Justin Popovich: The Lives of the Saints are Holy Evangelical Truths Wednesday, Dec 11 2013 

Justin PopovichWhat are the “Acts of the Holy Apostles”? They are the acts of Christ which the Holy Apostles do by the power of Christ, or better still: they do them by Christ Who is in them and acts through them.

And what are the lives of the Holy Apostles? They are the living of Christ’s life which in the Church is transmitted to all faithful followers of Christ and is continued through them with the help of the holy mysteries and the holy virtues.

And what are the “Lives of the Saints”? They are nothing else but a certain kind of continuation of the “Acts of the Apostles.”

In them is found the same Gospel, the same life, the same truth, the same righteousness, the same love, the same faith, the same eternity, the same “power from on high,” the same God and Lord.

For “the Lord Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever” (Heb. 13:8): the same for all people of all times, distributing the same gifts and the same Divine energies to all who believe in Him.

This continuation of all life-creating Divine energies in the Church of Christ from ages to ages and from generation to generation indeed constitutes living Holy Tradition.

This Holy Tradition is continued without interruption as the life of Grace in all Christians, in whom through the holy mysteries and the holy virtues, Jesus Christ lives by His Grace.

He is wholly present in His Church, for She is His fullness: “the fullness of Him who filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:23).

And the God-man Christ is the all-perfect fullness of the Godhead: “for in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:4).

And Christians must, with the help of the holy mysteries and the holy virtues, fill themselves with “all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19).

The Lives of the Saints show forth those persons filled with Christ God, those Christ-bearing persons, those holy persons in whom is preserved and through whom is transmitted the holy tradition of that holy grace-filled life.

It is preserved and transmitted by means of holy evangelical living. For the lives of the saints are holy evangelical truths which are translated into our human life by grace and podvigs (asceticism).

There is no evangelical truth which cannot be transformed into human life. They were all brought by Christ God for one purpose: to become our life, our reality, our possession, our joy.

And the saints, all, without exception, live these Divine truths as the center of their lives and the essence of their being.

Justin Popovich (1894-1979; Orthodox Church): Introduction to the Lives of the Saints.

Elder Sophrony: Sacred tradition is the eternal and immutable dwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Church Tuesday, Nov 26 2013 

SophronyFor the Staretz [St Silouan] the life of the Church meant life in the Holy Spirit, and Sacred Tradition the unceasing action of the Holy Spirit in her.

Sacred Tradition, as the eternal and immutable dwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Church, lies at the very root of her being, and so encompasses her life that even the very Scriptures come to be but one of its forms.

Thus, were the Church to be deprived of Tradition she would cease to be what she is, for the ministry of the New Testament is the ministry of the Spirit ‘written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stones, but in the fleshly tables of the heart’.

Suppose that for some reason the Church were to be bereft of all her books, of the Old and New Testaments, the works of the holy Fathers, of all service books—what would happen?

Sacred Tradition would restore the Scriptures, not word for word, perhaps—the verbal form might be different—but in essence the new Scriptures would be the expression of that same ‘faith which was once delivered unto the saints’.

They would be the expression of the one and only Holy Spirit continuously active in the Church, her foundation and her very substance.

The Scriptures are not more profound, not more important than Holy Tradition but, as said above, they are one of its forms—the most precious form, both because they are preserved and convenient to make use of.

But removed from the stream of Sacred Tradition, the Scriptures cannot be rightly understood through any scientific research.

If the Apostle Paul had the ‘mind of Christ’, how much more does this apply to the whole body of the Church of which St Paul is one member!

And if the writings of St Paul and the other Apostles are Holy Scripture, then new Scriptures of the Church, written supposedly after the loss of the old books, would in their turn become Holy Scripture, for according to the Lord’s promise God, the Holy Trinity, will be in the Church even unto the end of the world.

Men go wrong when they set aside Sacred Tradition and go, as they think, to its source—to the Holy Scriptures. The Church has her origins, not in the Scriptures but in Sacred Tradition.

The Church did not possess the New Testament during the first decades of her history. She lived then by Tradition only—the Tradition St. Paul calls upon the faithful to hold.

