SUNDAY OF THE HOLY FATHERS OF THE 4TH ECUMENICAL COUNCIL
Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the 4th Ecumenical Council, The Holy Great Martyr Marina (Margaret), Veronika & Speratos the Martyrs, Holy Royal Martyrs of Russia, Kenelm, Prince of Mercia
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO TITUS 3:8-15
Titus, my son, the saying is sure. I desire you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to apply themselves to good deeds; these are excellent and profitable to men. But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels over the law, for they are unprofitable and futile. As for a man who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned.
When I send Artemas or Tychicos to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. And let our people learn to apply themselves to good deeds, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not to be unfruitful.
All who are with me send greeting to you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen.
The Lord said to his disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
The Commemoration of the Holy Fathers of the First Six Ecumenical Councils.
In the Ninth Article of the Nicea-Constantinople Symbol of Faith proclaimed by the holy Fathers of the First and Second Ecumenical Councils, we confess our faith in “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” By virtue of the catholic nature of the Church, an Ecumenical Council is the Church’s supreme authority, and possesses the competence to resolve major questions of church life. An Ecumenical Council is comprised of archpastors and pastors of the Church, and representatives of all the local Churches, from every land of the “oikumene” (i.e. from all the whole inhabited world).
The Orthodox Church acknowledges Seven Holy Ecumenical Councils:
The First Ecumenical Council (Nicea I) (May 29, and also on seventh Sunday after Pascha) was convened in the year 325 against the heresy of Arius, in the city of Nicea in Bithynia under Saint Constantine the Great, Equal of the Apostles.
The Second Ecumenical Council (Constantinople I) (May 22) was convened in the year 381 against the heresy of Macedonias, by the emperor Theodosius the Great.
The Third Ecumenical Council (Ephesus) (September 9) was convened in the year 431 against the heresy of Nestorius, in the city of Ephesus by the emperor Theodosius the Younger.
The Fourth Ecumenical Council (Chalcedon) (July 16) was convened in the year 451, against the Monophysite heresy, in the city of Chalcedon under the emperor Marcian.
The Fifth Ecumenical Council (Constnatinople II) (July 25) “Concerning the Three Chapters,” was convened in the year 553, under the emperor Justinian the Great.
The Sixth Ecumenical Council (Constantinople III) (January 23) met during the years 680-681, to fight the Monothelite heresy, under the emperor Constantine Pogonatos.
The fact that the Seventh Ecumenical Council (Nicea II) is not commemorated today testifies to the antiquity of today’s celebration. The Seventh Council, commemorated on the Sunday nearest to October 11, was convened at Nicea in the year 787 against the Iconoclast heresy, under the emperor Constantine and his mother Irene.
The Church venerates the Holy Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils because Christ has established them as “lights upon the earth,” guiding us to the true Faith. “Adorned with the robe of truth,” the doctrine of the Fathers, based upon the preaching of the Apostles, has established one faith for the Church. The Ecumenical Councils, are the highest authority in the Church. Such Councils, guided by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and accepted by the Church, are infallible.
The Orthodox Church’s conciliar definitions of dogma have the highest authority, and such definitions always begin with the Apostolic formula: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” (Acts 15: 28).
The Ecumenical Councils were always convened for a specific reason: to combat false opinions and heresies, and to clarify the Orthodox Church’s teaching. But the Holy Spirit has thus seen fit, that the dogmas, the truths of faith, immutable in their content and scope, constantly and consequently are revealed by the conciliar mind of the Church, and are given precision by the holy Fathers within theological concepts and terms in exactly such measure as is needed by the Church itself for its economy of salvation. The Church, in expounding its dogmas, is dealing with the concerns of a given historical moment, “not revealing everything in haste and thoughtlessly, nor indeed, ultimately hiding something” (Saint Gregory the Theologian).
A brief summary of the dogmatic theology of the First Six Ecumenical Councils is formulated and contained in the First Canon of the Council of Trullo (also known as Quinisext), held in the year 692. The 318 Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council are spoken of in this Canon I of Trullo as having: “with unanimity of faith revealed and declared to us the consubstantiality of the three Persons of the Divine nature and, … instructing the faithful to adore the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with one worship, they cast down and dispelled the false teaching about different degrees of Divinity.”
