“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread…” (1 Corinthians 11:23, NAB)He repeats this expression at the beginning of his great meditation on the resurrection of Christ in chapter 15:
“For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, NAB)It’s critical that 1 Corinthians 15 is ultimately about the resurrection of Christ, since the first doctrine that gets "handed on…as of first importance" among Christians is the belief that Jesus rose from the dead. Where did we, the Church, receive this belief in the Resurrection? Where did we learn that it was of "first importance?" And where did we receive the Church's belief about the Eucharist? A better question is "from whom" did we receive these things? St. Paul continues:
“For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received:... that he appeared to [Peter], then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me.” (1 Corinthians 15:3, 5-8).From whom did we, and those “five hundred brothers” that comprise the first flowering of the Catholic Church, get our belief in the resurrection of Christ? The answer, as we can see, is from the Apostles. But these Apostles were, first of all, disciples of Jesus, those who walked and talked with Him, sat next to Him at the Last Supper on that night he was handed over, and who, with those five hundred other people, saw Him after the Resurrection. That number would then expand to three thousand people who encountered the Risen Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, in person, at Pentecost. (Acts 2:41) Finally St. Paul himself, who needed God to literally knock him off his high horse on the way to Damascus, also had just as personal an encounter. (Acts 9:1-9) In short, we received our faith from those who had experienced the Triune God first-hand. This brings me back to the Synod on Synodality, two millennia later. While the Apostles and others in the first century experienced God and heard God, it isn't as if God stopped talking. St. Paul, St. Peter, St. James and the rest of the New Testament writers may have been the last ones to hear God with the authority of inspired Scripture, but they were by no means the last to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in person. The Church exists within the miracle of Easter and Pentecost. When you are baptized in the name of this Triune God, you join in the Apostles’ encounter with the Risen Christ and His Holy Spirit in the Upper Room. Which means that you too, experience this God, two millennia later. Through this encounter, God has given you something to say, something to hand on to the future of the Church, something to contribute to its Living Tradition in the present. The synodal path is about welcoming your voice along for the ride. Next up are Parts Two and Three, where I’ll explore more of what it might mean for lay people to contribute to the Living Tradition through the synodal path.