Orthodox Study Journal~~Youth Issue 2/July 2018
On entering into the uncreated Church we come to Christ;
We enter into the realm of the uncreated
The Church is without beginning, without end and eternal, just as the Triune God, her founder, is without beginning, without end and eternal. She is uncreated just as God is uncreated. She existed before the ages, before the angels, before the creation of the world—before the foundation of the world as the Apostle Paul says. She is a divine institution refer Eph 1:4and in her dwells the whole fullness of divinity refer Col 2:9 . She is an expression of the richly varied wisdom of God. She is the mystery of mysteries. She was concealed and was revealed in the last of times. The Church refer 1 Pet 1:20 remains unshaken because she is rooted in the love and wise providence of God.
The three persons of the Holy Trinity constitute the eternal Church. The angels and human beings existed in the thought and love of the Triune God from the beginning. We human beings were not born now, we existed before the ages in God’s omniscience.
The love of God created us in the image and likeness. He embraced us within the Church in spite of the fact that He knew our apostasy. He gave us everything to make us gods too through the free gift of grace. For all that, we made poor use of our freedom and lost our original beauty, our original righteousness and cut ourselves off from the Church. Outside the Church, far from the Holy Trinity, we lost Paradise, everything. But outside the Church there is no salvation, there is no life. And so the compassionate heart of God the Father did not leave us exiled from His love. He opened again for us the gates of Paradise in the last times and appeared in flesh.
With the divine incarnation of the only-begotten Son of God, God’s pre-eternal plan for the salvation of mankind was revealed again to men. In his epistle to Timothy the Apostle Paul says:
Incontrovertibly, the mystery of faith is great. God was revealed in flesh, justified in Spirit, seen by angels, preached among gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory. The words of the Apostle Paul are dense in meaning: divine, heavenly words!
God in his infinite love united us again with His Church in the person of Christ. On entering into the uncreated Church, we come to Christ, we enter into the realm of the uncreated. We the faithful are called to become uncreated by grace Cf. Col 3:9; Rom 6:6; Eph 4:22 , to become participants in the divine energies of God, to enter into the mystery of divinity, to surpass our worldly frame of mind, to die to the ‘old man’ and to become immersed in God. When we live in the Church we live in Christ. This is a very fine-drawn matter, we cannot understand it. Only the Holy Spirit can teach us.
The head of the Church is Christ and we humans, we Christians, are the body. The Apostle Paul says:
He refer Col 1:18 is the head of the body, of the Church.
The Church and Christ are one. The body cannot exist without its head. Without Christ the Church does not exist. Christ is the bridegroom; each individual soul is the Bride.
Christ united the body of the Church with heaven and with earth: with angels, men and all created things, with all of God’s creation….The Church thus became the fullness refer Eph 1:23 of Him who fills all in all, that is, of Christ. Everything is in Christ and with Christ. This is the mystery of the Church.
Christ is revealed in that unity between His love and ourselves: the Church. On my own I am not the Church, but together with you. All together we are the Church. All are incorporated in the Church. We are all one and Christ is the head. One body, one body of Christ:
You are the body of Christ refer 1 Cor 12:27 and individually members of it.
We are all one because God is our Father and is everywhere. When we experience this we are in the Church. This is our Lord’s wish for all the members of the Church as expressed in His great high-priestly prayer: that they may be one refer John 17:11,22. But that’s something you can only understand through grace. We experience the joy of unity, of love, and we become one with everyone. There is nothing more magnificent!
The important thing is for us to enter into Church— to unite ourselves with our fellow men, with the joys and sorrows of each and everyone, to feel they our own, to pray for everyone, to have care for their salvation, to forget about ourselves, to do everything for them just as Christ did for us.
In the Church we become one with each unfortunate, suffering and sinful soul. It is just like how we love our family where each one is born into. We always feel a special bond with our parents, siblings and close relatives and friends in their respective order. Our parents are very dear to us. Our siblings mean a lot to us. Irrespective of this biological bond also we always take care that we do not harm a person whom we love or who is very important in our lives. We take care to keep the other happy in whatever way we can.
This holds well in our spiritual lives. We should develop the same kind of bond with everyone in the Church. The Church is our family with Christ as the head of the family. And it is for fulfilling His purpose that we are born and that we are members of this Family called Church.
This is the choice God gives us. The freedom to choose: to live in the good by keeping the commandments of Christ. This is the essential aspect of Man’sꟷ being in the image of God. As God is Creator, Man has also to become a creator, a creator of the good. This is the real purpose which we have to fulfill. This is our goal when we live in this world. This is how we get our salvation.
No one should wish to be saved alone without all others being saved. It is a mistake for someone to pray for himself, that he himself may be saved. We must love others and pray that no soul be lost, that all may enter into the Church. That is what counts. And it is with this desire one should leave the world to retire to a monastery or to the desert.
When we set ourselves from others, we are not Christians. We are true Christians when we have profound sense that we are the members of the mystical body of Christ, of the Church, in an unbroken relationship of loveꟷ when we live united with Christ, that is, when we experience unity in His Church with a sense of oneness.