The 150 Holy Fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council left their mark on the theology of the Church concerning the Holy Spirit, “repudiating the teaching of Macedonius, as one who wished to divide the inseparable Unity, so that there might be no perfect mystery of our hope.”
The 200 God-bearing Fathers of the Third Ecumenical Council expounded the teaching that “Christ, the Incarnate Son of God is One.” They also confessed that “she who bore Him without seed was the spotless Ever-Virgin, glorifying her as truly the Mother of God.
The 630 Holy Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Council decreed that “the One Christ, the Son of God… must be glorified in two natures.”
The 165 God-bearing Holy Fathers of the Fifth Ecumenical Council “in synod anathematized and repudiated Theodore of Mopsuestia (the teacher of Nestorius), and Origen, and Didymus, and Evagrius, renovators of the Hellenic teaching about the transmigration of souls and the transmutation of bodies and the impieties they raised against the resurrection of the dead.”
The 170 Holy Fathers of the Sixth Ecumenical Council “taught that we ought to confess two natural volitions, or two wills [trans. note: one divine, and the other human], and two natural operations (energies) in Him Who was incarnate for our salvation, Jesus Christ, our true God.”
In decisive moments of Church history, the holy Ecumenical Councils promulgated their dogmatic definitions, as trustworthy delimitations in the spiritual battle for the purity of Orthodoxy, which will last until such time, as “all shall come into the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph. 4: 13). In the struggle with new heresies, the Church does not abandon its former dogmatic concepts nor replace them with some sort of new formulations. The dogmatic formulae of the Holy Ecumenical Councils need never be superseded, they remain always contemporary to the living Tradition of the Church. Therefore the Church proclaims:
“The faith of all in the Church of God hath been glorified by men, which were luminaries in the world, cleaving to the Word of Life, so that it be observed firmly, and that it dwell unshakably until the end of the ages, conjointly with their God-bestown writings and dogmas. We reject and we anathematize all whom they have rejected and anathematized, as being enemies of Truth. And if anyone does not cleave to nor admit the aforementioned pious dogmas, and does not teach or preach accordingly, let him be anathema” (Canon I of the Council of Trullo).
In addition to their dogmatic definitions, the Holy Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils exerted great efforts towards the strengthening of church discipline. Local Councils promulgated their disciplinary canons according to the circumstances of the time and place, frequently differing among themselves in various particulars.
The universal unity of the Orthodox Church required unity also in canonical practice, i.e. a conciliar deliberation and affirmation of the most important canonical norms by the Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils. Thus, according to conciliar judgment, the Church has accepted: 20 Canons from the First, 7 Canons from the Second, 8 Canons from the Third, and 30 Canons from the Fourth Ecumenical Synods. The Fifth and the Sixth Councils concerned themselves only with resolving dogmatic questions, and did not leave behind any disciplinary canons.
The need to establish in codified form the customary practices during the years 451-680, and ultimately to compile a canonical codex for the Orthodox Church, occasioned the convening of a special Council, which was wholly devoted to the general application of churchly rules. This was convened in the year 692. The Council “in the Imperial Palace” or “Under the Arches” (in Greek “en trullo”), came to be called the Council in Trullo. It is also called the “Quinisext” [meaning the “fifth and sixth”], because it is considered to have completed the activities of the Fifth and Sixth Councils, or rather that it was simply a direct continuation of the Sixth Ecumenical Council itself, separated by just a few years.
The Council in Trullo, with its 102 Canons (more than of all the Ecumenical Synods combined), had a tremendous significance in the history of the canonical theology of the Orthodox Church. It might be said that the Fathers of this Council produced a complete compilation of the basic codex from the relevant sources for the Orthodox Church’s canons. Listing through in chronological order, and having been accepted by the Church the Canons of the Holy Apostles, and the Canons of the Holy Ecumenical and the Local Councils and of the holy Fathers, the Trullo Council declared: “Let no one be permitted to alter or to annul the aforementioned canons, nor in place of these put forth, or to accept others, made of spurious inscription” (2nd Canon of the Council in Trullo).
