Sunday of the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council - sermon by Fr Andrew Gliga
As we come to the end of the Paschal cycle, we can say these past couple of months have been a crazy ride. Many different things have occurred in this time to really put our faith to the test. This week many of us were in relief when our state issued an order to allow Churches to reopen. Unfortunately, we then heard that our county officials do not think that's a good idea and refused to open Churches in this area. The officials state that reopening Churches will cause the virus to spread. Some of this is understandable as we don't want to reopen and cause a mass spike of virus cases. And yet, we see many large gatherings of people around the world not observing this shelter in place. What ends up making matters worse is that these protesters end up rioting and destroying property, attacking innocent people, and causing chaos and grief. When we look at all of these, it's no wonder that our faith gets shaken and we begin to question God, why is this happening to us now? Why doesn't God stop all this and bring us back to the good old times?
We can see that this same feeling of being left abandoned was probably how the disciples felt during the time between the Ascension and Pentecost. 40 days after being together with Christ, he was lifted up into heaven and was seated at the right hand of the Father. The Apostles were left alone in the world. As we see on Pentecost they were hiding in an upper room because they feared the Jews. And yet, we know that Christ had promised His disciples that he would send down upon them the Holy Spirit to imbue them with power from on high. This promise would be fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, 10 days after Christ's ascension.
Christ might have ascended and left this world, but in no way did He abandon us. He did send the Holy Spirit which not only gave the Apostles the courage to preach across the world, but also the grace of the Holy Spirit. And this grace is still present in all Christians throughout the ages. This is especially visible in the saints that have inspired and led the Church. This is precisely why we celebrate the Fathers of the First ecumenical council today. We have this feast today because the Fathers of the First council were inspired by the Holy Spirit to guide us in the way of truth. They led the Church and guided us through the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. They were able to protect the truth of Orthodoxy from false teachers. Through their love of God and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we are able to also have the true faith today.
This is also a great mystery indeed, that Christ sent the Holy Spirit. We see also how the Holy Spirit in turn makes Jesus Christ, the Son of God, present with us and in us. During the Liturgy the Holy Spirit is called down to transform simple bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. This we partake and become one with Christ. In fact this shows that Christ in no way left us as orphans. He is still working and will work until the end of time, to bring us together with Him in paradise.
Let us always remember that Christ is everywhere present and fillest all things. We have many difficult times ahead of us with how our society is being changed. Christ is still here with us. Even though the world around us is in chaos, Christ did not abandon the world. We should recall in our hearts the words of scripture where Christ said, "God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3.17). But God also does things that might be an inconvenience to us, and yet he does it in order for our salvation. This is where we should show our Christian love, even for those wicked people who are destroying our society. Through love, even the most wicked person can be brought to tears of repentance.
As we begin the process of reopening our Churches, we should keep in mind this time we had watching services at home. Before our churches closed, we might have taken coming to church for granted. When our churches were open and we had weekday feast days like the Ascension, we would only have a handful of people show up. However today, we have people begging to be able to come back and attend the services. They begin to feel a longing for something that has been taken away from them. So beloved in the Lord, if we have that longing to come to Church and we feel an emptiness in our heart for not being able to come, we should keep that with us. God willing, when we reopen, I hope people will start to attend as much as they can. However, with time I also believe attendance will start to wane and people will come up with excuses why they shouldn't come to services. We might start to make excuses like, it's raining, or I'm tired, or I just don't feel like coming to services. This is precisely the moment when we should recall in our hearts the feeling we had when we were not able to come to services. This is why God sent us this hardship, not because he abandoned us, but for us to realize what a great treasure we had in the Church services. And if we are to receive again this pearl of great price, we should value it and take care of it and not let it go to waste. God did not abandon us, so let us in turn not abandon Him.