by Douglas Cramer
The Orthodox Christian Church has since the time of Christ nurtured and raised up a way of understanding the world, of understanding ourselves, and understanding our walk with God that is a unique treasure often unheard, unheralded and unshared. Our's is a living faith, a living Tradition of how to follow Christ. Let's consider an easily-overlooked passage from St. Paul's first Epistle to the Corinthians. It is a crucial reference point in one small tradition of the Church, a tradition with large implications.
The passage, 1 Corinthians 4:14-16, reads: "I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me." The tradition reflected in this passage is one we still practice today - our tradition of calling our deacons and priests "father", and of referring to our Orthodox Christian spiritual elders through the century as "the Fathers of the Church."
Let's think about what we can learn from this tradition of calling our clergy and spiritual elders "Father". The traditional title "Father" points us towards the truth that our faith, like our God, is a living creation and not a mere collection of ancient rituals. We are part of God's living, growing family - and our spiritual elders are called to a special role in that family. And this family's greatest task is to safeguard God's Holy Tradition.