THE CHURCH (Part III)

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIS IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

THE CHURCH (Part III)
By Father Anthony Alevizopoulos

The HOLY EUCHARIST in the parish transforms the parish SYNAXIS into the Catholic Church (1 Corinthians 10:16-17) and gives to the term "parish" a deeper meaning extending beyond its purely geographical significance. Because the SYNAXIS "in the Church" (1 Corinthians 10:16-18) IS CHRIST and hence, THERE ONE FINDS THE CHURCH CATHOLIC. This means INNER – not external or geographical – catholicity; the Apostle Paul implies this in 1 Corinthians 11:18-23, which we have already mentioned, when he writes: "When, therefore, you gather as the Church, I hear that there are divisions among you… or that you disdain the Church of God…for I have received from the Lord that which I handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night THAT HE was betrayed took bread and having given thanks, broke it and said: Take eat…"

The term CHURCH is used here in a dynamic sense and is identified with the gatherings of the Christians of Corinth in order to perform the Holy Eucharist. Each time that the Christian of an area (parish) gather with this purpose, THE GATHERING BECOMES THE Church; here THE ENTIRE CHURCH – AND NOT JUST PART OF IT – IS TO BE FOUND (cf. Romans 16:23).

The CATHOLICITY of a parish is manifest also from the fact that the entire life of the faithful transpires within its boundaries. There are priests who belong to the canonical Orthodox bishop of the area, who guarantees the presence of Christ in the liturgical life and the unity of the faithful among themselves and with the Head of the Church, CHRIST. In the parish, Holy Baptism, Holy Myrrh and all the Sacred Mysteries (Sacraments) are solemnly performed. Here the parishioners gather together "In Church"; each member, through the parish BELONGS TO THE CATHOLIC Church. The parish, just as a Monastic coenovium, IS NOT PART OF THE CHURCH BUT THE ENTIRE CHURCH, SINCE ITS CATHOLICITY IS INWARDLY DETERMINED.

The parishioners ARE CALLED TO REALIZE IN THEIR DAILY LIFE THE EXPERIENCE OF THE ONE BODY THROUGH THEIR PARTICIPATION IN THE Holy Eucharist; this is also implied in the exhortation at the end of the Divine Liturgy: "LET US DEPART IN PEACE." The deep unity and peace OF TEH ONE BODY, and THE ONE Spirit, OF THE ONE HOPE, OF THE ONE LORD, THE ONE FAITH, THE ONE BAPTISM, AND THE ONE GOD AND THE CHURCH THEN, IS UNIQUE AND INVISIBLE (Matthew 16:18). It exists throughout the ages and is the "PILLAR AND FOUNDATION OF TRUTH"; the Truth IS FOUNDED UPON THE CHURCH AND NOT THE CHURCH ON THE TRUTH. The Church IS THE TRUTH BECAUSE ITS HEAD IS CHRIST, i.e.. the Truth (1 Timothy 3:15; John 6). WITHOUT CHRIST THERE IS NO CHURCH (Matthew 16:18) AND WITHOUT THE CHURCH THERE IS NO TRUTH (1 Timothy 3:15).

Since the Church is also a visible reality, it exists throughout the centuries and is discerned by visible signs or marks. These outward signs modify and determine the identity of Christ’s Church and distinguish it from SELF-STYLED "churches" and heresies.

These marks are the continuous AND UNBROKEN CONTINUITY OF THE CHURCH IN THE FAITH, ORGANIZATION AND LIFE IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE WILL OF CHRIST AND THE PRAXIS OF THE Holy Apostles. The most visible focus of the Church’s continuity is the Apostolic Succession. Here we do not have an arbitrary act that was decided upon and later enforced…

"…Unfortunately, in the larger cities, the large parishes with a great number of parishioners no longer function within the framework of "One in Christ" and "members of each other". It is a matter with which the Church must deal, and seek other structures. But regardless of whatever structures are to be sought, they must safeguard the basic Apostolic organizational elements of the Church, and MUST NOT BE CREATIONS OF MAN’S CONCEPTION, NOR HUMAN METHODS, AND ESPECIALLY MUST NOT IMPLY CRITERIA AND MODELS "OF THIS WORLD" – SOMETHING WHICH WOULD MEAN THE SECULARIZATION OF THE CHURCH.

The entire organizational structure of the Apostolic Church has as its center THE DIVINE EUCHARIST AND ENSURES THE CONTINUITY OF THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE CHURCH, THE CONTINUOUS COMMUNION AND UNITY WITH THE HEAD, Christ because He it is "WHO IS EVER EATEN AND NEVER CONSUMED" AS IT SAYS IN ONE OF THE PRAYERS OF THE DIVINE LITURGY. This means, that the new structures ARE NOT ALLOWED TO BE SEVERED FROM TEH COMMUNION WITH THE BISHOP AND MUST HAVE AS SHEPHERDS PRESBYTERS WHO ARE IN UNITY WITH THE BISHOP. FOR THE BISHOP STANDS IN THE IMAGE AND IN THE PLACE OF CHRIST, AND THE PRESBYTERS WHO RECEIVE THEIR ORDINATION FROM THE BISHOP STAND IN THE PLACE OF THE COUNCIL OF THE APOSTLES.

Saint Ignatius of Antioch, a bishop of the primitive Church, who makes the above statements, underlines the unity of the Church by saying wherever the bishop is, there the multitude of the faithful must be, one cannot perform the Holy Eucharist outside the unity with the bishop.

In the communion with the bishop, the unity of the entire Church is preserved. Each bishop must belong in the local synod of bishops which is recognized by all other synods of bishops of the Orthodox Church throughout the world. In this way, through the local synod, each bishop is in unity with all the bishops throughout the world…". (Source: The Orthodox Church Its Faith, Worship, and Life)

________________________


"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

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