My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND SHALL ALWAYS BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
TRADITION IN THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
By George Bebis, Ph.D.
The term "tradition" comes from the Latin tradition, but the Greek term is paradosis and the verb is paradido. It means giving, offering, delivering, performing charity. In theological terms it means any teaching or practice which has been transmitted from generation to generation throughout the life of the Church. More exactly, paradosis is the very life of the Holy Trinity as it has been revealed by Christ Himself and testified by the Holy Spirit.
The roots and the foundations of this Sacred Tradition can be found in the Holy Scripture. For it is only in the Holy Scripture that we can see and live the presence of the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Saint John the Evangelist speaks about the manifestation of the Holy Trinity:
"For the Life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us" (1 John 1:2).
The essence of Christian Tradition is described by Saint Paul who writes:
"But now in Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ. For He is peace between us, and has made the two into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart, actually destroying in His own person the hostility caused by the rules and decrees of the Law. This was to create one single man in Himself out of the two of them and by restoring peace through the Cross, to unite them both in a single body and reconcile them with God. In His own person He killed the hostility...Through Him, both of us have in one Spirit our way to come to the Father" (Ephesians 2:13-14).
He also makes clear that this Trinitarian doctrine must be accepted by all Christians:
"If any man preach any other gospel to you than you have received (paralavete) let him be condemned" (Galatians 1:8-9).
Speaking about the Holy Eucharist, which is a manifestation of the Holy Trinity, he writes:
"For I have received (parelevon) of the Lord that which I also delivered to you" (paredoka) (1 Corintians 11:23).
Again speaking about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Saint Paul writes:
"For I delivered to you (paredoka) first of all that which I also received" (parelavon).
Finally he admonishes:
"Brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions (tas paradoseis) which you have been taught, whether by word or our epistle" (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
The sole source and cause and principle of the Trinitarian unity is the Father Himself (Ephesians 4:4-6).
THE APOSTOLIC TRADITION
Theologians call this teaching of the Holy Scripture "The Apostolic Tradition." It encompasses what the Apostles lived, saw, witnessed and later recorded of the New Testament. The bishops and presbyters, whom the Apostles appointed as their successors, followed their teaching to the letter. Those who deviated from this Apostolic teaching were cut from the Church. They were considered heretics and schismatics, for they believed differently from the Apostles and their successors, thus separating themselves from the Church. This brings into focus the Church as the center of unity of all Christians. This is the ecclesiastical or ecclesiological characteristic of Tradition. The Church is the image and reflection of the Holy Trinity since the three persons of the Holy Trinity live, indwell and act in the Church. The Father offers His love, the Son offers His obedience, the Holy Spirit His comfort. Only in the historical Church can we see, feel, and live the presence of the Holy Trinity in the World. In describing this reality Saint Paul writes:
"So He came and proclaimed the good news: peace to you who were far off, and peace to those who were nearby; for through Him we both alike have access to the Father in the one Spirit. Thus you are no longer aliens in a foreign land, but fellow-citizens with God's people, members of God's household. You are built upon the foundation laid by the Apostles and prophets, and Christ Jesus Himself is the cornerstone. In Him the whole building is bonded together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you too are being built with all the rest into a spiritual dwelling of God" (Ephesians 2:17-22).
The unity of the Holy Trinity, being the fundamental reality in the Church and of the Church, also requires a real unity among all its members. All the members of the Church live in the bond of love and unity through the Holy Trinity. This truth is described by Saint Peter:
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him Who called you out of the darkness into His marvelous Light. Once you were no people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy" (1 Peter 2:9-10).
The Church was established as a historical reality on the day of Pentecost, with the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles:
"While the day of Pentecost was running its course they were all together in one place, when suddenly there came from the sky a noise like that of a strong wind, which filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues like flames of fire, dispersed among them and resting on each one. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them power of utterance" (Acts 2: 1-4).
Only in the Church, where the Holy Trinity lives and acts could the teaching of Christ, the very revelation of Truth, as received and transmitted by the holy Apostles, abide and be sustained. Thus truth in its fullness does not exist outside the Church, for there is neither scripture not tradition. This is why Saint Paul admonishes the Galatians that even if an Angel from heaven preaches another gospel to them, he must be condemned:
"If any man preach any other gospel to you than that you have received (paralavete) let him be condemned" (1:8-9).
And he writes to his disciple Timothy to follow strictly the "precepts and our faith" and the "sound instructions" he received from him and avoid "godless myths" (1 Timothy 4:4-7). He also admonishes the Colossians to avoid "merely human injunctions and teachings" (2:22), and to follow Christ:
"Therefore, since Jesus was delivered to you as Christ and Lord, live your lives in union with Him. Be rooted in Him; be built in Him; be consolidated in the faith you were taught; let your hearts overflow with thankfulness. Be on your guard; do not let your minds be captured by hollow and delusive speculations, based on traditions of man-made teaching and centered on the elemental spirits of the universe and not on Christ. For it is in Christ that the complete being of the Godhead dwells embodied, and in Him you have been brought to completion" (Colossians 2:6-8).
This teaching or Apostolic Tradition was transmitted from the Holy Apostles themselves to their successors, the bishops and the presbyters. Saint Clement, Bishop of Rome (second century A.D.), and probably a disciple of the Apostle himself, described this historical truth:
"The Apostles preached to us the Gospel received from Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ was God's Ambassador. Christ, in other words, comes with a message from God, and the Apostles with a message from Christ. Both these orderly arrangements, therefore, originate from the will of God. And so, after receiving their instructions and being fully assured through the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, as well as confirmed in faith by the word of God, they went forth, equipped with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, to preach the good news that the Kingdom of God was close at hand. From land to land, accordingly, and from city to city they preached; and from among their earliest converts appointed men whom they had tested by the Spirit to act as bishops and deacons for the future believers" (Letter to the Corinthians, ch. 42).
One can clearly see how the message of salvation originating from God the Father was taught by Jesus Christ, witnessed to by the Holy Spirit, preached by the Apostles and was transmitted by them to the Church through the clergy they themselves appointed. This became the "unerring tradition of the Apostolic preaching" as it was expressed by Eusebius of Caesarea, bishop of the fourth century, who is considered the "father" of Church History (Church History, IV, 8).
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God