Thursday, July 26, 2012

Reflecting God (excerpt Ch.1 p. 44-47)

         "This can be summarized by Cyprian of Carthage who speaks beautifully on the importance of the church and its apostolic connection, he writes: “This unity we ought to hold firmly and defend, especially we bishops who watch over the church, that we may prove that also the episcopate itself is one and undivided. Let no one deceive the brotherhood by lying; let no one corrupt the faith by a perfidious prevarication of the truth. The episcopate is one, the parts of which are held together by the individual bishops. The church is one which with increasing fecundity extends far and wide into the multitude, just as the rays of the sun are many but the light is one, and the branches of the tree are many but the strength is one founded in its tenacious root, and, when many streams flow from one source, although a multiplicity of waters seems to have been diffused from abundance of the overflowing supply nevertheless unity is preserved in their origin. Take away a ray of light from the body of the sun, its unity does not take on any division of its light; break a branch from a tree, the branch thus broken will not be able to bud; cut off a stream from its source, the stream thus cut off dries up. Thus too the church bathed in the light of the Lord projects its rays over the whole world, yet there is one light which is diffused everywhere, and  the unity of the body is not separated. She extends her branches over the whole earth in fruitful abundance; she extends her richly flowing streams far and wide; yet her head is one and her source is one, and she is the one mother copious in the results of her fruitfulness. By her womb we are born; by her milk we are nourished; by her spirit we are animated.” (On the Unity of the Church, Ch. 5)
Cyprian summarizes the importance, and teaching, of the Church in a most poetic way. In likening those who teach contrary to the apostolic doctrine, to a limb being cut from a tree, we see that those who are not unified in doctrine and practice are not of the Christian church. As a tree without roots cannot stand, a church without apostolic roots cannot save.(Mt. 7:22) This chapter intricately demonstrates what the early Christians believed. There is no mention of scripture being the only authority of God, but those appointed by the apostles together with tradition, which scripture is a part of. Not one of these is an authority by itself, but together as a whole. The fathers show us the hierarchal structure of the church and the importance of the priesthood and apostolic succession. How deep does the roots of your church run? Are they apostolic or superficial, having been planted recently and outside the authority of God, or long ago by the hand of Christ? Trace the beliefs to their origins and if their beginning is of a much later date than the apostles, flee from that place. If the teachings and beliefs you adhere to are not reflected in those the apostles taught, perhaps it is time to reevaluate Christianity. Believe in what Christianity is and not what you want it to be." (Reflecting God, John Apocalypse, p. 44-47)
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