St. Stephen's Musings

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:: Wednesday, January 15, 2003 ::


I ran across this interesting question written in a preface by Fr. Alexander Schmemann (+1983) about Tradition. Where do you stand on this question?

"The question of tradition stands at the very center and challenges us with essential questions. What is it? Is it the living memory and consciousness of the Church, the essential unbrokenness of the Church's life and identity during her pilgrimage through history? Or is it itself a product, or a sequence of products, of history, in the light of which it is to be reevaluated, judged, or rejected?"

For my Protestant brethren, it seems many prefer the latter definition--and in part, I agree with it myself. Tradition is, in ways, a product of the life of the Church. But Tradition is itself also the very heart of the Church because it is the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Another paradox it seems....

If tradition (and thus the Church) is to be judged or rejected (or modified) by us, then in what way should we go about doing that? How does that square with the admonition found in 2 Thess. 2:15? Can we possibly judge or modify what has been passed down at all without already having acquired the "mind of Christ"? How do we know that the new definitions, creeds, doctrines, practices etc are themselves of God?

One thing that continues to elude many is this: To say that Holy Tradition and the "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church" has and contains "the fullness of the faith delivered once to the saints" (June 3) is not hubris! To admit the truth in no way necessitates pride and arrogance! Consider the following statements: "fire burns" or "my car needs gasoline to run" or "human beings need water to live." Submitting to these truths (or "structures"--my Protestant friends seem to love this word!) in no way limits my freedom! If anything it makes me more free, because it makes me better able to live according to reality. To choose unreality and falsehood against truth is the very definition of the word heresy--"choosing" in Greek. The cruelty of heresy is this: it limits and destroys true freedom because it panders to sin and to our fallen human nature by making us think we can choose something other than the Tradition and the Church that has been handed down. However the paradox here is written about so clearly by St. John Chrysostom when he says:

"If we hold the dogma [of Tradition and the Church] and give no thought to our conduct, we shall find this of no use; and also if we give thought to our conduct and neglect the dogma, we shall receive nothing useful to our salvation. If we wish to be delivered from Gehenna and obtain the Kingdom, we must be adorned from both sides; with both true Faith and uprightness of life."

So in a sense, it is neither enough to be a Pharisee, with the fullness of truth; nor is it enough to be a Samaritan, with "good works" and fruit and zeal, but no truth.

For Jesus condemned them both.

:: Karl :: 8:38:00 AM [Link] ::

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