Christ’s Church: Faithfulness to the Tradition, Language and Culture at the Service of the Gospel

Christ’s Church: Faithfulness to the Tradition, Language and Culture at the Service of the Gospel

Archibishop Thomas Edward Gullickson

It is indeed a real joy for me to be here present again this year for the inauguration of the 13th Annual Edition of the International ASSUMPTION READINGS. I congratulate the organizers on this successful beginning to another great effort as evidenced by the list of distinguished scholars and personages participating. May what has begun so well be brought to a fruitful completion!

As interesting or entertaining as it might be to speculate about how our world might have been without the Tower of Babel or if by some grace we were all born polyglots with boundless intuitive skills, we recognize that our day to day reality and Church history is universally marked by the wounds of sin and division. From the point of view of language, we may understand each other perfectly well, but still be very much at odds with one another. So much the worse, I guess we could say, when custom and culture, language and tradition also seem to get in the way.
A powerful insight, one of the strong points of the Byzantine Church Tradition can be found in the fact that those who write icons prepare to and do so with prayer and fasting. The artist is at God’s service.
Before the invention of the printing press, for a long time, scriptoria for the copying of manuscripts were the provenance of monastic communities; it too was a labor undertaken not only by one vowed to Christ, but by one conscious of what he was doing to the greater honor and glory of God; the monk scribe too prayed as he copied and illuminated manuscripts.
We know the same to be true of the great theologians of both the Eastern and the Western traditions; worship, prayer and fasting were the seedbed of their inspiration and teaching then, as they are and must be for preachers, teachers and theologians today.
The same, may I suggest, should be true of those who serve as translators. Translating is more than knowledge and technique; it is indeed a sacred trust, a ministry. Translators should be men and women of prayer, intimately bound to the life of the Church. Christian publishing houses and their translators are in the forefront of the struggle against relativism and unbelief; nothing promotes serious thought as well as a good book: not YouTube, not Twitter, not Facebook, not even movies or documentaries on television or radio.
We must seek our oneness in Christ, bound up with Him in the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. The “not yet” of our presently fragmented Christian existence cannot give us pause or rest as we seek to fulfill the Divine Will for reaching unity already now before the day of Last Judgment, when Christ will be all in all. Scholars tell us that St. Augustine was not much of a Greek scholar; he did his best however to study and to ponder the riches of our tradition both east and west. I remember as a boy in class finding the Bishop of Hippo’s Latin difficult to understand; good English translations often came to my rescue and still today, by their scholarship, improve my access to his writings and thought. God bless all those who prepare and propagate translations of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, East and West, for our edification and sanctification unto unity as willed by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God bless all those who by their hard work and personal sacrifice render the wealth of Christian thought, also contemporary thought, accessible to the faithful!
It is Christ in His Church Who heals the wounds of sin and division, but among those who cooperate in His saving action, indeed, translators serve the cause of the Gospel in a very significant way.