Church Fathers

edited December 1969 in Faith Issues

I was wondering at how a church father is defined.Many giants whom we refer as Church fathers had defended the true Apostolic Orthodxy faith against successive heresies.They struggled for the true faith, suffered untold difficulties and passed the the next stage of life truimphantly.They left us their wisdom and written materials for posterity.

Throughout the centuries,there has always been such church fathers who continued to defend the legacy of the Orthodox faith with the same stamina and valour as their forefathers. When we think or speak or qoute Chruch fathers, it  mostly refers to those who lived from the beginning of Christianity until the middle ages ( I could be wrong,though). This classification makes me think,at one time in history,the era of the church fathers was over and many others who followed their footsteps at a later time are not mentioned in the same breath. Is this view right? If not, what is the definition or who is worthy to be called a church father ?



  • I am not sure that there is such a definition. Well, I know there is no such definition.

    It is rather like sanctity, it is seen on reflection in someone's life. There isn't a list of things that have to be ticked off.

    You have described the Fathers well in your own post, and so in a sense they are exactly those figures who have the qualities you describe. But they also have different degrees of authority in their writings so that we could perhaps speak of major and minor Fathers - which says nothing about their personal qualities, just the degree of authority which is vested in their teachings.

    Our own Fathers are especially St Athanasius, St Cyril, and St Severus. But there are many others, including St Dioscorus, St Timothy Aelurus, St Shenoute, Clement of Alexandria, to name just those especially related to Alexandria. These people have in common many of those things you describe.

    It would perhaps be dangerous to start describing modern figures as Fathers in the same way, even though we might want to call them fathers (with a lower case F), because it is not always or ever easy to see the value of what a person has said and done in their own lifetime. If their contribution to the ongoing life of the Church remains highly valued then they become an authority within the Church.

    But it must also be said that for long and dark periods in the life of the Coptic Orthodox Church the contributions of the Fathers have not been well known. Libraries have become disused. Fathers have become often only names. We have a tremendous responsibility, having been born into an age of great freedom, to study and embrace the teaching of our Orthodox Fathers in its majestic and beautiful comprehensiveness so that their names and teachings are never forgotten again.

    Father Peter
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