Why does the Greek Orthodox Church celebrate Easter on a different day than Malankara Orthodox Church?
There are two calendars that are followed in Christianity – the more ancient Julian Calendar (or “old” calendar) is the one used by the Eastern Orthodox Churches (including Greece and Russia) and several Oriental Orthodox Churches including the Coptic. The Gregorian calendar, also called the Western
Calendar is more widely used and was introduced in 1582 as a reform to the Julian calendar. The calendar is named after Pope Gregory XII who commissioned the change with the aid of a Jesuit priest and astronomer. The Syriac Orthodox calendar was at one point entirely on the “old” calendar
Even though the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch Mor Ignatius Ni`matallah was a learned mathematician and astronomer, and a member of Pope Gregory XIII’s commission on the reform of the calendar.
As Greek-Orthodox Christians prepare to celebrate Easter on Sunday,April 12th, we would like to shed some light on the reasons why the Orthodox Christian Church celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ later than the Catholic one. While the issue is somewhat complicated, it may be summarized in the two factors at work that cause this conflict in dates:
- The issue of the calendar;
- The adherence by the Orthodox to the early practices of the Christian Church.
The first factor, the calendar, has to do with the fact that the Christian Orthodox Church continues to follow the Julian calendar when calculating the date of Pascha (Easter). The rest of Christianity uses the Gregorian calendar. There is a thirteen-day difference between the two calendars, the Julian calendar being thirteen (13) days behind the Gregorian.
The other factor at work is that the Orthodox Church continues to adhere to the rule set forth by the First Ecumenical Council, held in Nicea in 325 AD, that requires that Pascha must take place after the Jewish Passover in order to maintain the Biblical sequence of Christ’s Passion. The rest of Christianity ignores this requirement, which means that on occasion Western Easter takes place either before or during the Jewish Passover.
As a consequence of these two factors, the Orthodox Church usually celebrates Pascha later than the Western Churches – anywhere from one to five weeks later. While this year Catholic Easter is today the Orthodox Church will celebrate it next Sunday, April 12. Occasionally we do celebrate Pascha on the same day. The last time that occurred was in 2011.
The two dates coincide when the full moon following the equinox comes so late that it counts as the first full moon after 21 March in the Julian calendar as well as the Gregorian. This is not a regular occurrence, but it has happened more frequently in recent years – in 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2017, but, after that, not again until 2034.
How the Date of Pascha (Easter) is Determined
During the first three centuries of Christianity, there was no universal date for celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Churches in various parts of the world followed different traditions. Some Christians celebrated Pascha on the first Sunday after Jewish Passover and others celebrated the feast at the same time as Passover. In order to come up with one unified date for celebrating Pascha, the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council in 325 AD took up the issue. They devised a uniform formula for calculating the date of Pascha that was in line with the early traditions of the Church and the Biblical sequence of events. The formula is this: Pascha is to be celebrated on the first Sunday, after the first full moon, following the vernal equinox, but always after Jewish Passover. In order to ensure that there was no confusion as to when the vernal equinox occurred the date of the vernal equinox was set to be March 21 (April 3 on the Julian Calendar). This formula was universally accepted by all of Christianity, ensuring that Pascha was celebrated on the same day throughout the world. The Orthodox Church continues to follow this formula exactly as prescribed by the Council of Nicea.
However, in modern times, the Western Church has rejected the part of the Nicene formula that requires that Pascha “always follow the Jewish Passover.” Western theologians (and, unfortunately, a few misguided Orthodox Theologians as well) now claim that this provision was never a part of the council’s intention, saying that it is not necessary for Pascha to follow the Jewish Passover. This is hard to understand since, by rejecting this provision of the council, they ignore that the celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection was celebrated at the same time from 325-1582, as well as the written witness of early Church historians and even earlier canons such as Canon VII of the Apostolic Canons which reads: “If any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon celebrate the holy day of Pascha before the vernal equinox with the Jews, let him be deposed.”
