Light from the East
2 Peter 1:19-2:3
And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns & the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any privateinterpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man,but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, & bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words.
Commemoration of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council
Troparion – Tone 8: You are most glorious, O Christ our God! You have established the Holy Fathers as lights on the earth! Through them you have guided us to the true faith! O greatly Compassionate One, glory to You!
This past Sunday the Orthodox Church commemorated the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council held at Nicea in 325 AD. Thanks to these 318 enlightened men, especially St. Athanasius the Great & St. Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria, who lived 1,687 years ago, the great majority of those who profess themselves as Christians today in 2012 AD are not followers of heresy. Arianism, an ancient heresy that arose through a presbyter (priest) from Alexandria named Arius, taught that Jesus Christ was a created being; therefore He was neither divine nor co-eternal & consubstantial with God the Father. This heresy thus denies the Holy Trinity & the Incarnation, ultimately stripping us of our salvation—our very communion with the Most Holy Trinity.
Sadly, Arianism was not the first heresy to be condemned by the Church, nor was it to be the last. The Church has always had to combat threats both external & internal. Also sadly, heresies mostly arise internally. Judaizing heretics—the Ebionites, Nazarites, & Ebionite-Gnostics, as well as Gnosticism—the sorcerer Simon Magus, Cerinthus the Alexandrian, the Nicolaitans & Docetism were common at the time of the apostles. After the apostles, their disciples continued to defend the Orthodox Faith against Gnosticism in the forms of Alexandrian & Syrian Gnosticism, Marcionism, Carpocrates, Manichaeism, Dynamist & Modalist Antitrinitarianism (Monarchianism) & Montanism well into the second & third centuries. After 325 AD other heresies continued to arise & six more Ecumenical Councils were held. Aetius, Anomoeans, Eudocians & Eunomius continued to develop the heresy of Arianism despite its condemnation. Apollinarianism, Macedonianism, Pelagianism, Antinomianism, Chiliasm, Sabellianism, semi-Arians, Nestorianism, Monophysitism, Monothelitism & Iconoclasm were also condemned from the fourth through the eighth centuries.
An interesting thing about heresies is that those promoting them almost always base their heretical beliefs on the Holy Scriptures, just as Arius did. Yes, Arius quoted Holy Scripture when substantiating his heresy at the First Ecumenical Council! It is commonly believed that anyone can read the Holy Scriptures for themselves with understanding to arrive at true beliefs & correct faith in Jesus Christ & the Holy Trinity. Just as this was not true with Arius, so it is not true today. Eastern Orthodox Christians are quickly condemned upon mention of the standard of interpretation of the Holy Scriptures as found in the Holy Tradition of the Church. Meanwhile their accusers ignore the fact that widely (& wildly) divergent interpretations have resulted in polar opposite religious beliefs & practices within their own religious traditions; all of which are considered valid because they are “based on the Bible”. “A” is just as true as “-A”! Also ignored is the fact that many of these opposing religious practices are nothing more than modern-day versions of ancient heresies condemned centuries or millennia ago by the Church, such as Chiliasm, Arianism, Sabellianism, Monarchianism & Iconoclasm. This is not surprising since certain traditions vary widely in the numbers of Ecumenical Councils that are accepted as valid, ranging from none to all seven with the first three or four being the most common.
The purpose of the Ecumenical Councils was not to impose on everyone everywhere a novel set of mandatory doctrines arbitrarily determined by & for the benefit of an imposing Church magesterium at the expense of the poor huddled masses. The purpose of the Ecumenical Councils was to define Truth. Truth relating to the Holy Trinity & the Incarnation; thus protecting & ensuring our salvation. The Church defined doctrine (determined correct versus incorrect belief) according to the teachings of Christ & the apostles as revealed in the Holy Scriptures with the understanding as revealed by the Holy Spirit throughout the entirety of the history of the Church—i.e. within the experience of Holy Tradition. The rising & teaching of these heresies threatened to destroy the Church & rob us of our communion with the Holy Trinity. The Truth of Orthodoxy provides a fence in which the children of God may freely worship & experience communion with the Holy Trinity. Beyond the fence of Truth lies un-Truth, a great danger for our faith & salvation.
May the light of the knowledge of the glory of God as shone to us by all of the Ecumenical Fathers always shine!
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.
2 Corinthians 4:6
For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Kontakion – Tone 8: The Apostles’ preaching & the Fathers’ doctrines have established one faith for the Church. Adorned with the robe of truth, woven from heavenly theology, it defines & glorifies the great mystery of Orthodoxy!