Part one, of two pieces of writing , written with much help and guidance from the late professor Fr John Romanides. They will be generally centred around ecclesiology and the Holy Scriptures. Part 2 will be titled 'The Body of Christ' , and should be posted within the next two days. I hope they are of interest and enjoyable.
The deposit of the Holy Orthodox faith is the shaping power of Holy Tradition. This deposit of faith is seen through the prophets and people of God throughout the Old Testament, even though death dominated the Church. Christ destroys death, and makes this participation in the Glory and Kingdom of Christ, through prophets and believers permanent, clear and whole.
The Divine Logos, who manifested Himself to the prophets and the Apostles, who in the Spirit manifested Himself God the Father, born as man from the Theotokos, is Himself the deposit, which the Hierarchy transmits from generation to generation at the Holy Eucharist to the Bishops and Presbyters at the time of their ordination, so that through the clergy it may be kept and transmitted for the sanctification and theosis of the believers. Christ Himself (Ο Μέγας Αρχιερεύς) is He who transmits the deposit, with His angels and saints. He is the Vine, the Church, which God planted and with which destroyed death. The souls are the branches of this Vine, and God is the Vinedresser. God, through the Incarnate Logos, in the Holy Spirit, makes possible the fruitful growth of the branches with man's cooperation and synergy.
The true believers - the Prophets, Saints and Apostles do not hold some imagination or philosophy about God, but believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - in the Lord of Glory, who by His Spirit revealed in Himself the uncreated glory and kingdom, in a discarnate manner in the Old Testament, and in the flesh in the New Testament. These holy people of God were not necessarily intellectuals, but were eyewitnesses of the Godhead, Kingdom and Glory of Christ. After Pentecost, the Apostles were led into the whole and pure truth by the Spirit - and for this reason those who are sanctified, the fathers of the Church who follow them, do not theologise in an intellectual way - but in a spiritual manner. They partake in revelation, and as faithful Christians we are participants of the same deposit, which is hidden in symbols and images. It is the uncreated grace and energy of God, the work of the Holy Spirit , that infallibly enlightens the saints, prophets and apostles - and all the faithful in turn, passing on this charisma and sanctification leading to theosis. Holy Scripture, and the liturgical life of the Church in the sacraments are manifestations of the energy of God and guide the faithful on this path of deification and holiness.
The deposit of Holy tradition was revealed to the Prophets in the Old Testament, and was consecrated through the incarnation of the Word. It is active in the purification, illumination and theosis of the faithful in the Church - and the Holy Tradition is not different or separate from the scriptures, but contained in them. However, the deposit of true faith and the Holy Tradition only exists within the Church - since the Church is the bride of the bridegroom Christ, and Christ is the vine in which the branches abide and bear fruit. Therefore, Christ exists and is fully present in the Holy Scriptures only when they are read and interpreted within the Church. Scripture is interpreted by the Church, and indeed by those deified within it - who experience, and receive the revelation and Divine Glory. Divine glory and participation in it, transcends intelligence and sense, and so someone who employs scientific, philosophical and rational methods to reading scripture will only distort the meaning of the Holy Scriptures. Surely one cannot interpret Holy Scripture correctly if they have no idea about the revelation of the Glory of Christ to the Prophets and Apostles, and consequently to the whole Church. Scripture, and its interpretation belongs to the Church, and to its Holy Tradition. Not any given scholar or reader, who is often ignorant of the way that leads to the participation in the Divine Glory, and of the existence of this participation in general, can fruitfully read the Scriptures.
Holy Scripture outside of the Church, is no longer infallible as the interpretive operation of the Holy and Life-giving Spirit ( that has guided and continues to guide the prophets, apostles and saints of the Church) is not there to lead to the pure and whole truth. A person that is outside of the communion of God ( in other words the Church ) and does not follow its teaching, is ignorant of the key of the Holy Scriptures.
Why put so much emphasis on revelation, guidance, and participation in Divine Glory through the Prophets, Saints, Apostles and fathers?
Neither in the Old Testament, nor in the New Testament or in the Church is there the sense of holy servants of God being called to their position by themselves, or criticising the teaching and catechetical method of those who are in a state of sanctification and theosis, in order to decide for themselves what to do and what to throw away or keep.Throughout the Bible, we see that there are people who have been granted 'to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven.' The mysteries of the Kingdom which are seen and experienced through Scripture are the Mysteries of the Church - and are known because of the eye-witnesses, the believers who are guided by the Spirit, and catechised by Spiritual fathers who possess the charisma and have experienced the Glory of Christ. Those who wish to live according to Christ, place themselves under the guidance of a father, who is able to teach the manner through which one becomes a participant in the mysteries of the Church. How else would the Church continue evangelising and bringing great saints and martyrs? It is this passing on of the Holy faith and tradition, through the Prophets, Saints and Apostles, continuing on to the spiritual fathers of each generation - guiding and teaching the truth of the Gospel.
Holy Scripture and the Church infallibly teach us about God, because the Holy Tradition in them are identical. In the centre of this Tradition, we have the friends of God - in other words His saints, prophets and apostles. Faithful Christians participate in this truth of the Holy Church's Tradition, through the Bishops ( as long as they remain faithful to the Orthodox theology )
This is why Apostolic Succession is not only about the unceasing succession of ordination from the Apostles, but also the true teaching of the word of God, and spiritual life. The patristic teaching tells us that this true teaching is the fruit of the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection, which is manifested to the world in its friends of God, who are in theosis. Several fathers of the Church emphasise that the main way of being able to know whether the Church is true or not, is if it produces Saints, and also if miracles occur. We can see through history that it is when groups interrupt this Holy Apostolic succession, and fall away from the true Church that there is a clear absence of saints and miracles.