Skip to comments.Early Church Fathers on (Oral) Tradition - Catholic/Orthodox Caucus
Posted on 01/28/2007 5:25:46 AM PST by NYer
The Early Church Fathers recognized Oral Tradition (as taught by the Church) as being equally authoritative as written Tradition (Scripture) because they both came from the same God through the same Church.
Whenever anyone came my way, who had been a follower of my seniors, I would ask for the accounts of our seniors: What did Andrew or Peter say? Or Phillip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew, or any of the Lords disciples? I also asked: What did Aristion and John the Presbyter, disciples of the Lord say. For, as I see it, it is not so much from books as from the living and permanent voice that I must draw profit (The Sayings of the Lord [between A.D. 115 and 140] as recorded by Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 3:39 [A.D. 325]).
For even creation reveals Him who formed it, and the very work made suggests Him who made it, and the world manifests Him who ordered it. The Universal [Catholic] Church, moreover, through the whole world, has received this tradition from the Apostles (Against Heresies 2:9 [A.D. 189]).
True knowledge is the doctrine of the Apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved, without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither addition nor curtailment [in truths which she believes]; and [it consists in] reading [the Word of God] without falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy (ibid. 4:33 [A.D. 189]).
For wherever both the true Christian rule and faith shall be shown to be, there will be the true Scriptures, and the true expositions, of all the true Christian traditions (The Prescription of Heretics 19 [A.D. 200]).
Seeing there are many who think they hold the opinions of Christ, and yet some of these think differently from their predecessors, yet as the teaching of the Church, transmitted in orderly succession from the Apostles, and remaining in the churches to the present day, is still preserved, that alone is to be accepted as truth which differs in no respect from ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition (On First Principles Bk. 1 Preface 2 [circa A.D. 225]).
While [Ignatius of Antioch] was making the journey through Asia under the strictest military guard, he strengthened the diocese in each city where he stayed by spoken sermons and exhortations, and he especially exhorted them above all to be on their guard against the heresies which then for the first time were prevalent and he urged them to hold fast to the tradition of the Apostles to which he thought it necessary, for securities sake, to give form by written testimony (Ecclesiastical History, 3:36 [A.D. 325]).
Without prefixing Consulate, month, and day, [the Fathers] wrote concerning Easter, "It seemed good as follows," for it did then seem good that there should be a general compliance; but about the faith they wrote not, "It seemed good" but, "Thus believes the Catholic Church"; and thereupon they confessed how they believed, in order to show that their own sentiments were not novel, but Apostolic; and what they wrote down was no discovery of theirs, but is the same as was taught by the Apostles (Letter on the Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia [A.D. 359]).
Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us "in mystery" by the tradition of the Apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will contradict; - no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in these matters (On the Holy Spirit 27 [A.D. 375]).
Dont you know that the laying on of hands after baptism and then the invocation of the Holy Sirit is a custom of the Churches? Do you demand Scripture proof? You may find it in the Acts of the Apostles. And even if it did not rest on the authority of Scripture the consensus of the whole world in this respect would have the force of a command. For many other observances of the Churches, which are do to tradition, have acquired the authority of the written law (The Dialogue Against the Luciferians 8 [A.D. 382]).
"So then brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word, or by epistle of ours" (2 Thessalonians 2:15). Hence it is manifest, that they did not deliver all things by epistle, but many things also unwritten, and in like manner both the one and the other are worthy of credit. Therefore let us think the tradition of the Church also worthy of credit. It is a tradition, seek no farther (Homilies on Second Thessalonians [circa A.D. 400]).
Vincent of Lerins
I have often then inquired earnestly and attentively of very many men eminent for sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and so to speak universal rule I may be able to distinguish the truth of Catholic faith from the falsehood of heretical pravity; and I have always, and in almost every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or any one else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they rise, and to continue sound and complete in the Catholic faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief n two ways: first, by the authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the Catholic Church (Commonitory 2 [A.D. 434])
I have ever kept the faith of the Apostles undefiled
So have I learnt not only from the Apostles and the Prophets but also from the interpreters of their writings, Ignatius, Eustathius, Athanasius, Basil, Gregory, John, and the rest of the lights of the world; and before these from the holy Fathers in council at Nicaea, whose confession of the faith I preserve in its integrity, like an ancestral inheritance [styling corrupt and enemies of the truth all who dare to transgress its decrees] (Letters no. 89 [circa A.D. 443]).
Actually, there is no reason to make the switch. A Roman rite Catholic may attend any Eastern Catholic Liturgy and fulfill his of her obligations at any Eastern Catholic Parish. A Roman rite Catholic may join any Eastern Catholic Parish and receive any sacrament from an Eastern Catholic priest, since all belong to the Catholic Church as a whole. As my pastor likes to say: "Same faith; different flavor" ;-)
Then again, over the past few years, two RC freepers have gone East. Both joined the Ukrainian Church; one is now studying for the priesthood.
