My beloved spiritual children in Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE RISEN!
WHAT MAKES AN ORTHODOX CHURCH SPIRITUALLY, VIBRANT AND GROWING COMMUNITY?
As Orthodox Christians, we believe that "the goal of the Christian life is the acquisition of the grace of the Holy Spirit" (St. Seraphim of Sarov). Our Holy Tradition teaches that man is created to participate in the life of God. Man is a spiritual being and the true meaning of human existence. According to our Holy Tradition, God grants to man "through grace" that which belongs to Himself "by nature. i.e., Divine Life. Man was created to be a vessel of Divine grace.
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ teach us that agape (love) is the true mark of a genuine disciple, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this, all will know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another" (St. John 13:34-35). "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him" (1 John 4:7-9). "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this, we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments" (1 John 5:1-2). Those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, are those who live in the way Christ commanded, who love others.
Man is created in the image and likeness of God. The spiritual goal of the Orthodox Christian believer is to attain moral and spiritual perfection through participation in the Divine uncreated energies. Man was created, according to the Holy Fathers of the Church with the potential to achieve perfection through grace. The ultimate purpose of man is to become perfect in God, through agape (love). That is, to attain perfect, selfless agape of God and one's fellow man.
The Orthodox Christians of the local parish who are willing to be obedient to our Lord are called to a life in Christ, that is, a Christ-centered life, a Christ-like life. The genuine spirituality of the Orthodox Christian believer is portrayed as a life in Christ, a life of obedience, of true commitment to the Lord, and complete submission to His will. The authentic Christian lives only to do everything for Christ's sake and glory, as Christ wants it and as Christ would do it.
Our divine worship is Christ-centered and Christ is manifested in the divine Eucharist offered to everyone who comes to receive Him "with fear of God, with faith and love draw near." In the Mysteries (Sacraments), we receive divine grace, and in the case of the divine Eucharist, Christ Himself, who aids us in waging war successfully against the satanic powers. All Orthodox Christian rites and Mysteries are meant to combat the power of the Evil One. Thy Mysteriaki (Sacramental) life of the Orthodox Church is the principle means toward the attainment of spirituality, of healing, and of the ultimate salvation.
Our church is a hospital and the Physician is the "Physician of our souls and bodies" Jesus Christ Himself. The antidote to the poison from the 'serpent', evil one, is the Eucharist. There is no one who has not been bitten from the 'serpent' and who does not need the cure which only our Lord can provide. The Mystery of the Holy Eucharist is the preeminent means for our salvation and spiritual perfection. In receiving Holy Communion, we not only participate in Christ Jesus, but we also unite with Him.
As long as we do not lose sight of Christ and His Divine Commandments we will grow in Him. The Holy Eucharist unites us to Christ and to one another. This is the makeup of the Mystical Body of Christ: The Holy Church. This concept of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ is the very essence of our Holy Orthodox Christian Tradition because it expresses the reality of Christ in the world and the unity of the Church, which is real only when our Lord is the central figure.
A spiritually healthy Orthodox Christian parish is one which abides in the commandments of Jesus Christ and which loves and serves Him unconditionally. It is one where love prevails in everything that we think and do. "Now by this, we know that we know Him if we keep His commandments. He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this, we know that we are in Him" (1 John 2:3-4). Saint John writes, "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18).
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" -- Saint John Chrysostomos
With sincere agape in Divine Resurrection,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God