Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council - 7th Sunday in Pascha
Gospel: John 17:1-13
When Jesus spoke these words, He lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believe that You sent Me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I come to You and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves."
For Your Information (for further information and resources visit family.goarch.org)
Shortly after the Mystical Supper and prior to His betrayal and arrest, Jesus Christ offered this prayer to His Father in heaven. It is the first part of what is known as the Lord's high-priestly prayer. In this prayer we hear Jesus praying for Himself, for His disciples, and for the Church, as He prepares Himself for the final, grueling stages of His earthly ministry. As He prays to His Father He also reveals more fully His unique identity as the Son of the only true God and His role as the Savior of the world. As He prays for His Apostles, as they soon would be called by sharing His teachings with the world, He asks that they be kept united as one as He and His Father are forever united as One. Jesus foresees and foretells that there will be a struggle for them to stay united in faith and love as His Body in the world.
On this day, the Orthodox Church honors the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council as a whole. This council, the first of seven that have been given the title "ecumenical," was assembled by the emperor, St. Constantine the Great, in Nicea in 325 A.D. to preserve the unity of the Church. The 318 bishops (many of whom we now recognize as saints) gathered to defend what the Church, as a whole, believed about the person of Jesus Christ. Affirming the divinity of Christ, along with his humanity, they laid the foundation for the subsequent ecumenical councils.
- What is happening in the Gospel lesson?
- Why does Jesus Christ pray for Himself? Why does Jesus Christ pray for His Apostles? How do we strengthen or weaken the unity of the Church?
- What does this Gospel mean to our lives?
To Do Together
I Believe - The Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council formulated and ratified the first seven articles of the Nicene Creed. As we know, the Creed contains the essential beliefs we hold as Orthodox Christians. Gather as a family to recite the creed. If you have very young children, they can repeat after you line by line. Discuss each line as a family, reflecting on the meaning of each so that everyone has a better understanding when they pray.
Imitators of Christ - This Gospel reading vividly shows the importance of prayer. Jesus asks for His Father's sanctification for Himself and His disciples. Using a Bible concordance or www.biblegateway.com, find instances of Jesus Christ praying at various times. You will quickly learn that prayer was a critical part of Jesus' life and is necessary in our lives as Christians. Discuss how can we make it a critical part of ours.
Family Meeting - Just as the 318 bishops assembled for the benefit of the Church, why not gather as a family periodically to assess your spiritual health? Frequent and open communication makes for dynamic, vibrant Orthodox Christian families.
When a ray is projected from the sun, it is a portion of the whole sun; but the sun will be in the ray because it is part of the sun; the substance is not separated but extended. So from the Spirit comes spirit, and God from God, as light is kindled into light. This ray of God glided down into a virgin's womb and was fashioned as flesh, born of man mixed with God. The flesh was built up by the Spirit, was nourished, grew up, spoke, taught, worked, and was Christ. - Tertullian
A Closing Prayer
I praise the all-holy Council of the Holy Fathers as I cry out, "O Christ, I implore you, guard closely in me its all-holy revelation." Shining like lightning the god-bearing Fathers, having come together today, confessed you clearly, O Christ, as alike without beginning and consubstantial with the Father. Illustrious are the groomsmen of your bride the Church, O Master, who wisely laid down the definition of the faith and adorned her as with fair adornment of gold. - From the matins of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council
For Further Information
- The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787) by Leo Donald Davis - At present there is no other book like this in English. This learned and large work studies the background, debates, and decisions of the first seven Ecumenical Councils in their proper historical, political, and theological settings. Published by Liturgical Press.
- A History of the Church for Children: A.D. 29-A.D. 451 by John Mason Neale - Church history is presented in an easily understandable "living book" form appropriate for young people. Available from Paidea Classics.
- Celebrating the Saints: Three Summer Sundays - This brief explanation of today's commemoration, from the archives of Orthodox Family Life, includes activities for families: http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/feasts/3summersundays.htm.
Learn more about the basics of fasting and prayer with this playlist of short videos. You'll find 16 episodes of "Be the Bee" that will help you make the most of Great Lent and Holy Week!
Journey Through Holy Week
Follow Christ and the Church through each stage of Holy Week - from the Saturday of Lazarus to the Agape Vespers service with this full-color guide. Download the Children's Guide » and the Parent's Guide »
The Center for Family Care offers two video panel discussions focusing on the practicalities of keeping your family engaged throughout Holy Week.