“The Church is one…”

My beloved brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord,

CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!

"The Church is one…"
By Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk

In his early instructions to his clergy, Bishop (Saint) Tikhon speaks of the earthly strivings, struggles, and even failures of the VISIBLE (earthly) Church. In his later writings, he begins to elucidate the nature of the Church.

"The Church IS ONE, (BECAUSE SHE RESEMBLES) God
in the Trinity. She IS ONE because she stands ON ONE
FOUNDATION, CHRIST; on unity of teaching–the word of God;
on belief in the Holy Trinity. She IS ONE in the UNITY OF THE
Spirit Who leads her; in the hope of the resurrection. Thus,
both MILITANT (EARTHLY) and TRIUMPHANT (HEAVENLY), SHE
IS ONE."

The Church is "THE DWELLING OF GOD CLEANSED AND SANCTIFIED BY THE BLOOD OF CHRIST." Saint Tikhon often repeats the metaphor–and it was for him more than a metaphor–of the Body; he uses numerous images to describe the Church: SHE IS THE HOUSE OF GOD, THE BRIDE OF CHRIST, THE MOTHER FEEDING HER CHILDREN BY THE WORD OF GOD AND THE HOLY MYSTERIES (SACRAMENTS), THE FOLD OF THE SHEEP, THE VINE, THE SHIP, THE SION OF THE HOLY TRINITY. It was a consoling thought to him that we are all members of this Church. He begs Christians to cherish the purity of this Sacred Body and to show her A TRULY FILIAL LOVE. "Who is a true son? ONE WHO TRULY AND HEARTILY BELIEVES IN GOD AND IN CHRIST, IS BAPTIZED, LIVES IN PIETY, AND, IF HE FAILS, REPENTS." The Church here on earth IS NOT PERFECT, FOR SHE INCLUDES SINNERS AS WELL AS SAINTS, BUT SHE GIVES TO BOTH OPPORTUNITY FOR AMENDMENT, GROWTH, PERFECTION, AND SANCTIFICATION: "This ship, which is the Church, makes us peaceable and meek through baptism–so the fierce beasts become meek in the ark."

Saint Tikhon held the orthodox view of the nature of man, AS CREATED IN THE DIVINE IMAGE AND LIKENESS, AND CALLED TO RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. He did not go into the question of ancestral ("original") sin but, as far as one can see, he thought of its consequences as an inheritance of evil inclinations: "We always carry evil in our hearts as a thing born with us." "Sin IS EVERYTHING THAT VIOLATES THE LAW OF GOD. IT IS DISOBEDIENCE TO HIS WILL AS WELL AS A DETERRENT TO GOOD WORKS. IT IS SEPARATION FROM GOD AND AN ACT OF INGRATITUDE TO THE CREATOR AND TO THE SAVIOR WHO HAS SUFFERED FOR US." ALL THE EVIL OF THE WORLD–SICKNESS, WAR, DEATH–COMES FROM SIN.

Yet in spite of the "ferocious character of the old man," THE INCARNATION AND ATONEMENT HAVE GIVEN US BACK THE HOPE OF DIVINE ADOPTION. The features of the Father have become recognizable in the children. New confidence has come with Christ.

"You see a beautiful person with the look of an angel… Now raise up
your mind to the inward man, to the soul, and think how much more
beautiful is the soul, this Divine image and likeness fashioned by God
to abide in such a lovely dwelling. Learn from this to recognize and to
respect the nobility, the beauty and magnificence of the soul, and to
adorn it as a thing immortal, more than this dust and these ashes–our
body."

In a letter in which he allows his thought and feeling to run freely, he expresses almost ecstatically his views on the nature and destiny of
man:

"MAN IS MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN ANY OTHER CREATURE since he is IN THE
IMAGE OF GOD. Through the incarnation, he is justified and is no more under wrath.
He has become A MEMBER OF THE BODY OF WHICH THE HEAVENLY HEAD IS JESUS
CHRIST. He mysteriously partakes of the Life-Giving Body and Divine Blood. He is
made worthy to become the habitation of God and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. He is
IN COMMUNION WITH THE Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Through FAITH in Jesus,
he becomes a son, an heir, a co-heir with Christ. Read the Acts of the Apostles and you
will see that all these titles are ascribed to man by the Holy Spirit… And what will it be in
future life, according to the unfailing promise of God! What goodness, bliss, honor, and
glory! The uninterrupted flow of Eternal Blessedness will be like a river, incomprehensible
to the present mind and inexpressible by the tongue, the blessedness which "eye hath
not seen" spoken of in 1 Corinthians 2:9). The children of God will shine like the sun in
the Kingdom of the Heavenly Father, they will be as Angels, like other gods. Glory be to
the Trinity for having so honored and magnified our kind!"

"The SOUL CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT GRACE." GRACE and FAITH are the necessary conditions for the soul which strives to restore its innate nobility. "Our own strivings are powerless–read Psalm 118."

"GRACE is the food and clothing of the saints. It wakens grief in a man’s heart, making
him dissatisfied and moving him to seek the reason of this dissatisfaction. GRACE gives
sorrow and grace comforts; showing us the poverty of all things, it engenders in us a
repentant sorrow for having fallen short of the love of God… One who is possessed by
such sorrow will always grieve, for he thinks of God’s offended love and not of the fear
of Hell. It is a grief of love."

FAITH–TRUE, ORTHODOX AND LIVING FAITH–WAS A THEME UPON WHICH Saint Tikhon expounded at length, opposing such faith both to the cold, theoretical knowledge of the Creed and to mere forms of worship and, still worse, superstitions.

"FAITH IS A SPIRITUAL GIFT; it enters the heart. It comes down from heaven and the
heart of man is caught up in things celestial… FAITH is the comforting perception of
the gospels produced in the heart by the Holy Spirit. It PURIFIES THE HEART, ENDOWS IT
WITH JOY AND FREEDOM, THE GIFT OF THE SON."

"FAITH IS INTIMATELY LINKED WITH HOPE, for "we hope in the One in Whom we believe"; moreover, FAITH calls forth love for Christ, which leads us TO PITY FOR ALL, LOVE FOR ALL AND–TRUE FRUIT OF TRUE FAITH–ACTS OF JUSTICE AND SYMPATHY. Saint Tikhon went so far as to say: "ALONE FAITH IN THE SON OF GOD WHO DIED FOR US AND ROSE AGAIN JUSTIFIES US WITHOUT REGARD TO OUR WORKS," but he was careful to add: "NEVERTHELESS THIS FAITH CANNOT BE IDLE BUT ENGENDERS LOVE AS ITS CONCOMITANT. FAITH, THIS DIVINE SPARK, IS KINDLED IN US AND BURST INTO FLAME WITH THE HELP OF GOD THROUGH THE READING OF AND LISTENING TO THE WORD OF GOD, through meditation on the acts of God in the past, through prayer, through the partaking of the holy mysteries (sacraments)–and, like a good tree, it reveals itself externally by sweet fruit of love."

"TRUE FAITH IS THE KEEPING AND CONFESSION OF RIGHT DOGMA, that is to say, it consists in true faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God: for knowledge of beliefs is one thing and REAL FAITH IN CHRIST IS QUITE ANOTHER. The first often makes one haughty, arrogant, and fruitless. Hence, man who possess a right knowledge of dogma live lawless lives; many even preach on faith and teach and exhort others, but themselves do not move forward, as though they were mere signposts on the road. TRUE FAITH IN CHRIST IS HUMBLE, PATIENT, MERCIFUL, FULL OF LOVING-KINDNESS." [Source: Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk)

_____________________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

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