Commemoration of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council



The Commemoration of the First Ecumenical Council has been celebrated by the Church of Christ from ancient times. The Lord Jesus Christ left the Church a great promise, “I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt. 16:18). Although the Church of Christ on earth will pass through difficult struggles with the Enemy of salvation, it will emerge victorious. The holy martyrs bore witness to the truth of the Savior’s words, enduring suffering and death for confessing Christ, but the persecutor’s sword is shattered by the Cross of Christ.

Persecution of Christians ceased during the fourth century, but heresies arose within the Church itself. One of the most pernicious of these heresies was Arianism. Arius, a priest of Alexandria, was a man of immense pride and ambition. In denying the divine nature of Jesus Christ and His equality with God the Father, Arius falsely taught that the Savior is not consubstantial with the Father, but is only a created being.

A local Council, convened with Patriarch Alexander of Alexandria presiding, condemned the false teachings of Arius. However, Arius would not submit to the authority of the Church. He wrote to many bishops, denouncing the decrees of the local Council. He spread his false teaching throughout the East, receiving support from certain Eastern bishops.

Investigating these dissentions, the holy emperor Constantine (May 21) consulted Bishop Hosius of Cordova (Aug. 27), who assured him that the heresy of Arius was directed against the most fundamental dogma of Christ’s Church, and so he decided to convene an Ecumenical Council. In the year 325, 318 bishops representing Christian Churches from various lands gathered together at Nicea.

Among the assembled bishops were many confessors who had suffered during the persecutions, and who bore the marks of torture upon their bodies. Also participating in the Council were several great luminaries of the Church: Saint Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia (December 6 and May 9), Saint Spyridon, Bishop of Tremithos (December 12), and others venerated by the Church as holy Fathers.

With Patriarch Alexander of Alexandria came his deacon, Athanasius [who later became Patriarch of Alexandria (May 2 and January 18)]. He is called “the Great,” for he was a zealous champion for the purity of Orthodoxy. In the Sixth Ode of the Canon for today’s Feast, he is referred to as “the thirteenth Apostle.”

The emperor Constantine presided over the sessions of the Council. In his speech, responding to the welcome by Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, he said, “God has helped me cast down the impious might of the persecutors, but more distressful for me than any blood spilled in battle is for a soldier, is the internal strife in the Church of God, for it is more ruinous.”

Arius, with seventeen bishops among his supporters, remained arrogant, but his teaching was repudiated and he was excommunicated from the Church. In his speech, the holy deacon Athanasius conclusively refuted the blasphemous opinions of Arius. The heresiarch Arius is depicted in iconography sitting on Satan’s knees, or in the mouth of the Beast of the Deep (Rev. 13).

The Fathers of the Council declined to accept a Symbol of Faith (Creed) proposed by the Arians. Instead, they affirmed the Orthodox Symbol of Faith. Saint Constantine asked the Council to insert into the text of the Symbol of Faith the word “consubstantial,” which he had heard in the speeches of the bishops. The Fathers of the Council unanimously accepted this suggestion.

In the Nicean Creed, the holy Fathers set forth and confirmed the Apostolic teachings about Christ’s divine nature. The heresy of Arius was exposed and repudiated as an error of haughty reason. After resolving this chief dogmatic question, the Council also issued Twelve Canons on questions of churchly administration and discipline. Also decided was the date for the celebration of Holy Pascha. By decision of the Council, Holy Pascha should not be celebrated by Christians on the same day with the Jewish Passover, but on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the vernal equinox (which occured on March 22 in 325).

The First Ecumenical Council is also commemorated on May 29.


In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

On this Sunday, that before the Feast of the Ascension of Christ, the Church recalls to our attention the Gospel of the man born blind. There are two points here that I would particularly like to remark on.

Firstly, the words of Christ about why the man was born blind. Replying to His disciples, He says that his blindness was not because the man sinned, or his parents, but so that the works of God be made manifest in him. In other words, according to our Lord Himself, illness or handicap do not always occur on account of personal sin or the sin of others, but they may be providentially allowed for the glory of God to shine forth.

We can see this in the lives of some disadvantaged people. They find their disadvantage to be a challenge, a challenge that may bring out the best in them. We can think for example of certain Downs Syndrome children who are unbelievably kind and loving, far more so than if they had been born 'normal'. We can also think of some blind people who, having lost one sense, have refined another sense almost to perfection, and show an understanding of the inner self that the sighted do not have. We can all think of examples of incredible courage and love among disadvantaged people. Why? Because the grace of God is upon them: 'the works of God are made manifest in them'.

On the other hand, we can also think of people with great 'advantages'. For instance, there are extremely beautiful women or very wealthy men who are quite unable to find wedded happiness. They are rather surrounded by those who have no interest in them as people, but only wish to take base advantage of their skin-deep looks or their bank accounts. We can also think of particularly intelligent and educated people, whose intelligence has 'gone to their heads', and they have become extraordinarily pretentious and silly, laughing-stocks before the face of the world. Thus their advantages become their greatest handicaps, hindrances to any sort of happiness.

