Holy Tradition

St. Theodore the Studite: Shall we say: ‘Since it is lawful for an archbishop together with his associates to do as he pleases . . .

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“Shall we say: ‘Since it is lawful for an archbishop together with his associates to do as he pleases, let him be for the duration of his archbishopric a new Evangelist, another Apostle, a different Law-giver?’ Certainly not. For we have an injunction from the Apostle himself: If anyone preaches a doctrine, or urges you to do something against what you have received, against what is prescribed by the canons of the catholic and local synods held at various times, he is not to be received, or to be reckoned among the number of the faithful. And I forbear even to mention the terrible judgment with which the Apostle concludes (Gal. 1:8).”

+ St. Theodore the Studite, Epistle 24, 94-101

St. John of Damascus: If any one preach to you something contrary to what the holy catholic Church has received . . .

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Listen to me, people of all nations, men, women, and children, all of you who bear the Christian name: If any one preach to you something contrary to what the holy catholic Church has received from the holy apostles and fathers and councils, and has kept down to the present day, do not heed him. Do not receive the serpent’s counsel, as Eve did, to whom it was death. If an angel or an emperor teaches you anything contrary to what you have received, shut your ears.

+ St. John of Damascus, Apologia of St. John Damascene Against Those Who Decry Holy Images

St. Basil the Great: Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church . . . both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. . . .

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Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching others we have received delivered to us “in a mystery” by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force.  

And these no one will gainsay;—no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church.  For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more.  

For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ?  What writing has taught us to turn to the East at the prayer?  Which of the saints has left us in writing the words of the invocation at the displaying of the bread of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing?  For we are not, as is well known, content with what the apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten teaching.  

Moreover we bless the water of baptism and the oil of the chrism, and besides this the catechumen who is being baptized.  On what written authority do we do this?  Is not our authority silent and mystical tradition?  Nay, by what written word is the anointing of oil itself taught?  And whence comes the custom of baptizing thrice? And as to the other customs of baptism from what Scripture do we derive the renunciation of Satan and his angels?  Does not this come from that unpublished and secret teaching which our fathers guarded in a silence out of the reach of curious meddling and inquisitive investigation?  

Well had they learnt the lesson that the awful dignity of the mysteries is best preserved by silence.  What the uninitiated are not even allowed to look at was hardly likely to be publicly paraded about in written documents.  

— St. Basil the Great, The Book of Saint Basil on the Spirit, Chapter XXVII

St. Nektarios: Christian religion is not a certain philosophic system . . .

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“Christian religion is not a certain philosophic system, about which learned men, trained in metaphysical studies, argue and then either espouse or reject, according to the opinion each one has formed. It is faith, established in the souls of men, which ought to be spread to the many and be maintained in their consciousnesses.”

— St. Nektarios

St. Ambrose: A Reply to One Well Disposed Towards the Latin Church

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In vain do some of the Orthodox marvel at the current propaganda of the Roman Church, at the feigned selflessness and activity of her missionaries and at the zeal of the Latin sisters of mercy, and incorrectly ascribe to the Latin Church such importance, as if by her apostasy from the Orthodox Church, the latter remained longer such, and has the necessity to seek unification with the former. On rigorous examination, this opinion proves to be false; and the energetic Latin activity not only does not evoke surprise, but, on the contrary, arouses deep sorrow in the hearts of right-thinking people, who understand the truth.

The Eastern Orthodox Church, from apostolic times until now, observes unchanged and unblemished by innovations both the Gospel and Apostolic teachings, as well as the Tradition of the Holy Fathers and resolutions of the Ecumenical Councils, at which God-bearing men, having gathered from throughout the entire world, in a conciliar manner composed the divine Symbol of the Orthodox Faith [the Creed], and having proclaimed it aloud to the whole universe, in all respects perfect and complete, forbade on pain of terrible punishments any addition to it, any abridging, alteration, or rearrangement of even one iota of it. The Roman Church departed long ago into heresy and innovation. As far back as Basil the Great, certain bishops of Rome were condemned by him in his letter to Eusebius of Samosata, ‘They do not know and do not wish to know the truth; they argue with those who proclaim the truth to them, and assert their heresy.’

— St. Ambrose of Optina, “A Reply to One Well Disposed Towards the Latin Church: Regarding the unjust glory of the papists in the imaginary dignity of their Church”

Click here to read St. Ambrose’s letter in its entirety

St. John the Wonderworker: The Divine Services in their composition . . .

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“The Divine Services in their composition contain all the fullness of the dogmatic teaching of the Church and set forth the path to salvation. They present invaluable spiritual wealth. The more fully and precisely they are fulfilled, the more benefit the participants receive from them. Those who perform them carelessly and who shorten them by their laziness rob their flock, depriving them of their very daily bread, stealing from them a most valuable treasure. The shortening of the services which comes about through lack of strength must be done wisely and performed circumspectly in order not to touch that which should not be tampered with.”

— St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco

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