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I am a Christian, I am an Orthodox Christian. I am a husband and a Father of 3. I am a working man and enjoy reading, writing, singing, playing music, woodworking, and being with close friends and family and sharing my faith with anyone who will listen.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Miracle Every Sunday

Do you experience miracles? I do, every Sunday.

Forgive me, but I can only talk about things from the perspective of what I have experienced and learned. I have an enormous respect for the Christian tradition from which I come from, namely, the church of Christ. One of the most cherished tradition in the church of Christ was the centrality of the Lord's Supper in worship. This is because it is a central message in the New Testament, in all four of the gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and in the Epistles of St. Paul. If there is one thing you pick up in the New Testament, it is that the Lord's Supper was significant and that the followers of Jesus partook of the Lord's Supper at least every Sunday (the Lord's Day) when they gathered.

The church of Christ made it clear in my mind that there is something significant to this institution of our Lord, but it was never made clear to me why, except that it is commanded in the Bible. I remember being taught that it is just a memorial and our Lord's Supper table made this clear by having the words inscribed on it "Do this in remembrance of me" with the emphasis on remembrance. To the church of Christ, it was a memorial as we would have a memorial for a fallen soldier, only more emphasized because it was done every Sunday. The Lord's Supper generally occurred in the middle of the worship service and started out with men going to the front and one of the men reading the Scripture (pertinent to the Lord's Supper) and saying spontaneous prayer before the dispersion of the emblems. Once that was done the men would take the plates of tiny cups of grape juice and plates of broken up matzah crackers and passed it around to everyone sitting in the congregation. Sometimes a song would be sung, sometimes silence, but it was always somber.

I remember thinking as a young Christian, who had been in seminary and had been taught that the Lord's Supper had been something different to various Christian groups through the centuries, that it had to be something more than just a memorial. Catholics believed in the literal Body and Blood of Christ known as "Transubstantiation" and the Lutherans believed that the presents of Christ was "with" the elements, "Consubstantiation". And others, such as our church, a memorial only. I also remember St. Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 11 about partaking in the Body and the Blood in an unworthy manner and how this was causing some to "fall asleep". No, to me, I knew it was more. Fear would come over me as the plate was passed my way and I was never really certain that I was taking the emblems in a worthy manner, because (as I was taught), taking the emblems in an unworthy manner was related to my moral standing. I was never worthy, so I should never take the emblems. But I also remember thinking, "if it is just a memorial, why does it matter how I take it?"

Fast forward several years, to the years I was studying Orthodoxy and reading the Church Fathers. To the first and second century Church Fathers, it was always understood that the Lord's Supper (Eucharist) was the actual Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, even the first and second century pagans called the Christians cannibals because they spoke of eating and drinking the body and blood of Jesus. It has always been understood as Jesus stated it: "This is my Body..." and "this is my blood" and:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”
These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.
Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”
When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.  But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”
From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more."
(John 6:53-66)
 
Clearly, from the writing of the New Testament until today, there have been Christians that have taught and affirmed the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

 
When I was a catechumen in the Orthodox Church, we spent that year not taking the Eucharist, as is the custom of catechumens in the Orthodox Church. This was hard since I had partaken what I thought was the Eucharist for my whole adult Christian life, every Sunday. But that year was a year to contemplate what the Eucharist really was, the True Body and Blood of Christ. The Orthodox do not take this lightly.
 
There is no open communion in the Orthodox. If a church goer from the outside comes in to our parish and does not believe it is the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, it could be potentially deadly for them as St. Paul points out:
 
Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.
(1 Corinthians 11:27-30 - my emphasis added)
 
It is not closed communion because we are saying "you are out and we are in". It is to protect the one who is taking the very Fire from Heaven that can either cleanse or destroy.
 