Church canons, sanctified by the authority of the first Six Ecumenical Councils (including the rules of the Seventh Ecumenical Council in 787, and the Constantinople Councils of 861 and 879, which were added later under the holy Patriarch Photius), form the basis of THE RUDDER, or KORMCHAYA KNIGA (a canon law codex known as “Syntagma” or “Nomokanon” in 14 titles). In its repository of grace is expressed a canonical norm, a connection to every era, and a guide for all the local Orthodox Churches in churchly practice.
New historical conditions can lead to the change of some particular external aspect of the life of the Church. This makes creative canonical activity necessary in the conciliar reasoning of the Church, in order to reconcile the external norms of churchly life with historical circumstances. The details of canonical regulation are not fully developed for the various eras of churchly organization all at once. With every push to either forsake the literal meaning of a canon, or to fulfill and develop it, the Church again and again turns for reasoning and guidance to the eternal legacy of the Holy Ecumenical Councils, to the inexhaustable treasury of dogmatic and canonical truths.
The Holy Great Martyr Marina was born in Asia Minor, in the city of Antioch of Pisidia (southern Asia Minor), into the family of a pagan priest. In infancy she lost her mother, and her father gave her into the care of a nursemaid, who raised Marina in the Orthodox Faith. Upon learning that his daughter had become a Christian, the father angrily disowned her. During the time of the persecution against Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305), when she was fifteen years old, Saint Marina was arrested and locked up in prison. With firm trust in the will of God and His help, the young prisoner prepared for her impending fate.
The governor Olymbrios, charmed with the beautiful girl, tried to persuade her to renounce the Christian Faith and become his wife. But the saint, unswayed, refused his offers. The vexed governor gave the holy martyr over to torture. Having beaten her fiercely, they fastened the saint with nails to a board and tore at her body with tridents. The governor himself, unable to bear the horror of these tortures, hid his face in his hands. But the holy martyr remained unyielding. Thrown for the night into prison, she was granted heavenly aid and healed of her wounds. They stripped her and tied her to a tree, then burned the martyr with fire. Barely alive, the martyr prayed: “Lord, You have granted me to go through fire for Your Name, grant me also to go through the water of holy Baptism.”
Hearing the word “water”, the governor gave orders to drown the saint in a large cauldron. The martyr besought the Lord that this manner of execution should become for her holy Baptism. When they plunged her into the water, there suddenly shone a light, and a snow-white dove came down from Heaven, bearing in its beak a golden crown. The fetters put upon Saint Marina came apart by themselves. The martyr stood up in the fount of Baptism glorifying the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Saint Marina emerged from the fount completely healed, without any trace of burns. Amazed at this miracle, the people glorified the True God, and many came to believe. This brought the governor into a rage, and he gave orders to kill anyone who might confess the Name of Christ. 15,000 Christians perished there, and the holy Martyr Marina was beheaded. The sufferings of the Great Martyr Marina were described by an eyewitness of the event, named Theotimos.
Up until the taking of Constantinople by Western crusaders in the year 1204, the relics of the Great Martyr Marina were in the Panteponteia monastery. According to other sources, they were located in Antioch until the year 908 and from there transferred to Italy. Now they are in Athens, in a church dedicated to the holy Virgin Martyr. Her venerable hand was transferred to Mount Athos, to the Batopedi monastery.
Saint Irenarchus of Solovki accepted tonsure at the Solovki monastery, and in his monastic life he zealously imitated the Monks Zosimus (April 17) and Sabbatius (September 27). In 1614, after the death of the igumen Anthony, Irenarchus became his successor. During these times the Solovki monastery held tremendous significance in the defense of Northern Russia from the Swedes and the Danes. The new igumen did much to fortify the monastery. Under the Monk Irenarchus there was constructed a stone wall with turrets, deep ditches dug, and with stones spread out.
Concerned about the external dangers to the monastery, the monk also devoted much attention to fortifying it inwardly and spiritually. Very humble and meek, constantly immersed in thoughts of God, he was zealous for supporting in the monks a true monastic spirit. Under the spiritual guidance of Saint Irenarchus at the Solovki monastery there matured many worthy ascetics. With the blessing of the igumen and under his assistant, Saint Eleazar (January 13), a friend and co-ascetic of the venerable Irenarchus, founded a skete monastery on Anzersk Island.
In an imperial document to the Solovki monastery in the year 1621, the monks were bidden “to live according to the rules of the holy Fathers… and in full obedience to their igumen (Irenarchus) and the elders”.