The Calendar Issue
In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII instituted a reform of the traditional Julian calendar. This new calendar, called the Gregorian calendar, was more astronomically correct and is the calendar used by most of the world today. As mentioned above, there is a difference of 13 days between the Gregorian and the Julian calendars. Eventually, all of the Western Churches adopted this “New” calendar. The Orthodox Church, however, vigorously opposed the use of the Gregorian calendar. This resulted in the West and East celebrating all Church feast days on different dates, the Orthodox celebrations always falling thirteen days behind the Western.
In 1923, an inter-Orthodox congress was held in Constantinople attended by representatives of some, but not all, Orthodox churches. This congress made the very controversial decision to follow a revised calendar that was essentially the same as the Gregorian calendar, for all things except the celebration of Pascha, which continued to be calculated according to the original Julian calendar.
The result being that today we celebrate most feast days, like Christmas, Epiphany and the rest, at the same time as Western Christians and only Pascha and the feast days that are connected with it like Pentecost and the Ascension, are dated according to the Julian calendar and celebrated on different dates. For Orthodox, it is important to maintain the teachings and traditions of the Church intact and pure.
The Church in Malankara switched entirely to the Gregorian calendar in 1953.With the peace between the Indian and Syriac Orthodox Churches in India during this time, it is assumed that the Indian Orthodox Church also switched to the Gregorian calendar around this time. One motivation for the switch in India was to help the faithful celebrate Holy Week, as Good Friday is a national holiday in India but was given dated based on the Western or Gregorian calendar.
Easter message by His Holiness Catholicos of the East: Christ’s resurrection signifies big victory despite problems for mankind
His Holiness Baselious Marthoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan, has in his Easter message called upon the faithful to face the problems and not be disappointed, since victory is at the end of every phase.His Holiness, who delivered the Easter message at the Muscat Mar Gregorios Orthodox Church, pointed out that despite the numerous problems we face in this world, we need to move forward and not be cowed down by them. Even with the issues, man still overcomes them all and comes forward to happy times in the end which in itself is victory. This victory is an indication and message of resurrection.
For Easter, Christians experience their biggest moment which is not a silly and an ordinary experience in itself. His Holiness said that from Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, we must leave an imprint in our life. The resurrection is also big proof enough that death is not the end of all but we live through a different life and have a right to a happy and everlasting life.
His Holiness also reiterates in his message that mankind has to be part of a world beset with problems, neglection, poverty, sadness, and face them. In the same manner, Jesus also expects traits from us just like we fed Him when He was hungry, clothed Him when he was naked, visited Him when he was alone. Similarly we must strive to take part in the pain of others in our ordinary life. Through this message, Jesus who showed that his life of crucifixion and resurrection was not for him but for others, and set a shining example for others to follow them.
“We have passed through the last stages life of Christ, who overcame death and also participated in His suffering, followed by crucifixion and resurrection. Each year we celebrate the resurrection of Christ and once again we have been part of the passion week, going through them all. We need to take something new in our life and imbibe it in our life,” His Holiness said adding that we need to bring solace to others just like Christ who brought peace upon all mankind.
His Holiness ended his message by extending his Easter greetings to all.
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
Wishing all a blessed feast of Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
By Rev.Fr.Jaise K George
Many of you might have heard the news of a baby in Philippines, born with the stigmata of Jesus that became viral in the social media. While we want to know whether this is a hoax or not, we have seen similar phenomenon earlier. St. Francis of Assisi was the first recorded stigmatic in Christian history. Later, Christian history records many number of comparable occurrences. Mother Susan, a nun of the Malankara Orthodox Church, residing in Kerala is also experiencing this.
Stigmata refer to the wounds of Jesus that are miraculously reproduced in the body. On very rare occasions, the Catholic Church has accepted an occurrence of the stigmata as authentic, but has never defined their origin or nature, thus allowing physical, psychological, and preternatural explanations for these phenomena. Ian Wilson, in Stigmata (Harper & Row, San Francisco), declares, “They [stigmata] are one of the most baffling and intriguing of medical and scientific mysteries.”
