The heritage of the Orthodox Christian tradition in Africa today

Pastille a1

The Orthodox Church, faithful to the Tradition of the undivided Church of the first centuries, has a local presence in various places and is based on the principle of communion between local churches, each including several national and ethnic groups, within the single Body of Christ.[1]

This heritage offered to Africa today and accepted by the faith of the peoples of our continent is not so much a heritage of doctrine as a way of life, always renewing itself and creating, rooted in the Tradition of the Councils of the early Church. Orthodoxy offers people of all origins, languages and cultures the fullness of life, reflecting the divine Life of the Trinity, which appears in its liturgy, its rites, its services, in the word of the Gospel which continues in the writings of the Fathers of the Church, both those of the first centuries and those who the Holy Spirit has chosen to carry its light in the world up to the present day. Considering this creative faith it has always taught, the Orthodox Church’s spirituality and sense of the mystery of humanity and godhood (without scholastic rationalism), as well as its energy, renew the heart and the face of nations in every age, and through the light of the Gospel try to apply Christ’s message to the present and give an answer to the challenges of each step of history. This renewal requires peoples who have accepted the Orthodox tradition “an effort to be worthy heirs to the witness of the apostolic age … This renewal means our life in Christ is renewed. We must learn to live with the same feeling of Christ’s presence as the first Christians. Christ says to us, as to them: I am with you for ever (Mt 28:20)[2]“

The offering of the hearts of a nation’s children, in faith, fidelity and thanksgiving to God glorified in the Trinity, leads in return to on overflowing of blessings which recasts its face in light. For God is the “defender of those who trust in him … who saves the humbled people, but puts the eyes of the proud to shame” (Ps 17:31, 28). King David said “Blessed is the nation that has God for its Lord, the people He chose as His inheritance (Ps 32:12).

The nation is the stage for the gifts of the Spirit, which the Church of Christ, present in every people, must bring to maturity in the souls of its children. The Church is “the coming of humanity[3]“, in which the luminous beauty of each and every one of us is revealed, beauty which is none other than the light of the soul in communion in Christ with the source of all beauty in Creation. If the Church as a eucharistic community is the place of the sacrements, spiritual remedies for mankind separated from God, the nation as an ethnic and linguistic community is the place for values of union, communion in love, fraternity and solidarity to blossom, as it is called to be an icon of the Church and to live in truth, justice and fairness.

[1] Canon 57 of the Council of Carthage, 419 A.D. A Church reaching “from one end of the universe to the other” (expression in the Offertory of the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great)

[2] M.-A. Costa de Beauregard, Dumitru Staniloae « Ose comprendre que je t’aime », page 37, Coll. Témoins spirituels d’aujourd’hui, Éditions du Cerf, 1983.

[3] ibid, page 14.