Today the Church commemorates the Holy 318 God-bearing Fathers of the 1st Œcumenical Council, held at Nicæa in A.D. 325.
The Fathers proclaimed the Creed in refutation of the heresy of Arius. Their feast is held on the seventh Sunday after Great and Holy Pascha, the Sunday following Ascension Thursday and preceding the Sunday of Pentecost, when the risen Christ sent down the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. These two feasts, marking the ascension into heaven of the risen Christ and the sending of the Holy Spirit, are vivid demonstrations of the divinity of the Son against Arius’s contention that he was the first of created beings.
The readings for today’s Liturgy reflect this. As throughout the period from Great and Holy Pascha to Pentecost, the Epistle reading is from the Acts of the Apostles. St Paul warns the church at Ephesus of the danger of heresy: ‘Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.’ (Acts 20: 28–30).
And the Gospel is the witness of Jesus to his divinity in his prayer after the Last Supper: ‘And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was’ (John 17: 3–5), and his prayer for the unity of the Church: ‘Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are’ (John 17: 11).
The Apolytikion of the feast is: ‘You are glorified above all, Christ our God, who established our Fathers as beacons on the earth, and through them guided us all to the true faith. Greatly compassionate Lord, glory to you!’
The Kontakion is: ‘The preaching of the Apostles and the doctrines of the Fathers confirmed the one faith in the Church. And wearing the garment of truth woven from the theology on high, she rightly proclaims and glorifies the great mystery of piety.’
The Synaxarion in Orthros includes a verse against Arius: ‘Arius saying the Son is a stranger to the substance of the Father, let him be a stranger to the glory of God.’
Occasional comments by a convert to Orthodoxy.