After a full year of not taking the Eucharist and it was my first time to approach the Body and Blood(on my Chrismation date), it occurred to me that I have really never received the Body and Blood of Christ. I knew this because, it is in the Divine Liturgy that the priest calls down the Holy Spirit upon the "gifts" and ask to make the bread and the wine the precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, at which the faithful say "Amen!". This had never been done at any Lord's Supper I had been at in previous churches and is something that goes back to 1st century of the Church. So I stood in line waiting to receive the Eucharist, my arms crossed in an X, my heart pounding, and my soul light. At the moment I was given the Body and Blood of Christ, I had an experience I have never had, nor do I expect to have again. It was a mystical experience. It is very hard to explain, but I liken it to the feeling a martyr  of Christ must have when they are condemned to die and the execution is about to occur and a rush of joy fills their soul. I am not comparing myself to a martyr, please don't misunderstand. I just don't know how else to explain it. I have yet to experience this again, but the Eucharist means so much more to me now than it ever has. It is a miracle every Sunday (or every time a Divine Liturgy occurs).
The people bring the gifts of ordinary bread, made by their hands with gifts that God provides (wheat, water, and yeast) and God transforms the ordinary into the Extraordinary, the very Body and Blood of Christ! How can this be? We have no idea, it is a mystery. Much like the mystery of the Incarnation, the Trinity, a sinner repenting, the infinite God in the womb of the Theotokos, the two natures of Christ, and the Church herself.
 
These are all miracles in the Orthodox Church and mysteries. We cherish them, protect them, and many have died for them. Praise be to God!
 


Friday, June 27, 2014

Bishop JOHN answers some frequently asked questions

Taken from The Word publication Volume 58 No. 5, Pg. 7

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I just received the newest publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese The Word. In it was a Q & A with Bishop JOHN of some commonly asked questions. Below is the list of questions and answers that I thought were pertinent for this blog. I hope you enjoy!
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Each of us has opportunities to answer questions and share our faith. Some of these opportunities come when people visit our church, others come at the water cooler at work when people talk about things that the Church provides answers for. Compiled here are some frequently asked questions. This was done to prepare for a workshop to be held in Plymouth at the New England Parish Life
Conference in 2014.
 
Why is your worship different from others?
Orthodox take to heart the many scripture versus about our being in this world but not of it. Our worship belongs to God’s time and place. We gather in Christ outside of time and place to join with the angels and saints gathered from the start until end of time. Together with them we hear the Gospel, share with the angels and saints and are fed at God’s altar by Christ Himself. We worship the Father in Christ by the Spirit.
 
Why does your church look different from others?
Our churches are appointed (decorated) this way because we are joining the angels and saints in their time and space. The icons reveal to us that the martyrs, apostles, angels, the Theotokos and Christ are present now with us as we gather to be the Church.
 
Icons are called windows?
Like windows, they let us see beyond our realm to understand that God and the saints are with us.
 
But aren’t the saints dead?
Those who are born into Christ and share His life do not die but live in Him. Many who have hearts that beat are dead while those without breath are alive.
 
Why do you ask saints to pray for you?
We ask them because they are alive and members of our church. Their prayers are coveted because of how close they are to God.
 
Don’t you know that only Jesus saves and we only need Jesus?
Yes! Only Jesus saves, and we fi nd God with the help and support of each other.
 
Why do you venerate Mary?
Mary is for us a great example of the Christian life. She says Yes to God and allows God to live in her. She gives birth to Christ, showing us how to reveal God to the world. She cooperates with God the way we all should. We venerate her as an example because she is a very valued member of our parish! Besides, like the saints, her prayers work.
 
Who started your church?
This church was established by Jesus Christ when he prepared his apostles and then sent them out after Pentecost. Since that time, we have gathered consistently around our bishops to celebrate the Eucharist and deliver the same faith for each generation.
 
How is the Church structured?
Ruling bishops with the help of their bishops and presbyters gather to express the whole church. They all are united by the Eucharist and the love and unity of faith they have with each other and the whole Orthodox world.
 
Is the bread and wine really the body and blood of Christ?
Yes. On the night that He was betrayed, or rather gave Himself up for the life of the world, Jesus took “flesh bread” called “flesh” and said, “This is my flesh.” He broke it and fed it to his followers. Then He took wine, a symbol of life and cooperation between man and God, blessed it and said, “This is my life (blood),” and gave them wine to drink. Bread and wine are shown to be the body and blood of Christ, and God becomes bread and wine so that we can commune with Him. These elements participate in the gift of God feeding His people, who are already baptized and grafted into His own body.
 
