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Fathers - Short Course - Kogarah

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    The Fathers of the Church

    True Guides on the Path of Perfection

    A Six Weeks Back to the BasicsShort Course in Orthodoxy

    An Initiative of

    Kogarah Fellowship

    Revd Dr Doru CostacheSenior lecturer in Patristic studies

    SAGOTC/SCD

    15 November 2010

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    But Who Are the Fathers?

    We end our services by evoking them: Through the intercessions of our Holy Fathers,

    Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us andsave us!

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    But Who Are the Fathers?

    Many clergymen and preachers season theirsermons or debates by evoking the Church Fathers,whether they know anything about the Fathers ornot

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    Identifying the Fathers

    Johannes Quasten, Patrology, vol. 1 Today only those are to be regarded as Fathers of

    the Church who combine these four necessaryqualifications: orthodoxy of doctrine, holiness oflife, ecclesiastical approval, and antiquity.

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    Identifying the Fathers

    Panagiotes Chrestou, Greek Orthodox Patrology The Church has never excluded the appearance of

    renowned teachers in her bosom, who are outstandingbearers of the divine grace of the divine spirit, and she hasnever restricted this appearance to any particular period ofher history. Orthodox ecclesiastical consciousness, whichattributes the title of father in every epoch to elect vesselsof grace that lived in previous epochs, has already pushedthe patristic period to the end of the Byzantine era and is

    pushing forward beyond it more and more. This does notexclude the habit of regarding the fathers of the firstChristian centuries, when the foundation of the Christianinstitutions were first laid and the dogmatic teaching wasspecified to a large extent, as occupying a privileged

    position. 5

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    Identifying the Fathers

    John Chryssavgis, The Way of the Fathers while there was indeed a remarkable working of

    the Holy Spirit in the early years of Christianity, thisimmanence should be regarded as the beginning ofa Tradition, not the end.

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    A Series of UnfortunateMisunderstandings

    The Fathers as belonging to the past disinterestof many people lack of interest in history,tradition and wisdom in modern times

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    A Series of UnfortunateMisunderstandings

    The Fathers as contributors to the development oftheology (= reflection on faith) disinterest ofmany people lack of interest in theology inmodern times

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    A Series of UnfortunateMisunderstandings

    The Fathers as infallible authorities disinterest ofmany people the modern myth of free thinking refusal of guidance

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    Is That So?

    Misunderstandings Corrections

    Mainly doctrinalcontributions

    Far broader contributions

    Belonging to the past Still relevant; some arealive

    Infallible authorities Guides for those seekingperfection

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    What is a Father? A deified person and God-bearer, partaking of the

    divine life and mediating divine participation to others

    St Symeon the New Theologian,Catechetical Discourses 6.7

    Our blessed and holy father Symeon [the Pious] []endured such great trials and temptations as to be the

    equal of many of the more famous martyrs.Accordingly, God glorified him so that he became freefrom passions and a saint, and received within himselfthe wholeness, so to speak, of the Paraclete. Then, just

    as a father freely gives his son a share [of his estate],so he bestowed on me his unworthy servant, freely,without effort on my part, the Holy Spirit.

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    What is a Father?

    A deified person and God-bearer, partaking of thedivine life and mediating divine participation to others

    St Symeon the New Theologian,Catechetical Discourses 6.7

    We who are unworthy have been more than abundantlyrefreshed by the water we received from God throughour [spiritual] father [Symeon the Pious]. We have beenfilled without satiety to the glory of His holy Name. Asfar as in us lies, we [] have glorified and continue to

    glorify God who has glorified our holy father. Throughour father God has glorified us, lowly and unworthythough we are.

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    What is a Father? The living tradition of the Church,

    embodiment of the ecclesial mindset

    what is small is not small, if it producessomething big, so the slightest disturbance ofthe tradition of the Church that has held swayfrom the beginning is no small matter, thattradition made known to us by our

    forefathers, whose conduct we should look toand whose faith we should imitate.

    St John Damascene, Treatises on the Holy Icons 1.2

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    What is a Father? Witness and confessor of theapostolic teaching and life

    faith procures this for us, as the elders, thedisciples of the apostles, have handed down to

    us: firstly, it exhorts us to remember that wehave received baptism for the remission of sins,in the name of God the Father, and in the nameof Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who wasincarnate and died and rose again, and in the

    Holy Spirit of God; and that this baptism is theseal of eternal life and rebirth unto God

    St Irenaeus of Lyon,

    Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching 3

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    The Need for Guidance Two facts:

    Even when we are willing to take the road less traveled ofperfection, we ignore the rules of traveling

    There are spiritually experienced people who can take us by handand lead the way

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    The Need for Guidance Hebrews 13:7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you

    the word of God; consider the outcome of their life,

    and imitate their faith.

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    The Need for Guidance Abba Anthony 37 I know about monks who, after many efforts, have

    fallen and gone mad, as they trusted their own

    discipline and payed no attention to the followingcommandment: ask your father and he will guideyou[Deuteronomy 32:7].

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    The Need for Guidance Abba Anthony 38 As much as possible, the monk should ask the

    elders how many steps to make, how many drops of

    water to drink in his cell not to be wrong even inwhat concerns these [small] things

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    Asking for Guidance St Symeon the New Theologian, Catechetical Discourses 20.2 constantly call on God, that He may show you a man

    who is able to direct you well, one whom you ought toobey as if he were God Himself, whose instruction you

    must carry out without hesitation, even if what heenjoins on you appears to you to be repugnant andharmful. If your heart is moved by grace to even greaterconfidence in the spiritual father whom you alreadyhave, do what he tells you and be saved. It is better for

    you to be called a disciple of a disciple rather than tolive by your own devices and gather the worthless fruitsof your own will.

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    The Need for Guidance the novice naturally needs a guide, for until the

    advent of the grace of the Holy Spirit the soul isinvolved in fierce struggle against her foes, and isunable to disentangle herself if the enemy offers

    her his delights. Only the man with experience ofthe grace of the Holy Spirit can understand this. Hewho has savoured the Holy Spirit recognises thetaste of grace.

    St Silouan the Athonite, Diary(On prayer)

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    IssuesLack of experienced and

    honest guides, deeplycommitted to the interests

    of the Church and withoutselfish agendas

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    IssuesLack of genuine interest inwisdom and guidance in

    many contemporaries (the

    self-made Christian)

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    What To Do

    Cultivate the awareness ofones subjectivity andlimitations

    Acknowledge thepossibility that otherpeople can be moreexperienced and far wiser

    Honestly pursue personalbetterment and appreciatethe need for guidance

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    What To Do

    When you cannot find agenuine guide, read theworks of the Fathers and

    you will get the necessaryguidance (an advice fromSt Silouan the Athonite)

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