It is possible that people had unusual wounds or blood blisters in places on their body that could be related to certain wounds of Christ. But each of these cases would need to be rationally explained. Are the wounds real or forged? Do they match the wounds of Christ or is this a product of imagination or self-inflicted? Are they natural or divine? Could they be the product of satanic activity? (We sometimes forget that Satan uses religion to draw people away from what is important). The question to ask is, how blood spots mysteriously appearing on someone’s hands is an evidence of ‘sharing in the suffering of Christ’. Does appearance of marks signify that the bearer is taking part in the suffering? If anything, these oddities minimize suffering. Obviously, there are few answers we can give or find about the stigmata.
We can only speculate and not be certain how the ‘stigmata’-wounds of the Passion looked on Christ’s body. But we do know that stigmata appear the same in all who are believed to have had them. Joe Nickell, a former detective and magician, investigates claims of the supernatural and paranormal for Skeptical Inquirer magazine, based in Amherst wrote a book on this topic in 1993. “Jesus most likely was nailed to the cross through his wrists. Once the notion that Jesus was nailed through the wrists became accepted, some stigmatics began to display wrist wounds. Here is my logic: Stigmata are supposed to be a reflection of the wounds of Christ, whatever those were like. If these were true manifestations, they ought to tell us where the wounds were,” Nickell said. Instead, stigmata appear “all over the place. There’s every kind of variant, and they keep changing.”
The evidence available is scanty with much of it supplied by supporters of stigmata. We do not see Stigmata mentioned in the bible. However, most of the occurrences started around 1200 years after the death of Christ, and there is a strong argument that it is a product of the superstitions in the darkness of the middle Ages. The Church is cautious about reported instances of the stigmata for two reasons: the possibility of a hoax (and thus all faith in God might seem questionable) and the possibility that some people could distort the meaning of the stigmata. For example, these marks might appear more central to a person’s faith than the passion-death-resurrection of Jesus, the Scriptures, the sacraments or many other things that are more central to faith than the stigmata are.
Researchers of stigmata, even Catholic believers like the late Herbert Thurston, S.J., almost unanimously agree that such phenomena are best explained as bodily reactions to intense ecstatic and psychological experiences. The film- ‘Stigmata’, one of the most controversial religious movies, released in the year 1999 was highly controversial due to the manner in which it dealt with issues close to Catholic’s hearts. A Jesuit priest, one of the main characters of this film, discovers a connection between the stigmata and one of the Gnostic Gospels (4th century religious writings condemned by the Catholic Church). The priest uncovers a plot to keep the gospels “truth” concealed.
Some modern researches has showed stigmata are of hysterical origin, or linked to dissociative identity disorders, especially the link between dietary constriction by self-starvation, dissociative mental states and self-mutilation, in a religious belief. Anorexia nervosa cases often display self-mutilation like stigmata as part of a ritualistic, obsessive-compulsive disorder. A relationship between starvation and self-mutilation has been reported amongst prisoners of war and during famines. A psychoanalytic study of stigmatic Therese Neumann has suggested that her stigmata resulted from post-traumatic stress symptoms expressed in unconscious self-mutilation through abnormal autosuggestibility.
BIBLICAL VERSES FOR CONSIDERATION:
“You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:28. It could be said that stigmata are cuttings in the flesh, which seems to contradict God’s command.
One verse sometimes referred to by people who want to defend stigmata, is found in Galatians 6:17 Paul wrote: “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” The word “mark” comes from the Greek word “stigma” which means a tattooed mark, or mark burned in by a brand. Now we know that it was against God’s law to mark one’s own body with cuttings, so Paul would not have inflict them on himself, so what did he mean?
It was common in Paul’s day for slaves and sometimes soldiers to be branded, and followers of the cult of Mithra were also branded. In later times, the followers of Hinduism marked themselves with the trident of Vishnu. The mark or brand signified ownership, a scar of service and the initiate usually bore it proudly. But in the context in which Paul is writing, he is making a defense to the Judaizer, who practiced circumcision, and he refers to his own physical sufferings which he had had to endure for the sake of the Lord Jesus. These, he says, are his stigma, or branding. The scars, scratches, and bruises in his body are proof of His ownership.
