Sunday of the Holy Fathers
On this, the seventh Sunday after Pascha the church directs us to remember the Holy Fathers of the First Great Council in Nicea. There were 7 Great Councils, which we call Ecumenical. This means that Bishops and Church Fathers came from all over the world to attend this council in order to answer questions that were challenging the Church.
To understand this better, we need to go to the Bible and the sacred Tradition of our Church. We know that the Gospels are the teachings and sayings of Christ. With the completion of the Gospels, we read a new book called the ACTS of the Apostles. Here are some of the things we learn in the Acts of the Apostles and it will help us to understand why today is so special:
- We learn of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and how it strengthened them to travel the world to teach all nations about Christ.
- We learn of the works of the Apostles and all that they went through to teach.
- We see all of the miracles worked by the Apostles –healing the sick, making the blind to see, casting out demons, and raising the dead.
- We learn how the Apostles themselves organized the church and came together in a council to solve problems and answer questions – just like the Holy Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils!
You see, the things that happen in church closely follow what we read in the Bible and also what we have learned from our Fathers. We call this the Holy Tradition.
What is Holy Tradition?
- Holy Tradition are all those spiritual treasures which receive from our Fathers, who are the Bishops, Priests, Saints and the Apostles.
- Holy Tradition helps us to understand the Bible. When we read the Bible, there are some things that may be hard for us to understand. Just like in school, we may have questions about our subjects. Who can help answer these questions? The teachers! In the Church these teachers are the Apostles, the Saints, the Orthodox Bishops!
Some neat things about Holy Tradition
Here are some really neat things about the Holy Tradition in our Orthodox Church:
- Tradition is older than the Bible!
- Holy Tradition is how we know how to make the Cross – can everyone make the sign of the Cross.
- Holy Tradition teaches us how to make Palm Crosses for Palm Sunday.
- Holy Tradition teaches us why we make red eggs for Pascha.
- And Holy Tradition teaches us about monasteries, the Vestments of Priests, Deacons, and Bishops, and what prayers we say before and after Holy Communion!
- The lives of the Saints and the teachings of the Saints.
- So you see, Holy Tradition gives us those things we need to be Orthodox!
Let’s get back to today’s celebration about the Holy Fathers. The fact that they came together in a council to solve some big issues showed that they acted the same way as the Apostles, who also came together in a council to answer large questions affecting the church. Each of the Holy Fathers had a chance to speak and here are some of the Great Saints that were present at this council:
- Saint Nicholas
- Saint Spyridon
- Saint Constantine
- James of Nisibis
- Alexander of Alexandria
- Hosius of Cordova
- Theophilus the Goth
- Cecilianus of Carthage
The most important work of this Council was the confirmation of the Symbol of Faith, which we call The Creed. The Council also established the time of the celebration of the Feast of the Resurrection of Christ -Pascha and issued twenty various canons or teachings of the church.