We are very much a church of our ancestors. Obviously our oldest ancestor is Jesus Christ Himself. He is the founder of our church as it was preached to us bySt. Paul. For the centuries afterSt. Paula whole series of men and women, who are called the Fathers and Mothers of the Church, formed the church we have today. Collectively they left us much witness.
This witness is contained in hundreds of volumes which we call the teaching of the Fathers and Mothers of our church. They wrote about our history, but mainly they wrote about the Sacred Scriptures and our theology. In other words they made difficult theological concepts easier for us to understand and to love and believe in Jesus Himself. They created what we call our Sacred Tradition. By this we mean the living connection with entire past experiences of our church. It’s the tradition which explains how the Holy Spirit protected, defined and proclaimed the truth of Christ through our church.
Our past teachers have shown us that our church has a great sense of community. Our church is a community. We do not pray alone or as individuals. We are members of the Body of Christ. We not only join with all those present in the church at the time of our prayers, but we are also part of all our spiritual ancestors, Mary, the Mother of God, the apostles, the angels, the martyrs and all the saints throughout the ages. They all stand behind us as we pray and join in our prayers to the Lord. This is a very clear teaching and gift of our ancestors.
We owe a lot to our church Fathers. Our liturgy comes from one of them – St John Chrysostom. Another ancestor was St Basil. The Nicenean Creed was written by the ancient Fathers. We honour the Fathers, not because they are old and our teachers, but because they were witness and gave us the true faith we have. They have passed on the true faith which Jesus introduced into the world.
All this talk about the ancient and rich tradition has dangers associated with it. Not that the faith they gave us is wrong, but if we do not properly use this tradition it can become a very beautiful museum piece. Nice, but something from the past! We must study the old and be open to the new movements of the Holy Spirit; a Spirit which has not stopped working within our church even today.
It is the obligation of preachers, catechists, parents and all who witness the beautiful faith we have, to pass it on in the context of today’s world. We cannot live on past glory alone. We must actively build on the foundations we already have. This particular point was actually mentioned by one of the early Church Fathers. He insisted that believers throughout the ages must expect that the Holy Spirit will continue to renew our church and to make it young again until the end of time. We need modern Church Fathers and Mothers of the church. If you look closely, I think you will see that we, in the Ukrainian Catholic Church, have always had these leaders and we still have them now.
This post is also available in: English