Glory to Jesus Christ!
Just this past Thursday we celebrated the glorious Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Gospel read on that feast, we hear the final promise and instruction of our Lord to His Apostles, as He tells them:
“It is not for you to know the times or moments, which the Father hath put in His own power: but you shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the earth.”
It is in view of this promise to the Apostles, and as a remembrance of this promise of the power of the Holy and life-giving Spirit, and a remembrance of the Apostolic witness – even to the uttermost part of the earth – that on this Sunday the Church celebrates the memory of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, the fathers of the council of Nicea, who, themselves being successors of the Holy Apostles, assembled in the power of the Holy and life-giving Spirit as a witness unto the Lord. The witness provided in the First Ecumenical Council stands with us even to this day, for we give voice to it every time we pray the Nicene Creed.
The fathers of the Council confirmed the faith, the faith received from the Apostles. In counter to the Arian heresy, which denies the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, which heresy was then spreading itself far and wide, especially in the west, the Council of Nicea proclaimed the Lord Jesus Christ to be of one essence with God the Father, true God; begotten of the Father before all ages, for this is the faith received from the Apostles.
The Church keeps a feast in honour of these Council fathers who fought the good fight for true piety and for the holy and right-glorifying faith. The Church urges us, her children, that we might be like the Council fathers in receiving precisely that faith which they themselves had received and precisely that faith which they themselves passed on.
And as for the Arian heresy – as well as all other heresies – the Church today reminds us that all such heresy is anathematized. We know that heresy alienates a person from Christ. Those who choose heresy – for this is the meaning of the word ‘heresy,’ a ‘choosing’ of something other than the faith once delivered – those who choose heresy by their choice separate themselves from the Author of Faith Himself.
In today’s Gospel, our Lord addresses His Heavenly Father in the presence of His Apostles. This address, this prayer, is the entirety of today’s Gospel, and it provides a unique opportunity of revelation for us.
For you see, we can not begin to fathom, much less understand in any way the mysteries of the inner life of the Three Persons of the One Triune God. Trying to illuminate these divine mysteries with the use of human reason is like trying to study the sun by shining a flashlight on it. It’s not going to accomplish much for you other than making you go blind. The same can – and does – happen, and it happens often, in the realm of spirituality.
Nevertheless, we can, in fact, learn of truths which are beyond created truth; and this is done by means of revelation – when God deigns to reveal, to unveil, such things to us.
Such things we will still not comprehend, for they are beyond all created comprehension. But we can nevertheless behold them. We can receive them. And what is further, we can love them, and we can love the One Who reveals them to us.
Our Lord speaks for the instruction and strengthening of His disciples, for those who would succeed them, and for each and every one us, revealing that all who belong to the Son belong also to the Father, and all that belong to the Father belong also to the Son.
“All my things are thine,” He says, “and thine are mine…” “Holy Father, keep them in thy name whom thou has given me; that they may be one, as we also are. Those whom thou gavest me have I kept; and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition that the scripture may be fulfilled.”
Our Lord spared nothing in His power, He preserved those given to Him, as He does to this day, and He sought in every way to strengthen them, as He still does. Though Judas, by his own choice was lost, and though indeed many others also will choose their own fall into perdition, it is not because our Lord rejects or abandons them that they choose to depart from the right way. He draws no one by force or compulsion. Those who come to Him of their own free will He will not drive away. Those who abide in His commandments He does not cast off.
Our Lord concludes: “these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy filled in themselves.”
See, it is through blessed revelation that we might have His joy fulfilled in ourselves.
Let us also, every day, in every way strive to have this joy within ourselves, by firmly keeping the divine and right-glorifying revealed truths handed down to us by the holy fathers of the Council of Nicea, whose remembrance we make today, who themselves received those teachings from the Apostles, and the Apostles from our Lord Himself. Let us reject the blasphemous and death-dealing reasonings and speculations of self-centered theology, of that theology which comes from pride and leads to destruction, of that theology which has no part or participation in the joy of Christ.
In the light of divine grace, let us behold with our minds, and believe with our hearts, and confess with our lips our one true Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have come to know God the Father and through Whom the life-giving Spirit is come unto us.