Today, dear brethren, spiritually we are still on the Mount of Olives, because the Church continues to celebrate the Ascension of our Lord. But these are the final moments. Another two or three days, and we will have to descend from the Mount of Olives, we will have to return together with the Apostles to Jerusalem and await the coming of the Holy Spirit. But how do we prepare ourselves for such a celebration? This greatest event – the Descent of the Holy Spirit – will be the crowning moment of all the blessings that the Lord has given us. And just think of how much the Lord has done for us already! Most importantly – He has redeemed us from Adam’s original sin, He has given back the greatest gift that had been lost by Adam in Eden – the Tree of Life. Only now it is something much greater than that original Tree of Life. Now it is the Holy Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ Himself. And the Lord says to us: “Whoever partakes of My Body and drinks of My Blood shall have eternal life, and I shall resurrect him on the day of judgment.”
But in order to have eternal life, we must be prepared for it. And how do we achieve this state of readiness? The answer to this is provided by the Sunday which the Church calls the “Sunday of the Holy Fathers.” Today marks the establishment of rules according to which a Christian must live in order to attain the New Testament Tree of Life – i.e. the Body and Blood of Christ. Today we commemorate the First Ecumenical Council, convened in Nicea in 325, at which the Holy Fathers gathered to condemn the heresy of Arius. But what is that heresy? Does it relate to us in any way? Not only does it relate to us, dear brethren, but if we do not follow the rules of the Church, and if we do not become aware of the nature of Arius’ violation, we will not be Orthodox Christians!
So what constitutes the evil of Arianism? Apostle Paul, while passing through the Greek city of Athens, found an altar to the Unknown God. The Apostle then preached to the Athenians that this Unknown God is Jesus Christ. The Athenians willingly accepted that and began to worship the True God. However, they were only able to worship God and believe in His majesty, but were unable and unwilling to live according to God’s will, they were unwilling to live as the Gospel demanded. And this desire to live in a pagan manner became so strong among the Athenians, that it began to surface even in the Church, and Arius became the ideologist of this trend. So what did he say? When the Council convened and began to denounce Arius, he said to them: “You, Fathers, are saying that Christ is a God-man, that there is no separation between His divine nature and human nature. From this you deduce that a Christian, too, must always and everywhere be a Christian, both in family life and in social life. But I say that Christ is God and man separately, and that this gives us the right to separate the various aspects of our lives: be a Christian in terms of religion and worship Christ, but in our private and social lives live as we wish, as we used to live, in a pagan manner.” The Holy Fathers replied to Arius: “In that case you, Arius, and your followers cannot be Christian. You do not understand the significance of Christ’s coming down to earth. Christ became incarnated not only to reveal to us a true comprehension of God, but to live according to God’s will. He came to earth in order to fulfill the commandment of love towards God and one’s neighbor. And He expects us, too, to fulfill this commandment. Thus those who do not fulfill this commandment will be looked upon as pagans and will merit the fate of pagans.”
Thus the Holy Fathers replied to Arius. And this is what the Church says to us today. Look around you, and you will see the grim reality of all the horrors that make up the fate of pagans: here are modern wars with their destructive bombs, here is forgotten old age, here is the madness that prevails among the young generation. Absolute horror! However, in order to avoid these horrors we must be Orthodox Christians. And a Christian cannot be a Christian and a member of society separately. Even in our social lives we must always be Christian, we must always live according to God’s rules. Only then will we be able to achieve eternal life and divine joy in Christ. Amen.