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Daily Scripture Readings, Troparion and Kontakion

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Holy Fathers

Selected quotes and teachings of the Holy Fathers

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Learn about the lives of the saints of the Orthodox Church

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NOT TOO MANY years ago the Abbess of a convent of the Russian Orthodox
Church, a woman of righteous life, was delivering a sermon in the
convent church on the feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of
God. With tears she entreated her nuns and the pilgrims who had come for
the feast to accept entirely and wholeheartedly what the Church hands
down to us, taking such pains to preserve this tradition sacredly all
these centuries-and not to choose for oneself what is "important" and
what is "dispensable"; for by thinking oneself wiser than the tradition,
one may end by losing the tradition. Thus, when the Church tells us in
her hymns and icons that the Apostles were miraculously gathered from
the ends of the earth in order to be present at the repose and burial of
the Mother of God, we as Orthodox Christians are not free to deny this
or reinterpret it, but must believe as the Church hands it down to us,
with simplicity of heart.

A young Western convert who had learned Russian was present when this
sermon was delivered. He himself had thought about this very subject,
having seen icons in the traditional iconographic style depicting the
Apostles being transported on clouds to behold the Dormition of the
Theotokos;* and he had asked himself the question: are we actually to
understand this "literally," as a miraculous event, or is it only a
"poetic" way of expressing the coming together of the Apostles for this
event ... or perhaps even an imaginative or "ideal" depiction of an
event that never occurred in fact? (Such, indeed, are some of the
questions with which "Orthodox theologians" occupy themselves in our
days.) The words of the righteous Abbess therefore struck him to the
heart, and he understood that there was something deeper to the
reception and understanding of Orthodoxy than what our own mind and
feelings tell us. In that instant the tradition was being handed down to
him, not from books but from a living vessel which contained it; and it
had to be received, not with mind or feelings only, but above all with
the heart, which in this way began to receive its deeper training in

Later this young convert encountered, in person or through reading, many
people who were learned in Orthodox theology. They were the
"theologians" of our day, those who had been to Orthodox schools and
become theological "experts." They were usually quite eager to speak on
what was Orthodox and what non-Orthodox, what was important and what
secondary in Orthodoxy itself; and a number of them prided themselves on
being "conservatives" or "traditionalists" in faith. But in none of them
did he sense the authority of the simple Abbess who had spoken to his
heart, unlearned as she was in such "theology."

And the heart of this convert, still taking his baby steps in Orthodoxy,
longed to know how to believe, which means also whom to believe. He was
too much a person of his times and his own upbringing to be able simply
to deny his own reasoning power and believe blindly everything he was
told; and it is very evident that Orthodoxy does not at all demand this
of one-the very writings of the Holy Fathers are a living memorial of
the working of human reason enlightened by the grace of God. But it was
also obvious that there was something very much lacking in the
"theologians" of our day, who for all their logic and their knowledge of
Patristic texts, did not convey the feeling or savor of Orthodoxy as
well as a simple, theologically-uneducated Abbess.
Blessed Hieromonk Seraphim of Platina