Do you have 7 sacraments?
We have at least seven! Sacraments are God acting in our lives and sharing Himself with us using elements that we can touch and understand. God heals, feeds, blesses, delivers, joins, forgives, renews and acts in our lives and in our world.

Why is there so much moving around in the Church?
To show how we need to meet God in our lives, and how God meets us and joins Himself to us. We greet the Gospel because it brings us God. We deliver ourselves and our gifts to God and God brings us Himself in the Eucharist before sending us out to share the good news and bring others back.
 
So are you evangelical?
We are the Church that gathered and preserved the Good News and has lived the life it expresses.

Do you believe people are good?
We are created in God’s image and likeness. God is good, and even though we are born into a fallen world, what it means to be in God’s image is good and we are growing in his likeness. We grow through constant repentance and God’s acceptance. We are baptized to be initiated into the Church which is the body of Christ. When we live God’s life, doing ministry in Christ which is praising the Father and taking care of each other, we share in God’s life. As we detach from what is unholy or ungodly, we grow in our union with God. This union is called theosis or salvation.
Here is the link to the full publication

Friday, April 26, 2013

Iconoclasm as the Gateway Drug to Heresy (Part II)


Iconoclasm as the Gateway Drug to Idolatry



Iconoclasm is dangerous for another reason. I remember when I was in the church of Christ, I was listened to a lot of Christian talk radio. One program I listened to made me think about how easy it is to make an idol of God. It is impossible to know everything about God, but we do know what God has revealed to us about Himself. When we have a scewed view of who God is, we have created a god of own making and likeness which is no god at all. This is where iconography comes in. Icons are not simply pictures, they tell stories. They are not painted, they are written (Orthodoxy refers to writing icons, not painting icons). Everything is significant and has a teaching moment within them. What is being taught are the doctrines of the Church. That is why, in an icon, realism is not the focus. For instance, a forehead may be large, fingers may be extended, clothing of different colors, the absense of shadows, baby Jesus with a middle aged man's face, etc. All are significant and make a theological point.







This is why icons are important and help keep the faithful focussed on Truth. Icons bring the faithful to a reverence, awe, and a reflection of Truth. Iconographers are discouraged from any artistic endeavors when writing icons and approach it as a good scholor would approach the Scriptures, with prayer, fasting, and study of the Tradition. Therefore, icons are much like Scripture, in that they are the plumline for us to understand and keep us in the knowledge of who God is.





I have heard that a monk once said (and I paraphrase and forget who said it) that if God did not want us to know him through images but through our thoughts, then He would have revealed Himself in our thoughts and not in the flesh. Images effect us and can drive us to toward either sin or sanctification. 















John of Damascus


"I do not worship matter, I worship the God of matter, who became matter for my sake and deigned to inhabit matter, who worked out my salvation through matter. I will not cease from honoring that matter which works for my salvation. I venerate it, though not as God."




- St. John of Damascus








So how can iconoclast be more suseptible to idolatry than Iconophiles: Because Iconoclasts have no reference but their minds and thoughts of who God is. This requires a new thought of God everytime one thinks about God. This engages the iconoclast's in the possibility of making God in their own image at any given point. Whereas, those who support and venerate icons have an image of God that has been past down from generation to generation (Tradition says St Luke was the first to write an icon). Icons teach the faith. If icons are absent, it is harder to keep the Tradition firm. Ideas about God within Christian circles abound, and these from faithful good intentioned Sola Scriptura Christians. (Sola Scriptura is another subject, but I do want to point out that all heretics have used the Bible to back their heresy)






I hope you enjoy reading this, and I welcome comments!





Peace


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

For Everything, Turn, Turn, Turn...

