July 16, 2023

Homily Six for the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Synod - The Knowledge of God (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Synod
The Knowledge of God
By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou
Today's Sunday is dedicated by our Church to the Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Synod, which convened in Chalcedon in 451 AD.

At that time, the Church faced many heretics, who, using Greek philosophy, proclaimed that Christ had two natures, divine and human, but the human nature was absorbed by the divine nature. This, however, questioned the orthodox truth that Christ was perfect God and perfect man, i.e. the God-man. If Christ has only the divine nature, as Monophysitism maintained, then not only faith in the God-man Christ, but also the salvation of man is overturned. Because in such a case the whole of ecclesiastical life has no meaning, i.e. Baptism, Chrismation, the Divine Eucharist, the partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Thus, in this Synod, the Holy Fathers defined the orthodox faith on the person of Christ, that the two natures are united in the person of the Word "unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably", and thus was preserved the orthodox faith and the salvation-deification of man.

When such serious theological and ecclesiastical issues arise, the Church deals with them synodically, that is, with the Synods of Bishops, and in which other members of the Church, Clergy and laity, participate in various ways. Because in order for these issues to be well prepared and for there to be a good organization of the Synod, other people are also needed. Also, during the discussion of the issues, people who dealt with these issues are used, as for example in the First Ecumenical Synod Athanasios the Great played an important role, who then accompanied the Archbishop of Alexandria, Alexander, as his deacon.

The discussion that took place in this Synod and in other Ecumenical Synods was about the confrontation of the Revelation that the Prophets, Apostles and Fathers received from God, with philosophical theology which is the fruit of thought and imagination. Always, in all theological subjects we distinguish two movements, namely that which is based on the Revelation of God, and that which is based on philosophical reflection.

This means that the experience of God precedes it, which is expressed through sacred hesychasm, and the formulation of the experience follows. This happens with all subjects, since first we observe an event and then record it. If one has no experience of an event, then one uses imagination and reflection to describe it.

Thus, the Prophets, Apostles and Fathers had empirical knowledge of God, that is why they spoke inspired by God, and demarcated truth from error, i.e. they set boundaries between truth and error, so that we can follow the authentic way of life and salvation.

We must know that there are three ways of knowing God. The first is the natural way of knowing which is done by observing nature. The second way of knowledge is the prophetic, when the Prophet sees the glory of God, when his nous is illuminated by the energy of God. And the third way of knowing God is the biblical one, that is, we read the written experiences of the saints recorded in the Holy Bible and Sacred Tradition, in the worship of the Church and in the decisions of the Ecumenical and Local Synods.

That is why experience and teaching are of great importance, as expressed in the Ecumenical Synods and especially in the Fourth Ecumenical Synod, the Fathers of which we celebrate today. That is why we must pay special attention to the troparia that we chant today in the service, in order to see our Orthodox faith that is distinguished from the heresies.

The Bishop of Nafpaktos Irenaios also participated in the Fourth Ecumenical Synod, as can be seen in its Minutes. The holy Irenaios Bishop of Nafpaktos participated in the discussions and decisions of this great Ecumenical Synod and, of course, he conveyed this Orthodox teaching to his flock at that time in Nafpaktos.

On this occasion, as has been announced, it was determined, after our introduction and the decision of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, to celebrate all the Bishops of Nafpaktos who participated in important Synods, which dealt with theological issues. The service was written by the hymnographer George Galanopoulos, whom I previously appointed Reader, and this service was approved by the Holy Synod.

Let me remind you that the Bishop of Nafpaktos Martyrios participated in the Synod of Sardis, which is today's Sofia of Bulgaria, which took place in the year 343, and he supported the orthodox teaching of Saint Athanasios. Also, Bishops of Nafpaktos participated in Ecumenical Synods, such as Kallikrates in the Third Ecumenical Synod, Irenaios in the Fourth Ecumenical Synod and Antonios in the Eighth Ecumenical Synod.

We consider it a special blessing and honor that the Bishops of the historical Diocese and Metropolis of Nafpaktos participated in such Great Synods. Beyond the sense of honor, we must pray to them to keep the orthodox faith we received, to remain steadfast in it, so that it transforms our lives.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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