Lives of all saints commemorated on July 14


Fathers of the First Six Councils

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 StConstantine 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” (St 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 at all 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.


Apostle Aquila of the Seventy

Saint Aquila, Apostle of the 70: It is possible that he was a disciple of the Apostle Paul, a native of Pontus and a Jew, living in the city of Rome with his wife Priscilla (they are commemorated on February 13 on the Greek Calendar). During the reign of the emperor Claudius (41-54) all the Jews were banished from Rome, so St Aquilla and his wife were compelled to leave. They settled in Corinth. A short while later, the holy Apostle Paul arrived there from Athens preaching the Gospel. Having made the acquaintance of Aquila, he began to live at his house and labored together with him, making tents.

Having received Baptism from the Apostle Paul, Aquila and Priscilla bacame his devoted and zealous disciples. They accompanied the apostle to Ephesus. The Apostle Paul instructed them to continue the preaching of the Gospel at Ephesus, and he himself went to Jerusalem, in order to be present for the feast of Pentecost. At Ephesus, Aquila and Priscilla heard the bold preaching of a newcomer from Alexandria, the Jew Apollos. He had been instructed in the fundamentals of the Faith, but knew only the baptism of John the Forerunner. They called him over and explained more precisely about the way of the Lord.

After the death of the emperor Claudius, Jews were permitted to return to Italy, and Aquila and Priscilla then returned to Rome. The Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans recalls his faithful disciples, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my coworkers in Christ Jesus, who put forth their heads for my soul, whom I do not alone thank, but also all the Church of the Gentiles and the church of their household” (Rom. 16: 3-4). St Aquila did not long dwell in Rome: the Apostle Paul made him a bishop in Asia. St Aquila zealously labored at preaching the Gospel in Asia, Achaia and Heraklia. He converted pagans to Christ, he confirmed newly-converted Christians in the faith, he established presbyters and destroyed idols. St Priscilla constantly assisted him in the apostolic work. St Aquila ended his life a martyr: pagans murdered him. According to the Tradition of the Church, St Priscilla was killed together with him.


Venerable Stephen the Abbot of Makhrishche, Vologda

Saint Stephen of Makhra (Makhrishche) was a native of Kiev. He accepted monasticism at the monastery of the Caves, where he spent several years in deeds of obedience and prayer. The oppressions of the Latins compelled him to journey on to Moscow, where Great Prince Ivan II (1353-1359) graciously received him, permitting him to settle in the locale of Makhra not far from Gorodisch, 35 versts from the Sergeev monastery.

Having built himself a cell and spending his life at ascetic labors, and esteeming silence, he did not accept those wishing to join him. But then he yielded to the requests, and in this way, in 1358 he founded a monastery, in which he was established as igumen.

Living near his monastery were the Yurkov brothers. Fearing that the land which they ruled might be given over to the monastery, they threatened to kill the holy ascetic. The admonitions of the monk did not help. St Stephen then moved to a different place. Sixty versts north of Vologda, at the River Avnezha, he founded with his disciple Gregory a monastery in the name of the Holy Trinity. Great Prince Demetrius Ioannovich sent books and other liturgical items to the Avnezhsk wilderness, but the venerable Stephen sent them in turn to the Makhra monastery. Having returned to his monastery, St Stephen ordered life in it according to a cenobitic Rule.

When St Sergius of Radonezh moved form his monastery, in order to find a place for his ascetic deeds, St Stephen then received him, and gave the great ascetic Sergius his own disciple Simon, who knew the surrounding area quite well. St Sergius settled together with Simon on the island of Kirzhach, where he founded a monastery.

St Stephen was strict with himself and indulgent towards others. He worked for the monastery the hardest of all, he zealously guided the brethren to the ways of salvation with gentle and quiet talks, and he worevery old and coarse clothing.

The monk lived to extreme old age, became a schemamonk and died in 1406 on July 14. In 1550 during the construction of a new stone church in the name of the Holy Trinity, his holy relics were found to be incorrupt. They were glorified by blessings of help in various sicknesses and misfortunes for all who called on the name of the saint.


Martyr Justus at Rome

The Holy Martyr Justus was a Roman soldier, to whom the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord appeared in a vision. Justus believed in Christ and gave away his possessions to the poor. By decree of the official of Magnesia, Justus was taken to trial as a Christian. After various tortures, the holy martyr was thrown into a fire and gave up his soul to God, but the flames did not harm his body.


Venerable Hellius of Egypt

St Hellius lived and died in the fourth century. He was sent to a monastery when he was still a child. There he was raised in piety, temperance and chastity.

When he grew up, he went into the Egyptian desert, where through his ascetical struggles he attained great proficiency in the spiritual life. He was endowed with the gift of clairvoyance, and he knew all the thoughts and disposition of the monks conversing with him.

Great faith, simplicity of soul and deep humility allowed St Hellius to command wild animals. Once, the saint became tired while carrying a heavy load to the monastery. He prayed and called a wild donkey to carry his burden. The donkey meekly carried the load to the place and was set free to return to the wilderness. Another time, when St Hellius needed to cross a river and there was no boat, he summoned a crocodile from the water and crossed to the opposite shore while standing on its back.

