I read something inaccurate today: The patristic period (AD 95–750) is the time of the fathers of the church, when the exegesis of Scripture texts was in its primitive formation. This period spans from Clement of Rome to John of Damascus, embracing seven centuries of biblical interpretation, from the end of the New Testament to the mid-eighth century, including the Venerable Bede. This reminded me of a similar timeframe given for the Church Fathers in the Introduction to the edition of St. John of Damascus’ The Fount of Knowledge in the Catholic University of America Press’ The Fathers of the Church series (volume 37). In there we are told “The Fount of Knowledge is one of the most important single works produced in the Greek patristic period, of which it marks the end . . . And it is the last work of any theological importance to appear in the East.”
For Roman Catholics, this position, of course, must be held to counter the Orthodox theology of St. Gregory Palamas, who is, of course, a Church Father. So, in the Orthodox Church, the patristic period at the very least is AD 95-1359. But then what about Elder Joseph the Hesychast? Ok, so then AD 95-1959. But then what about St. John of Shanghai? Ok, so then AD 95-1966. But what about Elder Ephraim, who is still alive and whose spiritual father is Elder Joseph? Ok, so the AD 95-2019. I think the point is clear: the patristic period has never ended for Orthodox Christians. Orthodox Christianity isn’t a “museum Faith,” it is vibrant with the uncreated energies of God.
Recently a good Orthodox friend of mine and I got into a discussion via text about various things not related to our original topic (you don’t say?). And as we proceeded down our mobile oblivion of fruitless conversation, he stated, “orthodoxy has been perverted too. those in the orthobox choose not to see.”
I asked how Orthodoxy had been perverted but never got an answer, and we left it there, but it got me thinking. The other night, another friend of mine who is an atheist posted some straw man attack on Christianity on Instagram, and that got me thinking too…
I find it difficult living in 2019, people ask me something, I respond, and they’re upset or offended or both. It’s weird to me; I try to be Stoic, contemplative, and open to the possibility that I could be wrong. Especially over words, I believe in freedom of speech, so words, whether written or spoken, never offend me no matter what they convey. It interests me when people criticize the Church but offer no proof for their criticism; who will they call in their hour of need? Who will pray for them at the separation of the soul from the body? Who will bury them? A Rabbi? An Imam? An atheist will die alone like Donnie Darko informed us years ago. But Orthodox Christians—whether nominal, lapsed, lazy, or angry—like Israel in the Old Testament, will call upon the Lord after they see the rotten fruit their works have brought forth—they will call their Orthodox priest. They always do. Why is that?
Because those who criticize the Church (anti-Christian atheists included) for whatever petty reasons still believe what I believe: the Church is where Christ is, and Christ Himself said that the gates of hades will not prevail against Her. Those who criticize without being able to give a reason don’t need to be convinced: they already know. I don’t know much, but I know that there is no salvation outside the Church, and so I’ll stay in that so-called “orthobox.” One can know a tree by the fruit that it bears, and the fruit that Orthodoxy has given me speaks volumes for the mercy Christ has to offer those who accept it and in humility say “your will, Lord, and not mine.” Powerful words in a world that has accepted the Satanic dogma of self-will. If the Orthodox Church has been perverted, I’d love to know where, when, how, and by who, because I am more than willing to see it. Diagnosing a problem is the first step in healing the problem. I’d bet though this is more a pot calling the kettle black type of situation: it always is. But then again we know that hence the Eden story.