The last two years of the monk’s life were spent in silent prayer, and he reposed on July 17, 1628.
Saint Lazarus the Wonderworker of Mount Galesius near Ephesus was born in Lydia, in the city of Magnesia. An educated young man who loved God, Lazarus became a monk at the monastery of Saint Savva, the founder of great ascetic piety in Palestine. He spent ten years within the walls of the monastery, winning the love and respect of the brethren for his intense monastic struggles.
Ordained to the holy priesthood by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Saint Lazarus returned to his native country and settled near Ephesus, on desolate Mount Galesius. Here he saw a wondrous vision: a fiery pillar, rising up to the heavens, was encircled by angels singing, “Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered.”
On the place where the saint beheld this vision, he built a church in honor of the Resurrection of Christ and took upon himself the feat of pillar-dwelling. Monks soon began to flock to the great ascetic, thirsting for spiritual nourishment by the divinely-inspired words and blessed example of the saint, and a monastery was established there.
Having received a revelation about the day of his death, the saint told the brethren. Through the tearful prayers of all the monks, the Lord prolonged the earthly life of Saint Lazarus for another fifteen years.
Saint Lazarus died at 72 years of age, in the year 1053. The brethren buried the body of the saint at the pillar upon which he had struggled in asceticism. He was glorified by many miracles after his death.
Saint Lazarus is also commemorated on November 7.
Saint Nicholas, the last Russian Tsar, was born in 1868. As a child, he was very religious, guileless and free from malice.
Nicholas II was crowned as Tsar in 1894, following the death of his father Tsar Alexander. He began his reign with lofty hopes for peace, urging other nations to reduce the size of their armies, and to seek the peaceful settlement of international disputes. The Peace Conference at the Hague in 1899 laid the groundwork for the League of Nations and the United Nations.
He married Princess Alice of Hesse, who converted to Orthodoxy and took the name Alexandra. Their children were Olga (1895), Tatiana (1897), Maria (1899), Anastasia (1901), and Alexis (1904).
The glorification of Saint Seraphim of Sarov took place on July 19, 1903, and Tsar Nicholas attended the ceremonies at Sarov with his family. At that time he was given a letter written by Saint Seraphim more than seventy years before, which seemed to disturb him. Although the Sovereign never revealed the letter’s contents, it is believed that it was a prophecy of the bloodshed that would engulf Russia in less than fifteen years.
Saint Nicholas was executed by the Bolsheviks at Ekaterinburg on July 4, 1918 along with his family and servants. The prisoners were awakened late at night and ordered to get dressed for travel. They went down to the cellar of the home in which they were being held, waiting for the word to leave. The Tsar sat on a chair in the middle of the room holding his son Alexis in his lap, while his wife and daughters stood around them.
The executioners entered the room and read out the order for their execution. Saints Nicholas and Alexandra died under the hail of bullets, but the children did not die right away. They were stabbed and clubbed with the butts of rifles. Their bodies were taken to an abandoned mine, cut into pieces, then piled in front of the mine. Sulphur and gasoline were poured on the bloody mound and set on fire. When the fire went out two days later, whatever remained of the bodies was thrown into the mine and grenades were tossed into it. Then the ground was plowed so that no trace of the disposal of the bodies remained.
Saint Leonid of Ustnedumsk lived in the Poshekhonsk district of Vologda, and he was a farmer by occupation. At age fifty, he saw the Mother of God in a dream, Who directed him to go to the River Dvina to the Morzhevsk Nikolaev hermitage. He was to take from there the Hodēgḗtria Icon of the Mother of God, and build a church for it at the River Luz and Mount Turin.
Saint Leonid decided not to follow the advice of this vision, thinking it simply a dream, and considering himself unworthy. He went to the Kozhe Lake monastery, accepting monastic tonsure there and spending about three years at work and ascetical efforts. From there he transferred to the Solovki monastery and labored there in the bakery.
The miraculous vision was repeated, and Saint Leonid was advised not to oppose God’s will. The venerable one then set off to the Morzhevsk hermitage, and after a year he told Igumen Cornelius (1599-1623) about the command of the Mother of God. Having received from the abbot both a blessing and the Hodēgḗtria icon, the monk reached the River Luz near Mount Turin, 80 versts from the city of Ustiug, and he built himself a hut from brushwood. The local people, fearing that their land would be taken from them for the saint’s monastery, compelled him to resettle up the river in a marshy wilderness spot.
