My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
THE STRENGTH OF ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY
"THERE IS ONE BODY AND ONE SPIRIT, EVEN AS YOU ARE
CALLED IN ONE HOPE OF YOUR CALLING; ONE LORD,
ONE FAITH, ONE BAPTISM, ONE GOD AND FATHER OF ALL,
WHO IS ABOVE ALL, AND THROUGH ALL, AND IN YOU
ALL" (Ephesians 4:4-6).
Depicting the Church in Parables, our Savior Jesus Christ speaks of ONE FLOCK, OF ONE SHEEPFOLD, OF ONE GRAPEVINE, OF ONE FOUNDATION-STONE OF THE Church. Our Lord gave A SINGLE TEACHING, A SINGLE BAPTISM, AND A SINGLE COMMUNION. The UNITY OF THE FAITHFUL IN CHRIST COMPRISED THE SUBJECT OF His High-Priestly Prayer before His sufferings on the Cross; the Lord prayed: "THAT THEY ALL MAY BE ONE" (John 17:21).
In his book The Eastern Orthodox Church, Ernst Benz writes: Within contemporary Christendom, Orthodoxy shines with a light all its own. Especially impressive is the fact THAT IT HAS PRESERVED FAITHFULLY THE CATHOLICITY OF THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH. THIS IS TRUE FOR ALL ITS VITAL FUNCTIONS.
Its liturgy is a wonderful repository of all the early Church’s interpretations and practices of worship. Whatever the early Church and the Byzantine Church created in the way of liturgical drama, meditation and contemplation, in beauty of prayers and hymns, has been integrated and retained in the Orthodox liturgy. Similarly, the content of Scripture has been kept ever-present in the form of generous readings from both the Old and New Testaments at various prescribed times through the liturgical year. The entire historical tradition of the Church IS CONSTANTLY COMMUNICATED TO THE MEMBERS IN READINGS FROM THE LIVES OF THE GREAT SAINTS AND MYSTICS. The sermon has ITS FIXED PLACE IN THE SACRAMENTAL SERVICE; ORIGINALLY IT CAME IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE READING OF THE GOSPEL TEXT IN THE SERVICE FOR CATECHUMENS…".
"… This Church has clung TO THE ORIGINAL CONSCIOUSNESS OF UNIVERSALITY AND CATHOLICITY. Its sense of itself AS THE ONE HOLY, ECUMENICAL AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH IS BASED NOT UPON A JURIDICAL IDEA, BUT UPON THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF REPRESENTING THE Mystical Body of Christ. According to the Orthodox Church outlook, the CELESTIAL and the EARTHLY Church, and THE CHURCH OF THE DEAD, BELONG INDISSOLUBLY TOGETHER. In taking part in the Liturgy the earthly Church is reminded that IT BELONGS TO THE HIGHER CHURCH. In the Liturgy THE EARTHLY CONGREGATION EXPERIENCES THE PRESENCE OF THE ANGELS, PATRIARCHS, PROPHETS, APOSTLES,, MARTYRS, SAINTS, AND ALL THE REDEEMED (SAVED); IN ALL IN THE SACRAMENT OF THE EUCHARIST IT EXPERIENCES THE Presence of the Lord. Within the Mystical Body there takes place a unique communication and correlation: WITHIN THAT COMMUNION THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT–THE POWER TO FORGIVE SINS, TO TRANSMIT SALVATION, TO SUFFER BY PROXY FOR ONE ANOTHER, AND THE POWER OF INTERCESSION–BECOME EFFECTIVE, And these powers extend dow to the domain of the dead, for God is "A LORD OF THE LIVING, NOT THE DEAD."
"… This heritage IS NOT AT ALL A MUSEUM PIECE AS HAS OFTEN BEEN ASSERTED. ON THE CONTRARY, IT IS A LIVING FORCE CAPABLE OF DEVELOPMENT. In a certain sense, the greatness of Orthodoxy rests on the very fact that the doctrine is not so carefully defined down to the details, is not so strictly regulated by canons. Orthodoxy’s system is by no means closed; it is still full of potential. The charismatic life of Orthodoxy has not been confined within sets of legal and institutional forms…".
The Sanctity of the Church
Our Lord Jesus Christ performed the work of His earthly ministry and death on the Cross; Christ "LOVED THE CHURCH…THAT HE MIGHT PRESENT IT TO HIMSELF A GLORIOUS CHURCH, NOT HAVING SPOT, OR WRINKLE, OF ANY SUCH THING; BUT THAT IT SHOULD BE HOLY AND WITHOUT BLEMISH" (Ephesians 5:25-27). The Church is Holy through its Head, THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. IT IS HOLY, FURTHER, THROUGH THE PRESENCE IN IT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND HIS GRACE-GIVING GIFTS, COMMUNICATED IN THE MYSTERIES (SACRAMENTS) AND OTHER SACRED RITES OF THE CHURCH. IT IS ALSO HOLY THROUGH ITS TIE WITH THE HEAVENLY CHURCH.
The very "body of the Church" is holy: "If the firstfruit- be holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root be holy; so are the branches" (Romans 11:16). Those WHO BELIEVE IN CHRIST are "TEMPLES OF GOD," "TEMPLES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT" (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19). In the True Church there have always been and there are always people of the highest spiritual purity and with special gifts of grace–MARTYRS, VIRGINS, ASCETICS, HOLY MONKS AND NUNS, HIERARCHS, RIGHTEOUS ONES, BLESSED ONES. The Church has an uncounted choir of departed ones of all times and people. It has manifestations of the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit, both visible and hidden from the eyes of the world. (Souce: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George