The Amplified Bible says: “From now on let no person trouble me (by making it necessary to vindicate my apostolic authority and the divine truth of my Gospel), for I bear on my body the (brand) marks of the Lord Jesus (the wounds, scars, and other outward evidence of persecutions – these testify to His ownership of me)!”
MY PERSONAL VIEWS AND THOUGHTS:
I am sure that stigmata exist as real wounds in some people’s bodies. I also believe visions, apparitions, signs and wonders have been seen and experienced by many people down through the ages and that stigmata are just one of hundreds of other similar marvels. However, it is not the authenticity of stigmata that should be our main interest; it is what these wonders are pointing to. The devil is able to perform signs and wonders too, for example, the wizards of Egypt were able to turn water into blood, as well as Moses, but the wizards were pointing away from God, and were fighting against Moses.
The Bible depicts that Jesus came to the world and gave His life as the ultimate sacrifice. Nothing can be added to or taken from the one great sacrifice. On the other hand, Stigmata is challenging the finality of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ because it seem to be extending it, and repeating it at least in some measure. It would therefore seem that, despite their absolute sincerity, those who manifest stigmata are not being worked on by the power of God. They are manifesting lying wonders with their force being either demonic or psychosomatic, or a combination of both. We would do far better if we put our trust in the finished work of Jesus than seek after people who seem to be in a state of crucifixion all over again. No one could bear the sins of the world except Jesus. It is futile to even imagine bearing those sins in our own body, and a great insult to God to think that we could HELP Him with the redemption of the world.
The media are always looking for ordinary people doing extraordinary things. And it is no surprise how the news about Jejomar Castillo, baby with stigmata of Jesus born on March 15 in Philippines went viral. We have entered the second half of the Great Lent; we meditate and reflect on the sufferings of Jesus Christ. This is a time when we are doing an unusually amazing job, staying focused but newsflash like this are too tempting. It is imperative we should keep our focus on the Cross. Can we compare anything with the sufferings and wounds inflicted on Christ? Can any human being share the pain Christ suffered for us? That is why our father in Christ, St. Thomas who proclaimed the faith in the resurrected Christ demanded to “see in his hands the print of the nails, and put his finger into the print of the nails, and thrust his hand into Jesus’ side (John 20:25)”. For a believer, these are personal marks of the identification of our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us on the Cross. I, as a believer, cannot find the same wounds in anyone or anywhere.
I pray for baby Jejomar’s speedy recovery but am greatly saddened by the so called believers’s responses: “Welcome to the Saviour”, “biblical return of Jesus Christ”. Holy Scripture reminds “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? “(Gal 3:1). This verse compels us to ponder if we wish to be foolish like the Galatians and be infatuated by events such as stigmata or we rekindle our faith in Christ, Our Saviour.
Christians must not waste time or devotion dwelling on miracles and wonders. These ‘stigmata wounds’ does not move me or ‘strengthen’ my faith in Christ, but I am stirred by martyrdom of the 21 Coptic Orthodox young men and the sufferings of the 72 year old sister who was ganged raped in Bengal, examples of true believers taking part in the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Let signs and wonders spark valuable conversation rather than being the manifestations of spiritual realities. Let us be filled with the Holy Spirit leading us into a life of holy living, not be in a state of awe and reverence for the occurrences of body marks corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ.
By Fr.Jaise K George
*Fr. Jaise K. George has completed the theological education from STOTS Nagpur and serving as the Vicar of various parishes in the Diocese of Delhi. He is the Co-ordinator for the Pre-Marital Guidance Programme, Diocese of Delhi. He is a research scholar in Psychology. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
This is the article copied from ucanews.com. For the readers, sharing the article.
“Thousands of Christians rallied in Kolkata on Monday in a show of outrage over the recent gang-rape of an elderly nun.Some 4,000 Christians, including nuns and priests clutching lit candles, sang hymns and said prayers as they gathered in a public park.
Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of the Archdiocese of Calcutta, the main organizer of the rally, called it a “solidarity rally, not a protest rally”. He said he wanted to show that Christians in Kolkata stood united at a moment of “pain and sorrow”.“We definitely protest the crime, and demand the arrest of the culprits at the earliest,” he told ucanews.com. “Such a crime should not take place at any place, at any time.”Florence Gonsalves, a woman who attended the rally, said they could only pray “for peace and that people grow to respect each other as human beings”. The attack on the nun, 71, occurred last Friday after robbers broke into her convent in the town of Ranaghat, some 80 kilometers from Kolkata.Police said Monday that 10 men have been detained for questioning but no arrests have been made, even though the faces of four of the robbers were captured on CCTV footage.
Savarimuthu Sankar, spokesman of Delhi archdiocese, urged a swift response from authorities but bemoaned the lack of arrests.
“There cannot be any result unless the local police show sincerity,” he said.
Fr Sankar said the nun’s rape should not be dismissed as an isolated incident.
“We should know that there is already a vicious atmosphere against Christians in the country, which encourages criminals to attack Christians,” he said.
The assault on the nun is the latest in a string of high-profile rapes in India and comes after a spate of attacks on churches that prompted Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi to promise a crackdown on religious violence.Priests and other Christian leaders have blamed those attacks on religious hardliners, who are said to have become emboldened since Modi swept to power at general elections last May.Modi had been heavily criticized for not speaking out earlier against religious violence and has also faced flak for remaining silent about a spate of mass “re-conversions” of Christians and Muslims to Hinduism.The Prime Minister’s Office has asked for an “immediate report on facts and actions taken” regarding the rape and another attack on a church in Hisar in the northern state of Haryana, according to a spokesman for the prime minister.
The junior federal minister for home affairs, Kiren Rijiju, also told ucanews.com on Tuesday that the government has asked for a detailed report from the West Bengal state government on the attack on the convent school.”We have asked the West Bengal government to provide details of the existing security arrangements at convents and other Christian educational and social institutes in the state,” he said.”
Additional reporting by AFP
One of the best known of the Desert Fathers of 4rth century, travelled once on pilgrimage to Rome. Here he was told of a celebrated recluse, a woman who lived always in one small room, never going out. Skeptical about her way of life- for he was himself a great wanderer- called her and asked “Why are you sitting here? To this she replied: “I am not sitting, I am on a journey”.
I am not sitting, I am on a journey. Every Christian may apply these words to himself or herself. To be a Christian is to be a traveler, our situation, say the Desert Fathers, is like that of the Israelite people in the desert of Sinai: we live in tents, not houses, for spiritually we are always on the move. We are on a journey through the inward space of the heart, a journey not measured by the hours of our watch or the days of the calendar, for it is journey out of time into eternity”. (Kallistos Ware in the Orthodox Way)
Wife of Egyptian Christian Martyr in Libya Speaks Out
Mariam Farhat, the wife of Malak Ibrahim Senyot, one of the Egyptian Christians martyred in Libya, told ICC, “I’m very happy that my husband went to Heaven, He is with Jesus now. He kept the faith, and was martyred in the Name of Jesus Christ. His faith was very strong, I’m proud of him. He has raised our head to heaven and honored us and all Christians. We are very happy for him. We are sure that he is in a very wonderful place with the Christ, Martyrs and Saints in Heaven now, and that has comforted us. I hope that the faith of my son (Phelobatir, age 2) be like the faith of his father.” Mariam is 27 years old.
Courtesy; Coptic World
What made a non believer Chadian citizen; die for Christ, along with his “20 Coptic Christian friends”?
ISIS announced the execution of 21 Copts but only 20 names were confirmed, most of them were from the province of Minya(Upper Egypt). There was an inaccuracy in the number of Egyptian Hostages; there were only 20 Egyptians(Copts). Then who was this remaining one non-Coptic victim?