 


Life is a series of cycles. I wake up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch a show with my wife, go to bed, wake up, and do it all again the next day, the next day, the next day, etc. Then, there is the weekly cycle marked by the weekends, and the monthly cycle, and yearly, and so on. What a meaningless mess this seems... 

Until, Christ comes and sanctifies time. Yes, life is a series of cycles, and there is no escaping it. But what I have learned in the Orthodox faith is that time does not need to be meaningless. There are cycles in life and these cycles have been hollowed by Christ.

The Church has a series of cycles. These cycles, past down from generation to generation and inspired by the Spirit have sanctified time and makes life meaningful.

The Church gives us praying cycles for each day. These are morning prayers, mid-day prayers, and evening prayers. There are also times of prayer in the night, but I have not excelled in the ascetic practice (and not sure if I will). This originated from the Jewish custom of praying at certain hours during the day. Handed down from the Apostles, who watched and learned how to pray from Jesus, the Church through the Trinity has hollowed the days with these prayer cycles. It would be beneficial to read these prayers, memorize them, and practice them in your private prayer closet. Yes, they may seem scripted and wrote, but it should be part of us, as natural to you as it is to brush your teeth each morning and evening, a prayer should be on our lips at least three times a day. Though St. Paul would say to pray without ceasing (1Thess 5:17; Eph 6:18). The Holy Church has offered a prayer for that as well. The "Jesus Prayer" - "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner" of which can be on your lips at all points of the day. The Church also offers The Hours or Daily Cycle.

There is a weekly cycle in the Orthodox faith. Every day of the week has a meaning and serves as icons of Holy Week. In particular, Saturday is Great Vespers where the "service" is dark, somber, and reflective. This is to commemorate the night that Christ was in the tomb and is the end of the 7th day, the Holy Sabbath. Sundays, of course commemorate the Holy Resurrection of Christ and is considered the 8th day of the week, the Eternal Day. The Liturgy is well lit and is the day the faithful enter into the Kingdom of God on Earth in the Divine Liturgy.

Among these cycles are the festive cycles throughout the year. The Advent (or little lent) of the Nativity of our Lord (Christmas) and the Feast of all feasts, Pascha (Easter). These two great feasts are like book ends that hold the other feasts together. The year is full of feasts that point us to Christ. There is a commemoration every day. There are several saints each day that remind us that the saints are the icons of Christ. Here is a list of the Major Feasts in the Orthodox Church:

MAJOR FEASTS OF THE CHURCH
September 8 The Nativity of Mary the Theotokos
September 14 The Exaltation of the Cross
November 21 The Presentation of the Theotokos to the Temple
December 25 The Nativity of Christ
January 6 The Epiphany: The Baptism of Christ
February 2 The Meeting of Christ in the Temple
March 25 The Annunciation
August 6 The Transfiguration of Christ
August 15 The Dormition of the Theotokos
According to the Spring equinox and the Jewish Passover
Palm Sunday The Entry into Jerusalem
PASCHA CHRIST’S RESURRECTION
Ascension The Ascension of Christ
Pentecost The Descent of the Holy Spirit

Christ has redeemed the day, the week, the month, the year. The only way we can find meaning in our seemingly mundane life is to enter into the liturgical life of the Church and participate with Christians around the world in the glorification of Christ. Otherwise, what are we doing with our time?



Iconoclasm as the Gateway Drug to Heresy

The Indepictable Became Depictable

Icons are by far one of the hardest hurdles for protestants who become Orthodox to overcome. I know it was difficult for me to go from no images whatsoever to images of Christ, the Theotokos, and Saints and Angels. I was taught and I observed a surface reading of the Second Commandment "Thou shall not make engraven images" (Exodus 20:4) and so images were not an option in my initial Christian experience, even though in the same book of the Bible, God commands the making of Cherubim, a bronze serpent, among other things. Not to mention, God was indepictable because He had not revealed Himself in a form as to not be depictable at the time. But of course, when Christ comes, He is the express image of God (Heb 1:3). My surface reading of the seemingly Scriptural prohibition was challenged when I was on my journey toward Orthodoxy. To get a great exposition and well done researched article on the subject of the history, use, and necessity of Holy Icons, check out this article.

