The Evangelical Character of the Church (Part II)

St. Tikhon the Bishop of Amathus in Cyprus

St. Tikhon the Bishop of Amathus in Cyprus

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

By Demetrios Constantelos

The Holy Bible is both a Divine and human record -it is a theanthropic document, infallible and fallible, an eternal and temporal record. In the Holy Bible God reveals Himself either through Prophets, Kings, and Shepherds or through His own Son. In the Holy Bible man seeks to "discover and touch" God (Acts 17:27). This encounter, however, between the Heavenly Father and earthly son or daughter is primarily a revelation and self-disclosure of God because man is still an infant or even still unborn spiritually. What the community of believers needed to record about the life of Christ, as well as its own life and practical needs, was designated Holy Scripture. This recorded revelation stands or falls by the testimony of the authority of the Church. The testimony, or martyria, of the Church to the authority of the written revelation is an absolute necessity.

The recorded revelation was the work of people living within the community of believers and speaking primarily to other believers for their edification. The Ekklesia is the guardian (the Thematophylax) of all God's manifestations to human beings, including, of course, the recorded activity of God's self-disclosure. Church and Bible are inseparably united in a harmonious and mutually supportive entity. As the repository of revelation, as the recorder of God's manifestation (Phanerosis and God's involvement in history, the Church is by nature Biblical, for she has the Bible in her bosom and is the official interpreter of the Bible. It follow that the theology, the teaching, the commandments, and the ethos of the Church are biblical.

As the Church is biblical in her essence, likewise the central theme of the Holy Bible is the Church, the Church as a Holy Organism born before all ages, reconstituted or revitalized in time and in space by God's Logos/Word. That is, the Holy Bible speaks of the Church as the living body of Christ and as the Christ perpetuated throughout the ages.

The reading of the Holy Bible is a living tradition. It is a constant part of all major Divine Services: Vespers and Matins (Orthros), Liturgies and Mysteries (Sacraments), Sacramental Services -such as the blessing of the waters- and all other brief services. Almost the whole New Testament and much of the Old Testament is read throughout the Church year in Church worship, the Holy Bible occupies a central place of honor in every Orthodox Christian home.

But in addition to the specific periscopes from the Old or the New Testament read in each divine service, each divine service is imbued with spiritual verses and elements. Each prayer and hymn of every liturgy, sacrament, or service refers to some Biblical event; the number and extent of the Scriptural elements varies from service to service.

The Psalms, Genesis, and the book of Isaiah enjoy more popularity than the other Old Testament Books. Exodus and the Wisdom of Solomon follow.

From the New Testament, Matthew, Luke, 1 Corinthians, Romans, the Gospel of John, and Hebrews are the most popular.

A study of the Liturgies of the Presanctified Gifts, Saint Basil's, and Saint John Chrysostom's, as well as of the Mysteries (Sacraments) of Baptism, Chrism, Holy Unction (Holy Oil), and Matrimony, compiled by this writer, reveals a very clear dependence by these services upon the Holy Bible. Approximately 25 percent of these divine services consist of direct Biblical borrowings. The material in the divine services that alludes to or is inspired by Holy Scripture is even greater.

The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts includes 61 verses and elements from both the Old and the New Testaments. The extensive use of Psalm bears witness to the antiquity of the liturgy and its soteriological message. The Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom has absorbed 237 verses of which 124 are from the Old Testament and 113 from the New Testament. The prayer of Saint Basil's Liturgy, which are not found in that of Saint John Chrysostom, include 205 Scriptural verses and elements, 68 of which are from the Old Testament and 137 from the New Testament.

(To be continued)


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George