My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
OUR LORD, GOD, AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST IS
THE ONLY HEAD OF HIS CHURCH.
The Close Bond Between the Church of Christ on Earth
and the Church of the Saints in Heaven.
The Holy Apostle instructs those who have come to believe in Christ and have been joined to the Church as follows: "But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to be spirits of just men made perfect" (Hebrews 12:22-24). We are NOT SEPERATED FROM OUR DEAD BROTHERS IN THE FAITH BY THE IMPASSABLE ABYS OF DEATH: THEY ARE CLOSE TO US IN GOD, "FOR ALL LIVE UNTO HIM" (Luke 20:38).
Of course, there is a distinction between the Church of Christ on earth and the Church of the saints in heaven: the members of the earthly Church are not yet members of the heavenly Church.
In the "Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs" (17th century) formulates the Orthodox teaching about the Church: "We believe, as we have been instructed to believe, in what is called, and what is actual fact is, the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church, which embraces all those, whoever and wherever they might be, who believe in Christ, who being now on their earthly pilgrimage have not yet come to dwell in the heavenly homeland. But we do not in the least confuse the Church in pilgrimage with the Church that has reached the homeland, just because, as certain of the heretics think, one and the other both exist, that they both COMPRISE AS IT WERE TWO FLOCKS OF THE SINGLE Chief Shepherd, God, and are sanctified by the one Holy Spirit. Such a confusion of them is out of place and impossible, inasmuch as one is BATTLING AND IS STILL ON THE WAY, WHILE THE OTHER IS ALREADY CELEBRATING ITS VICTORY AND HAS REACHED THE FATHERLAND AND HAS RECEIVED THE REWARD, SOMETHING WHICH WILL FOLLOW ALSO FOR THE WHOLE ECUMENICAL Church."
And in actuality, the earth and the heavenly world are two separate forms of existence: there in heaven in bodilessness, here on earth are bodily life and physical death; there, those who have attained, here, those seeking to attain; here, faith, there, seeing the Lord face to face; here, hope, there FULFILLMENT.
The Unity of the Chuch
In the Greek text the word "in One," is expressed as a numeral (Είς Μίαν). Thus the Symbol of Faith (Creed) confesses THAT THE Church IS ONE: a) it is one as viewed from within itself, not divided; b) it is one as viewed from without, that is, not having any other besides itself. Its unity consists not in the joining together of what is different in nature, but in inward agreement and unanimity. "There is ONE BODY and ONE SPIRIT, just as you were 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).
The Church IS ONE not only inwardly, but also outwardly. Outwardly its unity IS MANIFESTED IN THE HARMONIOUS CONFESSION OF FAITH, IN THE ONENESS OF DIVINE SERVICES AND MYSTERIES (SACRAMENTS), IN THE ONENESS OF THE GRACE-GIVING HIERARCHY, WHICH COMES IN SUCCESSION FROM THE APOSTLES, IN TH ONENESS OF CANONICAL ORDER.
The Sanctity of the Church
The 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, OR 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 always are 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 peoples. It has manifestations of the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit, both visible and hidden from the eyes of the world.
The Catholicity of the Church
In the Greek text of the Nicaean Constantinopolitan Symbol of Faith (the Creed), the Church is called "catholic" (in the Slavonic translation, sobornaya). What is the significance of the Greek word?
The word catholikos in ancient Gree, pre-Christian literature is encountered very rarely. However,the Christian Church from antiquity chose this word to signify ONE OF THE PRINCIPLE ATTRIBUTES OF THE CHURCH, NAMELY, TO EXPRESS ITS UNIVERSAL CHARACTER. The Church is catholic. This corresponds to the Apostolic words, "the fulness of Him that filleth all in all" (Ephesians 1:23). This concept indicates that THE WHOLE HUMAN RACE IS CALLED TO SALVATION, AND THEREFORE ALL MEN ARE INTENDED TO BE MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST, EVEN THOUGH NOT ALL DO BELONG TO HER IN FACT.
The Longer Orthodox Catechism, answering the question, "Why is the Church called catholic, or which is the same thing, universal" replies: "Because she is not limited to any place, nor time, nor people, but CONTAINS BELIEVERS OF ALL PLACES, TIMES AND PEOPLE" (Eastern Orthodox Books, ed. p. 50).
The Apostolic Church
The Church is called "Apostolic" because the Apostles placed the HISTORICAL beginning of the Church. They spread Christianity to the ends of the earth and almost all of them sealed their preaching with a martyr’s death. The seeds of Christianity were sown in the world b their word and watered with their blood. The unquenched flame of faith in the world they lit by the power of their personal faith.
The Holy Apostles preserved and transmitted to the Church the Christian TEACHING OF FAITH AND LIFE in the form in which they had received it from their Master and Lord. Giving in themselves the example of the fulfillment of the commandments of the Gospel, they handed down to the faithful the teaching of Christ by WORD OF MOUTH and IN THE HOLY SCRIPTURE SO THAT IT MAY BE PRESERVED, CONFESSED, AND LIVED.
The Holy Apostles established according to the commandment of the Lord, the Church’s SACRED RITES. They placed the beginning of the performance of the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments) of the Body and Blood of Christ, of baptism, and of ordination.
The Holy Apostles established in the Church the grace-given SUCCESSION OF THE EPISCOPATE and through it the succession of the whole grace-given ministry of the Church hierarchy, which is called to be STEWARDS OF THE MYSTERIES OF GOD, in accordance with 1 Corinthians 4:1.
The Holy Apostles established the beginning OF THE CANONICAL STRUCTURE of the Church’s life, being concerned that everything should be done DECENTLY AND IN ORDER; an example of this is given in the fourteenth Chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, which contains directions for the assemblies where church services are celebrated. [Source: The Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Father Michael Pomazansky)
"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