A Journey With the Church Fathers Through
Lent, Passion Week & Pentecost
 By Fr. Mikhail E. Mikhail


                              

 

INTRODUCTION

Who are the Fathers of the Church?

(1) The church is the “the sacred body of Christ”, in which our Lord Jesus Christ is the head. Jesus Christ had prepared the disciples and the apostles, our fathers, to serve the church and He handed them off the principles of faith, as St. Paul said: “ The faith that has been once handed to the saints.”

They, in turn, handed it down to their disciples, the apostolic fathers, by whom it was handed to their successors, the fathers of the church. Thus, they had erected a huge and high building of faith, which the church had taught and kept as a precious tradition throughout all generations.

 Now, our responsibility is to live by that teaching and to hand it honestly and precisely to the next generations.   

 (2) The term “father” doesn’t necessarily mean a priestly order, but it indicates a spiritual position.

 The father is that person who implants people in the body of Christ, i.e. the church; who gives the   believers a spiritual birth in Christ, and unifies them with Him.

If the father has a priestly order, he will then serve the holy sacraments to the believers. He gives them the spiritual birth with water and the Spirit in Baptism and supports them with the Holy Chrism (Myron).

He unifies them with Christ through the Eucharist and takes them back to abide in Him through repentance and Confession. He heals their illness through unction, and he unifies the couples in Christ and ties them together through marriage.

 (3) In his book “Against Heresies” (Ch. 41:2), St. Irenaeus, a father of the 2nd century, said:  “When a person learns from the teaching of another one, he is called a son for him. And that who taught him is    called a father.”

 (4) The importance of study about the fathers of the church, and their sayings:

 The sayings and teaching of the church fathers are constantly serving the same purpose along all generations, that is preaching Christ and the Gospel. So, it is new for every age and every generation, because it remains all the time the living and proclaiming voice of Christ and His apostles, and still can be recognized and formed in the language of the contemporary generation.

Therefore, the church along all ages receives and handles the teachings of fathers. The church may add to    it the examination of exercising and applying the Gospel, as well as the testimony of belief in Christ for    each generation.

 

Teaching in the Coptic Orthodox Church is a congregate teaching:

The church considers “The Congregate Agreement of Fathers” the basis of the proper faith, particularly in the topics dealing with the interpretation of the books of the Holy Bible, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.  This confirms the fact that they were guided and carried along by the Holy Spirit.

As the Holy Spirit had guided our apostolic fathers and the prophets in writing the books of the Holy Bible, so He also guided the church fathers in explaining and interpreting them, as St. Peter said, “For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21)   

Therefore, we need the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit to understand the church fathers’ sayings and writings. As the Holy Spirit had led the writers and interpreters in the past, so also He leads us to  understand and comprehend now.

 Requirements that should be fulfilled to accept the teaching of the fathers:

 To accept any teaching, it should be:

  1.  In compliance with the teaching of the Holy Bible, the main source of teaching.

  2. In agreement with the predecessors’ religious teaching.

  3. In harmony with the congregate consent of believers under the bishop who leads them in unifying with Christ through the Eucharistic  Sacrament.


Topics of the church fathers teaching:

  1.  Interpretations of the Holy Bible

  2. Apologetic writings

  3. Sermons and essays    

  4. Letters

  5. Liturgics

  6. Poetics and praises

  7. Dialogues

  8. Esscatical Writings  

  9. Canon Laws

  10. Ecclesiastical History

 

Through this series, we are going to study what the church fathers said about the journeys of Lent, Passion Week, and Holy Pentecost.

  • The journey of Lent, which is for repentance and coming back to God.

  • The journey of Passion Week, which is for sharing Christ in His passions.

  • The journey of Holy Pentecost, which is the journey of the resurrection of the Living Christ, who is risen from the dead.

 The Lent consists of the Preparation Week plus the holy forty days, i.e., seven weeks. It ends with the    day of the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday).

 

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Copyright 2008 St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church - Cleveland, Ohio.
Last modified: 08/24/08