Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ. ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
AN EXTEMPORANEOUS PRAYER TO THE HOLY APOSTLES
Holy and glorious Apostles, disciples called by God, teachers of the ecumene, all-wise and Spirit heralds of the Logos, accept our prayer and intercede to the Lord on behalf of our souls.
Holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, who were the mystics and revealers of true wisdom, intercede with the Light-Giving Lord to rekindle the Light of the Paraclete also in our own souls, so that we may shake off spiritual indolence and restore the soundness of our mind.
Holy John, eagle of Theology, beloved and visionary of the ineffable revelations and the divine mysteries, intercede to Christ, the Logos of God, that He may always manifest and reveal to us the Gospel of His Truth and His Holy Will.
Saints Andrew and James, You who wiped out the darkness of idolatry with Your inspired teaching, intercede to the Lord to dissolve also the darkness of contemporary idolatry, so that redeemed from error we may worship and glorify the All-Holy Trinity.
Divine disciples, Philip and Bartholomew, You who were clear-sounding trumpets of Christ, intercede to the Lord that we too may proclaim and preach the Commandments of the Savior Jesus Christ, without becoming disheartened by the difficulties of the world.
Saints Thomas and Matthew, You who became excellent servants of the Logos of God, Who appeared on earth, and of the faithful souls, intercede that we too may serve the Lord and our brothers and sisters in the spirit of true discipleship.
Rivers of the source of living water, Saints James and Thaddeus, You who irrigated with divine waters the desert land of God, irrigate again our souls that thirst for the Truth and for salvation.
Spiritual shepherds and lambs of the Arch-Shepherd Christ, holy Apostles Simon and Mathias, intercede to the Lord that He may send out workers into His vineyard and produce zealous priests and shepherds for His Church. Amen.
THE SYNAXIS OF THE 12 HOLY APOSTLES OF CHRIST
Part II (we continue):
Bartholomew. His name is patronymic, meaning "son of Tolmai". Sometimes he is identified with Nathaneal whom Phillip led to Christ. According to the historian Eusebius, when Pantainus of Alexandria visited India between 150 and 200 A.D., he found there the Gospel according to Saint Matthew left behind by Saint Bartholomew one of the Holy Apostles. According to Tradition, Saint Bartholomew was flayed to death at Albanapolis in Armenia.
Matthew. He was the evangelist who was a Jew and a tax-collector referred to as Levi before he was called by Christ, Whom he followed. He is the author of the First Gospel (Evanggelion). In his genealogy of Jesus Christ, he emphasizes the Lord's human nature and origin. Therefore, in Christian symbolism, St. Matthew has been represented by the figure of man (cf. Rev. 4:7). The holy icon of St. Matthew in the Orthodox Church is to be found in one of the four triangles which are formed by the arches connected to the dome of the Church.
Thomas. He was called the Twin. On the way to Bethany he offered to die with Jesus. He interrupted the last discourse of Jesus with the questions "We know not whither Thou goest; how know we the way?" Saint Thomas doubted the Resurrection of Christ unless he were to touch the wounds of the Risen Lord, but later confessed his faith in Him: 'My Lord and my God'-the first to confess so explicitly the Lord's Divinity.
According to Tradition, Saint Thomas evangelized the Parthians. The Syrian Christians of Malabar called themselves "Christians of Saint Thomas" and claimed they were evangelized by the holy Apostle Thomas, who was martyred and buried at Mylapore near Madras.
James (the Lesser). He was the son of Alphaeus. Was he the Lord's relative? This is doubted. Was he James the younger (or the "lesser", St. Mark 15:40)? There are insufficient reasons to establish this either. Nothing is known of him.
Simon. He was called Cananaean and Zealot, two terms of the same Hebrew word. According to the Apocryphal "Passion of Simon and Jude", both of them preached and underwent martyrdom in Persia. In the New Testament, Simon of the brethren of the Lord, was identified with St. Simon the holy Apostle. There were many others bearing the same name in the New Testament.
Jude. He is the holy Apostle referred to in the Gospel as "Judas of James", "Judas not the Iscariot". He also is known as St. Thaddaeus or Lebbacus. St. Jude was the brother of James (or the son of James RV), the "brethren of the Lord"-the Lord's relative. Saint Jude is the author of the Epistle of St. Jude. The Apocryphal "Passion of Simon and Jude" depicted them in Persia where they preached and underwent martyrdom.
Judas Iscariot. A selected Apostle, one of the Twelve, he betrayed Christ to the Jewish Sanhedrin-the supreme council and highest court of justice in Jerusalem-and kissed the Lord at the time of the arrest. He later committed suicide. The title "Iscariot", meaning in the Hebrew "man of Kerioth", a place in South Palestine, implies that Judas was from Judea. He was the only one from there, whereas the other holy Apostles were from Galilee. After his suicide the holy Apostles elected Mathias to replace him as one of the Twelve Apostles.
Apostolic succession is the tracing of a direct line of Apostolic ordination, Orthodox doctrine, and full communion the Apostles to the current episcopacy of the Orthodox Church. All three elements are constitutive of Apostolic succession.
It is through Apostolic succession that the Orthodox Christian Church is the spiritual successor to the original (authentic) body of believers in Christ that was composed of the Holy Apostles. This succession manifests itself through the unbroken succession of its bishops back to the Holy Apostles.