But, primarily I would like to focus on an interesting danger that the article points out. As Christians, it is dangerous and walking a fine line to assert that images are forbidden. In doing so, it is a statement that God cannot be depicted. Imagine you are Marty McFly and could travel back to time of Christ. Lets say you took with you a camera. Would you be able to take a photo of Jesus? Or would He be like a vampire, who when taking His picture He would not appear in the photo? 
If you say that Jesus was so much God and only appeared as a man and that we cannot depict Him, then you are stating an ancient heresy called Docetism. This ancient heresy says that Jesus only appeared to be human but was in actuality not human. It was an emphasis on Christ's divinity, but a de-emphasis on His humanity. 

I think it is fair to assert that if we had a photo of Jesus, we would all make copies and disperse it among us all to have in our homes and churches. It is also safe to assert that we would respect this image, venerate ( doulia - not worship, latreia) the image, much like a soldier in war with an image of his wife and kids, kissing it at night before he goes to sleep.

Veneration of icons is not idolatry. There are many arguments as to why this is true (i.e. doulia vs latreia), but if I believe that I am not worshiping (latreia) the wood and paint on the icons, then I am not! It doesn't matter what anyone "thinks" I am doing. 

In honor of the upcoming feast of Lazarus being raised from the dead (known as Lazarus Saturday), I leave you with an early image of Christ raising Lazarus from the dead from the catacombs (2nd to 3rd century AD)
 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Why I Am Orthodox (Part 3.3): Good thing for Heresies!

The First Seven Ecumenical Councils


The church that I became a Christian in taught me "No Creed but Christ", which ironically is a creed. The idea is that Creeds cause division, and this is true. As Christ says, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword." (Matt. 10:34). The goal was not to divide though, the goal in creating a creed was to define once and for all what the Church has always believed and to protect the Church from error. As a result, it caused a division between Truth and Error. A far cry from the Ecumenical Movement (and not to be confused with this movement) The Seven Ecumenical Councils are what I would like to focus on.

The Ecumenical Councils were not gathered together to invent doctrine nor to pit one group's truth up against another group's truth. The Councils were gathered because of rising heresies that were up against God's Truth, not man's truth. The bottom line: these were battle fields where God and Satan were at battle and the Spirit of God prevailed in all instances.

Our Lord Jesus made it clear that the Spirit would guide his Church into all Truth (John 16:13-15). The Spirit has guided the people of God, His One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, into all Truth. This means the Church has never fallen into heresy, but heresy has risen up against the Church and has sought to entice Her away from her Bride Groom. This is why the Councils emerged. Not to create its own doctrine, but because heresies arose and needed to be filtered out. This is why I say "good thing for heresies" in the title. Not because I love error, but because error made it possible for the Church to define what the Church has always believed.

What is an Ecumenical Council?

An Ecumenical Council is one where the entire Church is in agreement on a subject that is proclaimed to have been maintained from the beginning. An agreement on Tradition handed down from the Apostles. In other words, its the Church's affirmation of an already believed doctrine that has been held since Christ and His Apostles established the Church. The Orthodox Church recognizes only the first seven councils to be ecumenical and therefore are authoritative in their decrees. These Councils follow the example of the first Council in Acts 15 which dealt with how to manage the growing number of gentiles into the dominantly Jewish Church at the time.

Below is a summary of each of the Seven Ecumenical Councils (Source: Fr. Thomas Hopko's The Orthodox Faith. This is a great read to get a basic understanding of the Orthodox Church. You can read it free here http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith. My comments in red which is information gathered from orthodoxwiki.org)
The Seven Ecumenical Councils
Nicea 1325Formulated the First Part of the Creed, defining the divinity of the Son of God

Why? Arianism: Teaching of Arius that Christ was a created being.
Constantinople I381Formulated the Second Part of the Creed, defining the divinity of the Holy Spirit

