Sunday of the Fathers of the First Council
On Thursday of this past week, the Holy Church celebrated the feast day of the Ascension of our Lord. The work of our Lord Jesus Christ – in taking on human flesh – was to renew and to restore to humanity its true purpose and destiny. Christ our Lord deigned to experience human birth, hunger, thirst, exhaustion, pain, loneliness, and even death. And in experiencing all these things in His humanity, he transforms them in His divinity.
Christ’s final earthly experience was manifested on the day of Ascension, when He blessed His disciples, promising them the coming of the Holy Spirit, and was then taken up into the clouds to resume His place in heaven.
Even here, dear brothers and sisters, Christ paves the way for us and for the potentiality of our human experience as Christians. For, with Christ’s ascension, flesh and blood now sits at the right hand of the Father. We too are called to ascend to our Father in heaven… Christ reopens the gates of Paradise for mankind.
We are called to unite ourselves to Christ so that we might unite ourselves to His triumph over all these human experiences – that our hunger, our thirst, our pain and loneliness and even death might be transformed into the image and likeness of Christ our God.
This Sunday we are sandwiched between two great feasts – the Ascension and Holy Pentecost, Trinity Sunday – when the promised Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples of the Lord. This Sunday between these two feasts is designated as a commemoration of the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council.
Reflecting again on the purpose and the work of Christ’s incarnation… we can clearly see the wisdom of the Holy Church in bringing to our attention the Fathers of the First Council on this day.
The early church fought diligently to present and to preserve the correct teaching of the Person of Christ… that He was truly God and that He was truly man. Many heresies arose trying to diminish either Christ’s divinity (saying He was just a man Who was illumined by God) or to diminish His humanity (saying He was purely God Who only took on the appearance of humanity). The Fathers of the First Council emphatically declared that in the One Person of Christ, He was 100% man and 100% God. Within this One and Undivided Person there existed both the divine nature and will and the human nature and will.
Why is this important? It is profoundly important in presenting and preserving and protecting our understanding that Christ’s birth, his experience of all the human sufferings - even unto death - were real and true. This was not the divine mirage of a God Who only appeared to go through such things… no, Christ was fully man – and in that humanity he experienced human life and human suffering. He unites Himself to us in that experience of humanity. And He calls us to unite ourselves to Him in His victorious transformation and sanctification of these human experiences… paving the way for us.
But how can we unite ourselves to Christ and experience this divine transformation in our lives?
The coming feast of Pentecost is the answer! As Christ promised, He will send the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, the Giver of Life - Who will lead us into all truth. It is by this acquisition of the Holy Spirit that our own humanity can be touched by grace and we can be restored to what we were created to become. In the words of St Nikolai Velimirovich: ‘The Lord Jesus Christ sowed a most precious seed in the field of this world, but the power of the Holy Spirit was needed to come upon it, to give it warmth and light, and make it grow.’
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ… what a particularly grace-filled time of year this is… having lived in the 40 days of the light of Christ’s resurrection, we stand in awe as He ascends into heaven and instructs us to go to Jerusalem to wait and watch for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Let us enter into the Holy City of our hearts and pray in gratitude for all that was accomplished by Christ – uniting ourselves to His birth, His suffering, His death, and His resurrection. And, joining the Apostles, let us fix our gaze heavenward in expectation of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church and into the depths of our own heart.