You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2009.

sinod-niceea

This council opened on 19 June in the presence of the emperor, but it is uncertain who presided over the sessions. In the extant lists of bishops present, Ossius of Cordova, and the presbyters Vitus and Vincentius are listed before the other names, but it is more likely that Eustathius of Antioch or Alexander of Alexandria presided. (see Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ed. Norman P. Tanner S.J.)

The bold text in the profession of faith of the 318 fathers constitutes, according to Tanner “The additions made by the council to an underlying form of the creed”, and that the underlying creed was most likely “derived from the baptismal formula of Caesarea put forward by the bishop of that city Eusebius” or that it “developed from an original form which existed in Jerusalem or at any rate Palestine”. “A direct descent from the creed of Eusebius of Caesarea is manifestly out of the question.” Vol 1, p2)

The holy synod of Nicaea proclaimed the first 7 verses of the Christian Creed.

2nd Ecumenical Council of Constantinople – 381 AD = proclaimed the last 5 verses of the Christian Creed, thus clarifying against the heretical remains of Arians regarding the Holy Spirit.

3rd Ecumenical Council of Ephesus – 431 AD = against Nestorian heretics. The Council  proclaimed the two natures united in one person of Christ, and the holy virgin Mary is called by the holy fathers: the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ or Theothokos.

4th Ecumenical Council of Chalcedony – 451 AD = where the holy fathers condemned the heresy of the monophysites and all those sustaining that Christ had only one nature – the divine one.

5th Ecumenical Council was in Constantinople  – 553 AD = the king Justinian tried to reconcile with the monophysites. The fathers clarified the doctrine from Chalcedony against 3 priests that appeared to be monophysites.

6th Ecumenical Council of Constantinople  – 680 AD, clarified again against the heretics who sustained only one (the divine) nature of Christ.

7th and Last  Ecumenical Council of Nicaea – 787 AD, when it was affirmed once and for last  the supra-veneration of virgin Mary, the mother of God, the veneration of the saints and their holy relics, the veneration of the holy icons and the holy cross.

VisitorIntroductionCrossSunset

One is the Church, catholic and apostolic, maintaining the holy tradition and cannons from the apostles, unchanged in dogma and untouched in sanctity by any heretical theories; one is the Faith in Lord Jesus Christ,  the Orthodox (“the right way” of worship) Faith. Today many churches are trying to reform their unity. This is the scope of the contemporary Ecumenical movement. They desire the “reforming” or perhaps “deforming” of the body of Christ.

The figure of 318 given in the heading below is from Hilary of Poitier and is the traditional one.

THE PROFESSION OF FAITH OF THE 318 FATHERS

  1. We believe in one God the Father all powerful, maker of all things both seen and unseen. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten begotten from the Father, that is from the substance [Gr. ousias, Lat. substantia] of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten [Gr. gennethenta, Lat. natum] not made [Gr. poethenta, Lat. factum], CONSUBSTANTIAL [Gr. homoousion, Lat. unius substantiae (quod Graeci dicunt homousion)] with the Father, through whom all things came to be, both those in heaven and those in earth; for us humans and for our salvation he came down and became incarnate, became human, suffered and rose up on the third day, went up into the heavens, is coming to judge the living and the dead. And in the holy Spirit.
  1. And those who say
    1. “there once was when he was not”, and “before he was begotten he was not”, and that
    2. he came to be from
      • things that were not, or
      • from another hypostasis [Gr. hypostaseos] or substance [Gr. ousias, Lat. substantia], affirming that the Son of God is subject to change or alteration these the catholic and apostolic church anathematises.

