Posted by: markbasil | August 3, 2016

What is Holy Tradition?

Most succinctly the Tradition is exactly this:  Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  Nothing added, nothing taken way; the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

[from an email correspondence on violence in Orthodox history:]

You said, “I’m not sure what you mean when you refer to “the pure Orthodox Tradition” when we have a history of war and militarism within our own Tradition!”  It seems the heart of this matter lies in this question about the “pure Orthodox Tradition.”  Of course we would agree that Holy Tradition is the undiluted, untainted gospel of Jesus Christ- nothing more and nothing less.  But all that has accumulated in the vast history of the Church is not identical to this pure gospel of Jesus Christ.  The gospel is the narrow Way that leads to life.  The Scriptures speak initially of our “Religion” as “the Way”- it is a communion in Christ who is our Way, our Truth, our Life.  Again I know we would agree.  I am pointing this out because in my own slow maturation I have shifted from initally taking Holy Tradition as “all the teachings and prayers of the church over the centuries” to a more accurate understanding that it is a Way of Life.  This is the infallible Tradition:  The Way that leads to life.
Not everything accumulated in Orthodoxy’s history is worthy of the Way.  In this sense we must discern the Tradition even when we read the history of the Church, etc.
I take my meaning from Blessed Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov), the disciple of Saint Silouan the Athonite:  “...In the vast sea which is the life of the Church the true tradition of the Spirit flows like a thin pure stream, and he who would be in this stream must renounce argument. When anything of self is introduced the waters no longer run clear, for God’s supreme wisdom and truth are the opposite of human wisdom and truth. Such renunciation appears intolerable, insane even, to the self-willed, but the man who is not afraid to “become a fool” (cf. I Cor. iii:18-19) has found true life and true wisdom.” (from “Saint Silouan the Athonite”).
If we wish to stand in this pure salvific stream (or do the spiritual work to at least move toward it), then I suggest that participating in violence and drawing on ostensibly Orthodox resources to do so, is not helpful.  Otherwise why would our priests and monks be forbidden to shed blood even in self defense?  Are we not to look to them as examples?  Surely theosis is not reserved for the clergy alone (who are as much in the world as the rest of us, yet may not defend self, family, or nation with lethal force).



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