The Faith of our Fathers,
The Missionary Zeal of the First Century Church!
When we look at an overview of the first thousand years of church history, we know that the church was united, yet the faithful had difficulty knowing what to believe and who to follow. The Apostles were the best source of religious and spiritual leadership so many people followed them. In the year 33 AD we find the beginning of the New Testament Church on Pentecost Sunday. St. Peter, standing with the eleven, gave a sermon that converted 3000 souls in Jerusalem. He preached the good news, and wanted them to join him and those who believe in Jesus as the Messiah of God, and to follow the teaching of those who have eye witnessed the events of Christ’s ministry. “Now, at that time, there were visitors, devout men, in Jerusalem. They spoke in different languages being from different parts of the world. The power of the Holy Spirit was all about the city. The people knew Peter was from Galilee and were amazed and marveled on how he could speak to them in their own language. They were perplexed as to what this meant. Shortly after, they were baptized, took part in the prayers and in the breaking of the bread. This was a mass conversion in just one town, Jerusalem. On one day, Pentecost.
Moving on to the year 311AD: Constantine had a significant religious experience followed by his victory at the battle of Melvin Bridge. He now tolerated all religions in the empire, including the Christians. This means the persecution of Christians ended in April of 311 AD. Some say Constantine became a Christian in 312 AD. He moved the capital of the Empire from Rome to the east, to the city called by his name, Constantinople. He called for the council of Nicaea in 325 AD to put all the teachings of the church into a simplified statement. This is now known as the first part of the Nicaea-Constantinople Creed. He is well known as “Equal to the Apostles” because of the freedom and growth of the Church .Many believers throughout the Roman Empire were baptized because of his leadership and faith in the lord. Most of the Roman Empire was converted to the Christian Faith. He himself was baptized on his death bed in 327 AD. Later the edict of Thessalonica, 27th of February 380 AD, restored the confiscated church property back to the Christians, thereby making it the state religion of the Empire. This Empire included many countries and many, many people who now are Christians.
In the ninth Century, two brothers, Saints Cyril and Methodios, dedicated their lives to doing missionary work among the Slavs. They were also honored with the title, “Equal to the Apostles” because of their missionary efforts. They created the Cyrillic Alphabet and translated the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom into the Slavonic language in order for the people to celebrate it in a language that the faithful might understand.
In 988 AD the Christian Faith, spreads beyond the borders of the Roman Empire to our ancestral homeland, UKRAINE. The Great Prince Vladimir of Kiev was very concerned about respectability, unity, and a system of moral and ethical beliefs, for his nation that was both practical and spiritual. He studied reports of delegates from many faiths and also sent out emissaries who would search for the good, and the true way to worship Almighty God. When they returned they said, “The Greeks led us to their edifices where they worshiped God. We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there was no such splendor or beauty and we are at a loss as to how to describe it.” Vladimir took to his new faith enthusiastically and seriously, destroying all the idols in Kiev. He also transformed himself and society. He built many churches and schools and became noted for acts of charity. He was baptized and his people with him. Christianity became the treasured faith of the converted people. Because of this, St. Vladimir was also honored with the title, “Equal to the Apostles.”
Fr. Andrew Gall
St. John the Baptist UOC