ORTHODOXY THE CHURCH OF CHRIST PART 2
SEEKS NOT UNION BUT RETURN OF THOSE OUTSIDE
These phrases are a second group which show how well truthful sober-minded Roman Catholics and Protestants admire and glorify the Orthodox Church!
The Church headed by the Godman, like Him, is both divine and human, it is a living Church having an active divine and human life. Each of us walk into the holy church bearing our human bodies and divine spirits, indeed to offer worship to God, but the worship is productive, helping us to be sanctified undergo a transition from carnal humanity to divine spirituality. Jesus Christ is the perfect man in the image and likeness of God which each one of us must become, by personal ascetic struggle. All these things are taught to us in the Gospel and Epistle readings and the hymnology. We cannot say that we are uninformed, the reason is our not caring. The holy mysteries supply the food for energy and power to complete this transition., as we and we offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God, who , on the last day, will grant us eternal life out of His great and rich mercy.
In 1951, Professor U. Kury, in the Internationale Kirchliche Zeitschrift, pointed out that the Orthodox Church gave the impression of a powerful society which was conscious of its mission and surged from within new ideas and enterprises. Let us praise God that the Orthodox Church which has suffered countless persecutions at the hand of barbarians of various times and has been so much mocked by many so-called Christians, today sees the truth being restored and hears it confessed that she is a “Living Church”. In view of this acknowledgment let us be encouraged to continue the effort for this final establishment of the truth. It is time for the propaganda from without, which has done so much harm with slanderous statements about Orthodoxy, to keep silent and acknowledge reality. It is time for the non-Orthodox of the West to put a stop to their proselytizing activities and pay more attention to the life of the Orthodox Church.
In 1935 remarkable event took place in the capital of Germany. Dr. E. Seeberg, Protestant Professor of Theology at the University of Berlin, devoted a long series of lectures to ‘the Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church of the East.” This fact invited a more general interest; the lectures were followed by many students. At the end of the lectures the Professor and the students attended the Orthodox Liturgy at the Orthodox Church in Berlin. Here are some excerpts from the series of lectures: First Seeburg points out, the idea that the Orthodox Church and theology are mummified and ossified because they remain loyal to the foundations of the Seven Ecumenical Synods must be corrected. Tradition, which holds such a position in Orthodoxy, is the consciousness of a living Church unity and the faith in the inner relation of the history of Christianity. The Church is a mystical organism like on Body that salvation and life can exist. For the Church is the Body of Christ by the power of which everything human is sanctified and deified. The Orthodox Church is the One Church, the Catholic Church, the Apostolic Church. She has remained loyal to the apostolic doctrines and the apostolic canons, and by a continuous succession she has maintained an unbroken link with the Apostles
Thus, the Protestant German theologian considers the Orthodox Church to be the living Body of Christ with Christ as the center of it. The center of the Orthodox Faith, he writes, is the fact that Christ gained the victory over death. The divine element enters into the human element and creation is thus transformed and ennobled.
The prominent Professor considers Christ the center of Orthodox worship, also. He thinks the worship of the Orthodox Church living and sanctifying, despite what the enemies of Orthodoxy say. This idea he says, is of great importance for the formation of the liturgy and of worship in general. Worship aims at expressing the victory of life which is secured through union of God with man. It wants to sanctify live in Christ; it wants to refer to the concept of God everything that has life in it. For it is through God that all creation is sanctified. Sanctification is not obtained through the annihilation of man, but through the transformation. So grace does not happen mechanically here –as it does in Roman Catholicism– but it acts on the believer who freely accepts it.
Professor Seeburg goes even deeper into the meaning of Orthodoxy. The Orthodox Faith revolves around two poles: first around ascesis, repentance, fasting, service, and humility of which there are some stirring examples, and on the peace of God which should not be considered as a kind of quietism, but of the highest concentration of all one’s powers on God. “I sleep while my spirit is vigilant.” In other words the state of beatitude does not means quietness, but an incessant growth in union with God.
The second pole around which Orthodoxy revolves is the beatitude, the exultation of the saved, the sanctification of creation which the truly pious already experience. Here therefore we have the appearance of the new man, the new creation, the new earth. The spiritual man lives already free in free domains and looks on the ennobled creation, whose model is the Virgin Mary.
Seeburg goes on by praising highly the Eucharist, as the Orthodox Church accepts and practices it. Everything is concentrated in the Eucharist in which the heart of Orthodox piety beats. In the Eucharist the transformed Christ is present in His Body and Blood. Its action is both, spiritual and corporal for it brings life to both the spirit and the body. The idea of sacrifice and prayer are essentially characterized by the emphasis on communion. The living and the dead, the Church on earth and the Church in heaven constitute one organism. The Liturgy itself constitutes the expression of the communion of the Body of Christ in itself and with its head.`
Roman Catholic theologian Joseph Casper says: When we enter an Eastern Church we feel that we stand in the presence of God, that we meet God. The Iconostasion which opens during the Divine Liturgy is the witness of the great mystery man lives during the Liturgy. Man comes into the presence of God. God, who is hidden in the holy places. Wants us to approach Him/ Therefore before the closed sanctuary man will wait. Being at the same time prepared until the Royal Gates (Greek Oraeo Pyle) which is the gate in the middle of the Iconostasion and opens and God comes to raise man to the divine level. The Iconostasion is not a barrier. It is an official gate into the kingdom of heaven to which man is lead by the Liturgy;
Every single Patriarch, Metropoltan, Archbishop and Bishop of the entire Orthodox Church, together with the reverend Priests, should praise and glorify the Church even more so than do these men, who are not even Orthodox. They should be filling the people with zeal and love for Christ. Teaching them to dedicate themselves to an upright moral life as well as reminding them of what fruits they must produce as they frequently approach and receive Holy Communion.