One of the young novices of the monastery, whom St Hellius visited, asked him to take him along into the far desert. St Hellius warned him about the great work, exploits and temptations which inevitably beset all the hermits, but since the novice continued fervently to ask, he took him along. On the first night the novice, frightened by terrible visions, ran to St Hellius. The monk comforted and calmed him down and ordered him to return. Tracing the Sign of the Cross over the cave, the monk told the young hermit not to fear, because he would not be disturbed by these apparitions any more. Trusting the word of the saint, the novice decided to remain in solitude and afterwards attained such perfection that he, like his teacher Hellius, received food from an angel.

St Hellius peacefully entered the heavenly mansions after reaching an advanced age.


Venerable Onesimus of Magnesia

Saint Onesimus the Wonderworker was born in Caesarea in Palestine at the beginning of the fourth century, and entered a monastery in Ephesus.

Later, he founded a monastery at Magnesia and remained there for the rest of his life. He performed many miracles.


Repose of the Venerable Nicodemus the Hagiorite

Saint Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain was born on the Greek island of Naxos in the year 1748, and was named Nicholas at Baptism. At the age of twenty-six, he arrived on Mount Athos and received the monastic tonsure in the Dionysiou monastery with the name Nicodemus.

As his first obedience, Nicodemus served as his monastery’s secretary. Two years after his entry into the Dionysiou monastery, the Metropolitan of Corinth, St Macarius Notaras (April 17), arrived there, and he assigned the young monk to edit the manuscript of the PHILOKALIA, which he found in 1777 at the Vatopedi monastery. Editing this book was the beginning of many years of literary work by St Nicodemus. The young monk soon moved to the Pantokrator skete, where he was under obedience to the Elder Arsenius of the Peloponnesos, under whose guidance he zealously studied Holy Scripture and the works of the Holy Fathers.

In 1783 St. Nicodemus was tonsured to the Great Schema, and he lived in complete silence for six years. When St Macarius of Corinth next visited Athos, he gave the obedience of editing of the writings of St. Symeon the New Theologian to St. Nicodemus, who gave up his ascetic silence and occupied himself once more with literary work. From that time until his death he continued zealously to toil in this endeavor.

Not long before his repose, Father Nicodemus, worn out by his literary work and ascetic efforts, went to live at the skete of the iconographers Hieromonks Stephen and Neophytus Skourtaius, who were brothers by birth. He asked them to help in the publication of his works, since he was hindered by his infirmity. There St. Nicodemus peacefully fell asleep in the Lord on July 14, 1809.

According to the testimony of his contemporaries, St. Nicodemus was a simple man, without malice, unassuming, and distinguished by his profound concentration. He possessed remarkable mental abilities: he knew the Holy Scriptures by heart, remembering even the chapter, verse and page, and he could even recite long passages from the writings of the Holy Fathers from memory.

The literary work of St. Nicodemus was varied. He wrote a preface to the PHILOKALIA, and short lives of the ascetics. Among the saint’s ascetical works, his edition of Lorenzo Scupoli’s book, UNSEEN WARFARE is well known, and has been translated into Russian, English, and other languages. A remarkable work of the ascetic was his MANUAL OF CONFESSION (Venice, 1794, 1804, etc.), summarized in his treatise, “Three Discourses on Repentance”. His most edifying book CHRISTIAN MORALITY was published in Venice in 1803.

The saint also made great contributions by publishing liturgical books. Using materials from the manuscript collections of Mt Athos, he published sixty-two Canons to the Most Holy Theotokos under the title, NEW THEOTOKARION (Venice, 1796, 1849).

St. Nicodemus prepared a new edition of the the PEDALION or RUDDER, comprised of the canons of the Holy Apostles, of the holy Ecumenical and Local Synods, and of the holy Fathers.

St Nicodemus had a special love for hagiography, as attested by his work, NEW EKLOGION (Venice, 1803), and his posthumous book, THE NEW SYNAXARION in three volumes (Venice, 1819). He completed a Modern Greek translation of a book by St Theophylact, Archbishop of Bulgaria, PAUL’S FOURTEEN EPISTLES in three volumes. St. Nicodemus himself wrote AN INTERPRETATION OF THE SEVEN CATHOLIC EPISTLES (also published at Venice in 1806 and 1819).

The exceedingly wise Nicodemus is also known as the author and interpreter of hymns. His Canon in honor of the Mother of God “Quick to Hear” (November 9) and his “Service and Encomium in Honor of the Fathers who Shone on the Holy Mountain of Athos” are used even beyond the Holy Mountain. Some of his other books include the HEORTODROMION, an interpretation of the Canons which are sung on Feasts of the Lord and of the Mother of God (Venice, 1836), and THE NEW LADDER, an interpretation of the 75 Hymns of Degrees (Anabathmoi) of the liturgical book called the OKTOECHOS (Constantinople, 1844).