In 325 A.D., Roman Emperor Constantine called the Council of Nicaea, summoning over 300 bishops from around the known world to gather together. Contrary to our imagination, the bishops gathered were more like a showcase of the dismembered characters from the SAW movie series. The following is a description of the horrific scene at that council, recorded by the Syrian writer Marutha of Maiperqat:
The General Council having thus received authority from the king, the fathers directed that there should be gradations in the assembly and that each Bishop should sit in his place according to his rank. Chairs were there made for all and the king entered and sat with them. He kissed the spots which were the marks of Christ in their bodies.
Of the 318 fathers, only 11 were free from such marks…… But all the others were more or less maimed in their persecutions from heretics. Some had their eyes taken out; some had their ears cut off. Some had their teeth dug out by the roots. Some had the nails of their fingers and toes torn out; some were otherwise mutilated; in a word there was no one without marks of violence; save the above-named persons.
But Thomas, Bishop of Marash was an object almost frightful to look upon; he had been mutilated by the removal of his eyes, nose and lips; his teeth had been dug out and both his legs and arms had been cut off. He had been kept in prison 22 years by the Armanites [Armenians] who used to cut off a member of his body or mutilate him in some way every year, to induce him to consent to their blasphemy, but he conquered in this fearful contest to the glory of believers and to the manifestation of the unmercifulness of the heretics. The fathers took him with them to the Council and when the king saw him, he fell down upon the ground and worshipped him saying, “I worship thee, O thou martyr of Christ, who art adorned with many crowns.”
Translation taken from tertullian.org
So next time when we recite the Nicene Creed, let us remember the martyrs of Christ, who paid a high price in defending the faith that has been securely passed down to us today.
What’s interesting is that Emperor Constantine actually bowed down and kissed these saints like a servant. What does that tell us about church-state relationships?