The Seventh Sunday of Pascha, a.k.a.
The Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Oecumenical Synod
(After Ascension Thursday and before Pentecost/Trinity Sunday)
On this Sunday, the Greek Orthodox Christian Church commemorates the 318 (TIH) Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Synod, convened by the Emperor Constantine the Great in Nicaea in 325 A.D. This Synod was convened to defend, articulate, and declare the True Teaching (Dogma) of the One Holy Apostolic Church—namely, The Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Pre-Eternal Logos (Word of God) Is truly, completely, and perfectly God, Uncreated, of One Essence (ουσία/Substance) with the Father.
This teaching was defended and proclaimed as Dogma against the false teaching of the charismatic Alexandrian Presbyter Arius who taught that the Logos was not perfectly or fully God because there was when He did not exist. However, only the Infinite, Eternal, Uncreated True God can save creation and grant immortality. Nothing created can grant eternity. It is not in its nature and beyond its power for anything created to grant eternity and infinity.
According to the immortal and ever-memorable Patristic Formula of Athanasios the Great, "That which God does not assume, He does not redeem." If something less than, or subordinate to God, assumed our human nature, then our humanity is not totally or completely saved. Only God is Perfect, and only God can perfectly and totally save us.
Saint John the Divine wrote that The Word assumed flesh and dwelt amongst us. If the Eternal Logos (Word of God) is not truly, completely, and perfectly God, then He cannot completely and perfectly save us. Thus, Jesus Christ--Whose Name "Jesus" literally means "God saves" and Whose title, “The Christ,” affirms He is the Anointed One, the Messiah, sent by God the Father to save--must be Truly God Who Truly became man to save man. As the Nicene Creed that came from this Council proclaims, Jesus Christ is True God of True God, of One Essence with the Father.
In today's appointed passage, on which we commemorate and proclaim the Teaching of the Holy Fathers of Nicaea and denounce the false teaching of Arius that subordinated the Son (the Word of God), Jesus Himself makes clear by His very own Words in His prayer to God the Father that He is indeed One with the Father: "...that they may be as One, as We are." (Jn. 17: 11)
Only God saves. Jesus is God Who saves. He is One with the Father, before time, before creation, as Pre-Eternal and Uncreated. He chose to enter time and space to sanctify time and space and guide creation to salvation, through Union with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Indeed, having assumed our human nature to share His Divinity with our Humanity in order to deliver, redeem, and save it, He Ascended in Glory and Sat at the Right Hand of the Father in the Mystical and Ineffable Communion of the Holy Spirit. We were reminded of this Teaching at the Great Dominical Feast of the Ascension which we just celebrated this last Thursday.
By His Ascension in Glory, Jesus thereby glorified our humanity and introduced it into the Divine Fellowship of the Holy Trinity. Through Him, all things are now possible for us. Through His suffering, He has granted purification; through His Death, He has granted Life; through His Burial, He has granted us the Resurrection. Through His Humiliation, He has granted us Exaltation. Through His Divine Condescension, He has granted us His Ascension. Through His Humility, He has granted us His Glory. He has completed, perfected, and accomplished all things for us, completing Sacred Scripture and Prophecy, and fulfilling the Divine Plan of the Father.
All these, He has granted and continues to give to us for us for our deliverance, redemption, and salvation, as our Deliverer, Redeemer, and Saviour. Moreover, they have been freely given out of His ecstatic, engaging, transforming, and embracing Love; and all we need do is freely, gratefully, and joyfully accept His Priceless, Eternal Gift--His All-Sufficient Grace.
The Gift of God the Father’s Son is Infinite and Eternal, for the Son is none other than the One True God, defended and trumpeted by the Holy Fathers of the Holy Synod of Nicaea, a veritable Who's Who (or Hall of Fame) of the Orthodox Christian Church. Saint Athanasios the Great, Saint Alexander of Alexandria, Saint Nicholas of Myra, Saint Spyridon the Wonderworker, and Saint Paphnoutios were just a few who composed this august body that we remember and honor today, the Day of the 318 Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council.
Fittingly placed between the Great Feast of our Lord's Ascension in Glory at the Right Hand of the Father and the Great Feast of Pentecost on Which He sent down His Holy Spirit upon His Apostles providentially assembled, the Orthodox Christian Church rightfully reminds us of Jesus' saving acts and fulfillment of God the Father's Plan with the Holy Spirit for the deliverance, redemption, and reconciliation of creation.
As the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Death, and Burial had to take place before the Triumphant Resurrection, so the Ascension in Glory and seating at the Right Hand of the Father in the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit had to take place before the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Thus, God sent His Son to assume our human nature and suffer in the flesh.
The Festal Scriptural references to crimson remind us of the Reality of the Incarnation and His redemptive shedding of Blood on the Cross, and the establishment of His Eucharist. His Bodily Resurrection which manifested His very real, undeniable, wounds demonstrated His Bodily suffering; and His Bodily Ascension in Glory proclaim that God the Father, through the Son, has opened the Gates of Paradise and made it possible for humanity (totally) to Resurrect with Christ bodily, Ascend in Christ bodily, and be mysteriously introduced bodily into the Divine, Ineffable Fellowship of the Holy Trinity.
After all, God did not just come to save us incompletely as just a mind or a spirit or a soul. He came to save us completely as He created us, for fellowship, to know perfectly and to experience perfectly the communion with Him for which we were created--an experience which even the bodiless Powers of Heaven cannot know; for we alone, were created in His Image and Likeness for Communion with the Holy Trinity to be One with Him.
This is the divine calling and glory of man. This is our ascension made possible by the One and Only “True God of True God” Who is One with the Father and the Holy Spirit and Who makes us one with one another through Him for eternity.
Parenthetically, and in closing, why the number 318? Well, ask, and you shall receive. Saint Athanasios the Great saw this as a mystically significant number revealed in, and fulfilled from, Genesis 14:14, wherein Abram took 318 servants ("trained men") with him to save his nephew Lot.
The number 300 was represented in Greek by the capital letter "T" the tau or Cross. This represented the symbol of our salvation to come in Jesus Christ. The number 10 is represented in Greek by the capital letter "I", and the number 8 is represented by the Greek capital letter "H".
The first two letters of Jesus' name in Greek are "I" and "H". Thus, we will be saved by Jesus' all sufficient Grace upon the Cross (“T”) that fulfills the 10 commandments (the Law) and grants us eternity (Grace).
“Lord, Lord, how manifold are Your works. In Wisdom, you have made them all” [even the letters and the numbers].
Through the prayers of these 318 servants ("trained" theologians) of God, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy upon us and save us. Amen.
Yours in our Christ our Resurrected, Ascended, and Glorified True God,
‘The Lord said to My Lord: ‘Sit at My Right Hand, until I make Your enemies Your Footstool.’”—Psalm 109:1