Good luck with the battle.
What drove me East, was the liturgical abuse so pervasive in this RC Diocese. That was the battle! I confronted the pastor of my (now former) RC parish when he tried to introduce liturgical dance, showing him NCCB documentation outlawing this practice. When he wouldn't budge, I wrote to the diocese. No surprise, they supported the pastor's definition of liturgical dance as 'liturgical movement'. Undaunted, I wrote a 2nd time, quoting Sacrosanctum Concilium and and Canon Law which states that "every Catholic is entitled to a valid liturgy". That did the trick! His abuses didn't stop there. He altered the words of the Creed and only placed a Crucifix in the Sanctuary during Lent (dissent against the GIRM). Watching a EMHC drop a consecrated host to the floor of the Sanctuary then picking it up and replacing it in her Pyrex glass communion bowl was the last straw. In compiling a list of other RC parishes within proximity of home, someone suggested that I include any Eastern Catholic parishes as well. There were two - Maronite and Ukrainian. The Maronite Church grabbed my heart and soul and would not let go.
At one time, I considered formally switching rites. When I learned that this entailed writing to the local RC bishop, I opted out. "Same faith; different flavor" works for me :-)
There is a Maronite parish here in Portland but I have not made it over there.
The first time I attended the Maronite Church, it was very disorienting. There are 22 Churches that make up the One Holy Catholic Church; there are only eight "Rites" that are used among them. Many Eastern Catholic Churches use the same Rite, although they are distinct autonomous Churches. For example, the Ukrainian Catholic Church and the Melkite Catholic Church are distinct Churches with their own hierarchies. Yet they both use the Byzantine Rite. The Maronite Church is out of of Antioch where St. Peter served as Bishop before proceeding to Rome. The Consecration is chanted in Aramaic, using the words and language of our Lord at the Last Supper. It is quite different from the Byzantine Rite celebrated by the Ruthenians. Should you decide to visit, let me know. I'll give you some tips on what to expect.
Like you, my background is Irish + Italian, French and German but the Maronites (Lebanese) have adopted me and made me feel right at home. BTW - our pastor is bi-ritual (Maronite & Latin Rites, speaks 8 languages fluently and reads Koine Greek, Hebrew, Latin and Aramaic. He's quite young and an awesome priest!).
PS - I maintain two ping lists - one is Catholic in general; the other Eastern Catholic. Please freepmail me if you would like to be added to one or both.
Since this is our first attempt at a dual Caucus post, I intentionally avoided posting anything of a controversial nature. I'm keeping it light but there are, of course, issues that also divide us. My hesitation in posting any of those is not to incite any lurkers looking for the 'linchpin' that will bring our two Churches to fisticuffs. However, in all frankness, not posting ECF commentaries on these issues also does an injustice. How would you prefer to handle these topics - Catholic Caucus or Catholic/Orthodox Caucus?
With much respect for your decision ... NYer
Those darn visigoths again :) I also believe that they were responsible for altering the sign of the cross from right to left shoulder to left to right shoulder ( I have done it the Greek way now so long that I can get confused)
"And we charge you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother walking disorderly, and not according to the tradition which they have received of us." 2 Thessalonians 3:6
"Therefore, brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle." 2 Thessalonians 2:14
The Maronite Catholic Church is defiant! They have never separated from Rome and follow the Latin tradition of crossing themselves from left to right. They also take great pride in having the Bishop wear a mitre (like the Latins) as opposed to a crown. They decorate their Churches with icons and statues. They are very proud of their attachment to Rome, even though it entailed watching 'Vatican visitors' burn some of their liturgical texts, back in the 16th century.
The Portland Maronite parish is named for one of my favorite saints - St. Sharbel. They don't yet have an 'official' web site. (neither do we but we're working on it).
St Sharbel Catholic Church
1804 SE 16th Ave
Portland, OR 97214
"My hesitation in posting any of those is not to incite any lurkers looking for the 'linchpin' that will bring our two Churches to fisticuffs."
Well, if any lurkers think the filioque is still a causus belli between Orthodoxy and Rome, they will find that it is pretty much a dead issue since the Agreed Statement back around 2000, NYer. I wouldn't worry about controversial issues. If there ever will be a reunion, we'll simply have to deal with them. To that end, discussions here will be helpful. It may be that we will simply decide that some issues should be left to the decisions of the particular churches; in others perhaps not. In any event, my reason for mentioning the filioque was to demonstrate how problems addressing local issues troubling the Church (from the outside) which eventually effected the entire Church arose in what was a then unified church. In any reunified church of the future, even more powerful intrusions than Arianism in Spain will present challenges which will have to be handled more carefully, or perhaps I should say more attentively, than the filioque was.
