In the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!
The first to address the flock of Christ with words of instruction from the ambo – the raised pulpit in the church for readers – was Saint John Chrysostom. Before him, that is, until the end of the 4th century, the archpastors and pastors preached from the high place in the altar, which was built like the steps of an amphitheater and was very high, so that a man sitting on it could be seen. by the faithful in the church; moreover, the partition in front of the altar was low. It was very laborious for a sick or aged clergyman to ascend to the High Place after the chanting of the Trisagion, and even now in the rite of the Divine Liturgy there is still the blessing of the High Place – the High Throne – the prayer to the Lord asking for strength and help for the ascent.
Today, from this ambon, a rare element in the interior of modern Orthodox churches in Russia, but hallowed by ancient tradition, we remember with gratitude and warmth those who repeatedly ascended the ambon and high place to preach, defend and defend the truths of the faith of Christ. We remember the fathers of the six ecumenical councils.
A pleiad of about 1500 men – archpastors and pastors of integrity, sober, chaste, pious, honest, hospitable, instructive – have, during three centuries, formulated and clothed in verbal expressions what every person who calls himself a Christian must know . He created ecclesiastical teaching, determined the dogmas of faith, “surpassing the mind in divinely revealed truths, having untraceable depths.”
We ask: why did so many people work, why did they concern themselves with these complex and abstract questions, unrelated to daily needs? After all, there is Holy Scripture, in which we find the words of Christ the Saviour, and by which we guide our lives, awaiting salvation and the inheritance of eternal blessings. Was it only to show off their intelligence and eloquence? For the sake of ambition and pride?
Nope! It was neither for glory nor for idleness that the fathers of the Ecumenical Councils, which we remember today, worked. “Only the evil of heretics forces us to discuss what it is better to be silent about,” said one of them – St. Hilaire de Poitiers.
Observe those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine you have learned; and avoid them. For those who are thus do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fine speeches deceive the hearts of the simple (Rom. 16:17-18). With these words, the apostle Paul warned first-century Roman Christians. But how often do we fall into temptation, including the temptation of false teaching and good-sounding lies.
You cannot pick grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles (cf. Matt. 7:16), and you cannot grow anything good out of an unclean heart. And if we take a look at the complicated and contradictory period of the life of our Church which is called the era of the Ecumenical Councils, then we are convinced that heresy is most often the fruit of a heart proud and of an arrogant spirit.
A strict ascetic and famous spiritual father, who alone had 200 spiritual daughters, the Alexandrian priest Arius set himself the task of uniting Christianity with paganism. Spitting the foolish belief that the second hypostasis of the Holy Trinity – Christ the Savior – was created by God the Father, he hardly tried to seduce the still unbaptized minds of Christians who had only recently been pagans. On the contrary, his desire was essentially good: to make it easier for pagans to understand the faith of Christ. Just as Geb and Nut gave birth to Osiris, and Apollos descended from Zeus and Leto, so, according to Arius, God the Father created God the Son. This terrible distortion of the teaching of the Holy Trinity and of the pre-eternal existence of each of the three Persons was, in the opinion of the priest-heresiarch, supposed to become the most effective missionary method, but in fact it has become self – willful trampling of pre-eternal truth and blasphemy. Many, many people in Alexandria and Egypt were enchanted by the preaching of Arius, that extremely talented poet, who expounded his heresy in the form of a poem called “Talia” and various rhapsodies. The simple people were in ecstasy; the pleasant refrains and melodious songs were written especially for sailors, millers and travellers, and became very popular and preferred. But let us remember that the expression “Vox populi vox Dei” is erroneous, “because the inconstancy of the crowd always borders on madness”.
