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:: Thursday, January 09, 2003 ::

Spiritual Authority

Today's reading from the Prologue was interesting, especially as I continue to mull on issues regarding truth and the leading of the Spirit:

"The Orthodox Church, in teaching men perfect love, at the same time teaches perfect obedience, from which flow both order and harmony among the faithful. The bishops owe obedience to the Lord, priests to the bishops, and the laity to [the Lord, bishops and priests] and to each other. St. Ignatius writes, "It is your duty to obey without hypocrisy; he who would deceive his visible bishop would scorn also the Invisible [Lord]....I beg you, fulfill all in the unity of God, under the guidance of your bishops, who occupy the place of God, and the priests who constitute the assembly of the Apostles...not thinking that whatever may seem to you to be right, that should you do this on your own in isolation."

So to those who see a disconnect between following the promptings of the Spirit on the one hand, and following the guidance of the historic Church on the other, it seems that this tidbit from St. Ignatius might be helpful. These two ideas are not contradictory; they are paradoxically true at the same time! We can achieve "unity in God"--but this is achieved, not by individuals coming to their own conclusions about the leading of the Spirit, but by each of us, in perfect freedom, willingly obeying those in spiritual authority over us and trusting in the Holy Tradition of the Church.

In the East there is true freedom in obedience because no one bishop hold more spiritual authority than any other. The concilliar nature of the church's life makes it possible for us to trust the bishops and priests. And because of the nature of Holy Tradition, even the Church Fathers and Mothers of old still hold sway in the Church today. But no one bishop or priest has ultimate "veto power" over any other, but in union with the whole Church, and thus with God.

"Unity in Christ" is not a means to church harmony or to understanding the truth, but a sign that harmony and truth have already been reached! Unity in doctrine, belief, practice, faith etc are not means, but the end; the perquisite for union with God! That is why trying to achieve "unity in Christ" apart from the Church is, ultimately, a doomed experiment. (1Cor 12:12-13).

As G.K. Chesterton said, "Most modern freedom is at root fear. It is not so much that we are too bold to endure rules; it is rather that we are too timid to endure responsibilities."
In terms of Christianity, this responsibility that we must not be timid in is set forth by St. Paul: "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter." (2 Thess 2:15)
By doing this, in humility and love, we will be able to know the leading of God. But then this begs another question: What are the "traditions?"....*wink*

:: Karl :: 4:05:00 PM [Link] ::

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