Dear Parish Faithful,
I would like to review a few pastoral suggestions that I made in last Sunday's homily that concentrated on "the Holy Fathers." We were commemorating the holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (Nicea 787), but I expanded the subject by speaking of the definitive role of all of the Seven Ecumenical Councils in our dogmatic Tradition; and of the prominent role of the Church's great theologians who articulated that Tradition, thus entering the ranks of the holy Fathers in the process. My pastoral concern is that too many of the faithful are too unaware of these great figures of the Church. If asked, what do you know, or what can you relate about the following list of some of the greatest of the Fathers?
- St. Ignatius of Antioch
- St. Justin the Martyr
- St. Irenaeus of Lyons
- St. Athanasius the Great
- St. Basil the Great
- St. Gregory of Nyssa
- St. Gregory the Theologian
- St. John Chrysostom
- St. Cyril of Alexandra
- St. Maximus the Confessor
- St. Symeon the New Theologian
- St. Gregory Palamas
As Orthodox Christians, knowing these great Christian thinkers that we call the holy Fathers is equivalent to any American citizen knowing something about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison and Abraham Lincoln. They are that formative of our entire theological Tradition. Their faces do not turn up on various denominations of currency, but they do appear on the holy icons that adorn our churches and that we venerate with love and respect. They deserve our attention and appeal to them as our teachers in the Faith.
I would, therefore, make the following pastoral suggestion that may begin the process of familiarizing ourselves with these great saints: for every book, article, or internet posting that you devote to an historical figure, politician, entertainment personality, or sports figure; spend the same amount of time and energy looking up the Holy Fathers listed above, and learn about their lives and teaching. This will introduce a sense of balance into our lives; bring the saints to life; and help transform curiosity into a deep learning experience. To "Google" any of the Fathers listed above, is to probably find a bewildering number of "hits." We could search through the many excellent links on our parish website: www.christhesavioroca.org, or at www.oca.org Thus, we may also transform "internet surfing" - often a waste of time if we are honest - into the discovery of a world of knowledge and wisdom that will be both exciting, stimulating and spiritually fruitful. Here are servants of God that were not interested in self-promotion, ego-gratification, or obscene salaries. They teach us about commitment to Christ to the point of suffering. Or how to search the Scriptures that will reveal Christ to us to an ever-deepening degree of fulness.
The world is running out of "heroes." It seems to be "every man for himself." Our children can grow to love the saints with a bit of encouragement, and thus discover the qualities of a real hero and find a human image that puts love of God and neighbor before all else. If we piously venerate the icon of a particular Holy Father, or any of the saints, let us also know something of the life that resulted in their glorification and rightful place in the life and memory of the Church.
Webservant's Note: The names of the Holy fathers above are linked to respective articles on OrthodoxWiki. As Fr. Steven noted in his meditation, our own website is also an excellent resource, as is the OCA website (links in text above). Other sites recommended for learning about the saints are abbamoses.com and the online version of the Prologue of Ochrid.