Friday, June 27, 2008

Thursday: The Holy Apostles and Saint Nicholas


Troparion to the Apostles: O holy Apostles, intercede with the merciful God, that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offences.

Kontakion the the Holy Apostles: The firm and divine-voiced preachers, the chief of Thy disciples, O Lord, Thou hast taken to Thyself for the enjoyment of Thy blessings, and for repose; their labours and death didst Thou accept as above every sacrifice, O Thou Who alone knowest the hearts.

Troparion to Saint Nicholas: The truth of things revealed thee to thy flock as a rule of faith, an icon of meekness and a teacher of temperance; therefore thou hast achieved the heights by humility, riches by poverty. O Father and Hierarch Nicholas, intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.

Kontakion to Saint Nicholas: In Myra, O Saint, thou didst prove to be a minister ofthings sacred: for having fulfilled the Gospel of Christ, O righteous one, thou didst lay down thy life for thy people, and dist save the innocent form death. Wherefore, thou wast sanctified, as a great initiate of the grace of God.

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The Apostles, of course are the foundation stones of the Orthodox Church, which is built on their teaching and which is faithful to their teaching.

Saint Nicholas is considered the ultimate example of a good bishop. He is a model of how bishops should be, in the Church.

One thing about the Orthodox, is that through our line of bishops (who ordain the priests), we have unbroken succession back to the apostles. It's not a succession of ideas, or a succession of a book, but rather one of people. A living, breathing community that can trace its continuity to the beginning.

In the Orthodox Church, decisions are made in a conciliar manner among the bishops, which means there's a balance of power and a faithfulness to the apostolic teaching that is maintained. Furthermore, the test of the veracity of a council is if the WHOLE Church accepts it. So the role of the laity is vital in this process, too. One body. Historians have done a much better job of expounding what I"m barely touching upon here.

But all this to say: The thing that stands out to me, in our daily commemorations as we go through the week is COMMUNITY. The God-worhsipping community that is the Church is more than just the ones I can see when I gather on Sunday mornings. It's more than the believers I know via the internet. It's an unbroken living community of those who have gone before, together with us who are so very very "new" and also the angels (who are as ancient as anyone created can be). It is into this community of LIFE that we who are as of yet barely alive in Christ join ourselves and are made even more real: the Church, of which Christ is the head.

I've perhaps stated it all muddled up. But hopefully it makes a bit of sense.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

You say, "It's not a succession of ideas, or a succession of a book, but rather one of people. A living, breathing community that can trace its continuity to the beginning." So did the church I grew up in (not Orthodox) but none the less sincere in their belief. Now I see it is my faith in Jesus that counts, not that succession.

Father Thomas said...

The way you state it suggests that all that is not Orthodox Church (with capital letters) is not build upon the Apostles' teaching or else is not faithful to their teaching. Does that mean then nothing else is Church or is it Church heretic and apostate?

It also stands to reason, it seems to me, that ideas and books come from people and therefore out of community that affirms and adopts those ideas and writings.
Father Thomas

Tamara said...

Anonymous, of course it's the faith in Jesus. The succession of right doctrine makes sure we are worshiping the true Jesus, the Christ of the Apostles, and not some false Christ, which we are warned about in the New Testament. (For example, my Jesus is NOT a born again Christian who died and went to heaven as is taught in some Word of Faith churches. In my opinion, but based on the continual consensus of truth preserved by the Holy Spirit in the Orthodox Church, that is a false Christ being preached.)

Father Thomas, I'm sure that's not what Alana meant. In the Orthodox Church, we are taught that we know where Truth can be found, and it can certainly be found in the Orthodox Church. But God is bigger than all of us, and Orthodox do not look at others and say they cannot have truth. We know where Truth is, but we don't know where Truth isn't. It's not our place to judge the salvation of others.

As for myself, I met Christ in a church that is in no way Orthodox. Without those early experiences, I wouldn't know enough to have recognized what I saw as a standard of Truth in the Orthodox Church. I don't look back at my upbringing and think of it as heretical or apostate. It simply ceased to be the church for me.

On the idea that books come from the community, I could agree. I suppose it depends on who is authoring that book and what it is saying. There are many false depictions of Christ out there, like the one I mentioned earlier, which comes from a prominent television preacher. But that's not even the point Alana was making, because it's not necessarily one way or the other. Her point, as I read it, is that the doctrine of the Orthodox Church isn't swayed by some new discovery or some new teaching that comes on the scene and is published by a Christian teacher/preacher/evangelist. Instead, there is a continual consensus that has been affirmed, reaffirmed and confirmed by millions of Christians all over the world for over two thousand years. That's the wow factor of the Orthodox Church.

Pray for me,
Tamara

Father Thomas said...

Tamara,

I celebrate your faith and that you have found the expression of Christ's church that is right (orthodox) for you. I think we will agree with St. Paul, the Apostle, that there is "one body and one Spirit, ...one hope ..., one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all" (Ephesians 4:4-6). And this is all God's grace according to the measure of Christ's gift (Eph. 4:7). To quote briefly the venerable John Chrysostom: "What is this one body? They are the faithful throughout the world--in the present, in the past and in the future .... The body does exist apart from its enlivening spirit, else it would not be a body. It is a common human metaphor to say of things that are united and have coherence that they are one body. So we too take the term body as an expression of unity" (Homily on Ephesians 10.4.4).

I do not take exception with Alana's intent, but with the possible implications of the language. Language is powerful in shaping our "culture" (cf. Sapir-Whorf Theory), and that includes the ways we start to think of and view things. However, I do realize, that to state something as true does not necessarily imply that something else is false.

My question to you, Tamara, is since the church of your upbringing has ceased to be church for you, can it still be church to others who embrace the same Father, Son and Holy Spirit with deep and true devotion? Are we all--you, I, and they--still part of the one body, the church? I trust that we are.

Thank you for your thoughtful and kind reply.

Grace and peace,
Father Thomas

Alana said...

Anonymous,

you would not have any faith in Jesus if it weren't for that succession. Because it is precisely that succession of persons which as a community preserved the ideas and correct teachings about Jesus Christ that enable all to call on Him.

Alana said...

Father Thomas,

regarding your first comment, I think you are reading into my words many shades of meaning that are not there.

Also, anyone who quotes the fathers of the Church ought to do so on their own terms. Words are good and fine, but if you are quoting someone out of context, those words can be twisted. St. John Chrysostom had quite a different ecclesiology than that of today's protestant Christians, and no matter how many quotes of his you pull out, the fact still remains that his understanding of "one body" and yours are quite different.

Have a nice day, and if you are who I think you are (along with anonymous) please know that I love you and that it hurts me that you feel the need to be anonymous like this on my blog in order to pick up this discussion (again!) when it can only fruitfully be done (but to what avail?) in person.

Tamara said...

Father Thomas,

I truly believe that my family members are Christians, people who love God. I don't secretly hope they'll "turn Orthodox," although I do secretly hope they'll eventually accept me for having done so. I do believe there are differences between our expressions of faith and some distinctive theological issues, but I don't think those outweigh the commonalities that we share.

That's not to say we're the same. There are obvious differences, some of which are more fundamental than others. But I don't sit around and judge where everyone else is. I try very diligently to take people where they are, and I ask people to do the same for me. I think that just as God led me to the place he wants me, he'll do the same for others who seek him--where ever that means they wind up.

I don't try to judge who is in or out of the Body, I just want to make sure I'm a part of it where ever it is.

Please forgive my ramblings,
Tamara

Anonymous said...

Tamara,

Thank you for your kind words. I could not agree more. You have spoken well.

Father Thomas