"However, in all frankness, not posting ECF commentaries on these issues also does an injustice. How would you prefer to handle these topics - Catholic Caucus or Catholic/Orthodox Caucus?"
I see absolutely no problem with the way you posted the snips from the Fathers. Most of them, so far as I know, are understood in a common fashion by both Rome and Orthodoxy. At least one is recognizable as a patristic statement used to support the Roman Catholic view of the proper role of the Petrine Ministry. Orthodox people think that Roman Catholic apologists read too much into it. Now that is a subject which has the potential to get contentious, but it is also the very subject of the present dialog among our hierarchs so it seems likely that they at least have decided that the topic is worth their time. Likely its also worth ours, contentious or not. In all honesty, NYer, I doubt if any of us, lurkers or otherwise, think anything we post on these caucus threads will cause a lightbulb to go off in the heads of the heterodox and present them with new charges to level against The Church. They seem to do quite well with traditional objections as we have seen. In any event, when we get to some of the finer points of doctrine and where the Fathers stood on those points, we all know the issues so its unlikely any outsider will come up with something we haven't already seen.
Don't worry about not posting Orthodox commentaries on these subjects. We will if we think they add something as we will similarly add primary source materials as necessary.
Devotional topics, at least a limited number of them, perhaps should not be joint. For example, as you know, Orthodoxy does not hold by the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. While that dogma per se might be a wonderful topic for a joint caucus, a devotional thread on it likely wouldn't be. See what I mean? Fatima is another such topic if the purpose of the thread is to discuss the subject in a devotional way. I am trying to think of an Orthodox topic which might fall into the same category, but right off the top of my head, I can't think of any.
A, K, what do you think?
"I also believe that they were responsible for altering the sign of the cross from right to left shoulder to left to right shoulder"
Really? Huh, I'd never heard that. Our priest once told us that the way the West makes the sign of the cross, left to right, is actually the way the priest makes the cross when he blesses the people in front of him. I watched him and sure enough, it is! Maybe the Visigoths got confused? :)
"( I have done it the Greek way now so long that I can get confused)"
I just succeeded in doing it the Western way...took a few seconds to get the hang of it!
"At the same time the Orthodox Church can expect a surge thanks to the liberation of the former Soviet Union and Western converts from certain failing Protestant communities of faith. This surge will put the Orthodox in an unprecedented for them level of contact with the Reformed mindset, and the Catholic experience in that regard will be helpful."
Indeed it will and already has. The potential danger to the Orthodox Church from sincere converts is apparent to some but by no means all priests or bishops.
"More broadly, as the Orthodox Church penetrates the secularized neopagan West, it will have to form political alliances with all confessions that stand in defense of traditional morality and for freedom of religion. Conservative Evangelicals will naturally be a part of that movement. Here again, the Catholic experience of dialogue and coexistence with the Protestantism will be of value to the Orthodox."
Ditto in the Eastern Catholic Churches.
Now that is a subject which has the potential to get contentious, but it is also the very subject of the present dialog among our hierarchs so it seems likely that they at least have decided that the topic is worth their time. Likely its also worth ours, contentious or not.
I like your train of thought :-)
One of the many aspects of Benedict XVI's writings and sayings that I find amazing is how they are simultaneously eastern and western, if you will.
And why not? The Church was one when the Early Church Fathers wrote. And, as you have pointed out, Benedict XVI is a patristic scholar (this may explain my observation above). IMHO, Benedict XVI's patristic scholarship is/was part of God's plan for him.
and the Orthodox East is listening, listening closer than the Latin West I sometimes believe.
Who really knows? There are literally millions of people in both Churches. Speaking only for myself, I have been listening much more closely to what Benedict has been saying than I ever did to JPII. I find Benedict XVI's words to be quite clear, articulate, eloquent and multileveled. When I read them again, I see things that I didn't before.
What do you think that Irenaeus meant when he used the word "tradition"? and how might his use of the term differ from what it means in your Church today?
...a Catholic Church, an Orthodox Faith.
I'll second that about Benedict. Wonderful that such a scholarly man is such a devout and scholarly man...
Kolo: Maybe the Visigoths got confused? :)
But it's still a sign of the cross! That's what matters.
[nb: earliest Christians probably did not make such a sign; they didn't even call themsleves Christians]
In fact, Latins used to use three fingers (open fashion) before going to the "full hand."
This "Latin" uses three fingers for the Sign of the Cross. :)
Traditional Catholic? Commendable.
It's something I picked up when I was investigating the Byzantine rite, before I started going to the Traditional Latin Mass.
Commendable in both cases. I can't say that I wouldn't follow in your steps if I were a Latin Catholic.