3.    CANONS

  1. If anyone in sickness has undergone surgery at the hands of physicians or has been castrated by barbarians, let him remain among the clergy. But if anyone in good health has castrated himself, if he is enrolled among the clergy he should be suspended, and in future no such man should be promoted. But, as it is evident that this refers to those who are responsible for the condition and presume to castrate themselves, so too if any have been made eunuchs by barbarians or by their masters, but have been found worthy, the canon admits such men to the clergy.
  2. Since, either through necessity or through the importunate demands of certain individuals, there have been many breaches of the church’s canon, with the result that men who have recently come from a pagan life to the faith after a short catechumenate have been admitted at once to the spiritual washing, and at the same time as their baptism have been promoted to the episcopate or the presbyterate, it is agreed that it would be well for nothing of the kind to occur in the future. For a catechumen needs time and further probation after baptism, for the apostle’s words are clear: “Not a recent convert, or he may be puffed up and fall into the condemnation and the snare of the devil”. But if with the passage of time some sin of sensuality is discovered with regard to the person and he is convicted by two or three witnesses, such a one will be suspended from the clergy. If anyone contravenes these regulations, he will be liable to forfeit his clerical status for acting in defiance of this great synod.
  3. This great synod absolutely forbids a bishop, presbyter, deacon or any of the clergy to keep a woman who has been brought in to live with him, with the exception of course of his mother or sister or aunt, or of any person who is above suspicion.
  4. It is by all means desirable that a bishop should be appointed by all the bishops of the province. But if this is difficult because of some pressing necessity or the length of the journey involved, let at least three come together and perform the ordination, but only after the absent bishops have taken part in the vote and given their written consent. But in each province the right of confirming the proceedings belongs to the metropolitan bishop.
  5. Concerning those, whether of the clergy or the laity, who have been excommunicated, the sentence is to be respected by the bishops of each province according to the canon which forbids those expelled by some to be admitted by others. But let an inquiry be held to ascertain whether anyone has been expelled from the community because of pettiness or quarrelsomeness or any such ill nature on the part of the bishop. Accordingly, in order that there may be proper opportunity for inquiry into the matter, it is agreed that it would be well for synods to be held each year in each province twice a year, so that these inquiries may be conducted by all the bishops of the province assembled together, and in this way by general consent those who have offended against their own bishop may be recognised by all to be reasonably excommunicated, until all the bishops in common may decide to pronounce a more lenient sentence on these persons. The synods shall be held at the following times: one before Lent, so that, all pettiness being set aside, the gift offered to God may be unblemished; the second after the season of autumn.
  6. The ancient customs of Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis shall be maintained, according to which the bishop of Alexandria has authority over all these places since a similar custom exists with reference to the bishop of Rome. Similarly in Antioch and the other provinces the prerogatives of the churches are to be preserved. In general the following principle is evident: if anyone is made bishop without the consent of the metropolitan, this great synod determines that such a one shall not be a bishop. If however two or three by reason of personal rivalry dissent from the common vote of all, provided it is reasonable and in accordance with the church’s canon, the vote of the majority shall prevail.
  7. Since there prevails a custom and ancient tradition to the effect that the bishop of Aelia is to be honoured, let him be granted everything consequent upon this honour, saving the dignity proper to the metropolitan.
  8. Concerning those who have given themselves the name of Cathars, and who from time to time come over publicly to the catholic and apostolic church, this holy and great synod decrees that they may remain among the clergy after receiving an imposition of hands. But before all this it is fitting that they give a written undertaking that they will accept and follow the decrees of the catholic church, namely that they will be in communion with those who have entered into a second marriage and with those who have lapsed in time of persecution and for whom a period [of penance] has been fixed and an occasion [for reconciliation] allotted, so as in all things to follow the decrees of the catholic and apostolic church. Accordingly, where all the ordained in villages or cities have been found to be men of this kind alone, those who are so found will remain in the clergy in the same rank; but when some come over in places where there is a bishop or presbyter belonging to the catholic church, it is evident that the bishop of the church will hold the bishop’s dignity, and that the one given the title and name of bishop among the so-called Cathars will have the rank of presbyter, unless the bishop thinks fit to let him share in the honour of the title. But if this does not meet with his approval, the bishop will provide for him a place as chorepiscopus or presbyter, so as to make his ordinary clerical status evident and so prevent there being two bishops in the city.
  9. If any have been promoted presbyters without examination, and then upon investigation have confessed their sins, and if after their confession men have imposed hands upon such people, being moved to act against the canon, the canon does not admit these people, for the catholic church vindicates only what is above reproach.

10.  If any have been promoted to ordination through the ignorance of their promoters or even with their connivance, this fact does not prejudice the church’s canon; for once discovered they are to be deposed.

11.  Concerning those who have transgressed without necessity or the confiscation of their property or without danger or anything of this nature, as happened under the tyranny of Licinius, this holy synod decrees that, though they do not deserve leniency, nevertheless they should be treated mercifully. Those therefore among the faithful who genuinely repent shall spend three years among the hearers, for seven years they shall be prostrators, and for two years they shall take part with the people in the prayers, though not in the offering.

12.  Those who have been called by grace, have given evidence of first fervour and have cast off their [military] belts, and afterwards have run back like dogs to their own vomit, so that some have even paid money and recovered their military status by bribes — such persons shall spend ten years as prostrators after a period of three years as hearers. In every case, however, their disposition and the nature of their penitence should be examined. For those who through their fear and tears and perseverance and good works give evidence of their conversion by deeds and not by outward show, when they have completed their appointed term as hearers, may properly take part in the prayers, and the bishop is competent to decide even more favourably in their regard. But those who have taken the matter lightly, and have thought that the outward form of entering the church is all that is required for their conversion, must complete their term to the full.

