The Malankara Orthodox Church has pillars of Mystery through which it teaches and demonstrates its basic religious belief. They are called pillars due to the fact that they support and strengthen the faithful in their life as a pillar supports a roof. These pillars have a Biblical foundation.
Tradition constitutes the Christian faith. It can be devoted as the act, by which something, which is handed down from ancestors of posterity. The Orthodox churches hold the view that apart from the Holy Scripture, other sources of divine revelation manifested through the incarnating Jesus also form part of what churches believe and practice today. As social creatures, human beings depend not only on a contemporary group of literal writings but also on earlier generations and their living conditions. They receive a heritage from a rich and diversified heritage, which may be called tradition. However, when we assume the terminology ecclesiologically, the concept has deeper and wide meanings. There could be a fundamental difference between tradition and traditions even. When traditions cover the concept and practices, which were handed down from ancestors, tradition, imbibe an integral part of everything that is it includes all the socio-economic religion background in its integrity. When we transfer this aspect in ecclesiology, we will reach the point that “Church itself in the traditions”.
The Holy Scripture is the sacred book that reveals the divine plan of Salvation in Jesus, which God the Father has begun in the Old Testament times. The Holy Scripture relates the history of salvation revealed to Israel (OT) and the church (NT) for the benefit of the whole of humanity.
The OT and NT are Holy Scripture. The OT predicted and expected a saviour, the Messiah in the fullness of time. In the incarnation of Jesus, the prediction of OT, one part of the Holy Scripture was fulfilled. This fulfilment was recorded and preserved in literary form, which is the NT.
Thus, since the NT reveals God through Jesus Christ, the Bible is holy scripture. According to the church, God inspires the Holy Scripture. Therefore, the scripture is true, Sacred and infallible and normative. In this sense, the Holy Scripture is a divine book.
The Holy Scripture has a divine origin. The inspired men of God under divine directions speak God’s word or write it (cf. Ezekiel 3:4; Acts 1:16, 4:25; Rev. 2:1, 8, 15). The divine mysteries revealed by God to persons who then were under spiritual compulsion to speak or to write. Consequently, the creative intuition of the writer is reflected in the Holy Scripture. In other words, the scripture reflects divine charisma by which inspired words of God is written.
The divine inspiration is uttered in the Bible as St. Peter, the chief of the apostle says “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of ones own interpretation because no prophecy ever come by human will, but men and women moved by Holy Spirit spoke from God” (II Pt. 1:20-21).
The formation of both OT and NT has a long history. The primitive church realised the OT as divinely inspired and the church needs the same for the expectation of Jesus as the promised Messiah. The preaching in Acts testifies to this fact. This means that NT is the image vision of the shadow in OT.
The NT scripture continues a variety of scripture as gospels, the narration of apostles acts, letters, apocalypse, church orders etc. The Christian community was in essence not a “bookish” one. It was called into existence by a series of events well remembered. The church made use of the OT scripture for the benefit of the Christian community. The apostle Paul says, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work”.
Hence, Holy Scripture is a development within the living community, that is, the church. The community is the apostolic community. They had used the OT to explain the holy tradition to explain Jesus. Likewise, we rely on the apostolic teaching and their tradition. The church’s way of outlook is cyclic and hence the tradition comes within the church and not from any outside source. When we gather everything in its integrity, we understand that the church itself is the tradition.
Tradition is, to be exact, a bond between the present and the past. The Greek word used is “parodosis” means to handing down, or to hand over, deliver. Since it is a bond, there could be certainly a relation within the church – a cyclic one. Apostolic teachings are there which substantiate the concept of tradition and its need in the church.
I Cor. 11:2 says “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I handed them on to you.”
II Thes. 2:15 says “So then brothers and sisters stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter”.
Hence, tradition includes a tradition of mouth also. The advice by words that were observed by the posterity may not be found in the Holy Scripture. This does not mean that the Holy Scripture is imperfect. It is perfect in itself, but the church has the responsibility to observe and hand over the tradition in the church.
However, in traditions, all minute observances and ceremonies may arise. There could be certain factors that are set apart. Tradition includes all traditions, but the tradition may not include tradition in its integrity, what Paul meant in Thes 2:15 and in II Cor 11:2 about ‘traditions’ is its integral aspect, that is, the church itself. It is within this ‘tradition’, all “traditions” (in its integral aspect) that the Holy Scripture was formulated and not the Holy Scripture formed the church. Behind every literal work, there lies an oral or written tradition.
The ‘rabbis’ in the NT made a distinction between the written Torah and oral tradition. The NT designates this unwritten tradition as the “tradition of elders” (Mt. 15:2). Paul’s expression “the tradition of my fathers” (Gal. 1:14) refers to both written and unwritten. Again “the custom of our fathers” (Acts 28:17; 6:14; 15:1; 21:21) and “the law of our fathers” (Acts 23:3) have the same meaning.
Our church gives equal importance to both the Holy Scripture and the tradition. The church believes that it is dangerous and wrong to give too much importance to any one of their neglecting concerns for others.
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