Why? Pneumatomachi (Macedonian) heresie. These were "fighters against the Spirit" denying the divinity of the Spirit and understood Jesus as being of similar substance with the Father, not of the same essense.
Ephesus 431Defined Christ as the Incarnate Word of God and Mary as Theotokos

Why? Nestorianism. Teaching that the human and divine essenses of Christ were seperate and there are two persons in Jesus (divine and human). Nestorius would not say (as the Church had from the beginning) "Theotokos" (Mother of God) to refer to Mary, but Christotokos (Mother of Christ)
Chalcedon451Defined Christ as Perfect God and Perfect Man in One Person

Why? Monophysitism. Taught by Eutyches, that in Jesus, the human nature was absorbed into the divine nature
Constantinople II553Reconfirmed the Doctrines of the Trinity and of Christ

Why? Because of the re-emergence of the Arian, Nestorian, and Monophysite heresies.
Constantinople III680Affirmed the True Humanity of Jesus by insisting upon the reality of His human will and action

Why? Monothelitism ("one will"). Taught that Jesus had two natures but only one will. Orthodox believe that Christ has two wills in conjunction with his two natures.
Nicea II787Affirmed the propriety of icons as genuine expressions of the Christian Faith

Why? Iconoclasm (the distruction of religious imagery).

I hope this was interesting to you as it is and has been for me. Comments are welcome

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Why I Am Orthodox (Part 3.2): Traaaaaaditionnnnnn!




Tradition!

One of my favorite movies is Fiddler on the Roof. Any person who loves this movie and sees this image feels a warm spot in their hearts. The song he sings in the very beginning of the musical is a song called Tradition. He says "Because of Tradition, we've kept our balance for many, many years...and because of our Tradition every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do". This is our identity as Orthodoxy Christians. This is what the world longs for in a world of relevancy, relativism, and a lack of authenticity. In the Christian world, especially in America, there is a desperate search for solid ground, tradition, roots, and authenticity. It is curious to me that those around me who are Christian but not Orthodox still feel like something is missing, and I felt the same way! Even though you go to the best rock concert, amazing sermon, emotionally charged Sunday church service at the local church, at the end of the day, something is missing. I believe the protestant/evangelical/restoration church are searching. I am not pointing fingers; I owe a great debt to these churches. As a church of Christ member, I remember thinking there is more to this. I wanted to discover the first church, and though the church of Christ were making this attempt, I also saw them being swayed by other Christian Denominations and seemed to pick and choose what part of the first century church they wanted. I delved head first in the emergent movement because this group was searching as I was. I am thankful to God for that, and here is why. If I had not, I would not have began to think outside the church of Christ box. When I did, I discovered other Christians reaching back into history to find something else. The house church I attended was a church that were primarily church of Christ former members. Our services consisted of a more liturgical feel, especially during the Lords Supper where the host was given by going up and receiving the bread and cup from those who offered it (which is not the practice in the church of Christ). I am indebted to that church for allowing me to discover the depth that Christianity can have and has had for two thousand years. It also revealed to me that Christianity has lost its identity and is searching desperately for its roots. My question to all (and please answer if you would like) is: Why re-invent the wheel when the original is already present. Christ has not left his Church nor has he caused confusion. Simply look at the Churches history and discover what has happened. People became prideful and have decided to go their own way. And we, in the twenty first century are victims to those decisions and have lost our true identity. So where should we go from here?

Go Ask Your Fathers



If you read my previous blog post (http://myorthodoxlife.blogspot.com/2013/02/why-i-am-orthodox-part-31-scripture.html), you would know that the early Church did not have an official New Testament for quite some time. In fact, the Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed was completed and affirmed before the official New Testament was canonized. This means that the Church was being guided by something for hundreds of years and keeping Her from corruption and protecting her from heresy. Again, I want to emphasize this...It was the Spirit of God through Tradition that kept the Church from error. Scripture was a product of Tradition. Who did the people go to for authority? The Apostles were no longer around and there was an Old Testament but not an official New Testament. The people went to their Bishops, and in that time, they went to the leaders who had direct contact or the closest contact with the Apostles; the Apostolic Fathers.

