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September 10, 2021

Homilies on the Ecumenical Synods - The First Ecumenical Synod (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

 Homilies on the Ecumenical Synods

The First Ecumenical Synod (325 A.D.)

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

In this years short sermons for the Sundays of Summer, beloved brethren, I will refer to the Ecumenical Synods of our Church, and especially to the dogmatic issues which our Holy Fathers who comprised of them dealt with these. Orthodox Christians must know our Orthodox faith.

Of course, these issues are big and serious and they cannot be adequately analyzed in short eucharistic sermons, but we will highlight some of the key points of some of the decisions of the Ecumenical Synods that Orthodox Christians must know. This is, in other words, a small study, and those who are interested will be able to interest themselves in gaining more information.

The First Ecumenical Synod was convened in Nicaea of Bithynia, in the year 325 AD, by Constantine the Great. The presidents of the Synod were Eustathios of Antioch and Alexander of Alexandria, and perhaps Saint Kordouis.

The dogmatic issue this Synod dealt with was the heresy of Arius. Arius was a Presbyter of the Church of Alexandria and had previously been condemned by a Synod of the Church of Alexandria for his heresies regarding the divinity of Christ. Because, however, his heretical views spread to other ecclesiastical areas of the Roman Empire and created problems, that is why the Emperor Constantine the Great convened the First Ecumenical Synod, to solve this issue.

The basic proposal of Arius was that there was a time when the Son of God did not exist. He said: "ἦν ποτέ ὅτε οὐκ ἦν" ("there was a time when he was not"). The consequence of this view was that the Son and Word of God was created by the Father in time, that is, there was a time when there was no Son of God, thus inserting time between the Father and the Son; that the Son did not have the same essence as the Father, which means He is liable to change; and that He is ignorant of the Father. As a consequence of this the Holy Spirit is a creation that was created by the Father through the Son.

Arius began with philosophical views, especially beginning with Aristotle, who said that everything that comes from essence is essential. Therefore if the Son was born from the essence of the Father then He would by necessity be the Son of God, which is why he would say He was born from the will of God. This means that the Word was not God, but a creature, and in fact the first creature of creation. Another basic position of Arius is that the Son functions as a lower deity, who creates people, but His essence is foreign to the higher essence of the Father.

These heretical views caused great confusion in the whole Church, because the faithful knew from the Old Testament Prophets, who saw the pre-incarnate Word, and the Apostles of the New Testament, the divinity of Christ, the Light of God, like the Disciples on Mount Tabor, but also in other events, especially on Pentecost - that Christ is the true God, was born of the Father before all ages, is the Light which comes from Light, and has the same essence as the Father and He knows the Father, and has revealed Him unto men.

Thus, the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Synod confessed this faith of the Prophets and the Apostles, but also from their own experience, and wrote the first articles of the Symbol of Faith, which we confess and recite to this day.

Specifically, it is written in the Creed that we believe in one God, the Father who is the creator of all things visible and invisible, so as to exclude the view that the creator of the world is a lesser God, as the Gnostic philosophers believed. Then, the deity of Christ is confessed, who was born before all ages by the Father and there is no time between the Father and the Son, that Christ is the Light just as the Father is; the Son is of the same essence as the Father; and that the Son of God was incarnate for our salvation. Also, in this first Symbol of Faith it is written that we also believe in the Holy Spirit, and in the end those who teach the opposite of these things are anathema.

Of course, this Symbol was completed by the Second Ecumenical Synod, as we will see next Sunday, but the important thing is that we Orthodox Christians absolutely believe in the divinity of Christ, which is something that was verified by those who saw His glory, His divinity as Light. These are the Prophets, the Apostles and the Fathers through the ages.

Arius and all the other heretics talk about issues like this by implementing philosophy, the imagination and thinking, while the God-seeing Prophets, Apostles and Fathers recorded the experiences they had, and they confessed that Christ is Light, who was born before all ages by the Light and He is true God. Him do we worship, Him do we love and obey His commandments, in order to reach the Light.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.