Wednesday, 2 January 2013
Our Apostolic Tradition
The Lord Christ after His resurrection has commanded Peter His disciple to feed and tend His sheep. This is the role of the Apostles and their appointed successors, the bishops of the churches. The Tradition that is preserved in the Church is not a mere imitation of the past. It cannot be inappropriately understood as following a ritualistic meaningless ancient tradition that is no longer useful in our modern world. It is a faith that is delivered and received, a living faith because the Church is a living organism. It is the faith of so many generations that Christ taught His disciples the Apostles that was passed down to their disciples in successive generations through the guidance of the Holy Spirit who never leaves the Church to function on its own but through His presence who comes to bear witness to the Son just as the Son came to make known the Father.
Appointing successors who will diligently and faithfully keep the faith and deliver it to the Church is neither an innovation nor a later development in the Church. To get a clearer image we can look at how the Apostles functioned in the early Church. That great commission of Christ to His Apostles and that command of feeding the flock we see St. Paul preserving the teachings of Christ passed down to the Apostles tells Timothy the first bishop of Ephesus “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. “(2 Timothy 2:2). Also when Philip preaches to the Samaritans and the Apostles hear that they have received the word of God. They did not just rejoice in this and continue on in their preaching, rather they sent Peter and John who came and laid hands on them in order for them to receive the Holy Spirit. It was that important that they were sent in order for the Samaritans to participate in this Apostolic Succession that ensures that the Apostolic Tradition is kept and lived. Some may ask how did the Apostles look at the office of bishop, was it that significant? We can look at the example of how Peter and the Apostles found it necessary to replace Judas, to have another successor take his place and office. Because Judas shared in the ministry of the apostles, they found it necessary to find another successor, “‘For it is written in the book of Psalms, “Let his homestead become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it”; and “Let another take his position of overseer.” (Acts 1:20). Through our analysis of Apostolic Succession as found in these Scriptural examples, we can conclude that the Apostles found it necessary to appoint successors that will hold fast to the faith and make sure that their disciples do the same and teach that precious faith.