Orthodox Christian Church of the Holy Spirit
Orthodox Church in America - Archdiocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania
145 N. Kern St Beavertown PA, 17813
Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the 1st Ecumenical Council

Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory forever!

In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

St. Vincent of Lerins wrote these most notable words a little over a hundred years (434 A.D.) after the First Ecumenical Council, the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.), from which the Nicene Creed, confessed in every Orthodox Church at every Divine Liturgy, was formulated.  St. Vincent’s Commonitory, as it’s been called, has provided stable and trustworthy guidance to the Church over the years as she has been faced with discerning the true Faith from imposters, and still continues to provide sage guidance, even today.  Here is what he writes.  He says:

If someone wants to be protected from tricks and remain healthy in the Faith, he must confine his faith to the authority of the Holy Scriptures, and secondly, to the Tradition of the Church.  But someone may ask, is not the canon of Scripture sufficient for everything, and why should we add thereto the authority of Tradition?  This is because not everyone understands the Scriptures in the same way, but one explains them this way and another that way, so that it is possible to get therefrom as many thoughts as there are heads.  Therefore, it is necessary to be guided by the understanding of the Church . . . What is Tradition?  It is that which has been understood by everyone [consensus], everywhere [universality], and at all times [antiquity] . . . that which you have received, and not that which you have thought up . . . So then, our job is not to lead religion where we wish it to go, but to follow it where it leads, and not to give that which is our own to our heirs, but to guard that which has been given to us.

 

St. Vincent’s maxim is the classic “rule of Faith” (regula fide) and the yardstick by which all interpretation of Sacred Scripture is measured.  It is as though he foresaw the rise of Protestantism a little over a thousand years later and its vigorous assault on the received historical Tradition of the Church by asserting sola Scriptura, that is to say, Scripture alone, to the exclusion of all else.  In the light of today’s commemoration of these holy Fathers and shepherds of the Church to always check our thinking and the thinking of others by asking, “What, if anything, has the Church said about this?”  If we fancy ourselves thinking something new and different, then we really haven’t spent much time immersed in the Fathers of the Church and what they had to contend with in their lifetimes.

On this Sunday of the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, it happens to be Father’s Day on our civil calendar, and we happen to hear the Sacred Scriptures speak to us about the Fathers of the Church ordained as shepherds to lead and guide and protect the flocks entrusted to them (Ac. 20:16-18, 28-36).  Sacred Scripture exhorts us to take heed to the words and the lives of our Fathers in the Faith, be they among the living or among the faithful departed, “whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct” (Hb. 13:7).  Hence, my reason that we should read and savor the lives of our saints and make such reading part and parcel of our prayer life.  They have wisdom gleaned from their own lives of prayer forged in the fires of daily living, and many in the fires of sore persecution itself.  These same Sacred Scriptures, which, by the way, compose Sacred Tradition, counsel us to “obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account.  Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (1 Th. 5:12-13; 1 Tm. 5:17-18; Hb. 13:17). 

These Fathers in the Faith, these shepherds of souls, these evangelists of divine revelation, in turn, as good shepherds, feed their flocks entrusted to them with the words of our Lord and His Father – for these words are Spirit and they are Life (Jn. 6:63).  They submit themselves to the Great Shepherd of the sheep and Bishop of all souls (Hb. 13:20; 1 Pe. 2:25) so that they become one with the Good Shepherd Himself, Jesus Christ the Son of God, Who “’gives His life for the sheep’” (Jn. 10:1-18).  And, because they are not hirelings but true shepherds of the sheep, they, too, give of themselves to the Church and to the God Who dwells in the midst of the Church.  “’As the Father knows Me,’” our Lord says elsewhere in St. John’s Gospel, “’even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep’” (Jn. 10:15).  This knowledge of the Father espoused by our Lord is the fruit of intimacy, born of the filial relationship enjoyed by our Lord with His Father.  Theirs is a unity, a oneness, a true union and communion of mutual love that They have shared in from all eternity, from before the creation of all that exists.  This knowledge of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, is the Eternal Life promised by our Lord to all who come to faith in the Son of God Who reveals the Father and is the gateway to the Father, “’No one comes to the Father except through Me.  If you had known Me,’” Jesus declares, “’you would have known My Father’” (Jn. 1:1-18; 14:1-14).  To know the Son of the Father is to know the Father Himself.

Interestingly, in the early days of my ministry as a Lutheran pastor, there was a concerted effort afoot to re-imagine God the Father, to re-image Him.  It was necessary, so we were told, because the image of father was now passé, patriarchal, a vestige of a time when women were oppressed by men.  Such terminology, along with its subsequent images, it was asserted, was a stumbling block and an obstacle for those so traumatized by abusive men and father-figures, that the word “father,” especially for God, had to be replaced with a new image.  Of course, the proposal was to replace with “mother” or anything else but the dreaded image of “father,” supposedly a dead and traumatizing concept for many. 

What this proposal lacked, of course, was a foothold anywhere in the Church of every time and every place.  When held up to St. Vincent of Lerins’ canon, it failed miserably.  What was equally lacking, if not moreso, was the proper and true knowledge of God the Father as He has been revealed.  Whatever the image was of God the Father in the minds of those espousing this propaganda, it was not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It was rather a human construct in dire need of a good dose of divine revelation to correct its severe perversion.  When an iconographer is seeking to restore a badly corrupted icon, he or she doesn’t destroy that icon but returns to the archetype for that icon.  It is true that there are abusive fathers and men in this world.  But that is not a good enough reason to totally ditch the idea or image of father.  Instead, we need to return to the One Who is the true God and Father, Whose very Son has made Him known. 

“'And this is Life Eternal: that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent. . . . that they might have My joy fulfilled in themselves.’”

We are invited this morning by the Son of the Father and His Church to come and know the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ by coming to know Jesus the Son of God and Saviour of the world more fully and deeply, to taste and see that the Lord indeed is good (Ps. 33 [34]:8).  For this Jesus – and none else – is “the brightness of [the Father’s] glory and the express image of His Person, . . . .” (Jn. 1:14;, 18;  2 Cr. 4:4; Co. 1:15; Hb. 1:1-3).  In this Jesus we “put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him Who created him, . . . .” (Ep. 4:24; Co. 3:10; 2 Pe. 1:4).                

Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us.  Amen.

Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory forever!

 

VIGIL PROPERS:                               PROPERS:

 

Gn. 14:14-20                                                   Ac. 20:16-18, 28-36

Dt. 1:8-17                                                       Jn. 17:1-13   

Dt. 10:14-21

 

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