Tradition & Traditionalism

Spring/Summer, 1998

by Fr. John Shimchick

ATradition is the living faith of the dead and traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.@

- Jaroslav Pelikan

What do we as Orthodox Christians have to offer to the world? According to Jesus Aevery scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old@ (Matt. 13:52). St. Paul, writing to the Corthinthians, said that AI delivered to you first of all that which I also received@ (1 Cor. 15:3). Things new and old, that which has been received or handed down -- these are descriptions of the Church=s Tradition.

Tradition can often have a negative connotation. It can seem like the unexplainable continuation of rules and behavior, done mostly because Athat=s the way it=s always been.@ For us as Orthodox it can also be mixed up with customs and the accumulated cultural baggage of centuries. But when seen in the proper way, Tradition is not just an end result, but rather the guiding principle by which we can discern what is true and appropriate. It can provide the means by which we are guided into the understanding and response to the questions that are brought about by each age. For Vladimir Lossky, AThe pure notion of Tradition can then be defined by saying that it is the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church, communicating to each member of the Body of Christ the faculty of hearing, of receiving, of knowing the Truth in the Light which belongs to it, and not according to the natural light of human reason.@

Our examination of ATradition & Traditionalism@ first begins with Christianity=s understanding of what it has inherited. Professor Veselin Kesich, in studying the question of whether the New Testament can be considered Aanti-Semetic@, believes that Aby seeing in Christ the fulfillment of the richness of his own tradition, [St.] Paul stands not outside but within the tradition of Judaism.@ Mary Magdalene McCann shares how the experience of traditional Romanian Orthodox spirituality and culture changed her life. To celebrate the reception of Professor Jaroslav Pelikan into the Orthodox Church we offer his reflection on AContinuity and Creativity@, which is the Apersistent issue in Orthodox theology@ and also Athe central theme of [his] own scholarly work.@ Finally, Archbishop Peter reviews the tradition of ecumenical relations over this century.

Many activities are noted as Parish News: youth and adult retreats, and the announcement of Diocesan activities. In particular, we fondly acknowledge the recent retirement of Fr. Sergius Kuharsky who with his wife, Faith, achieved a long and fruitful joint ministry. Another joint ministry is remembered in the celebration of Fr. Paul Kucynda=s 30th anniversary to the priesthood (with the support of his wife, Barbara). Both the Kuharskys and Kucyndas received the Order of St. Innocent Medals. We also note the death of Archpriest John Turkevich.

There are reviews of the recent movie, The Apostle, and a reflection on the classic story and movie Babette=s Feast. Mark Bailey writes on, AThe Ministry and Song of the Liturgical Assembly.@ Fr. Alvian Smirensky discusses, AMarriage and Civil Law.@

We, as Orthodox, sometimes seem bound unnecessarily by our sense of Tradition. May the gift of what has been handed down to us be rather the unbridled gift of the life of the Holy Spirit in our Church, who abides in and fulfills all things.

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