My beloved spiritual children 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.
THE CHURCH FATHERS
WHAT IS A "FATHER?"
The "Body of Christ" cannot change because Christ is always the same ("Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). The Fathers continued what the Holy Apostles began. The Orthodox Church identifies itself as being related to the early Church both "spiritually" and "ontologically." Ontologically related would be equivalent to saying that we are spiritual relatives and share in a common and identical character. Our faith is identical: the manner in which we worship is identical; and our expression of a life in the Spirit, our spirituality, is identical. The meaning of the below hymn is precisely that we the Orthodox Church are identifying ourselves, as being not just in historical continuity with the early Church but that we are in fact, that very same Church. "This is the Apostolic faith, this is the faith of the Fathers, this is the Orthodox faith, this faith has established the Universe" (from the Sunday of Orthodoxy, the first Sunday in Lent).
Saint Athanasius Identifies Three Inseparable Pillars of Truth, Christ, the Apostles, and the Fathers.
"Let us look at the very tradition, teaching, and faith of the catholic (complete) Church from the very beginning, which the Logos/Word gave the Apostles preached; and the Fathers preserved. Upon this the Church is founded." (Saint Athanasius, First Letter to Serapion, 28-Bishop of Alexandria).
The Holy Fathers were "Holy Witnesses" to the Truth. Many of the doctrinal statements from the Councils (Synods) of the Church began with the introduction, "Following the Holy Fathers." It was at the 7th Ecumenical Council that the decision regarding the icon controversy was proclaimed. The Council was quoted as saying:
"Following the Divinely inspired teaching of our Holy Fathers and the Tradition of the Catholic (Universal) Church."
The Orthodox Church is Apostolic and Patristic.
"The Fathers testify to the Apostolicity of the Tradtion. Only by being Patristic is the Church continuously Apostolic" (Father Florovsky, Vol. 4, p. 16).
There Are Two Stages to the Proclamation of the Christian Faith.
The Apostles gave the "Message" (kerygma). This message is of the salvation offered by Christ-upon the Cross given freely to all humanity. The Fathers gave the dogma (Dogma). The religious truths issuing from a Divine revelation and defined by the Church. The dogma of the Fathers issued from the "Good News" (Evaggelion) of the Apostles-thus it can be said that "the teachings of the Fathers are of permanent category of Christian faith, a constant and ultimate measure of criterion of right belief (Orthodoxy). In this sense, Fathers are not merely witnesses of the old faith but, above all and primarily, witnesses of the Truth faith" (F. Florovsky. Vol. 4, p.7).
"The mind of the Fathers" cannot be separated from Holy Scripture because they bear witness to the truth found in Scripture.
"The Fathers were always servants of the Logos/Word. And there theology was intrinsically exegetical. Thus, the Catholic (Universal) Church of all ages is not merely a child of the Church of the Fathers, but she is and remains the Church of the Fathers" (Fr. Florovsky, Vol. 4, p.16).
The Orthodox Church proclaims this Theology always in relation to life of prayer and the practice of virtue. Thus is found in the:
Preaching in the services
Hymnography (sacred Church music) and iconography (sacred icons)
Personal Devotional Practices (i.e., prayer and meditation)
The History of the Holy Fathers
"The Spirit breathes in all ages" (Saint Jerome).
"Tradition is the continuity of Divine assistance, the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit of Truth which "spoke by the Prophets," which guided the Apostles, which illumined and Evangelists, is still abiding in the Church, and guides her into the fuller understanding of divine truth, from glory to glory" (Fr. Florovsky, Vol. 4, p. 16).
It is "theologically" wrong to limit the 'age of the Fathers' to any particular period of Church History. The "Fathers" in the Church continue to be born just as the Spirit continues to bring the Church from glory to glory.
The Holy Fathers and The Biblical Interpretation
Two schools of methods of interpretation that dominated the early centuries. The first one being the Antiochene historical, literal interpretation. This method was concerned more with the direct meaning of the old prophecies and stories. The school was founded in 312 A.D. Saint John Chrysostom confirms this understanding to his work on Theodore of Mopsuestia, in The Interpreter.
The second method was the Alexandrine contemplative, allegorical. The school of Alexandria is the oldest center of 'sacred science' in the history of Christianity. They believed that the Scripture are Divinely Inspired and as such they must carry with them a universal application for all ages to come. Even when God spoke under special circumstances, there was always something in His words that passes beyond historical limitations. Saints Clement (150 A.D.), Origen (202 A.D.), Dionysius (248 A.D.), Peter (300 A.D.), Athanasius (328 A.D.) Didymus (358 A.D.) and Cyril (431 A.D.) supported this understanding.
The third method was the Cappadocian Fathers (Christological/Salvific) and these Fathers saw the interpretation to be a balance between the first two methods: Saint Basil the Great (379 A.D.) Gregory of Naziansus (374 A.D.) and John Chrysostom (407 A.D.).
The basic Patristic view about the Holy Bible were that:
The Old Testament and New Testaments form a single revelation.
The Psalms became the pattern of hymnography in the Church. The worship of the Church stresses the unity of the two revelations. On Major Feasts of the Church, Old Testament Prophecies are read and thus interpreted by the Church.
The "Covenant" is one, prophetic and apostolic agree.
All Old Testament sinners are remembered and called upon as examples of repentance for the Christian. (The Great Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete, sung during Lent).
The Beginning of the Fathers
The Apostolic Fathers (1-2 C) can be found in the sources of the Apostles Creed and the Didache. The Apostolic Fathers, gave us writings that are pastoral in character and re closely in style to the writings of the New Testament. (Source: Assumption Greek Orthodox Church)
(To be continued)
Resource for Writings of the Apostolic Fathers.
[Christian Classics Ethereal Library]
On Avoiding Evil-Speaking, and on Giving Alms in Simplicity.
He said to me, "Be simple and guileless, and you will be as the children who know not the wickedness that ruins the life of men. First, then, speak evil of no one, nor listen with pleasure to any one who speaks evil of another. But if you listen, you will partake of the sin of him who speaks evil, if you believe the slander which you hear; for believing it, you will also have something to say against your brother. Thus, then, will you be guilty of the sin of him who slanders. For slander is evil and an unsteady demon. It never abides in peace, but always remains in discord. Keep yourself from it, and you will always be at peace with all. Put on a holiness in which there is no wicked cause of offence, but all deeds that are equable and joyful. Practice goodness, and from the rewards of your labors, which God gives you, give to all the needy in simplicity, not hesitating as to whom you are to give or not to give. give to all, for God wishes His gifts to be shared amongst all. They who receive, will render an account to God why and for what they have received. For the afflicted who receive will not be condemned, but they who receive on false pretences will suffer punishment. He, then, who gives is guiltless. For as he received from the Lord, so that he accomplished his service in simplicity, not hesitating as to whom he should give and to whom he should not give. This service, then, is accomplished in simplicity, is glorious with God. He, therefore, who thus ministers in simplicity, will live to God. Keep therefore these Commandments, as I have given them to you, that your repentance and the repentance of your house may be found in simplicity, and your heart may be pure and stainless."
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God