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October 16, 2022

Sunday of the Commemoration of the Seventh Ecumenical Synod (Fr. George Metallinos)

 By Protopresbyter Fr. George Metallinos

(Homily Delivered in c. 1980)

1. Today our Church celebrates the memory of the Holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Synod (787). As in the past, a heresy also caused this synod, the Iconoclast heresy. Apart from its undeniable Christological content, Iconoclasm had a clear ecclesiastical character. It was an overt attack by the State, which was no longer acting as "God's minister for good" (Rom. 13:3), against the Church. The two ministries of the citizens, the "Priesthood" and the "Kingdom", the priestly and the state ministry, stood opposite each other. The State sought to subjugate the Church, in an unprecedented explosion of politicism. Heresy was the spiritual background of the problem.

Heresy, therefore, mainly Iconoclasm, like so many others, shocked our Church in its eternal course. But how did this happen? In other words, how did heresy threaten the Church and how was this danger neutralized? This is what we will attempt to develop next.

2. Everything that is necessary for our salvation was revealed to us by God "in many and various ways", throughout the development of the plan of the Divine Economy, from the times of the Old Testament, but mainly in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our God-man Lord became "an example, that we may follow in his steps" (1 Pet. 2:21). He revealed to us what He was (the way, the truth and the life) and He lived what He taught. That is, He did not only explain to us what is true, but He revealed to us the Truth itself, that is, His Person which is the only and therefore eternal truth. It freed man from the agonizing effort to find the truth. Seeing Christ and His work, he has the Truth in front of him and all he has to do is follow Christ, so that he too can be "in the truth" (2 John 3). Whoever lives in the Church of Christ is not afraid of going astray, because the Church as the body of Christ is "the pillar and foundation of the Truth" (1 Tim. 3:15).

But Christ is not only the preacher and revealer, but also the proclaimed Truth. In His person the preaching of the Truth is concretized. This is why His Apostles proclaimed Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 1:23 et seq.). They did not develop a philosophical, vague, nebulous sermon. What was Paul saying to the Corinthians? "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2). Christ was received by the Church, it was founded by Christ and it proclaimed Him. The apostles and the first Christians continued the work of Christ in the world. However, in order for their work to be the work of Christ, they too had to preach what Christ preached, and live as Christ lived. If this continuity and consistency were missing, Christians would not be members of the body of Christ, the Church, but a foreign body.

3. The work of Christ was fought by Satan from the beginning. This is because he saw his kingdom crumbled. Christ came to "undo the works of the devil." To crush his authority and dynasty and grant the freedom of His own kingdom. That is why Satan, who considers himself the ruler and mighty one of the world (cf. Matt. 4:9), declared open war against the kingdom of Christ. As his instruments - his soldiers - he used the rulers of Israel and the Romans, the political power of the world. His goal from the beginning was the very Person of our Christ. But when he saw that his attack was neutralized by the resurrection victory of the Lord and that the victim slipped through his hands, he turned against the body of Christ, the Church. If he could not crush Christ Himself, he would try to crush the continuation of Christ, the Church. Persecutions were his weapons again. He raised persecutions on behalf of the Jews and then on behalf of the Romans. The Church, as a continuation of the work of Christ, opposes both Jewish superstition and Jewish nationalism, and idolatry and pseudo-philosophy (e.g. Gnosticism). This is because she preached saving truth, true monotheism and true wisdom.

Despite all the war against it, the Church managed with the apostolic synod (49 AD) not to be enslaved to Jewish nationalism, because its mission is not to serve nationalistic, that is, ethno-tribal, plans. With the unity of her faith she was again able to keep pseudo-philosophy out of her bosom. Thus, despite all the persecutions, the Church, instead of diminishing, increased and continued the unity of faith and life of the Holy Apostles. It even forced the Jews to stop the open war against the Church, as the body of Christ, and the pagans to accept it and ask for its alliance, the philosophers to become Christians and the state to recognize it. The blood of her martyrs recorded her triumph.

4. But Satan regroups. What he did not achieve by persecutions, from without, he will now seek to achieve from within, with his new formidable weapon, heresy. First he believed that he would win if he destroyed Christ and His disciples. Now, after his failure, he attacks the truth of Christ. And here's how. Christ gave us a faith, a teaching and a new way of life, which save. Satan tries to destroy this unity, to distort the divine Revelation. This is the purpose of heresy. It is not another religion, which is easily perceived. It is a destruction of faith, insidious and deceptive. It appears as the truth and as the correction of error. Heresy therefore does not offend the body, but the soul and therefore threatens the heart of the Church. If it prevailed, it would bring about an alteration of the essence of Christianity, because a diversity in faith, as unfounded Ecumenism unfortunately seeks it today, would mean the destruction of faith, which is then only ecclesiastical faith, when it is accompanied by unity.

But the most important thing. A Church, in which heresy and error are imposed, is alien to that which Christ "acquired with his blood" (Acts 20:28). It is nothing but "the world", far from Christ and His grace.

The Holy Fathers saved the Church from this mortal danger of heresy, with the grace and illumination of our Christ. As genuine children of the Church, they became spiritual fathers and guides of her children. Meeting in synods, they separated with the sword of the Spirit the counterfeit from the genuine, the truth from error, death from salvation. With the synodal definitions and their holy canons, they handed us the concrete truth of Christ, Orthodoxy. Thus they set the spiritual boundaries, which clearly and effectively separate divine revelation from heresy. And because in every age God does not stop raising up Holy Fathers, that is why, as members of the Church, we always stay with the certainty that by following the path of our Holy Fathers, we stay in the truth of our Christ and become partakers of His salvation.

My brethren! Three times in the ecclesiastical year, our Church honors the Holy Fathers (of the First, Fourth and Seventh Ecumenical Synods). Three times in a year we live a "Sunday of the Holy Fathers". It is not coincidental of course, because nothing is accidental and coincidental in the life of the Church. With the triple celebration, the Church emphasizes the great contribution of the Holy Fathers to the consolidation of our faith in the insurmountable mystery of the Holy Trinity. Projecting the first, fourth and seventh ecumenical synods, the beginning, the middle and the end of the so far (recognized) Ecumenical Synods, she embraces all those Saints, who offered their lives and existence, so that we can live in the freedom of God's children. Therefore, if we honor - and justly - those who give us our national freedom, how grateful we must be to those who saved us from the worst slavery that exists, heresy. But there is no greater sign of gratitude than to imitate their struggle and become, with the grace of Christ, fathers of the Church, like them. But this presupposes that we are her faithful children first.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.