In the case of the man born blind, all his life had been but a preparation for his meeting with Christ. Not only was his soul pure enough, refined by his lifelong handicap, to receive healing from the Lord, but also he confessed Him as the Son of God, thus making the works of God manifest in himself.

Firstly, the Pharisees, who were truly blind because they forbade healing and good works on the Sabbath, questioned him and intimidated him and his parents and then cast him out. And he witnessed to them that, 'I know not whether Jesus be a sinner or not; one thing I know; I was blind, now I see'.

Secondly, he added: 'If He were not of God, he could do nothing'.

And finally he confessed that he believed that Christ is the Son of God - one of the first in the Gospels to do so.

The judgement of the man born blind was then sound. He can teach us how to judge, or rather discern, others - by their fruits. If we, or others, are of God, then we shall last and bear good fruit, for if any is not of God, he can do nothing. And if any is of God, then he will finish by bearing witness to the Divinity of Christ.

The second thing that we should notice in today's Gospel is the way in which Christ healed. He spat on the earth and 'made clay of the spittle'. We note this for every sacrament of the Church heals in the selfsame manner:

Clay cannot heal the blind and yet with the breath of God, it becomes the container for the healing grace of God.

Water cannot heal and yet the water of baptism heals because the blessed water bears the Holy Spirit.

Oil cannot heal and yet the oil of chrismation and unction heal because they are filled with the grace of God.

A piece of cloth cannot heal and yet a priest's stole can heal through the grace of Christ at the sincere confession of sins and the repentant intention not to sin again.

Bread and wine cannot heal and yet bread and wine transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ heal through the Holy Spirit.

Wood and paint cannot heal and yet icons can heal by the Holy Spirit Who penetrates into their material essence and radiates grace from them.

Smoke cannot heal and yet incense burnt brings healing through the blessing of Christ.

Christ teaches us then that all things can be used for our healing and benefit and salvation, but that they must first be touched by His grace.

In this way our bodies, mere flesh and bones and blood, can become containers of Christ. Our souls activated, we can become lamps of the Holy Spirit; the eyes of our souls, the doors of perception, become seeing, and we see the whole of God's Creation as it really is. We see that every blade of grass and every hill, every tree and every cloud, every drop of rain and every ocean, all creatures and all people, are miracles of God's handiwork, signs of His sacramental presence among us, and we see that we live not in the banal, everyday world, but in potential Paradise, the world as it really is, as God made it first, for we see God the Creator behind all things and all people.

And then we too, together with the man born blind, can say:

'I was blind, now I see'.


Житіє святої мучениці Гликерії

Тропар, гл. 4: Агниця Твоя, Ісусе, Глікерія,* кличе великим голосом:* Тебе, жениху мій, люблю і, Тебе шукаючи, страдаю,* і разом з Тобою розпинаюся, і погребуюся хрещенням Твоїм,* і терплю ради Тебе, щоб і царствувати в Тобі,* і вмираю за Тебе, щоб і жити з Тобою,* та як жертву непорочну прийми мене, що з любов’ю пожертвувалася Тобі.* її молитвами як милостивий спаси душі наші.

Кондак, глас 3: Діву Богородицю Марію люблячи, зберегла нетлінним дівство твоє. З любов’ю ж до Господа ревно діючи, постраждала єси мужньо аж до смерті. Тому й подвійним вінцем тебе, діво мученице, вінчає Христос Бог.

Свята Гликерія була родом з Траянополя в Тракії. Після смерти батька, що звався Маврикій і був високим достойником, вона залишилася сиротою. Прийнявши Христову віру і посвятивши своє дівицтво Спасителеві, вона безнастанно перебувала в церкві і молилася до Пречистої, щоб тут, на землі, стала гідною дати свідчення святої віри, яку так жорстоко переслідували погани. Коли ж мучитель Савин став переслідувати християн, свята Гликерія, скріплена Божою благодаттю, пішла в часі приношення поганських жертв до божниці, стала на підвищенні і, піднісши руки та очі до неба, стала вголос молитися і прославляти Христа Спасителя. А коли на своєму чолі намалювала святий хрест, затряслася земля й ідоли, упавши на землю, потовклися.

Розлючені погани стали кидати в неї камінням, але не могли їй завдати шкоди, бо сила Божа боронила святу мученицю. Тоді мучитель Савин наказав прив’язати її за волосся до дерева і шматувати тіло гострими гаками, та свята дівиця в муках прославляла Господа і величала Його Ім’я. Потім її кинули у в’язницю і морили голодом. Вночі до неї пробрався священик Филократ і благословив її на подальшу муку. А потім явився Божий ангел і чудесним способом нагодував святу діву, й возрадувалося її серце і тим сміливіше ще стала вона перед мучителем.

“Жертвуй богам! – сказав Савин, – бо інакше ждуть тебе тяжкі муки!”

“Як я можу жертвувати твоїм богам, якщо вони на сам вигляд святого хреста розсипалися в порох? А муки твої не страшні мені: мене злякали б вічні муки, яких не уникнути тим, що відступили від правдивої віри!”

