My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
By Father Anthony Alevizopoulos
Ph.D. of Theology, Ph.D. of Philosophy
THE CHURCH AS BODY OF CHRIST IS A DIVINE-human (Theanthropic) ORGANISM, i.e. AN INVISIBLE AND VISIBLE REALITY. The INVISIBLE DIMENSION OF THE Church refers to the CONVICTION BETWEEN GOD AND man having as its model the communion between the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity. With the creation of the Angels, the Heavenly Church was constituted; to this Church, man was added: "But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the Living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of Angels, to the General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge OF ALL, and to spirits of the just men made perfect" (Hebrews 12:22-23).
Man’s Fall broke off his Communion with the Heavenly Church. God, however, did not abandon His creation but had already pre-eternally planned man’s salvation. In order to prepare man’s return to Communion with God, He chose "the chosen people of Israel" who were the prefiguration of the New Israel, i.e. the Church (Romans 9:7-8; Galatians 3:29).
The Apostle Paul speaks of the pre-eternal Mystery of God which was revealed to man and to the Angels with the Incarnation of the Saon and Logos/Word of God. It was the economy of the mystery that was hidden for centuries by God… for the multifaceted wisdom of God according to the eternal purpose which was revealed through Jesus Christ our Lord to be recognized now …through the Church (Ephesians 3:9-11; cf. Colossians 1:26).
In Christ Jesus the Church HAS BEEN RECONSTITUTED; ANGELS and men united together in order once again TO CONSTITUTE THE CHURCH:
"Through Your Cross, O Christ,
One fold has come into being;
Of Angels and men, and One Church.
Heaven and Earth rejoice,
Lord, glory to Thee."
The UNITY OF THE Body of the Church is realized from the One Head, Christ; "man is the head of the woman, JUST AS THE CHRIST IS THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH AND He is the Savior of the Body" (Ephesians 5:23). This COMMUNION BETWEEN GOD AND MAN HAS AN ABSOLUTE CHARACTER: This is why in the Old Testament God is called a jealous God (Exodus 1:20, 5; Deuteronomy 5:9). Every APOSTASY on the part of God’s people is characterized AS FORNICATION and ADULTERY (Judges 2:17; Ezekiel 6:9).
In the Church the "regathering" i.e. the gathering of the scattered children of God (John 11:52) was accomplished – THE STRUCTURING OF THE ONE BODY UNDER THE HEAD: CHRIST; HE IS THE SAVIOR OF THE BODY." CHRIST "LOVED THE CHURCH AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR HER IN ORDER TO MAKE HER HOLY BY CLEANSING HER WITH THE WASHING OF WATER BY THE WORD, SO AS TO PRESENT THE CHURCH TO HIMSELF IN SPLENDOUR WITHOUT A SPOT, OR WRINKLE OR ANYTHING OF THE KIND – SO THAT SHE MIGHT BE HOL AND WITHOUT BLEMISH" (Ephesians 5:23-27).
"With the washing of water by the word" ("in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19) WE ARE SANCTIFIED AND INCORPORATED INTO THE BODY UNDER THE One Head, Christ; WE BECOME "ONE IN CHRIST" (Galatians 3:26-28). Therefore, when we speak about the Church, we do not mean simply the people of God, without Christ, nor the Lord, the Head, without the body. We mean BOTH TOGETHER; THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH TOGETHER WITH ALL ITS OTHER MEMBERS, THE CHRISTIANS. The Holy Spirit Who DESCENDS UPON THE CHURCH ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST ABIDES IN HER, RENEWS THE FAITHFUL AND INCORPORATES THEM INTO THE ONE Body of Christ. Christ is "the FIRSTBORN AMONG MANY BROTHERS" (Romans 8:29); In Himself, He reconciled all unto God (2 Corinthians 5:18; Colossians 1:18-20).