13.  Concerning the departing, the ancient canon law is still to be maintained namely that those who are departing are not to be deprived of their last, most necessary viaticum. But if one whose life has been despaired of has been admitted to communion and has shared in the offering and is found to be numbered again among the living, he shall be among those who take part in prayer only [here a variant reading in Les canons des conciles oecumeniques adds “until the term fixed by this great ecumenical synod has been completed”]. But as a general rule, in the case of anyone whatsoever who is departing and seeks to share in the eucharist, the bishop upon examining the matter shall give him a share in the offering.

14.  Concerning catechumens who have lapsed, this holy and great synod decrees that, after they have spent three years as hearers only, they shall then be allowed to pray with the catechumens.

15.  On account of the great disturbance and the factions which are caused, it is decreed that the custom, if it is found to exist in some parts contrary to the canon, shall be totally suppressed, so that neither bishops nor presbyters nor deacons shall transfer from city to city. If after this decision of this holy and great synod anyone shall attempt such a thing, or shall lend himself to such a proceeding, the arrangement shall be totally annulled, and he shall be restored to the church of which he was ordained bishop or presbyter or deacon.

16.  Any presbyters or deacons or in general anyone enrolled in any rank of the clergy who depart from their church recklessly and without the fear of God before their eyes or in ignorance of the church’s canon, ought not by any means to be received in another church, but all pressure must be applied to them to induce them to return to their own dioceses, or if they remain it is right that they should be excommunicated. But if anyone dares to steal away one who belongs to another and to ordain him in his church without the consent of the other’s own bishop among whose clergy he was enrolled before he departed, the ordination is to be null.

17.  Since many enrolled [among the clergy] have been induced by greed and avarice to forget the sacred text, “who does not put out his money at interest”, and to charge one per cent [a month] on loans, this holy and great synod judges that if any are found after this decision to receive interest by contract or to transact the business in any other way or to charge [a flat rate of] fifty per cent or in general to devise any other contrivance for the sake of dishonourable gain, they shall be deposed from the clergy and their names struck from the roll.

18.  It has come to the attention of this holy and great synod that in some places and cities deacons give communion to presbyters, although neither canon nor custom allows this, namely that those who have no authority to offer should give the body of Christ to those who do offer. Moreover it has become known that some of the deacons now receive the eucharist even before the bishops. All these practices must be suppressed. Deacons must remain within their own limits, knowing that they are the ministers of the bishop and subordinate to the presbyters. Let them receive the eucharist according to their order after the presbyters from the hands of the bishop or the presbyter. Nor shall permission be given for the deacons to sit among the presbyters, for such an arrangement is contrary to the canon and to rank. If anyone refuses to comply even after these decrees, he is to be suspended from the diaconate.

19.  Concerning the former Paulinists who seek refuge in the catholic church, it is determined that they must be rebaptised unconditionally. Those who in the past have been enrolled among the clergy, if they appear to be blameless and irreproachable, are to be rebaptised and ordained by the bishop of the catholic church. But if on inquiry they are shown to be unsuitable, it is right that they should be deposed. Similarly with regard to deaconesses and all in general whose names have been included in the roll, the same form shall be observed. We refer to deaconesses who have been granted this status, for they do not receive any imposition of hands, so that they are in all respects to be numbered among the laity.

20.  Since there are some who kneel on Sunday and during the season of Pentecost, this holy synod decrees that, so that the same observances may be maintained in every diocese, one should offer one’s prayers to the Lord standing.

THE LETTER OF THE SYNOD IN NICAEA TO THE EGYPTIANS

The bishops assembled at Nicaea, who constitute the great and holy synod, greet the church of the Alexandrians, by the grace of God holy and great, and the beloved brethren in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis.

Since the grace of God and the most pious emperor Constantine have called us together from different provinces and cities to constitute the great and holy synod in Nicaea, it seemed absolutely necessary that the holy synod should send you a letter so that you may know what was proposed and discussed, and what was decided and enacted.

  1. First of all the affair of the impiety and lawlessness of Arius and his followers was discussed in the presence of the most pious emperor Constantine. It was unanimously agreed that anathemas should be pronounced against his impious opinion and his blasphemous terms and expressions which he has blasphemously applied to the Son of God,
    • saying
      • “he is from things that are not”, and
      • “before he was begotten he was not”, and
      • “there once was when he was not”,
    • saying too that
      • by his own power the Son of God is capable of
        • evil and
        • goodness,
    • and calling him
      • a creature and a work.

Against all this the holy synod pronounced anathemas, and did not allow this impious and abandoned opinion and these blasphemous words even to be heard.

