We Need the Living Holy Tradition

I reflected yesterday on the dangers of misreading the Scriptures and passing on that misreading.

While we read and reflect on the Scriptures and the significance of the events of our daily life as individuals, we must do so within the context of the Holy Tradition. The use of hyperbole in Scripture is a good example of the need. See this reflection on the subject.

And, just as it is the responsibility of each disciple to encounter and be encountered by God in the context of the Holy Tradition, it is the responsibility of the Church to offer the Holy Tradition in its authenticity and not as straight jacket of legalism or a leader’s personal agenda or a way for the clergy to control the laity lest they rock the parish boat with their deep yearning for a dynamic relationship with the Lord.

The institution (king and priest) thrives on the paradigm of the “bounded set” and the non-institutional element (prophet) thrives on the “centered set” paradigm. These dimensions of the Church’s life need one another even though, for us finite humans it is a fragile and somewhat troubled union.

This is why, for me, the Scriptures, as they exist for us, are the work of God. They do not represent a pasteurized and homogenized narrative. They reflect the messy and mysterious operation of the Holy Spirit via this troubled union.

This calls for the operation of what is perhaps the most important essential ingredients of the Holy Tradition, humility and love.

As St. Peter says:

12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these things, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to arouse you by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me.15 And I will see to it that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son,[f]with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.20 First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1.12-21)

Here are the thoughts of St. Nikolai Velimirovic, from the Prologue for June 24th:

One of the differences between the eloquent philosophy of the Greeks [Hellenes] and the Christian Faith is that Greek philosophy can clearly be expressed with words and comprehended by reading, while the Christian Faith cannot be clearly expressed by words, and still less can it be comprehended by reading alone. When you are expounding the Christian Faith, the example of the one who expounds it is indispensible; and for its understanding and acceptance, both reading and the practice of what is read are necessary. When Patriarch Photius read the words of St. Mark the Ascetic on the spiritual life, he noticed a certain lack of clarity in the author, about which he wisely said: “It [unclarity] does not proceed from the obscurity of expression but from the truth which is expressed there; it is better understood by means of practice (rather than by means of words) and cannot be explained by words only. And this,” the great patriarch adds, “is the case not only with these homilies, and not only with this man, but rather with all of those who attempt to expound the ascetic rules and instructions, which are better understood by deeds (in practice).”


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