THE SACRED TRADITION OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCHF

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

THE SACRED TRADITION OF THE
ORTHODOX CHURCH

"Therefore, brethren, STAND FAST AND
HOLD THE TRADITIONS WHICH YOU
WERE TAUGHT, WHETHER BY WORD
OR OUR EPISTLE" (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

In the New Testament, there are two types of traditions. "The tradition of men" (St. Matthew 15:1-9; Col. 2:8) is condemned. Our Lord quotes Isaiah 29:13, "So the Lord said, ‘These people draw near to Me and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me, and they worship Me in vain, teaching the commandments and doctrines of men." In the second to the fourth centuries, this was called "The Apostolic Tradition," or ‘Sacred Tradition," preserved by the Church, for God is its source. Sacred Tradition is that which our Lord taught to the holy Apostles, and which they, in turn, taught the Chuch under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit our God.

The early Christian Church carefully guarded her inward life against the non-Christians. Who Mysteries (Sacraments) were performed in secret from those outside the Church who were not present to witness them. The divine services were not written down but were only transmitted orally. Saint Basil the Great gives us a clear understanding of the Sacred Apostolic Tradition: "Of the dogmas and sermons preserved in the Church, certain ones we have from written instructions, and certainly one we have received from the Apostolic Tradition handed dow in secret. Both the one and the other have one and the same authority for piety, and no one who is even the least informed in the decrees of the Church will contradict this. For if we dare to overthrow the unwritten customs as if they did not have great importance, we shall thereby imperceptibly do harm to the Gospel in its most important points. And even more, we shall be left with the empty name of the Apostolic preaching without content. For example, let us especially make note of the first and commonest thing that those who hope in the Name of our Lord Jesus Chris should sign themselves with the Sign of the Cross. Who taught this in the Scripture? Which Scripture instructed us that we should turn to the East in prayer? Which of the Saints left us in the written form the words of invocation during the transformation of the bread of the Eucharist and the Chalice of blessing? For we are not satisfied with the words which are mentioned in the Epistles or the Gospels, but before them and after them we pronounce others also as having great authority for the Mystery, having received them from the UNWRITTEN TEACHING. By what Scripture, likewise, do we bless the water of Baptism and the Oil of anointing and, indeed, the one being baptized himself? Is this not THE SILENT AND SECRET TRADITION? And what more? What written word has taught us this anointing with oil itself? Where is the triple immersion and all the rest that has to do with Baptism, the renunciation of Satan and his angels to be found? What Scripture are these taken from? It is not from this UNPUBLISHED AND UNSPOKEN TEACHING WHICH OUR Fathers have preserved in silence inaccessible to curiosity and scrutiny, because they were thoroughly instructed TO PRESERVE IN SILENCE THE SANCTITY OF THE MYSTERIES? For what propriety would there be no proclaim in writing teaching concerning that which it is not allowed for the unbaptized even to behold? (On the Holy Spirit, Ch. 27).

"From these words of Saint Basil the Great we may conclude first, that the Sacred Tradition of the teaching of the faith is that which may be traced back to the earliest period of the Church, and, second, that it was carefully preserved and unanimously acknowledged among the holy Fathers and Teachers of the Church during the epoch of the Great Fathers and the beginning of the Ecumenical Synods." (Source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology)

To the Orthodox Christian believer, Holy Tradition means the Holy Scripture; it means the Nicean Creed; it means the Decrees of the Ecumenical Synods and the sacred writings of the Holy Fathers of the Church; it means the Holy Canons, the Service Books, the sacred icons and so on. Fundamentally it means the entire system of Doctrine, Ecclesiastical government, worship, and sacred art which Orthodox Christianity articulated over the ages. (Kallistos Ware, the Orthodox Church)