Of that man and the fate which befell him, you have doubtless heard or will hear, lest we should seem to trample upon one who has already received a fitting reward because of his own sin. Such indeed was the power of his impiety that Theonas of Marmarica and Secundus of Ptolemais shared in the consequences, for they too suffered the same fate.

But since, when the grace of God had freed Egypt from this evil and blasphemous opinion, and from the persons who had dared to create a schism and a separation in a people which up to now had lived in peace, there remained the question of the presumption of Meletius and the men whom he had ordained, we shall explain to you, beloved brethren, the synod’s decisions on this subject too. The synod was moved to incline towards mildness in its treatment of Meletius for strictly speaking he deserved no mercy. It decreed that that he might remain in his own city without any authority to nominate or ordain, and that he was not to show himself for this purpose in the country or in another city, and that he was to retain the bare name of his office.

It was further decreed that those whom he had ordained, when they had been validated by a more spiritual ordination, were to be admitted to communion on condition that they would retain their rank and exercise their ministry, but in every respect were to be second to all the clergy in each diocese and church who had been nominated under our most honoured brother and fellow minister Alexander; they were to have no authority to appoint candidates of their choice or to put forward names or to do anything at all without the consent of the bishop of the catholic church, namely the bishop of those who are under Alexander. But those who by the grace of God and by our prayers have not been detected in any schism, and are spotless in the catholic and apostolic church, are to have authority to appoint and to put forward the names of men of the clergy who are worthy, and in general to do everything according to the law and rule of the church.

In the event of the death of any in the church, those who have recently been accepted are thereupon to succeed to the office of the deceased, provided that they appear worthy and are chosen by the people; the bishop of Alexandria is to take part in the vote and confirm the election. This privilege, which has been granted to all others, does not apply to the person of Meletius because of his inveterate seditiousness and his mercurial and rash disposition, lest any authority or responsibility should be given to one who is capable of returning to his seditious practices.

These are the chief and most important decrees as far as concerns Egypt and the most holy church of the Alexandrians. Whatever other canons and decrees were enacted in the presence of our lord and most honoured fellow minister and brother Alexander, he will himself report them to you in greater detail when he comes, for he was himself a leader as well as a participant in the events.

The following is not found in the latin text, but is found in the greek text :

We also send you the good news of the settlement concerning the holy pasch, namely that in answer to your prayers this question also has been resolved. All the brethren in the East who have hitherto followed the Jewish practice will henceforth observe the custom of the Romans and of yourselves and of all of us who from ancient times have kept Easter together with you. Rejoicing then in these successes and in the common peace and harmony and in the cutting off of all heresy, welcome our fellow minister, your bishop Alexander, with all the greater honour and love. He has made us happy by his presence, and despite his advanced age has undertaken such great labour in order that you too may enjoy peace.

Pray for us all that our decisions may remain secure through almighty God and our lord Jesus Christ in the holy Spirit, to whom is the glory for ever and ever. Amen.


Translation taken from Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ed. Norman P. Tanner

nicaea_icon

Briefly in the other Councils:

The Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (381)

On the Holy Spirit


   (The Second Ecumenical Council was held in 381 A. D., at Con­stantinople and was convoked to judge Macedonius, who was spreading heretical teaching about the Holy Spirit. Macedonius was teaching that the Holy Spirit was created by God like angels were, only he was a spirit of higher type and order. The fathers of this Council rejected Macedonius’ teaching and condemned it as a heresy against the Holy Ghost and composed the last five articles of the Creed, in which they expounded the true teaching about the Holy Ghost and other dogmas of the Church. The Creed (Symvol Veri) of the First and Second Ecumenical Councils is called the Nicene Creed).

 (Today the „Catholic” Church of Rome-Vatican still shares this heresy- when they declare that the „Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, proceeds from the Father and the Son, thus blasphemysing the Holy Spirit!) see bellow…

   „We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, the only begotten before all ages, Light from Light, true God from true God, begooten and not made, One in essence with the Father, through Whom all things were made, Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man; and He was crucified for us in the day of Pontius Pilate, He suffered and was buried, and He rose on the third day according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead, Whose kingdom will never end. And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, Who was spoken by the Prophets. And in the one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. We confess one [single] baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We wait for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world (waiting) to come. Amen!”

*

 

The Third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431)

On the Virgin Mary and,
Against Nestorian Heresy!
 

   (The Third Ecumenical Council was held in Ephesus, 431 A. D., it condemned the heresy of Nestorius, who taught that our Lord was only a man, in whom the divinity was abiding like in a temple. He called the Blessed Virgin Mary the Mother of Christ and not the Mother of God. This heresy survives in Persia and in many other „Protestant” Churchs, thus brigning blasphemy to the Most Pure among Women, the Virgin Mary who the Father chose to bare the Son).