At 30 versts from the city of Lalsk, the Elder constructed a cell and set about building a monastery. For draining the marshes, the ascetic dug three canals, about 2 kilometers in length, from the River Luz to Black Lake, and from Black Lake to Holy Lake, and from there to the Black Rivulet. During this time of heavy work he was bitten by a poisonous snake. Entrusting himself to the will of God, Saint Leonid decided not to seek medical treatment, nor did he think of the consequences. He went to sleep and woke up healthy. In gratitude to the Lord for His mercy, he called the canal the “Nedumaya Reka” (“Unplanned River”), and his monastery the “Ustnedumsk” (“the mouth of the Nedumaya”) monastery.
With the blessing of the Metropolitan Philaret of Rostov (afterwards the Patriarch of All-Russia, 1619-1633), Saint Leonid was ordained hieromonk in 1608. In the newly-built church in honor of the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple, Hieromonk Leonid installed the Hodēgḗtria icon, as the Mother of God commanded him. Because of his difficult labors on the frontier, called the “Luzsk Permtsa”, which means “the pocket-land of the wild Permians”, it is fitting that Saint Leonid is venerated as one of the first enlighteners of these remote lands.
The monk had many struggles with the severe and inhospitable forces of nature. Although his canal-system had drained the marsh, in times of floodings the River Luz engulfed the monastery. Towards the end of his life the tireless worker undertook construction on a point of land at Black Lake. At the new site a church was built and consecrated in 1652. Saint Leonid died at age 100, on July 17, 1654. He was buried at the monastery church, where for a long time his coarse and heavy hair-shirt was preserved, a reminder of the ascetic toils of the holy saint.
There is a Troparion to Saint Leonid, and his holy icons are in churches at the places of his struggles.
The Sviatogorsk Icon of the Mother of God is from the Sviatogorsky Monastery in the province of Pskov. In the year 1563, during the time of Ivan the Terrible, in the environs of Pskov a “Tenderness” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to a fifteen-year-old shepherd and fool named Timothy, not far from the stream Lugovitsa. This icon was thereafter situated in the Voronicha parish church of Saint George. The voice from the icon said that after six years the grace of God would shine forth upon this hill.
In 1569 to this same youth upon the Sinicha hill, there appeared a Hodēgḗtria icon of the Mother of God upon a pine tree. Timothy spent forty days at this place in fasting and prayer. The miraculous voice from the icon commanded that the clergy and the people should come to the Sinicha heights with the Tenderness icon on the Friday following the Sunday of All Saints.
When the church procession reached the hill and began the Molieben, a light suddenly shone during the reading of the Gospel. The air was filled with fragrance and everyone saw upon the pine tree the Hodēgḗtria icon. Both holy icons, the Hodēgḗtria and the Tenderness, were put into the church of the Great Martyr George. From them many miraculous signs and healings took place, about which reports were made to Tsar Ivan IV. Through his decree, upon the Sinicha Hill, called from that time the “Svyata” (“Holy”), a chapel was built, into which were transferred the wonderworking icons. But soon, on the Feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos, when a church procession with icons went to Holy Hill, the chapel suddenly burned that night. The fire destroyed everything else inside, but the holy things remained unharmed.
On this sacred spot they built a stone church in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, the altar of which stood on the place where the Hodēgḗtria icon had appeared. Both glorified icons were placed into the lower tier of the iconostas: the Hodēgḗtria on the right side (a chapel in honor of which was built in 1770), and the Tenderness on the left (a chapel was built in 1776).
In that same year of 1569 on Holy Hill was founded the Sviatogorsk (“Holy Hill”) Dormition monastery.
Every year, on the first Friday of the Peter and Paul Fast, the icons are conveyed to the Trinity cathedral of the city of Pskov. On the following Sunday, a procession is made with them along the inner walls of the city.
The celebration in honor of the Tenderness icon is March 19, and on the ninth Friday after Pascha. The Hodēgḗtria icon is commemorated on July 17, and on the Feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos (October 1).