June 14, 2021

On the Sunday of the 318 Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Synod (St. Neophytos the Recluse)

 Catechesis 15

On the Holy Fathers of the Synod of Nicaea and
On the Orthodox Faith Which They Dogmatized and
That Right Faith is Needed as Well as Right Life

By St. Neophytos the Recluse

Today is a feast between two bright and saving feasts [the Ascension and Pentecost]. Today, between two great festivals that reach to heaven, the multi-luminous stars make their appearance. Today, between the two chariots whose path leads to heaven, three hundred and eighteen charioteers have appeared, not of course to direct these two steered chariots, but to direct those who do not believe and have mounted the chariots, to lead them towards faith, since the one chariot lifted from earth towards the heavenly arches with the flesh-bearing God the Word from the earth to the bosom of the Father, while the other chariot is the "the other Comforter" (Jn. 14:16) instead of Christ who ascended, which He sent down from heaven "like the blowing of a violent wind" (Acts 2:2), that the words of Christ may be fulfilled when He said "It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (Jn. 16:7-8).

That which therefore took place by the decision of the Father, that is, Christ with His flesh in an indescribable way ascended in a chariot of clouds, while the Holy Spirit descended in an incomprehensible way with a sound "like the blowing of a violent wind" distributing tongues of fire to the initiates of Grace, these things had to be interpreted so that "every man coming into the world" (Jn. 1:9) would have the right faith. But Satan envied this good thing and darkened it very much by sowing seeds for various heresies and by this took many captive, and instead of all of them "becoming and being and calling themselves Christians", they decided to be called heretics, namely the Arians, the Nestorians, the Macedonians, the Jacobites, both these and others whose fetid names and defiled doctrines are not to be spoken of or written about at this moment. Because then there was a lot of smoke, controversy, quarrels and scandals between the believers and the unbelievers. That is why, between the Ascension of Christ and the descent of the Comforter, these glorious Fathers, gathered by God and by order of the emperor, convened at the metropolis of Nicaea, like bright stars and active farmers and virtuous rulers and good shepherds, and of course, these stars reduced the darkness of disobedience, but as farmers they also uprooted the thorns of blasphemy and faced the waves of heresies as rulers and as shepherds removed and cast out and drove away the wolves from the sheep, and justly throwing them down, trampled on their verbose doctrines.

They did not allow the Son and the Spirit to be called creatures, as those had defined with their evil minds, but good and holy, with the Symbol of Faith, with a loud voice and unanimously proclaimed the Son and the Spirit the Creator and Sustainer of the world and of one essence with the Father. This we believed and do believe, according to their divinely inspired tradition. And of course our faith is good and right and blameless and apart from it there is no other. But the right faith also needs works worthy of faith, so that just like two fine oxen that God has hitched, the works agree with the faith, and from them the cultivation becomes life-bearing. But when we do have the right faith and our life is unclean, then we are like a very foolish man who hitched a pig with an ox and tries to sow and cultivate and feed off them and live and escape death. People who fear God and live on earth, as well as the Angels, seeing such a person will laugh and say: "Come and see a man who is out of his mind and insane, how he hitched the ox and the pig and thinks that he will sow and he will cultivate with them and he will live." And if they say to him: "Why do you labor in vain, man? Do you not understand what accusation and laughter you bring against yourself? You should know that the ox does not agree to farm with the pig. Because the only task of the ox is to drag the plow and open a furrow and to sow and cultivate, and the art of the pig is to dig with its nose and roll in the mud and when the time comes to be slaughtered with a knife." And he, instead of accepting what he was told and unhitching the pair, jokes and with complete satisfaction says: "Yes, yes, you do not know what pleasure and satisfaction this pair gives me." Thus are likened those who with the right faith are hitched to the filthy life of a pig and are enslaved to sin. Pleasure and satisfaction are accounted for as sin, which cause bitter hell, and those who advise them to repent are often hated or ridiculed for their words and are mocked, or do not pay any attention to the power of what is said.

But God says through the mouth of Isaiah: “Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed," but they want, he says, to remain in sin "until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant, the houses are without a man, the land is utterly desolate" (Is. 6:10-11). This is exactly what we see with our island, Cyprus, and many houses and almost all the towns were left desolate of people and uninhabited. There are, he says, "Great and beautiful houses, without inhabitant. For ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, and a homer of seed shall yield one ephah" (Is. 5:9-10). And we suffered this for many years, but we did not recognize what fruits our hands bore, nor did we understand in our hearts where this misfortune came from and how it happened to us, nor did we hear the One who called us and said "return to Me and I will return to you" (Is. 22:17; Mal. 3:7), but each one has set his own will as his own law and sins as he pleases, and does not remember neither death, nor God, nor judgment.

And we write these not saying them by random, but with a heart full of sorrow, which desires the salvation of everyone and their repentance, so that He does not grieve, but rather that God rejoices in our works and makes us sharers by His grace of His eternal joy and kingdom, for to Him belongs all glory, honor, and worship, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit continually, now and always, and in the endless ages. 

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.