   The Holy Ecumenical Council of Nicea made this confession of faith (what it followed was the Creed of the 318 Holy Fathers from Nicea united in the First Ecumenical Council): We believe (see above)…

   This Holy Synod gathered in the third Ecumenical Council, had decided that all shall receive this holy cofession of faith (of the 1st Council), because it is right and enough for the salvation of man. Although some pretended (still holds true today) that they confessed it and received it, they twised the meaning, so a 3rd Council was needed as a clear testimony of the unblemished Truth.

   The Holy Synod decided that noone is allowed to preach, write or compose another confession of faith other than what was settled by the Holy Fathers gathered n Nicea under the Holy Spirit.

   And, those composing another cofession of faith either as the pagan Greeks [the old paganism] or as the jews (non-Christians) or of any other heresy, [those], if they are bishops or clergymen are to be defrocked (removed), or if they are laymen, anathematised.

*

 

The Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (451)

On the two natures of Christ
Against the Monophisites Heresy
(today the „Coptic” Church still shares this heresy!)

   (The Fourth Ecumenical Council was held at Chalcedon in the year of our Lord 451. This Council condemned the heresy of Eutychius, who was teaching that our Lord was only God, that His divine nature absorbed the human one. At the present time to this doctrine adders the Armenian Church).

 *

The Fifth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (553)


Aganst the previous Nestorian and the Monophisites’ Heresy  

   (The Fifth Ecumenical Council was held in Constantinople, 553 A. D. By this Council were excommunicated the followers of Nestorius and their writings were condemned as heretical).

*

The Sixth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (680-681)

On whether the two natures of Jesus Christ (God and man) had two separate wills.
Against Monothelites Heresy

   (The Sixth Ecumenical Council was called in 680 A. D., at Constantinople against the heresy of Monothelists, who acknowledged in our Lord only one divine will, denying the human one in Him. The Abyssinian Church (Copts of Egypt) adheres to this teaching. This Council resumed its seating in 691 A. D., at the Trula palace and approved the canons of the proceeding Councils).

*

The Seventh Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (787)

On the veneration of the holy icons


Against the Iconoclats (today many „Protestant” Churches still share this heresy, blasphemyzing  the Image of Christ, His Mother and of the Saints by calling them, without discernment, idols; however ignoring the true idols: money, power, fame, wordly models of decadence, and so on…) 

   (The Seventh Ecumenical Council was called in 787 A. D., against the heresy of iconoclasts. It restored the veneration of the holy icons. When finally the peace in the Church life was restored by the victory over all heresies the Sunday of Orthodoxy was decreed in the year of 878, as an annual festival, and thereafter it is observed by the Eastern Church up to the present time on the first Sunday of Great Lent).

After receiving the freedom of teaching and worship, the Chris­tian Church was able to put all her doctrines in a system, to make necessary rules of church discipline and to defend and proclaim the truth it was holding from the time of Christ. The rules and regulations of the Church which have the power of the law for the whole Church are known as the canons of the Church, and were composed and enacted by the Ecumenical Councils. There were seven Ecumenical and nine Provincial Councils of the Undivided Church, canons of which comprise the Church law. To this day the Christian Orthodox Church holds decisions of the Seven Ecumenical Councils as highest authority on matters of dogma and faith. The canon law can not be changed without convoking next Ecumenical Council.

“I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and to My God, and Your God” (John 20:17).

Audio Link: Fr. Thomas on Ascension

2007_05_17_inaltarea_domnului 

Christ has ascended!  From earth to heaven!    

Two Homilies of St. Leo the Great (d. A.D. 461),

On the Lord’s Ascension

Sermon LXXIII.

(On the Lord’s Ascension, I.)

I.  The events recorded as happening after the Resurrection were intended to convince us of its truth.

Since the blessed and glorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby the Divine power in three days raised the true Temple of God, which the wickedness of the Jews had overthrown, the sacred forty days, dearly-beloved, are to-day ended, which by most holy appointment were devoted to our most profitable instruction, so that, during the period that the Lord thus protracted the lingering of His bodily presence, our faith in the Resurrection might be fortified by needful proofs.  For Christ’s Death had much disturbed the disciples’ hearts, and a kind of torpor of distrust had crept over their grief-laden minds at His torture on the cross, at His giving up the ghost, at His lifeless body’s burial.  For, when the holy women, as the Gospel-story has revealed, brought word of the stone rolled away from the tomb, the sepulchre emptied of the body, and the angels bearing witness to the living Lord, their words seemed like ravings to the Apostles and other disciples.  Which doubtfulness, the result of human weakness, the Spirit of Truth would most assuredly not have permitted to exist in His own preacher’s breasts, had not their trembling anxiety and careful hesitation laid the foundations of our faith.  It was our perplexities and our dangers that were provided for in the Apostles:  it was ourselves who in these men were taught how to meet the cavillings of the ungodly and the arguments of earthly wisdom.  We are instructed by their lookings, we are taught by their hearings, we are convinced by their handlings.  Let us give thanks to the Divine management and the holy Fathers’ necessary slowness of belief.  Others doubted, that we might not doubt.