Тоді він наказав бити Гликерію по обличчю, а вона все терпіла і згадувала ту хвилю, коли й Спасителя били по лицю та зневажали, і тішилася, що може за Христа страждати. Савин велів привести святу мученицю до Іраклії, куди й сам вирушив, і там наказав кинути в розтоплену залізну піч, та вогонь не нашкодив святій дівиці. Тоді їй здерли шкіру з голови і в кайданах кинули до в’язниці. Настала ніч. Заснула сторожа, а свята Гликерія, попри тяжкі рани, молилася Богу, прославляла Ім’я Його і просила допомоги в Пресвятої Богородиці. Раптом яскраве світло наповнило в’язницю – це ангел Божий вдруге явився і зцілив її рани, а душу наповнив незвичайною небесною втіхою як знак, що Господь не забуває про своїх слуг. Вранці, коли святу мали вести на суд, сторож Лаодикій, побачивши її цілком здорову і вільну від оков, припав до її ніг і став прославляти Христа, в якого повірив. Сам закував себе в її кайдани і добровільно став на суді, взиваючи вголос: “Великий Бог християн, і в Нього я вірую!” Мучитель Савин наказав його стяти мечем, а він радо прийняв мученицьку смерть і не зрікся Христа, за що дістав у небі вічну нагороду. Потім мучитель велів випустити на святу Гликерію диких левиць, а ті повкладалися біля її ніг. Тоді свята дівиця піднесла руки до неба, стала величати Христа Спасителя, і в тій молитві її чиста душа пішла до неба. Вона прийняла мученицьку смерть у 172 р., за правління імператора Марка Аврелія. Мощі її поховано в Іраклії, а пізніше перенесли в Лемнос; з її мощей витікало благовонне миро.


Настав час Великoгo пoсту впрoдoвж якoгo кoжна християнська душа пригoтoвляє себе дo  святкування Вoскресiння Гoспoда нашoгo Ісуса Христа.

Це час кoли ми знoву пригадуємo сoбi щo ми є дiтьми Бoжими, i як дiти Бoжi маємo oбoвязoк i пoтребу жити i дiяти згiднo Закoнiв нашoгo Небеснoгo Отця.

Це час для наших глибших рoздумiв над нашим життям. Щo булo зрoбленo. Щo булo не зрoбленo. І щo мoжна булo не рoбити абo рoбити на дoбрo.

Це час прoщати i бути прoщеними. Час для oчищення нашoï душi через щиру i дoбру спoвiдь.

Це час нашoгo милoсердя, дoбрoти, любoвi дo ближньoгo, жертoвнoстi i iнших дoбрих дiл якi ми oпустили в нашoму щoденнoму життi.

Це час кoли ми заради самих себе принoсимo в "жертву" не тiльки Ïду, але бiльш важливiше - наше Серце.

Нехай Всевишнiй, Люблячий i Милoстивий Отець благoслoвить кoжнoгo з нас на цю Дoрoгу Великoгo Пoсту i укрiпить нас в Вiрi, Любoвi i Надiï. Амiнь


                                                                  СВЯТОГО  MИКОЛАЯ                                                                   


We have a copy of the Miraculous Icon of the Holy Mother of God, which was written at our request, in memory of Kay and Bill Zambrick. This Icon is in the church now for you to see. It will soon be sent to the Monastery at Univ for blessing by the monks. Where the original of the miraculous Icon is venerated. After its blessing, it will be returned to our parish to serve our spiritual needs for healing.

На замoвлення в память Василя i Катерини Замбрик була написана
кoпiя Чудoтвoрнoï Унiвськoï Ікoни Бoжoï Матерi. Пiсля пoказу в нашiй
церквi ця Ікoна буде переслана дo Унiвськoгo Чoлoвiчoгo Мoнастиря
для благoслoвення i oсвячення цiєï Ікoни i пiсля oсвячення буде
пoвернена дo нашoï парафiï.

The Monastery of Univ was established in the 13th century. In 1549 this monastery was ransacked and burned by the Mongoles. But the Holy Mother of God chose this place for a reason. She appeared in a dream to a nobleman, Alexander Lahodovskyi who suffered extreme pain in his legs. She advised him to find a healing spring and to wash his legs in it. He came to the ruins of the monastery, where the spring was located, and there, under the ashes of the burned monastery, he found the icon of the Holy Mother of God untouched by the fire. There is a belief that the icon was crowned by Archimandrite Anastasiy Sheptysky between 1715 and 1746. In 1050, the monastery was closedd by the Soviet goverment, but the icon was hidden in the attic of the local parish church. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the monastery was reopened and became a holy site for pilgrims, who come here twice a year, on the third Sunday of May and again on the feast of the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God, to receive blessings and healing at her intersession. With the agreement of the monks of this monastery, our icon will participate in the pilgrimage from Lviv to Univ in August this year. It will be carried in procession through the villages and towns, a two or three day walk from Lviv to Univ. When the pilgrims and our icon reach the monastery, they will be received by the monks of the monastery, where Patriarch Sviatoslav in the presence of the monks and pilgrims, will bless it during the Divine Services. There is a possibility that our icon will be brought back to our parish by one of
the monks of the monastery.