Elder Sophrony (1896-1993; Orthodox): from St. Silouan the Athonite, by Archimandrite Sophrony @ Eclectic Orthodoxy.

Georges Florovsky: Ignatius of Antioch – “Jesus Christ is the Original Documents” Thursday, Oct 17 2013 

FlorovskyOctober 17th is the feast of St Ignatius of Antioch

There is a tendency among some scholars to assume that if something is not mentioned in a text, the author had no knowledge of it. This is a fundamentally erroneous presupposition and hence an erroneous methodology.

The assumption of this methodological approach or perspective misses the prime reality — a living Church was already in existence since Pentecost and that living Church knew the deposit about, which they preached, knew the tradition, which they had received and continued to impart in their missionary activity.

Again, the statement by Karl Adam is significant: “Even if the Bible [the New Testament] did not exist, a Christian religious movement would be conceivable.” Indeed, not only conceivable but it actually existed without the New Testament as we know it for decades.

And during that time, the Apostolic and Sub-Apostolic Church flourished with and in the fullness of faith. St. Ignatius is an excellent example of this precisely because his seven occasional letters were written so early and especially because of what he has to say about the “documents,” “the archives.”

In his Letter to the Philadelphians, St. Ignatius writes: “When I heard some people saying, ‘If I do not find it in the original documents, I do not believe it.’” Here, the essence of the dispute was that the Old Testament, the Bible for the early Christians in its Greek Septuagint version, was the reference point of validity.

The New Testament is not the criterion, precisely because it was still in process in the days of the early Church and it was certainly not used as a canonical authority in the earlier days of the life of St. Ignatius.

It is the reality of the living Church, which gives rise to the New Testament and it is the Church, which determines the “canon” of the New Testament — there were numerous writings circulating, which claimed apostolic authorship and it was the Church, which determined, which of those were authentic.

St. Ignatius then makes a statement, which confirms how the early Church understood its reality, its faith, its tradition, its authority: “To my mind it is Jesus Christ who is the original documents. The inviolable archives are his Cross and Death and his Resurrection and the faith that came by him.”

St. Ignatius needs no written “documents,” needs no written “archives.” The historical, existential, and ontological reality of the God-Man Jesus Christ and his redemptive work is the truth of the faith — he is oral “document” of the living God.

He knows of this through the tradition, through that which was delivered, through the deposit, which was preserved and handed down in its original purity of content and fullness.

Georges Florovsky (1893-1979; Eastern Orthodox): “The Earliest Christian Writers” in The Byzantine Fathers of the Fifth Century.

John Damascene: The Deity is Ineffable and Incomprehensible Friday, Dec 4 2009 

No one hath seen God at any time; the Only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (John 1:18).

The Deity, therefore, is ineffable and incomprehensible. For no one knoweth the Father, save the Son, nor the Son, save the Father (Matt. 11:27).

And the Holy Spirit, too, so knows the things of God as the spirit of the man knows the things that are in him (1 Cor. 2:11).

Moreover, after the first and blessed nature no one, not of men only, but even of supramundane powers, and the Cherubim, I say, and Seraphim themselves, has ever known God, save he to whom He revealed Himself.

God, however, did not leave us in absolute ignorance. For the knowledge of God’s existence has been implanted by Him in all by nature.

This creation, too, and its maintenance, and its government, proclaim the majesty of the Divine nature (Wisd. 13:5).

Moreover, by the Law and the Prophets in former times, and afterwards by His Only-begotten Son, our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, He disclosed to us the knowledge of Himself as that was possible for us.

All things, therefore, that have been delivered to us by Law and Prophets and Apostles and Evangelists we receive, and know, and honour, seeking for nothing beyond these.

For God, being good, is the cause of all good, subject neither to envy nor to any passion. For envy is far removed from the Divine nature, which is both passionless and only good.

As knowing all things, therefore, and providing for what is profitable for each, He revealed that which it was to our profit to know; but what we were unable to bear He kept secret.

With these things let us be satisfied, and let us abide by them, not removing everlasting boundaries, nor overpassing the divine tradition (Prov. 22:28).

John Damascene (c.675-749): De Fide Orthodoxa 1,1.