Kevin Basil (signature)

Says Who 3 (Apologia Pt 3)

Next article: Trinity 1: Nature and Person (Apologia Pt 4)
Previous article: Says Who 2 (Apologia Pt 2)

Written by Basil on 05/6/2004 5:16 PM. Filed under:

Share with your friends and followers:

“Tradition” is a shorthand for all the means by which the Christian faith is passed on to us. Since initiation into the Church is primarily the beginning of a new life, all of these means fuse together in actual practice.

The foundation of all Tradition is Jesus Christ, as we said before. The Church is the body of Christ, and she is the sacrament of Christ’s continuing presence in the world. A sacrament (or a mystery) is the physical revelation in a concrete form of a reality that is otherwise invisible. The priest Alexander Schmemann once said that the Church is not an institution with Sacraments, but a Sacrament with institutions.

On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and those gathered with them and empowered them. He constituted them into a new reality, the Church of Christ. The Greek word for Church is ekklesia, which can also be translated “gathering” or “assembly.” The Russian word is sobor, a similarly rich word which can also mean “council” or “assembly.” This communicates something lost in English-speaking countries: The Church is a fundamentally conciliar reality. This relates directly back to what we said earlier about being consistent with the witness of those who precede us. The Holy Spirit constitutes Christians into the Church, uniting them to Christ as his body and giving them authority to act in his name.

Thus, the main organ of Tradition is life in the Church.

Looking at the writings of holy Tradition, holy Scripture has the pride of place. Most teachings can be traced to Scripture, even if only to a single line or verse which might not appear relevant to someone outside the boundaries of the Church. In addition, Tradition must remain consistent with the witness of Scripture, since Scripture records the life of Christ and the earliest Christians, as well as the people of God specially prepared to bring forth the God-man Jesus Christ: the nation of Israel, the Jews. Scripture receives its authority from the teaching authority of the Church, since it is the Church in council which decides which writings are canonical, or authentic and authoritative. The bishops of the Church therefore have an obligation to faithful Christians to instruct them in how to understand Scripture.

After Scripture in importance are the decisions of Church councils — including the Symbol of Faith, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, which we will discuss further on —the hymns and liturgy of the Church, the writings of the Church Fathers, icons, and finally oral traditions.

As we continue in this Apologia for classical Christian faith, these will be the sources we will build on. In our next installment, we will begin with belief in God as a Trinity.

Share with your friends and followers:


The URL to trackback this post is:

2 Responses to “Says Who 3 (Apologia Pt 3)”

  1. Decimation & Reconstruction » Florovsky on Tradition Says:

    […] Georges Florovsky on the Church and Tradition over at Pontifications. If you find my poor ramblings on the matter abrasive or triumphal, perhaps a read of one of the best […]

  2. alana Says:

    Oh, wow! What a great post…I’d never ever encountered the idea of Church as Sacrament of Christ’s mystical presence in the world…but that is absolutely the BEST definition of what the Church is that I have ever come across. As such, this can add loads of information to the on-going discussion with the pomo crowd.

    Sorry I did not read this sooner. Good stuff.