That is why Christ prays to His Father saying, that they may be one. He repeats the prayer again and again and the apostles emphasize it everywhere. This is the most profound aspect, the most exalted meaning, of the Church. This is where the secret is to be found: for all to be united as one person in God. There is no other religion like this; no other religion says anything of this sort. They have something to say, but not this mystery, this exquisite point of mystery which Christ demands and tells us that this is how we must become, that he wants us to be His.
The Church is the new life in Christ. In the Church there is no death and no hell. Saint John the Evangelist says: Whoever keeps my word refer John 8:52 will never taste death. Christ does away with death. Whoever enters into the Church is saved; he becomes eternal. Life is one, an unbroken continuity: there is no end, no death. Whoever follows Christ’s commandments never dies. He dies according to the flesh, according to the passions, and starting from the present life, is accorded to live in Paradise, in our Church and thereafter in eternity.
With Christ, death becomes the bridge which we will cross in an instant in order to continue to live unsetting light.
In Church which possesses the saving sacraments there is no despair. We may be deeply sinful. But we make confession, the priest reads the prayers, we are forgiven and we progress towards immortality, without any anxiety and without any fear.
When we love Christ, we live the life of Christ. If, by the grace of God, we succeed in doing this, we find ourselves in a different state, we live in another enviable state. For us there is no fear; neither of death, nor of the devil nor of hell. All these things exist for people who are far from Christ. For us Christians, who do His will, as the Gospel says these things do not exist. That is, they exist, but when one kills old self along with passions and desires refer Gal 5:24 , one gives no importance to the devil or to evil. It doesn’t concern us.
What concerns us is love, service to Christ and to our fellow man. If we reach the point of feeling joy, love, worship of God without any fear, we reach the point of saying, It refer Gal 2:20 is no longer I who live; Christ lives in me. No one can prevent us from entering into this mystery.
In order for us to preserve our unity we must be obedient to the Church, to her bishops. When we are obedient to the Church we are obedient to Christ Himself. Christ wishes for us to become one flock with one shepherd.
Let us feel for the Church. Let us love her fervently. We should not accept to hear her representatives being criticized and accused. We should not give credence to those who make accusations against the clergy. Even if with our own eyes we see a priest doing something we judge negatively, we should not believe it, nor think about it, nor talk about it to others. The same is true for the lay members of the Church and for every person. We are all the Church.
Those who censure the Church for the errors of her representatives with the alleged aim of helping to correct her make a great mistake. They do not love the Church. Neither, needless to say, do they love Christ. We love the Church when we embrace with our prayer each of her members and do what Christ didꟷ when we sacrifice ourselves, remain ever vigilant, and do everything in the manner of Him who when He refer 1 Peter 2:23 was abused did not return abuse, and when He suffered did not threaten.
We need to take care also to observe the formal aspects: to participate in the sacraments, especially the sacrament of Holy Communion. It is in these things that Orthodoxy/true Christian religion or right faith is to be found. Christ offers Himself to the Church in the sacraments and above all in Holy Communion.
At Pentecost the grace of God was poured out not only on the apostles, but on all the people who were around them. It affected believers and unbelievers. Listen what the Acts of Apostles says in Acts 2:1-6:
And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together and in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind…and all were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, according as the Spirit gave them utterance…the crowd gathered and were confused because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.
Whereas Peter the apostle was speaking his own tongue, the language was instantaneously transformed in the mind of the hearers. In an ineffable way the Holy Spirit made them understand his words in their language, mystically, imperceptibly. These miraculous things happen through the action of the Holy Spirit. For example, the word ‘house’ would be heard by the person who spoke French as ‘maison’. It was a kind of gift of clear sight; they heard their own language. The sound struck their ears, but in their minds, through divine illumination, the words were heard in their own tongue. At Pentecost the people suddenly found themselves in such a state of assimilation to God. The divine grace enthused them, filled them with God.
And breaking bread in their homes, they shared food in great joy and simplicity of heart, praising God and having goodwill towards all the people. And every day the Lord added to the Church those who were being saved.
The ‘breaking of bread’ was Holy Communion. And the number of those who were being saved increased continually, since people saw all the Christians in a state of—
‘great joy and simplicity of heart’ and ‘praising God’. The ‘great joy and simplicity of heart’ is like ‘fear refer Acts 2:23 came upon every soul’. This is the divine grace. This is also love towards Christ.
What the apostles experienced amongst themselves when they felt this great joy happened then to all those who were beneath the upper room. That is, they loved each other, they took joy in one another: the one had become united with the other. This experience radiates outwards and others experience it.
And refer Acts 4:32 the heart and soul of the multitude of those who had believed were one; and not one of them said that any of his possessions were his own, but they had everything in common. Here is the mystery of Christ. This is the Church. The best words about the first Church are here.
……Click the link(Issue 2 – July’18) below to continue reading other articles……
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