Friday, August 17, 2018

Archimandrite Jack (Khalil): The Orthodox Tradition

Arabic original here.

The Orthodox Tradition

Many people unjustly accuse the Apostle Paul of innovating in the faith, to the point that some people ignorantly regard him as having established Christianity in its current form.

Objective study, however, makes it clear that the Apostle Paul adhered to the words of the Lord Jesus, which were transmitted by those who had witnessed the Word with their own eyes and served it during the time it was preached earth, just as the Church has preserved it since the Apostolic Era.

The Apostle Paul teaches us in today's epistle [1 Corinthians 15:1-11] to remember that we have received the deposit of true faith by which we are saved if we hold fast to it and preserve it as a guide for our life.

The first thing that we learn from the words of the Apostle Paul is that the principles of the faith are not subjective, in the sense that they do not depend on what we find attractive or what we reject in them. We receive the faith as the apostles handed it down and we must hand it down just as we received it.

Otherwise, its ecclesial character disappears from it and it becomes an individualistic faith. In other words, the orthodoxy of the faith that the Church has taught us across the generations disappears, transformed into the faith of this or that person...

The chosen vessel Paul did not want to innovate a faith particular to himself. Nor did he inquire with his mind about the foolishness of the preaching that the wise men of this age did not comprehend. Rather, he also accepted, as he himself affirms in today's epistle, the foolishness of the cross that the Church preaches.

He accepted the wretched foolishness that brings people heavenly peace and joy and grants them healing, the splendor of salvation and the earnest of the Holy Spirit.

The Church has not known intellectual disdain for the "foolishness of the cross" like what we are witnessing today. Some have called the current era the "post-truth" era, in the sense that truth has become what I myself see to be true, not what has been made as clear as the sun.

People today do not flinch from denying objective truth and offering excuse after excuse to justify what they say and win if someone tries to argue with them.

But their rebellion against God's truth came generations before this and perhaps the truth has lost its luster in our days because people have loved falsehood more than truth and heresy more than the truth of the Gospel.

We preserve our ecclesial identity to the degree that we keep the tradition that we have received.

The orthodoxy of our church has been kept through worldly codes and canons only in name. Orthodoxy of faith is tied to intellectual submission to the apostolic tradition that does not change, does not develop and does not increase or decrease because we have received it from the One who does not change, but rather "remains the same yesterday, today and forever."

Therefore we submit to the faith and do not scorn it. We preserve the faith and do not subject its sanctity to our intellectual pride.

Perhaps our deep understanding of the faith begins with submission to what we have received, so that we may know and understand... A language is not understood if one has not learned it first.

The Apostle Paul hands down to us what he himself has also received and accepted: the Lord Jesus died as was buried and arose victorious.

In response to those who deem these words to be foolishness, the Apostle Paul takes recourse first of all to the proof of the Holy Bible, which had previously witnessed to God's salvific dispensation (cf. Romans 1:1-2).

For those who do not grant any significance to the Bible, the apostle affirms that hundreds witnessed the Lord risen and glorified.

The truth of the Gospel is not an intellectual system. Rather, it is an event that has entered into humans' history, shaped their present and alone guarantees their future.

Archimandrite Jack (Khalil)
Saint John of Damascus Institute of Theology

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