II.  And therefore they are in the highest degree instructive.

Those days, therefore, dearly-beloved, which intervened between the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension did not pass by in uneventful leisure, but great mysteries were ratified in them, deep truths  revealed.  In them the fear of awful death was removed, and the immortality not only of the soul but also of the flesh established.  In them, through the Lord’s breathing upon them, the Holy Ghost is poured upon all the Apostles, and to the blessed Apostle Peter beyond the rest the care of the Lord’s flock is entrusted, in addition to the keys of the kingdom.  Then it was that the Lord joined the two disciples as a companion on the way, and, to the sweeping away of all the clouds of our uncertainty, upbraided them with the slowness of their timorous hearts.  Their enlightened hearts catch the flame of faith, and lukewarm as they have been, are made to burn while the Lord unfolds the Scriptures.  In the breaking of bread also their eyes are opened as they eat with Him:  how far more blessed is the opening of their eyes, to whom the glorification of their nature is revealed than that of our first parents, on whom fell the disastrous consequences of their transgression.

III.  They prove the Resurrection of the flesh.

And in the course of these and other miracles, when the disciples were harassed by bewildering thoughts, and the Lord had appeared in their midst and said, “Peace be unto you that what was passing through their hearts might not be their fixed opinion (for they thought they saw a spirit not flesh), He refutes their thoughts so discordant with the Truth, offers to the doubters’ eyes the marks of the cross that remained in His hands and feet, and invites them to handle Him with careful scrutiny, because the traces of the nails and spear had been retained to heal the wounds of unbelieving hearts, so that not with wavering faith, but with most stedfast knowledge they might comprehend that the Nature which had been lain in the sepulchre was to sit on God the Father’s throne.

IV.  Christ’s ascension has given us greater privileges and joys than the devil had taken from us.

Accordingly, dearly-beloved, throughout this time which elapsed between the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension, God’s Providence had this in view, to teach and impress upon both the eyes and hearts of His own people that the Lord Jesus Christ might be acknowledged to have as truly risen, as He was truly born, suffered, and died.  And hence the most blessed Apostles and all the disciples, who had been both bewildered at His death on the cross and backward in believing His Resurrection, were so strengthened by the clearness of the truth that when the Lord entered the heights of heaven, not only were they affected with no sadness, but were even filled with great joy.  And truly great and unspeakable was their cause for joy, when in the sight of the holy multitude, above the dignity of all heavenly creatures, the Nature of mankind went up, to pass above the angels’ ranks and to rise beyond the archangels’ heights, and to have Its uplifting limited by no elevation until, received to sit with the Eternal Father, It should be associated on the throne with His glory, to Whose Nature It was united in the Son.  Since then Christ’s Ascension is our uplifting, and the hope of the Body is raised, whither the glory of the Head has gone before, let us exult, dearly-beloved, with worthy joy and delight in the loyal paying of thanks.  For to-day not only are we confirmed as possessors of paradise, but have also in Christ penetrated the heights of heaven, and have gained still greater things through Christ’s unspeakable grace than we had lost through the devil’s malice.  For us, whom our virulent enemy had driven out from the bliss of our first abode, the Son of God has made members of Himself and placed at the right hand of the Father, with Whom He lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

 Sermon LXXIV.

(On the Lord’s Ascension, II.)

I.  The Ascension completes our faith in Him, who was God as well as man.

The mystery of our salvation, dearly-beloved, which the Creator of the universe valued at the price of His blood, has now been carried out under conditions of humiliation from the day of His bodily birth to the end of His Passion.  And although even in “the form of a slave” many signs of Divinity have beamed out, yet the events of all that period served particularly to show the reality of His assumed Manhood.  But after the Passion, when the chains of death were broken, which had exposed its own strength by attacking Him, Who was ignorant of sin, weakness was turned into power, mortality into eternity, contumely into glory, which the Lord Jesus Christ showed by many clear proofs in the sight of many, until He carried even into heaven the triumphant victory which He had won over the dead.  As therefore at the Easter commemoration, the Lord’s Resurrection was the cause of our rejoicing; so the subject of our present gladness is His Ascension, as we commemorate and duly venerate that day on which the Nature of our humility in Christ was raised above all the host of heaven, over all the ranks of angels, beyond the height of all powers, to sit with God the Father.  On which Providential order of events we are founded and built up, that God’s Grace might become more wondrous, when, notwithstanding the removal from men’s sight of what was rightly felt to command their awe, faith did not fail, hope did not waver, love did not grow cold.  For it is the strength of great minds and the light of firmly-faithful souls, unhesitatingly to believe what is not seen with the bodily sight, and there to fix one’s affections whither you cannot direct your gaze.  And whence should this Godliness spring up in our hearts, or how should a man be justified by faith, if our salvation rested on those things only which lie beneath our eyes?  Hence our Lord said to him who seemed to doubt of Christ’s Resurrection, until he had tested by sight and touch the traces of His Passion in His very Flesh, “because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed:  blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed.

