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12 June 2009
  The Council of Nicaea
Summer AD 325

NicaeaThe Christian Church's First Ecumenical Council was convened in Nicaea (modern Isnuk, Turkey) in the early summer of AD 325 by the Roman Emperor Constantine. The emperor presided at the opening of the council. The major intended topic was the ongoing Arian controversy.

The council ruled against the Arians, who taught that Jesus was not the eternal Son of God but was created by the Father and was called Son of God because of his righteousness. The chief opponents of the Arians were Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, and his deacon, Athanasius. The council confessed the eternal divinity of Jesus and adopted the earliest version of the Nicene Creed, which in its entirety was adopted at the Council of Constantinople in 381.

Other topics included celebration of the Resurrection and how the date for Easter would correspond with Passover, the Miletian schism, validity of baptism by heretics, and the restoration lapsed Christians who renounced the Faith under persecution. The Council also established a number of new canons (Church laws). Enumeration varies, but twenty is the number suggested by the editors of the Early Church Fathers:
1. prohibition of self-castration, as done by Origen;
2. establishment of a minimum term for catechumens;
3. prohibition of the presence in the house of a cleric of a younger woman who might bring him under suspicion;
4. ordination of a bishop in the presence of at least three provincial bishops and confirmation by the metropolitan;
5. provision for two provincial synods to be held annually;
6. exceptional authority acknowledged for the bishops of Alexandria and Rome, for their respective regions;
7. recognition of the honorary rights of the see of Jerusalem;
8. provision for agreement with the Novatianists;
9-14. provision for mild procedure against the lapsed during the persecution under Licinius;
15-16. prohibition of the removal of priests;
17. prohibition of usury among the clergy;
18. precedence of bishops and presbyters before deacons in receiving Holy Communion, the Eucharist;
19. declaration of the invalidity of baptism by Paulian heretics;
20. prohibition of kneeling during the liturgy, on Sundays and in the fifty days of Eastertide.
   (Summary from Wikipedia.)
Their version of what we now call the Nicene Creed was almost identical to what is now used in the Church until the third section, where the original ends, "We believe in the Holy Spirit." It fell to the Second Ecumenical Council (First Council of Constantinople) to add what is now used. Therefore, the confession used in the churches may properly be called the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. The so-called filioque (where "and the Son" was inserted after the words about the Spirit proceeding from the Father) was only later added by the Roman Catholic Church and never accepted in the East.

The Council also saw the first major collaboration between Church and state since Christianity began and signaled a rise in imperial influence in affairs of the Church. Constantine called it, presided over the initial session, and, in many respects, set its agenda. While his personal religious beliefs may have been part of his reason, most scholars agree that his main fear was that a divided Christianity would result in a divided Empire. The historical irony is that the Roman Empire fractured before any major schisms in Christendom.

Nicene Creed

Nicene FathersI believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered, and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And I believe in one holy Christian [catholic] and apostolic Church, I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

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