Celebrating the Saints: Three Summer Sundays

After the Feast of Feasts, the Church makes a special effort to celebrate what our Lord’s Death and Resurrection made possible: the return of His people to their Creator – salvation! Throughout the Paschal season and afterfeast of Pentecost, the Church sets aside several Sundays to remember the saints.

The Sunday of the God-Bearing Fathers
of the First Ecumenical Council

Celebrated on the seventh Sunday of Pascha

After our Lord Jesus Christ took flesh and fulfilled His ineffable dispensation for us, He returned to the throne of the Father. It was the desire of the saints to show that the Son of God had truly become man, that He had ascended as perfect Man and perfect God into heaven and is seated at the right of the glory on high. This council of Holy Fathers proclaimed and confessed that the Son is of the same essence and honor as the Father. Therefore, following the feast of the glorious Ascension, this present feast, celebrated on the seventh Sunday of Pascha, has been set forth in order to add to the already large number of Fathers who preached that He Who has ascended in the flesh is both perfect God and perfect Man in the flesh.

This council took place during the twentieth year of the reign of St. Constantine the Great, following a period in which the Christians were persecuted by the pagans. At first, St. Constantine ruled [the Roman Empire] from Rome, but in 330 AD, he built the beautiful city that bears his name. It was also at this time that the situation regarding Arius arose. Arius was originally from Libya, but came to Alexandria and was ordained to the diaconate by the Hieromartyr Peter (commemorated November 25th). However, in 315 AD, Arius began to blaspheme against the Son of God, loudly vilifying Him and saying that He is a creature, born out of nonexistence, and distant from the honor of the Godhead. He claimed that is was wrong to call Him the Wisdom and the Word of God, thinking that he was thus opposing the lawless Sabellius, who claimed that the Godhead is one single person and essence, Who is at times the Father, at times the Son, and at times the Holy Spirit. The great Peter had a vision in which he beheld Christ at the Holy Sacrifice as an Infant dressed in a torn garment that, Christ told him, had been rent by Arius. After this, Peter removed Arius from the ranks of the clergy because of his blasphemy.

When Achilas succeeded Peter as archbishop of Alexandria, he granted forgiveness to Arius when the latter promised to correct his false teaching. In addition, he then ordained him to the priesthood and appointed him to the school of Alexandria. Following the death of Achilas, the next archbishop of Alexandria, Alexander, found that Arius was spreading the same blasphemy, and that in fact he had made the blasphemy even worse; then the archbishop summoned a council, which deposed Arius from the Church in 321 AD.

It is recorded that Arius drew many astray with his lawless teaching…. With the Church in a state of turbulence and with no one showing the care and love to resolve the problem, the great St. Constantine used state means of transport and in 325 AD, gathered the Fathers of whom we speak from all parts of the world to Nicaea, to which place he himself also journeyed. Thus, when all the Fathers had come together, the emperor also took his place, not on an imperial throne, but on a chair, which was beneath the honor due to an emperor. The Fathers spoke in regard to Arius and anathematized not only him, but all those who were in agreement with him. The Holy Fathers confessed that the Word of God is of the same essence and honor with the father, and co-unoriginate with the Father. They then formulated the Symbol of Faith [which we say at every Divine Liturgy, and call “the Nicene Creed”] as far as the article, “And I believe in the Holy Spirit…”; for the rest of the Creed was completed at the Second Ecumenical Council. … St. Constantine sealed the final version of the holy Symbol of Faith with his own signature in red ink.

Of the Fathers who attended the First Ecumenical Council, 232 were hierarchs, while 86 were priests, deacons, and monks, thus bringing the total present to 318.

The Sunday of All Saints

Celebrated the first Sunday after Pentecost

On this day, the first Sunday after Pentecost, we commemorate the feast of All Saints from all times and throughout the world: Asia, Libya, Europe, from the North and from the South.

Our godly Father established this feast after the descent of the Holy Spirit first and foremost to show that His coming worked enormous deeds through the Apostles, sanctifying and bestowing wisdom upon those who were like us, and setting these saints in the place of those angels who had fallen, leading them, through Jesus Christ, to God. Some — the martyrs — came through blood, while other were led through their virtuous way of life, but all were perfected through the Holy Spirit in an ineffable manner.

In celebrating this feast, we also commemorate many others who, although pleasing to God through their perfection of virtues, have, for unknown reasons or due to circumstances that existed in the world at the time, remained unknown to all except God Himself.!

It was necessary, as well, to set aside a single day to commemorate all the saints who are commemorated separately throughout the year, too, so that we remember that they struggled for one single Christ and that all walked the same path toward salvation as servants of the one single God. Together, they form the Church Triumphant!

The Sunday of the Holy Fathers and the Sunday of All Saints are excerpted from the Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and Pentecostarion, HDM Press, Rives Junction, Mi., 1999, pp. 221-225 and 245-248. Translated from Romanian.

The Sunday of All Saints of North America

On the second Sunday after Pentecost, the Church commemorates the particular saints who brought the True Faith across the seas to North America, enlightening the Native Americans in Alaska and planting the Church firmly in the “New World”. Those remembered include St. Herman of Alaska, the Wonder-worker; St. Tikhon; St. Innocent, Apostle to America; St. Peter the Aleut (who was a young teen when martyred); St. Alexis of Wilkes-Barre and Minneapolis; and the newly-canonized St. Raphael of Brooklyn.

Some Things To Do

Make memorizing the Nicene Creed a family project this summer, following the advice of St. Cyril, Archbishop of Jerusalem (d. 386 AD): “In learning and professing the Faith, you must accept and retain only the Church’s present Tradition, confirmed as it is by the Scriptures. … [W]e have gathered together the whole of the Faith in a few concise articles … [so ] listen to the simple words of the Creed and memorize them; at some suitable time you can find the proof of each article in the Scriptures.” There’s no better time than a long, lazy summer!

Study a “new” saint for the summer, either on your own or as a family. Start by reading about his or her life in The Prologue from Ochrid, then try to find more detailed biographies and original sermons or writing of the saint, and learn to sing his or her troparion. (Wonderful biographies of St. Raphael, glorified over Memorial Day weekend, are available on both www.oca.org and www.antiochian.org; brief biographies of several other North American saints are also available on the OCA web site.)

by Nichola T. Krause

© 2000 by Orthodox Family Life and the original author(s).
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