Dogmas and Customs

H/T: Salt of the Earth (here)

“Everybody must preserve what was defined by common ecumenical decisions, but a particular opinion of a church father or a definition issued by a local council can be followed by some and ignored by others. Thus, some people customarily shave their beards; others reject this practice by local conciliar decrees. Thus, as far as we are concerned, we consider it reprehensible to fast on Saturdays, except once a year (on Holy Saturday), while others fast on other Saturdays as well. Thus, tradition avoids disputes by making practice prevail over the rule. In Rome, there are no priests legitimately married, while our tradition permits men, once married, to be elevated to the priesthood.

When the faith remains inviolate, common and catholic decisions are also safe; a sensible man respects the practices and laws of others; he considers it neither wrong to observe them nor illegal to violate them.”

* This excerpt is from a letter from St. Photius the Great to Pope Nicholas I of Rome in the year 861 A.D. “EP. 2, PG 102, cols. 604-605D.”


4 thoughts on “Dogmas and Customs

  1. Not exactly. The point of the article is that dogmas and customs are two different things. Dogmas are universally-held and obligatory for all Christians. Rejecting or modifying a dogma is cause to break communion, since it means somebody has denied an essential article of faith. Customs, on the other hand, are more local practices or disciplines, which can vary from place to place and over time. There is flexibility in custom, but not in dogma.

  2. Many dogmas and customs of Christianity may be observed differently by Christians. For example, Roman Catholic priests are not allowed to be married, but Greek Orthodox priests can be married.

    Also, some Christians may fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, while others may not.

    The fact is that a Christian must do what he believes is right, based on his own conscience. Needless to say, a Christian should not be critical of another Christian for having a different viewpoint on a dogma or custom.

    For the most part, then, Christian dogmas and customs tend to allow for a large grey area, rather than an area that is only white or black, thus providing for a flexibility in making one’s choices.

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