... the question of how to protect Christian tradition from reification may perhaps find the
most satisfactory but also the most difficult answer: by not allowing it to become our
possession, either in terms of universalising the past or particularizing the eschatological.
History would thus not be tied down by tradition, and tradition would not be reduced to the historical.
... Normative tradition in this sense would not tie history down, but rather testify an ongoing
possibility to encounter the transcendent and loving God whose victory is ultimately not
dependent on the historical projections of the possible.
- Ivana Noble
How does one link the church's past traditions which-are-always-and-in-every-way being re-interpreted by the human imagination of its historical legacy, towards any future eschatological possibility of the living God / or, living Christ's / presence and sublimation of our historical present that it may become real and transforming?
It is in the continual act of submitting our church traditions to the One who is our Tradition and by not claiming it as our own that we may morph from generation to generation towards the realisation of the Bride of Christ, the Living Church.
A Church which must always be poor in spirit so as to be able to receive the Living Word of the Lord to our heart, our mind, and our activities. Without this humility, this meekness, we are at all times confronted with our need to legalise the Spirit of God who is very Word Himself unscripted by the heart of man. A Word that must transform us if we are to move forward in any eschatological sense of divine realisation within this world of sin and woe.
Here then is the conumdrum. Not that the Word of God is living and renewing to the heart of man but that the heart of man would idolize the very Word of God and make it a static, non-renewing language of the heart desperate for particulars by chaining its weary paths through this hard life onto a golden script. A script idolised but not renewing, nor transforming, when done in such a fashion. This then is the temptation of our age as in any age.
But the living God / living Christ / has provided His very Self as that breakage to our norming heart so that by His living resurrection to our incarnating heart we may, with Him, be raised from the dead to worship this celebrated new life with freedom and Holy Spirit empowerment. This then is the real Apostolic tradition built upon an Apostolic Christ roaring to our hearts His victory over our many willful deaths on this Easter eve.
And it is with engraving worship of this living transformation by the Spirit of God to our hearts that would engrave all things Spirit that the possessing Church may live beyond its own words and traditions to discover the living God / living Christ / so that the generations to come may have hope and not be bounded by death to the sterility of its own legacies. But find within that great legacy a greater victory and living hope within the very God Himself ever and always.
It is thus, to this kind of Living Bible and Living Church we must chain ourselves. Be willing to question every non-renewing tradition with the Spirit of the Living God. Amen.
March 29, 2015
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History Tied Down by the Normativity of Tradition?
Inversion of Perspective in Orthodox Theology:
Challenges and Problems
by Ivana Noble
The Shaping of Tradition Context and Normativity
Edited by Colby Dickinson
with the collaboration of Lieven Boeve and Terrence Merrigan
LEUVEN – PARIS – WALPOLE, MA
... ultimately done. In living out Christian tradition we do not step intothe past, but into the realm of the Spirit, where we are enlightened fromthe eschatological realm of the Resurrection, where the saints, ourFathers and Mothers, are closer to Christ, the Source of Life, than we are. And yet, with Christ’s and their help and advice we have to act. We need “to accept the new, to comprehend it, to make out precisely what it demands of us.”
In her second lecture on a new monasticism Mother Maria takes a further step. Interpreting the beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”(Mt 5:3), she states that the monastic vow of poverty understood as a striving for non-possession should be expanded to “spiritual non-possession.” This “non-possession” can also be applied to our attitudetowards tradition. For Mother Maria the call to live this beatitude andthe search for how to do it involve struggling with two vices, miserlinessand greed. On the one hand we have to face a loss of certainty withregard to our convictions, and this involves the challenge that salvationmay not arrive to us in our way. We cannot give a limit to divine love,according to Mother Maria, not even the limit of our self-preservation.On the other hand we have to struggle against greed for the spiritualriches of the other. Mother Maria states that both of these desires topossess are common in life outside the Church and in distorted under-standings of Christianity.
To summarise, we have seen not only how differently “the permanentreference point” was defined, but also various possibilities of decon-structing its ideological potential. Now let us return to the initial ques-tion of how we can speak about the living tradition as normative forhistory, and see how each of the approaches, refined through criticism,may help us.
In order to keep the tradition as living and not reified, Florovsky’s way forward to the roots needed to include innovation into the very requirement of tradition. With this change, pseudomorphosis of tradition would include either ignoring tradition and replacing it with other views, orignoring this very requirement of the tradition to remain alive. His concept of re-hellenisation, when unpacked, was surprisingly less problematicthen his notion of catholic transfiguration. While the re-hellenisation didnot contribute to building a negative identity against the West, a questionremains as to what degree it was used against the Slavic spiritual traditionas praised by the Slavophiles or the Sophiologists. Catholic transfiguration is, in my view, more vulnerable to what Kalaitzidis calls mythologisation of tradition. Its de-particularisation of Christian Hellenism allowed forowning it at a meta-level as a kind of essence of Orthodoxy. And at thispoint the notion of non-possession, developed in Mother Maria Skobts-ova, may lead us in a slightly different direction, in which what is norma-tive does not have to be present in an essentialist synthesis.
In Schmemann, there were two problems, one that the requirement to adapt to another historical period made a division between higher and lower times in history, underestimating the presence of God in the pre-sent (or in other than pre-Nicene Patristics). The second problem concerned Schmemann’s notion of eschatology as basically closed, and as projected on to us, not leaving space for active and creative participation in the task of transforming this world into a better place for living. Both of these problems stood at odds with Schmemann’s dynamic and all embracing liturgical vision of life in communion with God.
In Meyendorff, we find the problem of reification of the Byzantine tradition, which is supported by his understanding of the visibility of divine providence and the negative synthesis of the West, against which the – in his interpretation, basically hesychast – Orthodox position is spelled out. And yet, if we applied the criticism of the use of essence from Meyendorff’s religious epistemology to his understanding of tradition, its permanence would shift from something that we have to some-thing in which we can participate. The essence/energy distinction applied there would make a non-synthetic approach to tradition, where each instance while related to its source, the living Christ, would be its full representation. There will be no need to compose a neo-patristic or any other synthesis as the abstract (essential) whole in order to be normative for history. The normativity would remain a testimony to the divine non-possessiveness of Christ, through whom we are filled with the non-possessive (and non-reified) life. Meyendorff’s contribution to this, with the critical revision of his notion of destiny and of the negative synthesis of the West, lies in showing how this life can and is to be passed on, in a non-reductive and non-secularised fashion.
In Mother Maria Skobtsova, the question of how to protect Christian tradition from reification may perhaps find the most satisfactory but also the most difficult answer: by not allowing it to become our possession, either in terms of universalising the past or particularizing the eschatological. History would thus not be tied down by tradition, and tradition would not be reduced to the historical. It may, however, cost us security and the comfort of knowing and belonging, and we may need to shift our balance from an overemphasis on the kataphatic to the inclusion of the apophatic expressions of the mysteries of faith. In this sense, it would be paradoxically closest to the source of the tradition, the living Christ. Normative tradition in this sense would not tie history down, but rather testify an ongoing possibility to encounter the transcendent and loving God whose victory is ultimately not dependent on the historical projections of the possible.