Persecution of Christians

The Early Church went through great hardships and martyr­dom; its members were often persecuted and massacred.

There were ten most brutal and indiscriminate massacres of the Christians but "the blood of martyrs was the seed of the Church." The Church triumphed, because it is the Divine Institution.

  1. The first persecution took place at 64 A. D. by order of Emperor Nero. At this year the city of Rome in its greater part was burned down; the Emperor blamed Christians for its destruction and or­dered their annihilation.  Apostles Peter and Paul were martyred at this time.

  2. The second persecution was in 95 A. D. and it was directed by Emperor Domitian mainly against high officials of the country, who might have been Christians at that time. St. John, the Divine, was thrown in the boiling oil during this persecution, but miracu­lously the boiling oil did not injure him in any way.

  3. The third was in 106 A. D., in the reign of Emperor Trojan and was very prolonged. Among its martyrs was the noble Bishop of Antioch, St. Ignatius.

  4. The fourth was in I 66 A. D. Emperor Marcus Aurelius was very much prejudiced against Christians because of the false reports on their life and did put many of them to death, among whom there was the venerable Bishop of Smyrna, St. Polycarp. When the old bishop was brought before the governor for trial, the latter, being moved by pity for the old man, suggested him to renounce Christ and curse Him. The saint bishop answered thus to him: "Eighty-six years I served the Lord and He has done me nothing but good, how then will I curse Him, my Lord and my Savior." Whereupon he was burned alive. St. Polycarp was the disciple of St. Ignatius, who was the disciple of St. John, the Divine.

  5. The fifth persecution was in 202 A. D. and it is known in the History as the most violent one and many then believed that the time of antichrist was at hand.

  6. The sixth persecution took place in 235 A. D. and was directed principally against the clergy of the Church with the purpose of exterminating the bishops and priests and to take the people back to paganism.

  7. The seventh was in 249 A. D. by order of Emperor Decius throughout the whole Empire and is remembered in the History of the Church as the bloody one.

  8. The eighth was in 257 A. D. Emperor Valerian issued a decree by which every one, who was found practicing Christian religion, was sentenced to death. Among martyrs of this time was the learned and pious Bishop of Cartage, St. Cyprian.

  9. The ninth persecution took place in 275 A. D., it was a short one, but very brutal.

  10. The tenth and the last persecution was in 303 A. D. During this persecution not only the lives of Christians but also the church property was ordered to be destroyed, holy scriptures and sacred books were burned. It was the last effort of paganism to fight the Christianity openly.

The ending of the persecution in the Early Church does not mean that the Church did not suffer from further assaults and massacres, and so: in time of Arius' heresy and during the icono­clastic uprising, the brutalities against faithful Christians were re­peated by the dissidents and were not less atrocious than the same of the paganism. but the Christian Church triumphed, because it was a pillar of God's truth.

Trriumph of Christianity

In 311 A. D. Constantine, the Great, Emperor of the Roman Empire, which at that time consisted of the Western and Eastern parts, had a war with one of his military leaders. Maxenty, who intended to become independent in the Western part of the Empire. One night before the battle, Constantine went out of his tent and was devotedly looking upon the sky. There he saw a miraculous vision, a cross with a bright light around and an inscription: "By this you will conquer." Constantine understood this vision to be pointing that his victory was in his faith in the power of the cross and he ordered to put the cross on all the army banners, which gave much inspiration and confidence to his soldiers. Maxenty was de­feated.

Soon after this, in 313 A. D., Constantine issued in the city of Milan an order, by which the freedom of Christian worship was proclaimed and many privileges were given to Christians and their clergy. The punishment by crucification was abolished, Sunday was acknowledged as a holiday and also other Christian holidays were proclaimed. Constantine, the Great, became a Christian just before his death, but his whole life was consecrated to the triumph of Christianity and the Church crowned his memory by numbering him with the saints and giving him a title of the Equal to Apostles as also to his mother, the pious Queen Elena. She helped much to her son in his work for the Church. She traveled to the Holy Land, she built there, and in the other parts many churches and she dis­covered the Saviour's cross in 326 A. D. Constantine, the Great, died May 21st, 337 A. D.

Ecumenical Councils

After receiving the freedom of teaching and worship the Chris­tian Church was able to put all her doctrines in a system, to make necessary rules of church discipline and to defend and proclaim the truth it was holding from the time of Christ. The rules and regulations of the Church which have the power of the law for the whole Church are known as the canons of the Church, and were composed and enacted by the Ecumenical Councils. Although there are some rules of the Provincial councils and of the individual fathers of the Church which were approved by the Ecumenical Councils and included in the canons of the Church.

There were seven Ecumenical and nine Provincial Councils of the Undivided Church, canons of which comprise the Church law. The First Ecumenical Council was held in 325 A. D. in the city of Nicaea. This Council condemned the heresy of Arius, who denied the divinity of Jesus Christ and was teaching that our Lord was a God's creature. This heresy provoked much unrest in the Church. Besides proclaiming true teaching concerning God Father and God Son, Jesus Christ, as it is presented in the first seven articles of the Creed, the Council made some canons, regulating the life of the Church.

The Second Ecumenical Council was held in 381 A. D., at Con­stantinople and was convoked to judge Macedonius, who was spreading heretical teaching about the Holy Ghost. Macedonius was teaching that the Holy Ghost was created by God like angels were, only he was a spirit of higher type and order. The fathers of this Council rejected Macedonius' teaching and condemned it as a heresy against the Holy Ghost and composed the last five articles of the Creed, in which they expounded the true teaching about the Holy Ghost and other dogmas of the Church. The Creed (Symvol Veri) of the First and Second Ecumenical Councils is called the Nicene Creed.

The Third Ecumenical Council was held in Ephesus, 431 A. D., it condemned the heresy of Nestorius, who taught that our Lord was only a man, in whom the divinity was abiding like in a temple. He called the blessed Virgin Mary the Mother of Christ and not the Mother of God. This heresy survives in Persia.

The Fourth Ecumenical Council was held at Chalcedon in the year of our Lord 451. This Council condemned the heresy of Eutychius, who was teaching that our Lord was only God, that His divine nature absorbed the human one. At the present time to this doctrine adhers the Armenian Church. Monophisits heresy.

The Fifth Ecumenical Council was held in Constantinople, 553 A. D. By this Council were excommunicated the followers of Nestorius and their writings were condemned as heretical.

The Sixth Ecumenic

St Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church

(610) 459-5310

1855 Middletown Road
Glen Mills, PA 19342

Mailing Address
PO Box 231
Gradyville, PA 19039

Copyright © 2019 St Herman of Alaska - Orthodox Church in America - Gradyville, PA