Fascination with wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Wisdom of Solomon 4:12

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How Do We Pass On Truth?

One of the most majestic glories of the Orthodox Church is her way with truth.  The church has great creeds in her quiver, which preserve the essential truths of the faith; however, she freely admits that creeds are not enough. She also has great treatises written by the spiritual fathers of the church, yet again, she admits that they are not enough. She has catechisms written by holy men, again not enough. She has confessions and concilliar definitions, great but not enough.  She even has the Holy Scriptures, essential to the truth, but alone they are not enough.  

What then is enough?  The delivery system is enough.  The Orthodox Church has through out her years put together a system of delivering the contents of all of the above on a year by year basis through its liturgical cycle.

The daily cycle is found in the book called the Horologion, and it begins at Vespers (sunset). There we find the theme of man’s gloomy darkness along with the promise of light, we find ourselves with Adam facing the gates of paradise awaiting the salvation of the world.  Then the cycle continues with compline (completeness).  The theme in this is salvation through the night of sleep (death). Followed by nocturnes (midnight) wherein we thank God for raising us from sleep (death) and ask for spiritual guidance through out our day.  Then follows Matins, where the bulk of Orthodox theology is transferred. The main theme is the exposition of the coming of the light into the world. If all of this were not enough we also have first, third, sixth, and ninth hour; each with a redemptive theme of their own.

To each daily cycle we add an eight week resurrection theme that focuses on different aspects of our redemption. This is found in the book called the Ochtoekos.

We also add a yearly cycle; wherein each day saints, martyrs, 12 high feasts, or lesser feasts are found, each full of theology, history, and piety. This cycle is found in the books called the Menaion, Triodion, & the Pentecostarion.

On special occasions, we also celebrate Akathists. These are services that are comprised of theological poetry. In addition, there are the seemingly endless mini-services of remembrances and special prayers from The Book of Needs. They contain everything from child birth to after death, and everything in between. This book is comprised of over 5 volumes: baptism, the blessing of every conceivable thing, matrimony, burial, extending all the way to memorials for the departed.  In this book, we have the cycle of human life presented before God.

It is within that delivery system that we find the contents of the creeds and councils, spiritual treatises, and the Holy Scriptures explained and applied.  This content is, for the most, part written in stone. No one person, bishop, diocese, or jurisdiction can change the content or the delivery system for the Orthodox Church. To alter this method is to stop being Orthodox.

Hence, it is the concilliar mind of the Church that interprets truth for her faithful and not any person or persons.

Consider the reading for vespers on the feast day of the presentation of the Theotokos in the temple of God. By using this passage on that feast day we are instructed by the church that the Old Testament  prophecy of Ezekiel has a spiritual meaning that the church wants us to grasp. This prophecy concerns the Theotokos, Mary the mother of our Lord. More specifically, the prophecy is about her perpetual virginity. 

Ezekiel 43:27-44:4 
‘When these days are over it shall be, on the eighth day and thereafter, that the priests shall offer your burnt offerings and your peace offerings on the altar; and I will accept you,’ says the Lord God.”  Then He brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary which faces toward the east, but it was shut.  And the Lord said to me, “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut.   “As for the prince, because he is the prince, he may sit in it to eat bread before the Lord; he shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gateway, and go out the same way.”  Also He brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the temple; so I looked, and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord; and I fell on my face.                          

In addition, we have theological hymns added to the service from the Menaion:

Today is the prelude of the good will of God, of the preaching of the salvation of mankind. The Virgin appears in the Temple of God, in anticipation proclaiming Christ to all. Let us rejoice and sing to her: Rejoice, O Fulfillment of the Creator's dispensation.  
The most pure Temple of the Savior: the precious Chamber and Virgin; the sacred Treasure of the glory of God, is presented today to the house of the Lord. She brings with her the grace of the Spirit, which the angels of God do praise. Truly this woman is the Abode of Heaven. 
We magnify you, O Most Holy Virgin, Maiden chosen of God, and we honor your entry into the temple.

Can you see the majestic glory of the Orthodox Church's way with truth?  For those with eyes to see, it is glorious in our eyes.

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