Ahram-Canadian News was able to gather information about this man. He was a Chadian Citizen (Darker skin shown in picture) who accepted Christianity after seeing the immense faith of his fellow Coptic Christians to die for Christ. When Terrorist forced him to reject Jesus Christ as God, looking at his Christian friends he replied, “their God is my God“ so the terrorist beheaded him also.
Think about the faith, shining through those 20 Christians who made a non believer, a true believer in Christ, even at the point of death. In Bible, Gospel of Luke describes about two thieves, being on either side of Jesus as they were crucified. At that very point of death by Crucifixion, one of the thief accepted Christ saying, ‘LORD, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’ Here this Chadian citizen showed the same faith in Christ.
Can we put ourselves into his place? The faith he showed was not a mean faith, at such a moment, he could believe in Jesus as Lord and King.
May God help us to strength our faith so that the world may see our good works, and glorify our Father which is in heaven. (Mathew 5:16)
(News referred from Ahram-Canadian news)
“Let all of us offer our prayers for the Egyptian nation and the world-wide Coptic community and for the entire region of the Middle East.
Produced by Mar Alvares Media, an initiative by Fr. Abraham Kuriakose and Fr. Noel Lewis, Brahmavar.
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The Orthodox Church governs her life by Holy Tradition. The word “tradition” comes from the Latin traditio, which is translation of a Greek word used frequently in the scriptures, paradosis. Translatedliterally, this word means something that is handed on from one person to another, in the same way that a baton is handed over in a relay race. Something that is “traditioned” passed on from one person or group of people to another.
In Galatians 1:11, St Paul says, that the tradition of the Church is “not according to man”. in other words, it is revealed by God. It is not a human product.
Tradition means an experience, an entire life-not simply a series of teachings, but the living out of those teachings that have come from the God who has revealed Himself to us. Tradition is the living out of the revelation of God by His people.
Five Sources of Christian Tradition
- The Holy Scriptures (Bible)
- The Liturgy
- The Councils (Synods)
- The Saints
- The Church Art
The Holy Scriptures
The first place we give to the Holy Scriptures: the Bible, Old and New Testaments. The Bible is understood by the Orthodox Christians to be the principal written record of the experience by God’s people of God’s revealing Himself to them. It is understood that the Church, therefore, wrote the Bible. The Bible is the word of God, but the word of God was not written directly and personally by God. The Holy Scriptures did not fall from Heaven in a full complete form. Instead, they were written by human beings who were inspired by God. What they write is the truth about God.They write what they write as members of God’s people.
For example, in the early years of the Christian Church, those most important books of Holy Scripture that we call the Gospels did not exist.Several decades passed afterPentecost before the first Gospel was written. It was the end of the first century by the time all four Gospels were written. Three hundred more years passed before a decision was made in the Church that there would be only four Gospels.
The books that are in the Holy Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are there because God’s people, through those who were set aside as having the authority to make the decision, decided that these books would be part of the Bible, and other books would not. The Church, as God’s people inspired by God, wrote the Bible. The Church produced the Bible. The Bible did not produced the Church.
The Holy Scriptures are the principal and most honourd written record of God’s revelation to His people. But it is the understanding of the Orthodox that Holy Scriptures cannot be completely, truthfully understood unless they are understood within the context of the Church that produced them, that declared them to be what they are.
So, the Bible is the Book of the Church, the first source of the Christian Tradition.
I will try to write on the Bible in greater detail later on.
The second source of the Christian Tradition is the liturgy of the Church.”Liturgy” is a word that means in Greek, common work. The liturgy of the church means the work of the church when it comes together to be the people of God and to worship God. Liturgy includes the whole body of the Church’s common worship: the services for the various hours of the day, the days of the week, the feast days and seasons of the Church, the sacraments of the Church, like baptism, the holy Eucharist, marriage and other.
In all the public prayer of the Church we have a record of what the Church believes. In fact, there is a saying that has been popular among the Orthodox from the beginning; the rule of faith, the standard of what we believe, is established by the way we pray.
