The nature of the Church

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,


The nature of the Chuch

In his early instructions to his clergy, Bishop (Saint) Tikhon speaks of the earthly strivings, struggles, and even failures of the visible 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
sole 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 and
triumphant, 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 Scriptural 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, 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 boy and to show her a truly FILIAL LOVE (AGAPE). "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–COME FROM SIN.

Yet in spite of the "ferocious character of the old mand," 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…In his social teaching, Saint Tikhon stresses man’s DIGNITY, the EQUALITY OF "THE SONS OF GOD AND BRETHREN OF CHRIST." In his moral teaching, he emphasizes the heroic virtues of which man is capable and to which he is called both by his nature–which is IN THE IMAGE and LIKENESS of God–and by adoption as a Christian. One can see in his doctrinal pronouncements how deeply he values this conception of the nature and destiny of man: "All creatures are witnesses to the wisdom and power of God and by his special counsel. Let us learn, brother, our initial nobility and prerogative." He also lays stress on the Incarnation as a pledge of God’s boundless promises to man: "Jesus assumed to Himself a flesh equal to ours."

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 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 and 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 the 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." (Source: Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk. Inspirer of Dostoevsky)


"Glory Be To GOD
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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