II.  The Ascension renders our faith more excellent and stronger.

In order, therefore, dearly-beloved, that we may be capable of this blessedness, when all things were fulfilled which concerned the Gospel preaching and the mysteries of the New Testament, our Lord Jesus Christ, on the fortieth day after the Resurrection in the presence of the disciples, was raised into heaven, and terminated His presence with us in the body, to abide on the Father’s right hand until the times Divinely fore-ordained for multiplying the sons of the Church are accomplished, and He comes to judge the living and the dead in the same flesh in which He ascended.  And so that which till then was visible of our Redeemer was changed into a sacramental presence, and that faith might be more excellent and stronger, sight gave way to doctrine, the authority of which was to be accepted by believing hearts enlightened with rays from above.

III.  The marvellous effects of this faith on all.

This Faith, increased by the Lord’s Ascension and established by the gift of the Holy Ghost, was not terrified by bonds, imprisonments, banishments, hunger, fire, attacks by wild beasts, refined torments of cruel persecutors.  For this Faith throughout the world not only men, but even women, not only beardless boys, but even tender maids, fought to the shedding of their blood.  This Faith cast out spirits, drove off sicknesses, raised the dead:  and through it the blessed Apostles themselves also, who after being confirmed by so many miracles and instructed by so many discourses, had yet been panic-stricken by the horrors of the Lord’s Passion and had not accepted the truth of His resurrection without hesitation, made such progress after the Lord’s Ascension that everything which had previously filled them with fear was turned into joy.  For they had lifted the whole contemplation of their mind to the Godhead of Him that sat at the Father’s right hand, and were no longer hindered by the barrier of corporeal sight from directing their minds’ gaze to That Which had never quitted the Father’s side in descending to earth, and had not forsaken the disciples in ascending to heaven.

IV.  His Ascension refines our Faith:  the ministering of angels to Him shows the extent of His authority.

The Son of Man and Son of God, therefore, dearly-beloved, then attained a more excellent and holier fame, when He betook Himself back to the glory of the Father’s Majesty, and in an ineffable manner began to be nearer to the Father in respect of His Godhead, after having become farther away in respect of His manhood.  A better instructed faith then began to draw closer to a conception of the Son’s equality with the Father without the necessity of handling the corporeal substance in Christ, whereby He is less than the Father, since, while the Nature of the glorified Body still remained the faith of believers was called upon to touch not with the hand of flesh, but with the spiritual understanding the Only-begotten, Who was equal with the Father.  Hence comes that which the Lord said after His Resurrection, when Mary Magdalene, representing the Church, hastened to approach and touch Him:  “Touch Me not, for I have not yet ascended to My Father  that is, I would not have you come to Me as to a human body, nor yet recognize Me by fleshly perceptions:  I put thee off for higher things, I prepare greater things for thee:  when I have ascended to My Father, then thou shalt handle Me more perfectly and truly, for thou shalt grasp what thou canst not touch and believe what thou canst not see.  But when the disciples’ eyes followed the ascending Lord to heaven with upward gaze of earnest wonder, two angels stood by them in raiment shining with wondrous brightness, who also said, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing into heaven?  This Jesus Who was taken up from you into heaven shall so come as ye saw Him going into heaven  By which words all the sons of the Church were taught to believe that Jesus Christ will come visibly in the same Flesh wherewith He ascended, and not to doubt that all things are subjected to Him on Whom the ministry of angels had waited from the first beginning of His Birth.  For, as an angel announced to the blessed Virgin that Christ should be conceived by the Holy Ghost, so the voice of heavenly beings sang of His being born of the Virgin also to the shepherds.  As messengers from above were the first to attest His having risen from the dead, so the service of angels was employed to foretell His coming in very Flesh to judge the world, that we might understand what great powers will come with Him as Judge, when such great ones ministered to Him even in being judged.

