The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. John. (17:1-13)
There is in our society a concerted effort which begins at the university level, to discredit the idea of absolute or objective truth. In the life of a Christian there is nothing that is more important than the absolute truth. We do not understand the truth as an idea or a philosophy or ideology but as a person. The Lord Jesus Christ says “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”
Today we celebrate the memory of the holy fathers of the first ecumenical council which was assembled at Nicaea in the year 325 a.d. by the emperor St. Constantine the great. This council was assembled to address a swirling controversy in the Roman Empire concerning the teaching of a priest named Arius and the real identity of Jesus Christ. Nowadays we argue and bitterly divide over politics and things that ultimately won’t matter but at that time the argument really mattered…and the answer mattered. The truth mattered whether it was convenient or inconvenient, whether it was alone or in the majority.
In today’s gospel the Lord Jesus Christ says “This is eternal life, that they know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent.” According to our Lord, knowledge of God is the most important goal of one’s existence. Knowledge of God is in large part, the purpose for which we were created. In knowing God we know the One who exists, the I AM, and in knowing this One who exists, we are imparted with His existence, we find immortality.
Knowledge of God assumes that one will understand God in truth, and with a proper understanding or else one does great harm to themselves and to those around them. In the light of this we understand that the work of the fathers of the first ecumenical council was of utmost importance. We speak about and teach about and worship Jesus Christ because of what the Holy Fathers taught us or discerned for us. The Bible is not simply a document that is subject to whatever interpretations one imagines within his or her mind. This is one of the problems of the Protestant movement; everyone brings their private interpretation of the text and calls it authoritative. The problem is that we can’t all have an authoritative reading of the text. It’s impossible.
The Church of Christ has built-in structures that allow it to rise above such tendencies. In the first place, we don’t rely solely on the biblical text. There is more to our faith than the words on the page. The faith of the Church of Christ is rooted in the faith that was preached and handed down by the Apostles and which they learned directly from Christ. The Church is called the body of Christ and this body is a living breathing body that passes the faith from person to person. The Church has leaders just as any properly organized group would have. These leaders are the bishops who are tasked with teaching, preaching and upholding the faith. If at any place or time one of those who is given the authority to teach, does so in a way that seems improper or inaccurate, they can be brought before the assembly or council of bishops to state their case and attempt to define their position. The council of bishops, guided by the grace of the Holy Spirit, will ultimately decide whether the teachings are sound or false. In this way they protect and safeguard the faith throughout the ages.
We see a similar approach in the way that laws are crafted in the United States. Ultimately a law may be deemed unconstitutional, yet the Constitution itself does not deem what is or is not unconstitutional rather it is the informed, authoritative reading of the Constitution that is offered by the nine Supreme Court Justices that matters.
What is true for the American system of law and government is more true and has far greater consequences in the life of a Christian and in the life of the Church. Knowledge is a key part of our salvation and that salvation hinges upon whether or not the knowledge we have is true Scriptural, Apostolic, knowledge of God or falsehood. There are correct ways to understand and speak about Jesus Christ. There are correct ways to speak about God the Father and the Holy Spirit. There are of course, incorrect ways and the incorrect ways far outnumber the correct ways as our Lord Jesus Christ teaches us “narrow is the way that leads to eternal life, and there are few who find it.”
So our commemoration of the 318 holy fathers, bishops of the One Holy Church of Christ is a celebration of the one saving truth which is the identity of Jesus Christ as perfect God and perfect man. It is the celebration of Christ as unoriginate, without beginning. It is the celebration of the truth that the One who came to dwell among us and suffered and shed His blood for us and died for us is indeed able to save us because He is truly light from light, true God from truth God, and nothing less than God. It is God’s will that all would know Him and His Son intimately. May we faithfully follow the One whom we know and enter into true fellowship and communion with the Lord who is Life eternal. Glory be to God forever AMEN.