Council Day 4 Reflection (Athanasius)

Revered Emperor, Ossius, and members of the council,

I am very pleased with the progress made this past council session. I am entirely committed to the support and elevation of the Metropolitan Bishops. I think it is crucial for the future of the Church that there is structure and a form of hierarchy. The canon elevates the status of the metropolitan bishops, and I am even more pleased that this canon passed without too much debate. I completely understand the concern Arius expressed in reference to his experience at Antioch, and the concern that metropolitan bishops will be too powerful. I believe his concern is reflective more of the nature of his beliefs than of a corruption among the metropolitan bishops. While I admit that he was outnumbered, I do not believe he was maliciously attacked. I would argue that this fear is unwarranted, because as men of God the Metropolitan bishops would act in a way pleasing to Our Lord, and would not abuse their power in His Name.

Furthermore, I am especially pleased that the canon established the regional provinces as those existing before 290 CE, and institutionalized the authority of the Metropolitan bishop by requiring His permission in ordaining new bishops. I believe this resolves the conflict between Alexander and Meletius, because it returns proper authority to Alexander and prevents Meletius from usurping the power of the Alexandrian see. With these clauses in mind, the parishes and property of the Church that was stolen from Alexandria during John’s persecution and Meletius’ usurpation has been returned to Alexandria and the authority of Alexander.  Regardless of personal stake in the matter, I believe this clause should please the Emperor in that is unifies the Church by preventing smaller factions to rise up and bring disagreement and division to the Church.  I also am satisfied that it leaves a path for the bishops and priests ordained outside of the power of the metropolitan bishop to remain a part of the Church, because I believe Christ’s message was one of forgiveness and unnecessarily excommunicating people is not in line with this message.

The canon on the role of future councils surprised me in how quickly it was written and passed, but am not opposed to it in any way. I do not believe there need to be future councils, and I do not believe those councils should have the power to change doctrine established here at Nicaea. I believe the idea of a primary bishop, or “Pope” will be good for the Church, especially in terms of incorporating Christianity into the Roman Empire. The symbolic importance of Rome as the center of the Empire, and now the center of the Church will greatly improve relations between the two institutions.

I pray that our discussion on Easter and the celibacy of the clergy goes as smoothly as this day did. May God watch over us and bless our council.

Athanasius.

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