My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
THE CHURCH AS THE BRIDE OF CHRIST (Part II)
By Vladimir Moss
As a contemporary Saint John Maximovich, puts it: "For the full sanctification of man, the body of the servant of the Lord must be united with the Body of Christ, and this is accomplished in the Mystery (Sacrament) of Holy Communion. The True Body and Blood of Christ which we receive, becomes a part of the great Body of Christ...We partake of the Holy and Precious Body and Blood of Christ, in the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments), so that we ourselves may be members of Christ's Body: THE Church."
"Of course", continues Saint Maximovich, "FOR union with Christ, the mere conjoining of our body with the Body of Christ does not suffice. The consumption of the Body of Christ becomes beneficial when in spirit we strive toward Him and unite ourselves with Him. Reception of the Body of Christ, with aversion to Him in spirit, is like the approach to Christ of those who struck Him and mocked and crucified Him. Their approaching Him served not for their salvation and healing, but for their condemnation. But those who partake with piety, love and readiness to bring themselves to serve Him, closely unite themselves with Him and become instruments of His Divine Will."
"With regard to union in the Spirit," writes Saint Cyril, "we shall say again, that we have all received one and the same spirit, namely the Holy Spirit, and are, so to speak, mingled with one another and with God. For Christ makes the Spirit of the Father Who is also His own Spirit to dwell in each individually which is His by nature He holds together in unity those spirits which are separated from unity of one another, showing them all to be as one in Himself. For as the power of the Holy flesh makes those in whom it may come to dwell to be of one body, in the same way, I hold, the one indivisible Spirit in them all and binds them all into a spiritual unity."
Thus we become one in Body of Christ by participating in His Body in the Mysterion (Sacrament) of the Divine Eucharist, and we become one in the Spirit at the Sacrament of Holy Chrismation.
This essentially, mystical concept of the Church is opposed both to the Roman Catholic and Sergianist concept, which places organizational unity above sacramental unity, and to the Protestant (and Ecumenist) concept, which effectively eliminates any notion of Sacramental unity and replaces it by a vague notion of faith alone.
Now unity of faith is, of course, fundamental to the Orthodox Christian concept of the Church, and is the first criterion for distinguishing between the One True Church and the many false ones. For Saint Maximus, the Confessor declared, "Christ the Lord called that Church the Catholic Church which maintains the True and Saving Confession of the faith". But faith alone, without participation in the Mysteries (Sacraments) of Baptism, Chrismation and the Divine Eucharist, that is, without union to Christ in spirit, soul and body, is not enough to make one a member of His Church.
Thus we read the life of the fourth-century French Saint, Martin of Tours, that one of his catechumens died while he was away on a journey. On returning, Saint Martin raised him from the dead and baptized him. Then the catechumen related that "When he left the body he was taken to the court of the Judge and that he heard the grim sentence that he was to be condemned to the dark places (i.e., to Hell) and to the hordes of common people. Then two Angels pointed out to the Judge that this was the man for whom Martin was praying and so the order was given for him to be taken back to the Angels, handed over to Martin and restored to his former life."
Thus True Faith, with repentance, makes one eligible for entrance into the Church, enrolling one in the ranks of the catechumens; but it is participation in the Mysteries (Sacraments) that actually affects that entrance; for the Mysteries (Sacraments) are the Church - the Body (of Christ in the Holy Eucharist) is the Body (of Christ as the Church).
Thus in order to be united with the Head, which is Christ, it is not enough to believe in Him, one must be united to His Body. As Saint Augustine writes: "Our Lord Jesus Christ is as one whole perfect man, both head and body. We acknowledge the head in that Man Who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was buried, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, sitteth at the right hand of the Father, from whence we look for Him to come to judge the living and the dead. This is the Head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23). The body of this Head is the Church, not the church of this country one but of the whole world, not that of this age only, but from Abel himself to those who shall to the end to be born and shall believe in Christ, the whole assembly of saints belonging to one City, which City is Christ's Body, of which Christ is the head."
KALI ANASTASI! A BLESSED RESURRECTION!
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God