“Theology” is not an end in itself. It is always but a way. Theology, and even the “dogmas,” presents no more than an “intellectual contour” of the revealed truth, and a “noetic” testimony to it. Only in the act of faith is this “contour” filled with content. Christological formulas are fully meaningful only for those who have encountered the Living Christ, and have received and acknowledged Him as God and Saviour, and are dwelling by faith in Him, in His body, the Church. In this sense, theology is never a self-explanatory discipline. It is constantly appealing to the vision of faith. “What we have seen and heard we announce to you.” Without this “announcement” theological formulas are empty and of no consequence. For the same reason these formulas can never be taken “abstractly,” that is, out of total context of belief. It is misleading to single out particular statements of the Fathers and to detach them from the total perspective in which they have been actually uttered, just as it is misleading to manipulate with detached quotations from the Scripture. A dangerous habit “to quote” the Fathers; is, to quote their isolated sayings and phrases outside of that concrete setting in which only they have their full and proper meaning and are truly alive. “To follow” does not mean just “to quote” the Fathers. “To follow” the Fathers means to acquire their “mind,” their phronema.

Fr. Georges Florovsky, The Byzantine Fathers of the Fifth Century, chapter 3, which is available online here, together with other very worthwhile works of Father Florovsky.

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