The Councils (Synods)
The third source of the Christian Tradition is the councils of the Churchman council is meeting of those in the Church who have been given the authority to decide what is faithful to the Tradition of the Church and what is not. The first council that we hear described in the Act of Apostles chapter 15 takes place in the Church of Jerusalem. This council was convened to decide the question of whether Gentiles could becomes Christians and whether they should be required to obey the Jewish Law. This was a situation that Jesus had not specifically prepared His Apostles to deal with. But he has given them the authority in the Church to distinguish between what was true and what was not, so they met to decide what to do with the Gentiles who wanted to become part of the Church.
The result of the Jerusalem council was a compromise: the Gentiles would be required to keep a few core principles of the Jewish law, but the rest of it was not binding on them. Moreover, the Apostles made it very clear that this was not merely a human decision. They were so boldly as to say, “It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us that this is how we answer this question. (Acts 15:28).
Many councils have met through the centuries of the Church’s life and they have decided many Questions. The answers they give to the questions that have to be resolved come in two forms: creeds and canons.
The Oriental Orthodox Family including Indian Orthodox Church accepting the first three Ecumenical Councils:
- Council at Nicea on AD325
- Council at Constantinople on AD381
- Council at Ephesus at AD 431
The most important of the Church’s statement of faith is contained in the creed called the Nicene Creed. It is called “Nicene” because it was written at the first Ecumenical Council in Nicea in AD 325
The fourth source of the Christian Tradition is the lives of the saints and the teaching of one particular group of saints who are called the Fathers, includes some mothers.
In every generation in the life of the Church, there have been people who lve the teachings of Christ faithfully, heroically, who attain while living in this world the destiny for which we as Christians believe God has created us: to share His own life.
The ultimate promise concerning the Christian revelation is that it is true. “You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free”. Free from what? Free from error, free from sin, free from emptiness, and ultimately free from death in the negative sense. Those are the things that God frees from us from. But He does this so that we can be free for something that is indescribably greater: to reach our destiny as partakers of the life of God Himself.
A certain group of those saints is called the Fathers. By a Father of the Church, we mean one who by his or her wisdom in teaching or defending Church doctrine, often at the cost of his or her life or in the face of great suffering, bore witness to the Tradition of the Church. When we read the Gospel here is what the Church has always believed. In the same sense, when we read the writings of the great Fathers, we can find in them a faithful and true testimony to what the Church has always believed and experienced about God.
The Church Art
The final source of the Christian Tradition is the Church Art. It might come as a surprise to some that along with such exalted things as the Holy Scriptures and the Liturgy of the Church and the Saints and the Fathers, we would speak of Church art. In the minds of some people, art is simply a kind of decoration, a secondary thing.
In the Orthodox understanding of the nature of human being, of how God has made us, how God has revealed Himself to us, is that material creation is very much involved. One could say that the Orthodox Faith, the Orthodox experience is a holistic one. It involves the whole into the material world, God becoming man, God becoming matter-is uniquely at the heart of the Christian Faith.
Art is, by definition, the use of material things as the medium for the revelation of God. So for the Orthodox, art is not icing on the cake; it is something very central to what we know of how God has revealed Himself to us. One goes in to the Orthodox Church building and is immediately surrounded by all sorts of things that appeal to the senses.
We could divide them into the three categories:-
- Iconography: the way in which the images of Christ, His life, His Mother, and the saints are portrayed in the Church.
- Church Music: the way our Church services are sung, the chants that are used in the liturgical services.
- Church architecture: even the way an Orthodox Church is traditionally built is a visible testimony to the Faith of the Church as it has been experienced throughout the ages.
None of these is understood to be merely accidental or a frill. Rather, they are at the heart of our experience in the Church as the people of God.
So we have these five basic sources of the Orthodox Tradition, what has been passed on from one generation of the faithful to the next, from Christ and the Apostles even to the present time: the scripture, the liturgy, the creeds and canons that have come from the Church Councils or Synods, the lives of the saints and the teaching of the Fathers, and finally Orthodox Christian Art.