Council Day 5 Reflection (Athanasius)

Emperor Constantine, Ossius, and my fellow council members,

This past council meeting was dramatic one. We decided the date of Easter, and on the celibacy of the clergy.  We all came very prepared, but seemed so caught up in the issues we forsook all rules of decorum.

I am personally pleased with the decision to keep Easter in line with Passover, because I believe the theological significance of passover and the parallel imagery between Christ and the Passover Lamb must be respected and maintained. While I would’ve preferred to keep the date of Easter as the Sunday after the 14th day after the Spring Equinox, I understand that the calculation of this date and our argument for it was confusing for some.  My original position on Easter was one I believed Constantine, Meletius and Theclus could find compromise in because it detached Easter from a direct affiliation with Passover, but also maintained the theological significance. They were not to be swayed however, and I chose to back the alignment with Passover instead of a fixed date because of its theological significance.

It was during the debate on Easter that the council forgot the rules of decorum. I was personally frustrated because I believe a few council members were very rude and did not allow myself or Alexander to clarify our position. In addition, we were accused of refusing to compromise, which I find appalling because I believe that we compromised the most in the writing of the creed on the nature of Christ, because we allowed it to pass without any language that definitively supported our position. I was also aggravated by the accusation because we did compromise on the date of Easter, just not in favor of those attacking us. I believe that this lack of decorum is disgraceful and disrespectful to Our Lord, and I believe that Ossius and Constantine especially, failed to step in to mediate this conflict. I think the re-institution of hand raising is embarrassing, but it seemed to work so I’m glad we have something in place to prevent another debacle like this.  That being said, I appreciate that Eusebius of Nicomedia stood up for me at one point in the debate and was respectful of other members and followed the rules of decorum.

I was indeterminate on the matter of celibacy, and was very interested in the arguments made by both sides. As someone who appreciates asceticism, I have a great respect for members of the clergy who choose to deny worldly temptations in order to better serve God. In that vein of thought, I am satisfied with the approval of a canon mandating celibacy, but am more pleased that a grandfather clause was added so that those who are already married should not be punished. I agreed with Meletius’ argument that Bishops should behave as examples in Christ, but I also believe that Christ’s message was centered on forgiveness and that punishing those already married would contradict that message. Eusebius of Caesarea made very strong arguments against a mandate however, and I cannot ignore those. I would have also been okay with a canon that allowed marriage in the clergy. Regardless of the canon, I am pleased the council managed to regain some of its composure during this debate and that the canon was passed without too much conflict.

As we move to the topics of women and the lapsed, I suspect tensions will be high, but I pray that we can remember God’s peace, and work to glorify God and better the Church, all while maintaining Christ-like behavior and composure.

May God be with us in our endeavors.

Athanasius

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