Jesus Christ as a historical Personality, a Prophet, a Teacher of faith, but not God. And this is the Arian heresy, condemned at the First Ecumenical Council. We confess the Savior as the True God, despite the fact that He took upon Himself human nature, and we render Him an honor equal to that of God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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