Let me begin with 4 of the earliest Church Fathers, who were either directly associated with the Apostle or one step removed from the Apostles.

1. St. Clement of Rome (the 4th Bishop of Rome, lived around AD 96) spoke of Apostolic Succession in the early church:
1 Clement 42 and 44
So then Christ is from God, and the Apostles are from Christ. Both therefore came of the will of God in the appointed order. Having therefore received a charge, and having been fully assured through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and confirmed in the word of God with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth with the glad tidings that the kingdom of God should come. So preaching everywhere in country and town, they appointed their firstfruits, when they had proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons unto them that should believe. And this they did in no new fashion; for indeed it had been written concerning bishops and deacons from very ancient times; for thus saith the scripture in a certain place, I will appoint their bishops in righteousness and their deacons in faith...For this cause therefore, having received complete foreknowledge, they appointed the aforesaid persons, and afterwards they provided a continuance, that if these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed to their ministration. Those therefore who were appointed by them, or afterward by other men of repute with the consent of the whole Church, and have ministered unblamably to the flock of Christ in lowliness of mind, peacefully and with all modesty, and for long time have borne a good report with all these men we consider to be unjustly thrust out from their ministration.
  
2. St. Ignatius (80-110 A.D), possibly ordained as Bishop of Antioch by St Peter, spoke of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the Hierarchy, and Unity:

To his letter to the Smyrnaeans he says:
 
Real Presence:
"Consider how contrary to the mind of God are the heterodox in regard to the grace of God which has come to us. They have no regard for charity, none for the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, none for the man in prison, the hungry or the thirsty. They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His graciousness, raised from the dead." Letter to the Smyrnaeans chapter 6

Hierarchy:
"...for there is one Flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup in the union of His Blood; one altar, as there is one bishop with the presbytery (priests) and my fellow servants, the deacons." 

Unity:
"Come together in common, one and all without exception in charity, in one faith and in one Jesus Christ, who is of the race of David according to the flesh, the son of man, and the Son of God, so that with undivided mind you may obey the bishop and the priests, and break one Bread which is the medicine of immortality and the antidote against death, enabling us to live forever in Jesus Christ." Letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 20

3. St. Irenaeus (AD 130-202), a disciple of Polycarp (who was disciple of the Apostle John) also speaks of the Real Presence if Christ in the Eucharist and in combating the Gnosticism states that the Church's authority comes from Apostolic Tradition, not secret knowledge.

Against Heresies

"But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth. For [they maintain] that the apostles intermingled the things of the law with the words of the Savior; and that not the apostles alone, but even the Lord Himself, spoke as at one time from the Demiurge, at another from the intermediate place, and yet again from the Pleroma, but that they themselves, indubitably, unsulliedly, and purely, have knowledge of the hidden mystery: this is, indeed, to blaspheme their Creator after a most impudent manner! It comes to this, therefore, that these men do now consent neither to Scripture nor to tradition."

"[Christ] has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own Blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own Body, from which he gives increase to our bodies." 

4.  St Justin Martyr (AD 100–165), was a philosopher who became a Christian and Apologist.

 First Apology

"This food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true, and has received the washing for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us. For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God's Word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the Word of prayer which comes from him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus."  First Apology, Chapter 66

He also writes about the Liturgy in the 2 Century. This Liturgy consist of the first half being the Liturgy of the Word and the second half being the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The same way the Liturgy is done in the Orthodox Church today

In conclusion, These Traditions were handed down from Christ to the Apostles to the Apostolic Fathers to the Bishops through History to the the modern day and are still held by the Orthodox Church today. These are just some of the Traditions we hold which the first Christians believed  and were taught and have passed down to us.

Apostolic Succession
The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist
Hierarchy of the Church (as Bishop, Priest, Deacon)
Unity
Apostolic Tradition
Baptismal Regeneration
The form of the Liturgy (Liturgy of the Word & Eucharist)

I hope this was informative.

Next, I hope to discuss the 7 Ecumenical Councils and the impact they have had on my journey to Orthodoxy.