Our faithfulness to the Sacred Tradition of the Church is not something superficial or without purpose. Sac is red Tradition or Apostolic Tradition is a personal conviction and relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Sacred Tradition is the life of the Holy Spirit within the Church. Sacred Tradition is a living experience of God the Holy Spirit in the present. Our Lord tells us when the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all the earth (St. John 16:13). Father Georges Florovsky expresses this idea: "Tradition is the witness of the Spirit; the Spirit’s unceasing revelation and preaching of good things…To accept and understand Tradition we must live within the Church, we must be conscious of the grace-giving presence of the Lord in it; we must feel the breath of the Holy Spirit in it…Tradition is not only a protective, conservative principle; IT IS PRIMARILY, THE PRINCIPLE OF GROWTH AND REGENERATION…TRADITION IS THE CONSTANT ABIDING OF THE SPIRIT AND NOT ONLY THE MEMORY OF WORDS."

Teaching is to be considered worthy of Holy Tradition when it stems from the Savior and/or the Holy Apostles and is directly under the influence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Tradition is that which has been safeguarded from the Apostolic Church and has an UNINTERRUPTED CONTINUITY UNTIL TODAY. The Holy Tradition is that which IS CONFESSED AND PRACTICED BY THE ENTIRE UNIVERSAL AND ORTHODOX CHURCH. The Holy Tradition is that which IS IN HARMONY WITH THE GREATEST PORTION OF THE FATHERS AND ECCLESIASTICAL WRITERS.

"When a tradition DOES NOT FULFILL THESE QUALIFICATIONS, IT CANNOT BE CONSIDERED TRUE AND HOLY, AND CONSEQUENTLY CANNOT BE CONSIDERED ADMISSIBLE OR FIT TO BE OBSERVED."

Saint Paul in First Corinthians 11:2, says, "Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things AND KEEP THE TRADITIONS JUST AS I DELIVERED THEM TO YOU". In other words to be obedient to what has been DELIVERED–God-given ORAL TRADITION, from which Saint Paul taught. Saint Paul DOES NOT MAKE A DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE AUTHORITY OF THE WRITTEN AND ORAL TEACHINGS.

It is absolutely necessary that we must uphold with great respect and godliness Holy Tradition since all that is needful to effect our salvation is not found within Holy Scripture. Holy Scripture instructs us to do many things; however, it does not make manifest to us the light. Saint John says: "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen." (John 21:35).

I must emphasize and point out that for the Orthodox Christians, the Holy Scripture forms a part of Apostolic Tradition, but does not lie outside of it. We would be wrong to assume that Holy Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition are two separate and distinct sources of our Christian Faith, There IS ONLY ONE SOURCE; and the Holy Scripture exists, interpreted, and found its formulation within the Apostolic Tradition.

The Ecumenical Synods over the centuries remained faithful to and safeguarded and maintained the integrity of the Apostolic Tradition. Anyone tampering with the Apostolic Tradition is considered a heretic and is immediately excommunicated from the Orthodox Church. No one is above the Faith and therefore no one person or persons has any authority to change it or so call ‘reform it’ as though we are Protestant.

We, Orthodox Christians, must remain vigilant and on guard to make sure that the Authentic Church of Christ, remains Authentic and true to her Founder, Jesus Christ. The Orthodox Church had to face all kinds of heretics and enemies of Christ and the Church over the many centuries and she always triumphed. We must not be taken for fools and ignorant people by sinister elements within the Church but they must know that our Lord, the Bridegroom of the Bride, the Church, will not permit anyone to assault her. Jesus Himself said: "…the gates of Hades SHALL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST IT" (St. Matthew 16:18). In other words, the powers of evil and death, are powerless against her as shown over thousands of years. The Holy Church is the body of Christ, the Divine-human organism, and to her comes the call of Christ God for the whole of mankind to abide with Him and in Him. "And He put all things under His feet and gave Him to be Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the FULLNESS OF Him, Who FILLS ALL IN ALL" (Ephesians 1:22-23). Because He is intimately UNITED WITH THE CHURCH, the Church has the greatest glory of all creation. The Church is God’s MASTERPIECE. Since Christ God is INFINITE; THE CHURCH NEVER CEASES BECOME "FULL".

_______________________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

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