Orthodoxy and Tradition

“Following, then the holy fathers, we teach all men to confess the one and only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.” (The Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, 451)
“We, therefore, following the royal pathway and the divinely inspired authority of the Holy Fathers…” (Council of Nicaea, 787, Seventh Ecumenical Council)

The great councils of the holy Church would begin by affirming a continuity with past councils, teachings of the holy fathers and sacred scriptures as accepted and endorsed by the Church. We hear it affirmed and proclaimed at the conclusion of the Sunday of Orthodoxy vespers each year during Great Lent. This truism is so fundamental one would think it hardly needs to be stated; nevertheless, let us in America shout it out even to the point of redundancy. America is ambivalent regarding tradition. On the one hand, we are a nation ruled by a constitution created 235 years ago, and it is active at present. On the other hand, our people take pride in making all things new, meaning starting over again. The current President won on a slogan: “Change and Hope.” From the Afro-American definition of history as “Dead white male” remains to the incredible answers on Leno’s “Jay Walk,” this generation is unapologetic about its ignorance of the past, along with dates, events and significant persons.

This odd phenomenon would be a problem for educators; however, it affects faith as we understand, confess and propagate it. For instance, in the matter of morality, from the 1960 sexual revolution into the present, the commandments from Bible and tradition have been swept away. Nearly all forms of sexual congress have been endorsed, all inhibitions swept aside. With the exception of pedophilia, in an Adults Only world, anything goes.

At present a line is drawn in the sand over homosexuality, the Church and other traditional religious faith struggling to keep the wind from blowing it away. The “Gay Rights” advocates are certain that time is on their side. Even within the religious ranks we find those who are willing to compromise and even endorse what the Church finds to be sinful, in the name of pity and understanding. Is it not a scientific fact that homosexuals are born that way? That nothing can be done to change them, and if that is so, then the Church is cruel, insensitive and uncaring? The Orthodox Church should always “tell all the truth with love.” [Ephesians 4:15] When our people, both clergy and lay persons, address the challenges of ethics and morality, which is positive in its own right, they ought always to begin with the perspective of the faith of our fathers. It’s not a matter of defending the past. We must listen with open minds and hearts to the advocates of change not as close-minded intransigents, but with love and compassion. Nevertheless, we should always bear in mind the wisdom of the Church, honed and refined through struggle, contemplation and prayer. That cannot be simply set aside.

But what facts are we concerned with? Are there not spiritual facts gleaned from centuries of struggles with all sorts of temptations, including urges and passions both hetero- and homosexual? Have pity on the plight of homosexuals oppressed by an unfeeling, cruel society? By all means we are commanded to love and show mercy on all humanity regardless of their spiritual condition. Does that mean we should join them in ignoring and rejecting the wisdom of the saints? Are we to pretend a spiritual and moral lobotomy, as if it could be done? Our best theologians continually pore over the writings of the holy fathers of the first millennium, building on their spiritual insights so that we might profit by their holy insights. Should we ignore that magnificent analyst of the soul and psyche, St. John Climacus, and his precious study of sin and salvation? Or the famous Cappadocians – are their profound plumbing of the heart not relevant to our present times? Sex was not invented in the “Age of Aquarius.”