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God forbid! Our spiritual elders, even our greatest saints, have always been men and women just like us - people struggling throughout their whole lives with their own faults and failings. As with any family, our strength comes from all of us pulling together. In a way, healthy families are self-correcting. It is hard for any one misstep or mistaken word by a family member to cause the entire family to crumble.

Together, we work to correct each other and to preserve those gifts and truths which have been left in our care. Paul rests his claim to being the spiritual father of the Corinthians on the fact that he has, in his words, "begotten you through the gospel. For this reason, he can boldly instruct the church of Corinth to follow his teachings. He challenges them with these simple words: "imitate me". It can be difficult for us today to willingly submit to authority.

As some might say, "Who are you? Are you the boss of me? So, why should we imitate our spiritual fathers - those of the past and those with us today? There is a very simple answer to this question, and it comes from St. Paul himself. We've looked more deeply at the significance of St. Paul calling the Corinthians his spiritual children. We've looked at the origins of the Orthodox tradition of calling our spiritual elders "Father".

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We've seen how rather than being a tradition that undermines Christ's will for His Church, this tradition emphasizes the living reality of the family of faith. Paul urges his spiritual children to imitate him. Paul urges his spiritual children to imitate him because he is imitating Christ. Paul is setting himself up as a spiritual role model, saying in essence: "We must all imitate Christ. Here, watch me, and I'll show you how it's done.

Our spiritual fathers who have gone before us continue to set for us an example of what it means to imitate Christ. And our spiritual fathers among us today strive to follow in their footsteps, imitating Christ to the best of their ability in order to provide their own spiritual children with an example.

This is why we should all show respect and honor for our spiritual elders and teachers, and why we should work to imitate them. We are not imitating them because of any particular virtue inherent in a particular person. We are working to imitate Christ Himself. If we do, we will be tapping in to the great treasurehouse the Church places at our disposal, all of the accumulated wisdom and aid passed along by the generations of our spiritual ancestors. There is certainly something unique in the Orthodox Christian worldview.

Call No Man “Father”?

This uniqueness flows from our belief that we are participants in a living faith. While we of course need to understand and learn from the written word of God, the Bible is only one of the pillars of Holy Tradition. God has provided us with other, complimentary ways of understanding His will for us. These include our beautiful and holy Orthodox worship.


These ways include the writings and lives of the great fathers of the Church. And these ways also include our living fathers in the Church - our deacons, priests, and bishops today. They are our fathers, whose faith should form us as St. Paul's faith formed the Corinthians. Let us with untroubled hearts show our gratitude and respect for the family of God to which we belong, calling men father who teach and nourish us.

This reflection is adapted from a speech originally written for Fr. Christopher Metropulos of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Ft.

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Has he not spoken through us also? Unlike Moses, from whom they claim authority, the scribes and Pharisees used their positions for their own profit and glory. And so while Jesus tells the people to follow the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees, He warns them not to follow their prideful practices.


As God punished Miriam and Aaron for their pride, so Jesus warns the scribes and Pharisees of punishment for theirs. One such act of pride was to be called "teacher," "father," and "master. He does this by introducing a second authority, which would be rooted in the New Covenant ratified in His blood.

In Matthew , Jesus identifies fatherhood with the Father in heaven, and authority with the authority He received from His Father. In a different way, He had already done this in Matthew In that passage, Jesus commissioned His twelve apostles and sent them out in His name. Jesus told them, "He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me.

Furthermore, those who accepted them were accepting Christ and His Father in heaven see also Mt.

Fathers : Call no man Father : Catholic Response

Thus, our "father" is the one whom we choose to honor. He gave His apostles the authority to act in His person with the authority given by the Father. Jesus had made this clear in Matthew as noted above, and He reemphasized it in John 17 when, while praying to the Father, He said, "While I was with them, I kept them in thy name, which thou hast given me. As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world" vv. This Sacrament of Holy Orders makes present the graces necessary for our spiritual rebirth and sustenance in Christ. For it is at the hands of priests that we are baptized, confirmed, and receive the precious body and blood of Our Lord.

The title "father" does not confer upon priests the same status proper to Our Heavenly Father alone, nor does it diminish God's absolute and universal fatherhood. However, it is incorrect to interpret Matthew in an exclusively literal sense. In 1 Corinthians , St. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says, "For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Paul calls himself "father" because he recognizes his cooperation with God in begetting the spiritual life of the community entrusted to his care. There are several other passages, such as Acts ; Acts ; Corinthians ; Galatians ; 1 John ; and Philemon 10, which show that the title "father" was applied to others besides God and biological fathers in the New Testament.

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We cannot interpret Matthew as prohibiting reference to dads or priests as "fathers" without contradicting other scriptural passages in which the word "father" is used. Such an interpretation would render the commandment "honor your father" meaningless and would diminish the authority of the apostles and their successors. Admittedly, it is easier for a Protestant to accept the title "father" for those who beget children biologically. To use the title for others would imply the recognition of Jesus' intention to establish a ministerial priesthood through the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

However, our lives of faith are conceived by the acts of those who sow the seeds of faith.

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The apostles and their successors were commissioned by Christ Himself. They bear His Word in our lives and are ministers of His grace through the sacraments of the Church, beginning with our spiritual rebirth in Baptism. By sharing in the high priesthood of Christ, bishops and priests share in the attributes of the Father. As there is no father but the one Father in heaven, and no teacher or master but Christ, we properly understand that these men, having been commissioned by Christ to act in His person, also represent the Father, whom the Son reveals cf.

Insofar as they uniquely participate in the spiritual begetting of God's children, bishops and priests are our fathers. For they share in the mission of Christ who reveals the eternal Father. Study This. Matthew Matthew 22 Matthew Matthew in all English translations. Bible Gateway Recommends. View more titles. Advance your knowledge of Scripture with this resource library of over 40 reference books, including commentaries and Study Bible notes.

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"that they may all be one…” – John 17:21

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