The unbrokenness of Apostolic succession is significant because of Jesus Christ's promise that the "gates of Hell" (St. Matthew 16:18) would not prevail against the Church, and His promise that He Himself would be with the Apostles to "the end of the age" (St. Matthew 28:20). According to this interpretation, a complete disruption or end of such Apostolic succession would mean that these promises were not kept as would an Apostolic succession which, while formally intact, completely abandoned the teachings of the Holy Apostles and their immediate successors; as, for example, if all the bishops of the world agreed to abrogate the Nicene Creed or repudiate the Holy Scripture.
Orthodox teachings today are the same as that of the first Apostles, though their mode of expression has adapted over the centuries to deal with heresies, changes in culture and so forth. This form of the doctrine was first formulated by Saint Irenaeus of Lyons in the second century, in response to certain Gnostics. These Gnostics claimed that Christ or the Apostles passed on some teachings secretly, or that there were some secret apostles, and that they (the Gnostics) were passing on these otherwise secret teachings. Saint Irenaeus responded that the identity of the original Apostles was well known, as was the main content of their teaching and the identity of the Apostles' successors. Therefore, anyone teaching something contrary to what was known to be apostolic teaching was not, in any sense, a successor to the holy Apostles or to Christ.
In addition to a line of historic transmission, Orthodox Christian Churches additionally require that a Hierarch maintain Orthodox Christian doctrine as well as full communion with other bishops. As such, the Orthodox do not recognize the existence of Apostolic succession outside the Orthodox Church, precisely because the episcopacy is a ministry within the "one, Holy, and Apostolic Church" of Christ.
SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES TO APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY
No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people (Acts 5:13). [Note: this shows that the early Christians had a reverence for them.)
We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said (Acts 15:24).
As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the Apostles and Elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey (Acts 16:4).
For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God (2 Corinthians 2:17). [Note: this shows that the Office they hold is more than self-appointed authority).
Having been built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone (Ephesians 2:20). [Note: the word foundation is used to describe "the Apostles and Prophets", not just St. Peter).
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (Episcopoi). Be shepherds of the Church of God, which He bought with His own Blood (Acts 20:28). [Note: this is a clear testimony that the Holy Spirit appointed the Twelve to be "overseers" and "shepherds of the Church."].
As you sent Me into the world, I have sent them into the world (St. John 17:18). [Note: the Holy Bible compares the Ministry of Jesus to that of the Twelve).
TRANSFER OF APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY VIA THE HOLY MYSTERY OF ORDINATION
Saints Paul and Barnabas appointed Elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in Whom they had put their trust (Acts 14:23).
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul (Paul), he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord--Jesus, Who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here--has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. (Acts 9:17-19). [Note: it is also possible that this is a reference to Chrismation.]
"Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word. The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stefanos (Stephen), a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochoros, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. And these they brought before the Apostles; and after prayer, they laid their hands on them" (Acts 6:3-6).
"I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, Who is the Judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His Kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and they will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come" (2 Timothy 4:1-6). [Saint Paul the holy Apostle hands down his ministry to Saint Timothy.]
"For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands" (2 Timothy 1:6). [Note: Saint Paul reminds Saint Timothy of the gift he received through laying of hands (ordination).]
"Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the Presbytery (1 Timothy 4:14). [Note: This shows that divine authority is bestowed unto someone using laying of hands.]. See also Acts 1:15-26.
THE TESTIMONY OF THE EARLY CHURCH
"Through countryside and city [the Apostles] preached, and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the Spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers. Nor was this a novelty, for bishops and deacons had been written about a long time earlier...Our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the Office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men (not women) should succeed their ministry" [First Epistle of Clement Letter to the Corinthians 42:4-5, 44:1-3 [80 A.D.]
"When I had come to Rome, I [visited] Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus. And after Anicetus [died], Soter succeeded, and after him Eleutherus. In each succession and in each city there is a continuance of that which is proclaimed by the law, the prophets and the Lord" [Hegesippus, cited in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 4:22] (180 A.D.)
"It is possible, then, for everyone in every Church, who may wish to know the Truth, to contemplate the Tradition of the holy Apostles which has been made known to us throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the Apostles and their successors down to our own times, men (not women) who neither knew nor taught anything like what these heretics rave about" (St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3:3,1) [189 A.D.]
"[The Apostles] founded churches in every city, from which all the other churches, one after another, derived the Tradition of the Faith, and the seeds of doctrine, and are every day deriving them, that they may become churches. Indeed, it is on this account only that they will be able to deem themselves Apostolic, as being the offspring of Apostolic churches. Every sort of thing must necessarily revert to its original for its classification. Therefore the Churches, although they are so many and so great, comprise but the one primitive Church, [founded] by the Apostles, from which they all [spring] in this way, all are primitive, and all are Apostolic, while they are all proved to me in one unity" (Tertullian Demurrer, Against the Heretics) [200 A.D.]
Personal note: It is imperative that all Orthodox Christians know some basic theology and especially the history of the authentic Church of Christ.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
P.S. As I am beginning my annual vacation with my family I will not be able to continue this ministry until August. It gives you all a little time to digest some of the information you have received thus far. May God bless you all and have a blessed and safe Summer