The Church is humanity unified and renewed through union and communion with the incarnate Son of God. And this Church is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, the teachings of the apostles, and the prophets. And from this foundation come not only all doctrines and traditions to which we must cling, but the Holy Scriptures themselves. I have frequently heard that the Church is not necessary for salvation, only the Scriptures and our own experience with God. And yet, if the Church is the “pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), then how trustworthy are those things in absentia of the Truth? How trustworthy is our interpretation of the Scriptures, if not being guided by the Church? We become the Eunuch and the Church, Philip. In Acts we read that “the eunuch was reading from the Prophet Isaiah and Philip asks, “do you understand what you are reading,” to which the eunuch replies, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” (Acts 8:30-31). If not through the lens of the teachings of the Church, how can we understand the words of the infinite God? GK Chesterton said that the logician is more likely to go mad than the poet, because “the poet seeks only to get his head into the heavens, the logician seeks to get the heavens into his head.” And that is us without the guidance of the Church. We can seek to understand, but without that pillar and foundation of truth, we leave ourselves far too open to error.
St Paul spent around 18 months in Thessaloniki, teaching and preaching day in and day out. And, remember, at that point, there was no New Testament. Bear in mind, this was a man who was so verbose that he once preached until a man (Eutychus) fell asleep and fell out of a window and died, and St Paul ran out to raise him from death so that he could finish his sermon (Acts 20:9). Now, this man was there for a year and a half teaching them daily, and then once he left he sent them two letters, a total of eight short chapters, reiterating certain points. Now, bearing in mind how thorough and verbose he was, could you ever realistically consider that all of his teachings could be summarized in eight short chapters? Of course not, in fact, in his eight short chapters, he never touches on any of the foundational points of the Church. Rather, he references them briefly by stating that they are to “cling to the traditions which have been handed down to you, whether by word or by epistle,” that is to say rather by oral tradition or by his letters, which served to correct errors that they had made. It’s preposterous to think that after 18 months teaching them, the only thing that would have mattered were the points that he brought up in those two short letters.
I know I write at length about the importance of the Church and her teachings, and the importance of Holy Tradition. But there is a very real reason for this, as we are seeing in our generation. We are personally witnessing the utmost importance of this ideology. Here, in the West, we are seeing a strong movement for the secularization of the Church. Millenia old traditions are being eradicated to accommodate worldly views on abortion, on LGBT, on gun control, etc. And, in absentia of our recognition of the importance of Tradition, we have no leg to stand on. We have no footing to stand against these worldly views, this “spirit of the age” that St Paul constantly warns us against. And, in the East it is no better. Especially in Communist China, we are seeing the literal rewrite of gospel accounts. The CCP, which controls every aspect of life in China, has begun rewriting the gospels themselves to convince people that “even though the leaders may be corrupt, the party itself is what is important, and it is flawless and above those corrupt people who carry out it’s wishes.” They have rewritten the gospel account of the adulteress (John 8) to show Jesus killing her once the would-be executioners have left.
I think of these things and it grieves me. Considering how strongly those in the West reject the authority of Holy Tradition, how long before the gospel stories, that which we are able to consume, become corrupt. It is only through the Holy Tradition and the teachings of the Church that the integrity of our faith can be maintained, through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, together with His Father who is without beginning and His all-Holy, Good, and Life-Giving Spirit, unto the ages of ages.
Christ is in our midst.