In this way, we understand THAT THE CHURCH AS THE Body of Christ IS EQUATED WITH SALVATION. In her, THE RELATIONSHIP OF CHRIST WITH THE FATHER IS TRANSFERRED TO EACH ONE OF US: "I IN THEM AND YOU IN ME, SO THAT THEY MAY BECOME COMPLETELY ONE" (John 17:23). The Church is NOT THE WORKSHOP OF MAN’S SALVATION but SALVATION ITSELF. The "GATHERING" of the scattered children of God and their incorporation into the "unity" of Christ is not a fact of secondary importance, but the very event of salvation (John 11:52). One can neither be a Christian nor call himself a Christian APART FROM HIS INCORPORATION INTO THE Body of Christ, WHICH AT THE SAME TIME IS ALSO COMMUNION WITH THE BRETHREN (1 Corinthians 12:12-28). THE SALVATION OF EACH MAN CANNOT CONSTITUTE THE SEPARATE CONCERN OF EACH INDIVIDUAL, INDEPENDENT OF HIS INCORPORATION INTO, AND HIS LIFE WITHIN, THE CHURCH. He who in "self-love" retreats and immerses into himself, hoping thereby to find salvation within himself without reference to the Person of Jesus Christ and without incorporation into His Body, CANNOT BE CONSIDERED A CHRISTIAN.
The Church, BEING THE Body of Christ, IS ONE (Ephesians 4:4) and Christ IS NOT "DIVIDED" (1 Corinthians 1:13); ONE CANNOT BE CHRIST’S IF HE IS NOT AT THE SAME TIME WITH THE BRETHREN IN CHRIST. THIS IS WHY DIVISION OR SCHISM IS A CRIME.
The Christian SYNAXIS OR GATHERING is not simply a congregation of Christian people but A GATHERING IN WHICH THE UNITY OF THE ONE BODY OF CHRIST IS EXPRESSED: THE UNITY OF THE BODY WITH THE HEAD. This is why wherever two or three are gathered there is Christ, the entire Church. They must, however, GATHER IN CHRIST’S NAME (Matthew 18:20).
This means that this SYNAXIS (GATHERING) MUST BE CARRIED OUT IN THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST IN ORDER THAT THE WORK OF CHRIST BE PERFORMED, AND NOT TO SERVE HUMAN GOALS IN THE NAME OF CHRIST. The work of Christ was the gathering of the scattered children of God "INTO ONE"; IT IS ACCOMPLISHED WHEREVER THE Holy Eucharist is performed as AN ACT OF UNITY AND NOT DIVISION. The Apostle Paul, referring to these gatherings "In Christ’s name" declares: "FOR I RECEIVED FRO THE LORD WHAT ALSO I HANDED ON TO YOU, THAT THE LORD JESUS ON THE NIGHT WHEN HE WAS BETRAYED TOOK BREAD… AS SAID, "TAKE EAT…" (1 Corinthians 11:23). "FOR WE THE MANY ARE ONE LOAF, ONE BODY", Saint Paul elsewhere affirms, thereby identifying the Holy Eucharist with the return of men TO THE UNITY OF "THE ONE NATURE", TO THE "ONE IN CHRIST."
The SYNAXIS OR GATHERING, then, "in Christ’s name", even if it is synaxis "of two or three" MUST realize and express THE UNITY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH and NOT its division into small groups (denominations) and fragments (sects) THAT HAVE NO COMMUNION AMONGST THEMSELVES. This UNITY in the Apostolic Church extended even to the point of possessing all things in common: "NOW THE WHOLE GROUP OF THOSE WHO BELIEVED WERE OF ONE HEART AND SOUL, AND NO ONE CLAIMED PRIVATE OWNERSHIP OF ANY POSSESSION, BUT EVERYTHING THEY OWNED WAS HELD IN COMMON… AND GREAT GRACE WAS UPON THEM ALL" (Acts 4:32-33. 2:42). In such a gathering "in the name of Christ" SCHISMS and DIVISIONS HAD NOT PLACE. For this reason, the Apostle reprimands the Corinthians, because in their synaxes which gathered in the Church together there were divisions" "…I HEAR THA TWHEN YOU COME TOGETHER AS A CHURCH, THERE ARE DIVISIONS AMONG YOU…" (1 Corinthians 11:18). A SYNAXIS than "OF TWO OR THREE" CANNOT TAKE PLACE IN CHRIST’S NAME" WHEN IT CONSTITUTES A SCHISM OR CONVENTICLE — EVEN WHEN THOSE WHO GATHER TOGETHER CONTEND THAT THEIR GATHERING IS DONE "in Christ’s name."
(To be continued)
"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