Nestorius, archbishop of the great Empire’s capital, Constantinople, a native of the distant Syrian city of Caesarea Germanicea on the Euphrates, a man of common birth, short in stature, with large expressive eyes and reddish blond hair, was possessed by enormous ambition and pride. Could any of us followers of Christ tell our leader what Nestorius said to the emperor: “Give me a land purified from heresy, and I will give you heaven; help me to overcome the heretics, and I will help you in your fight against the earthly enemies”? We hope in God’s mercy for us and dare not even think that it is in our power to give heaven to someone. If Arius considered himself a great preacher and missionary, then Nestorius took upon himself the role of the most zealous warrior against evil teachings and heresies. In the end, he himself became the founder of a heresy, rejecting the divine essence of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The desire for absolute power and domination over our neighbours, namely to be the first among all Eastern bishops, compelled the Archbishop of Alexandria Dioscorus to support the heresy of Archimandrite Eutichios, who rejected nature human of the Lord Jesus Christ. Bearing the title of the thirteenth apostle and judge of the inhabited world, he came to the city of Ephesus to deal with the false teaching of the Monophysites, but rather judged the righteous holy hierarch Flavian of Constantinople at false counsel. When he saw that he was losing the power struggle, he broke communion not only with the Ecumenical Church as an institution, but also with the True Faith, and took away almost all of Egypt and the Syria with him.
Fearful and afraid to contradict the Emperor, Patriarchs Sergius of Constantinople, Kyr of Alexandria and Pope Honorius justified their own cowardice and similar passions with the noble intention of serving their homeland and people torn by Monophytism and Nestorianism. , and began to falsely teach one will of the Saviour. But their heretical conspiracy brought no benefit, and their memory perished with a resounding noise.
We believe, dear brothers and sisters, that there is only one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and that her body does not cease to live although it is cut in two. Heretics and schismatics are like infected members who have drifted away from this Body and are in a state of spiritual death, but this does not harm the unity and integrity of the Holy Church.
If we look around us, we will see what is happening now with these ancient heresies. Once a third of Alexandria and Egypt sang “Talia” by Arius, and the barbarian tribes of Goths, Vandals and Burgundians were Arians. The Nestorian Church of the East stretched from Mesopotamia to China. The Monophysite Churches of Syria, Egypt, Armenia and Ethiopia have long since lost both the interest and the ability to conduct theological polemics in defense of the doctrines of Eutyches and Dioscoros, and are no longer than insular national churches for the Christian peoples surrounded by an aggressive force. Muslim world.
We know it will always be evil men and seducers will become worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived (1 Tim. 3:13), and as long as sin dwells in people, new heresies will arise. But they will go no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs was too. (2 Tim. 3:9), as the apostle Paul comforts us. Saint Gregory the Theologian seconded him: “It is no calamity if the heretics have warmed up and found the courage to crawl out of their holes in the spring…I know very well that they will not long hiss, and then they will hide, beaten down both by truth and by time; and the sooner this happens, the greater will be the hope with which everything will be committed to God.
So we are going, dear brothers and sisters, to leave everything to God; and He Himself will destroy with truth and time all the folly of those who doubt the faith of Christ. We ourselves will refrain from pouring, even under noble pretexts, sinful oil on the fire of our anger, our irritation, our judgment and our calumnies, which burns first against misguided heretics, but then also burns our neighbors, and finally becomes the endless fire of Gehenna for ourselves. Instead of useless arguments with heretics (and let us remember: A man who is a heretic after the rejection of the first and second warnings [Tit. 3:10]), make an effort to study our faith and the history of the Church, so that the names of Sts. Athanasius the Great, Cyril of Alexandria, Gregory the Theologian, Maximus the Confessor, Minas of Constantinople and other fathers of the Six Ecumenical Councils could become near and dear to us.
Today, the day of commemoration of these true archpastors and pastors, to restrain ourselves from extremes and for spiritual edification, let us not forget the simple and wise words of Saint Silhouan of Mount Athos: “The Holy Spirit, says- one, placed bishops in the Church to feed the flock of the Lord; and if people understood this, then they would love the shepherds with great love and rejoice in their souls at the sight of their shepherd. Anyone who carries within them the grace of the Holy Spirit knows what I’m talking about. For their humility and their love for the people, the Lord loves them. They are always in great labors and ascetic exploits, and for this they are enriched with the spirit of the saints, whom they imitate with their lives. Brethren, let us remain in obedience to our pastors, and then there will be a common peace; and the Lord will dwell in the Holy Spirit with us all.