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Tradition in the Orthodox Church This presentation is adapted from the article “The Dogmatic Tradition of the Orthodox Church” by Rt. Rev. Maximos Aghiorgoussi,

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Presentation on theme: "Tradition in the Orthodox Church This presentation is adapted from the article “The Dogmatic Tradition of the Orthodox Church” by Rt. Rev. Maximos Aghiorgoussi,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Tradition in the Orthodox Church This presentation is adapted from the article “The Dogmatic Tradition of the Orthodox Church” by Rt. Rev. Maximos Aghiorgoussi, Th.D., Bishop of Pittsburgh, available at Other sources are quoted from A Companion to the Greek Orthodx Church, ed. Fotios K. Litsas, published by the Dept. of Communications of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, New York, NY: 1990.

2 What is Tradition? Sacred Tradition is the source of all doctrine and practice in the Church. It is not a stagnant collection of historical customs, but an organic community guided by the Holy Spirit in the world. According to George S. Bebis of the Holy Cross School of Theology, it is “the very life of the Holy Trinity as it has been revealed by Christ Himself and testified by the Holy Sprit.” Tradition is both a heavenly and earthly institution. As it exists in history, it is possible for change to occur within the tradition to adapt to historical settings. Basic dogma and faith does not change, but how it is expressed can change. Tradition has its roots in Holy Scripture. The Church acknowledges both the temporal and eternal aspect of Scripture; it is not seen as the revealed word of God, but rather as a work of “cooperation” between man and the Holy Spirit. The Orthodox maintain that, in the words of Maximos Aghiorgoussis, Bishop of Pittsburgh, “the tradition of the Church includes the Bible, for the Bible is an epiphenomenon, an “outward form” of our Christian Tradition.” Tradition is also comprised of the Apostolic Tradition, or the teachings and writings of the Apostles, and the Patristic Tradition, the commentaries and writings of the Early Church Fathers which are considered to be faithful continuations of the earlier Apostolic Faith. It also includes the Ecumenical Councils and the Eucharist, or celebration of communion.

3 The Dogmatic Tradition The Dogmatic Tradition is the most important aspect of the Tradition. It expresses the basic truths or dogmas of the Faith. Generally, the term doctrine refers to the articulations of dogma that may take many forms. However, some Orthodox us the terms interchangeably. Composed of:  Holy Scripture  The Church Fathers  The Councils  The Nicean Creed  The Divine Liturgy  The Church Canons  Christian Sacred Art (includes Iconography, Architecture, etc..)

4 Holy Scripture It has the most authority in the Tradition. It presides over all aspects of the Christian community. It is the result of “cooperation” between man and God. According to Bishop Maximos, in this cooperation, “God leads, and man follows; God works, and man accepts God’s work in him, as God’s coworker in subordination to Him.” Thus, both a perfect and imperfect aspect meet in the creation of the Bible. According to Bishop Maximos: “Biblical textual criticism is completely normal and acceptable by the Orthodox... Nothing human is perfect, including the Bible, which is the end product of human cooperation with the divine Spirit.”

5 The Church Fathers The Church Fathers are those theologians and writers who fulfill the truth of the Gospels and defend it from falsehood. They include not only early fathers such as St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory the Theologian, and St. Gregory of Nyssa, but “newer” fathers such as St. Gregory Palamas (14 th cent.) Other Fathers include St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Maximos the Confessor, St. Theodore of Studion, and St. John of Damascus.

6 The Councils of the Church The Ecumenical Councils were communal meetings of church leaders that led to the establishment of Orthodox doctrine. The Orthodox Church acknowledges 7 as being ecumenical, or universal:  The first council of Nicaea (325)  The first council of Constantinople (381)  The council of Ephesus (431)  The council of Chalcedon (451)  The second council of Constantinople (553)  The third council of Constantinople (681)  The second council of Nicaea (787)  The church Tradition also includes other councils in the East that do not represent the united Christian Church as it was prior to the schism in 1054; these councils are therefore not considered to be ecumenical, such as the councils of 1341 and 1351.

7 The Nicaean Creed The Nicaean Creed is the fundamental formulation of Orthodox Christian dogma; for the Orthodox, it is the only ecumenical creed and was first spread at the Council of Nicaea in 325; it was later edited and completed at the council of Constantinople in 381. The Nicaean Creed reads:  I believe in One God, Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.  And in One Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not created, of one essence with the Father, through whom all things were made.  For us and for our salvation He came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became Man. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and He suffered and was buried.  On the third day He rose according to the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.  He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will have no end. And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, who spoke through the prophets.  In one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  I expect the resurrection of the dead; and the life of the age to come.  Amen."

8 The Divine Liturgy The Divine Liturgy is a service held every Sunday, and at various other times, that culminates in the celebration of the Eucharist, or sacrament of Holy Communion. It has scriptural roots and expresses the faith and doctrines of the Orthodox Church. It is also characterized by a focus on the Resurrection and by a poetical element. Divine Liturgy; St. Tikhon’s Monastery, Pennsylvania

9 The Church Canons Church law, or canon law, is the system of laws is derived from the Church’s teaching. While it encompasses all aspects of life, both spiritual and material, and aims at the spiritual well being of the person, canon law in no way defines the essence of Orthodoxy, and is acknowledged as being imperfect. It is second in importance to theology and spirituality. According to Lewis Patsavos of Hellenic Holy Cross School of Theology: “ is most important not to confuse the Gospel and the Pedalion (collection of canons), theology and legislation, morality and jurisprudence... The Canons are at the service of the Church; their function is to guide her members on the way to salvation and to make following that way easier.” Nicholas Afanasiev, in an article published in St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, describes canon law: “Canons are a kind of canonical interpretation of the dogmas for a particular moment of the Church’s historical existence... They express the truth about the order of Church life, but rather than expressing this truth in absolute forms, they conform to historical existence.”

10 Orthodox Christian Art Orthodox dogma is also expressed by the iconography and architecture of the Orthodox Church. Cathedral; 19 th cent.; Riga, Latvia Icon of St. Nicholas; modern Vladimir Mother of God; Byzantine, 12 cent.

11 Christ is Risen!

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