V.  We must despise earthly things and rise to things above, especially by active works of mercy and love.

And so, dearly-beloved, let us rejoice with spiritual joy, and let us with gladness pay God worthy thanks and raise our hearts’ eyes unimpeded to those heights where Christ is.  Minds that have heard the call to be uplifted must not be pressed down by earthly affections  they that are fore-ordained to things eternal must not be taken up with the things that perish; they that have entered on the way of Truth must not be entangled in treacherous snares, and the faithful must so take their course through these temporal things as to remember that they are sojourning in the vale of this world, in which, even though they meet with some attractions, they must not sinfully embrace them, but bravely pass through them.  For to this devotion the blessed Apostle Peter arouses us, and entreating us with that loving eagerness which he conceived for feeding Christ’s sheep by the threefold profession of love for the Lord, says, “dearly-beloved, I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul. But for whom do fleshly pleasures wage war, if not for the devil, whose delight it is to fetter souls that strive after things above, with the enticements of corruptible good things, and to draw them away from those abodes from which he himself has been banished?  Against his plots every believer must keep careful watch that he may crush his foe on the side whence the attack is made.  And there is no more powerful weapon, dearly-beloved, against the devil’s wiles than kindly mercy and bounteous charity, by which every sin is either escaped or vanquished.  But this lofty power is not attained until that which is opposed to it be overthrown.  And what so hostile to mercy and works of charity as avarice from the root of which spring all evils. And unless it be destroyed by lack of nourishment, there must needs grow in the ground of that heart in which this evil weed has taken root, the thorns and briars of vices rather than any seed of true goodness.  Let us then, dearly-beloved, resist this pestilential evil and “follow after charity without which no virtue can flourish, that by this path of love whereby Christ came down to us, we too may mount up to Him, to Whom with God the Father and the Holy Spirit is honour and glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

  

SAINT CONSTANTINE AND EMPRESS HELENA

0521constantine-helen05

Constantine’s parents were Emperor Constantius Chlorus and the Empress Helena. Chlorus had other children by another wife, but from Helena he had only Constantine. After his coronation Constantine fought three great battles: one, against Maxentius, a Roman tyrant; the second, against the Scythians on the Danube and the third, against the Byzantines. Before the battle with Maxentius, while Constantine was greatly concerned and in doubt about his success, a brilliant Cross appeared to him in the sky during the day, completely adorned with stars and written on the Cross were these words: By this Sign Conquer.”

t_hxhxzh6565

Astonished, the emperor ordered a large cross to be forged similar to the one that appeared to him and that it be carried before the army. By the power of the Cross he achieved a glorious victory over the enemy who was superior in members. Maxentius was drowned in the Tiber river. Immediately after that, Constantine issued the famous Edict of Milan in the year 313 A.D. to halt the persecution of Christians. Defeating the Byzantines, Constantine built a beautiful capital on the Bosphorus which from that time on was called Constantinople. Before that, however, Constantine succumbed to the dreaded disease of leprosy. As a cure, the pagan priests and physicians counseled him to bathe in the blood of slaughtered children. However, he rejected that. Then the Apostles Peter and Paul appeared to him and told him to seek out Bishop Sylvester who will cure him of this dreaded disease. The bishop instructed him in the Christian Faith, baptized him and the disease of leprosy vanished from the emperor’s body. When a discord began in the Church because of the mutinous heretic Arius, the emperor convened the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea, 325. A.D.,

 primul-sinod

where the heresy was condemned and Orthodoxy confirmed. St. Helena, the pious mother of the emperor, was very zealous for the Faith of Christ. She visited Jerusalem, discovered the Honorable Cross of the Lord, built the Church of the Resurrection on Golgotha and many other churches throughout the Holy Land. This holy woman presented herself to the Lord in her eightieth year in 327 A.D. Emperor Constantine outlived his mother by ten years. He died in Nicomedia in his sixty-fifth year in 337 A.D. His body was interred in the Church of the Twelve Apostles in Constantinople.

myrrhbearers8_0

 

Troparion of the Myrrbearing Women

  
The angel came to the Myrrhbearing Women
at the tomb and said,
Myrh is fitting for the dead,
but Christ has shown Himself a
stranger to corruption,
so proclaim,
the Lord is risen,
granting the world great mercy!

The Myrrhbearing Women

 
Fr. Thomas Hopko examines who the Myrrhbearing Women were
and clears up some misconceptions about Mary Magdalene in the process.

Audio link: the-myrrhbearing-women
Mother Gabriella - Acquiring the Virtues

 
Part 2 of a Lenten lecture by Mother Gabriella (Holy Dormition
Monastery,Rives Junction, MI) at a Women's Retreat.
Audio link: mother-gabriella-acquiring-the-virtues

 

 

 

 

Archives

Categories

Blog Stats

  • 527,948 hits
May 2009
S M T W T F S
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31  

Pages