The Body of Christ
When the Apostle Paul tells us the Church is the Body of Christ, he reveals to us that the ecclesiastical community in the world consists of the visible presence of the Risen Lord. This community is the way in which the Risen Christ acts throughout history and has personal relationships with individuals. The Church's head is Christ, our Lord and God, as the head connects, and gives life to, all the other parts of the Body. The mouth of the Body consists of the Bishops; through Apostolic Succession 'rightly proclaiming the Word of Truth,' and passing this on to the rest of the faithful. The rest of Christ's Body consists of Baptised Orthodox Christians, who are in communion with the Lord, and with one another through the Mysteries of the Church, and in particular, through the Holy Eucharist. The Church is the unity of the faithful in Christ; clergy and laity.
The Church comes together in the fullest way in every Divine Liturgy; with the partaking of our Saviour's Body and Blood, the presence of His Holy Mother, and of all His Saints. There is one, eternal Liturgy, bringing us all together in Christ - both the living and the dead - as the Liturgy is the meeting place of Heaven and Earth. Through this unity and communion with one another, man is blessed as Christ is in our midst. This unity does not in any way undermine the individuality of the human person; but rather enriches and fulfils them, as a human being with particular talents, gifts, and ways to offer themselves to the wider community. Saint Paul highlights that Christ and His Church, rather than dividing mankind, unites us all regardless of race, gender, cultural background or ethnicity. 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.' (Gal 3:28) The Holy Spirit unites us in such a way that we are able to put our personal differences and social or cultural interests to the side, as we are all equal members of Jesus Christ's Body.
Saint Paul, referring to the new life in Christ, tells us we should 'let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away...and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God forgave you.' (Eph 4:31) This is a crucial point, in understanding the individual's life within the Church, and how one treats and behaves towards brothers and sisters. Perhaps one of the most moving parts of the Divine Liturgy is when the Clergy (followed by the people) ask one another for forgiveness before the Holy Oblation. For us to fully offer ourselves to God, partake of His Holy Gifts, and obtain a relationship with Him, we must forgive our fellow human beings. For this reason we proclaim; 'Let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess.' Unity cannot exist without us loving and forgiving one another. The Lord's prayer itself states that God forgives us, because we forgive others. We are thus called 'in patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.' (Eph 4:2-8)
The Church is the Body of Christ, which was historically founded on Pentecost, with the Holy and Life-Giving Spirit descending on the Apostles. The day of Pentecost marks the beginning of our calling to preach the Gospel to the nations, sharing Christ's eternal truth of love.
One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic
The Oneness of the Church is important in that Christ founded one Church, consisting of all His faithful, regardless of age, epoch, language, or place in society. If the Church is truly Christ acting through history and in relationship with man, then His Church must be one and unified. His Body is Holy as Christ is the source of holiness. His Church to this day consists of many saints; and for many this is proof that God does still indeed act in the world, through His people, and shows that His Church is alive, eternal and true. In Apostolic times, all Christians were in fact referred to as 'Saints,' as the Christian's goal is deification; complete and full unity with God. This of course only takes place through the mysteries and acts of the Church, where the Lord's grace and love is witnessed and experienced in its fullness. The Catholicity refers to our call to 'Go into the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation.' (Mark 16:15) The Church exists for the entire universe; for every corner of the earth. It's salvific work involves the whole of mankind, and invites all with its doors open throughout the world, sharing the Apostolic, Orthodox Christian Faith and Tradition. The Church is Apostolic as it was founded by Christ and His Apostles, who went out to serve God, preach, and share the faith with the world. This carries on today, with the gift and charisma of the Holy Spirit through ordination, with Bishops proclaiming Christ's truth and maintaining the Church's worship, and teaching throughout the ages in all nations.
- Delivered to the Student Group of St Luke's Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Glasgow in Greek & English.