Time for Tradition
In our contemporary Christian setting with over 45,000 denominations, it is no longer sufficient to say the Orthodox Church is the original Church. It is not longer sufficient to say we are the Church that never changes. It is no longer sufficient to say anything. The time has come for us to be and act as the original Christians we claim to be.
Holy Tradition is not just what we say. Holy Tradition is not just what we believe. Holy Tradition is also what we do as Christians. Holy Tradition is what has been handed down from the Holy Apostles to the Saints to today. Let’s face it. If what we say and think doesn’t affect what we do, then we are not living as we should. Consider the passage from Saint Paul we read in commemoration of Saint Thekla the Protomartyr and Equal to the Apostles.
TIMOTHY, my son, you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, my sufferings, what befell me at Antioch, at lconion, and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
2nd Timothy 3.10-15
Timothy wasn’t asked merely to observe what Saint Paul said. It was his conduct, his faith, his patience, his love, etc. that Saint Paul wants us to observe and emulate in our lives. This is what makes us Orthodox, if we maintain the Holy Tradition that has been handed to us from the ages.
One of the many reasons we read the stories of the ancient saints and martyrs is so we can emulate their lives. Those lives included life choices that matched their faith. Saint Thekla lived as a virgin in a world that was preoccupied with sexuality. She suffered for her choice, but God honored her. This is the point that Saint Paul is making in today’s reading.
The Saints of our Church, especially those who lived in the first century with and immediately after Christ, were living examples of faith. They gathered every day for community worship and fellowship. Today we are ‘lucky’ if we see each other on Sundays and rare holidays.
The ancient Christians were examples of faith in their jobs and in the marketplaces. They cared for the needs of the poor, not just for themselves. Today we are considered ‘generous’ if we throw an extra dollar in the tray for new light bulbs, and then only if we have nothing ‘better’ to spend our money on.
I think the most important tradition we have lost is living as if Christ was going to come at any moment. The reason the ancient Christians were ‘able’ to endure such suffering was because they lived as if Christ was just around the corner. The ancients didn’t look generations ahead for ‘enough time’ to live. They lived today as if it was their last.
Stop hearing the words of Saint Paul today as “Oh woe is me. I’m destined to suffer.” Instead, hear them as, “God has blessed me in my suffering for His Church and Gospel.” That is the example of saints of our Church. It is the Holy Tradition that sets us apart form the other 44,999 denominations in the world today.