Friday, August 7, 2015

Part One
     Recently there was much talk and speculation concerning the declining continuity of those born into Orthodoxy remaining membership in the Orthodox Church. Some objected claiming the numbers were skewed due to PEW disregarding an large influx of converts not included in the research of PEW who raised the subject of decreasing membership by their analysis. However the quantity of Church members is not the only factor indicating the general health of the holy Church. For those who are interested we present here what is  the truly healthy condition of the Church, as well as the unhealthy condition. 

While there are certainly faithful Orthodox throughout the many churches in countries all over the world,  the church is suffering from various ills. Why are our ecclesiastical affairs in a bad way and becoming increasingly worse? For in the church among both clergy and laity there is an abundance of impiety self-love, money concerns and material interests. Why is this condition present in the Church? It is due to the lack of remembrance of the Church and her purpose and how an Orthodox Christian should live.

     The Church was created to radiate divine light before men as Christ described to His disciples: “You are the light of the world; let your light shine before men that may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” When the Church is vibrant and filled with faith, zeal, and brilliance its proof is that it continuously increases in great numbers, as people  That this is true, we must keep in mind the Church’s infancy with only twelve and later seventy apostles and their rapid and lasting increase. The Church is much more than the Priest and parishioners attending Liturgy or Mass  as in the West. It ought to be the Priest and his many active assistants who continuously supply the Priest with converts well catechized and prepared for baptism and who in turn will carry on the same work and this process multiplies.

      What is the Church and its nature? The Church was established by Jesus Christ at Caesarea Philipi where He asked His disciples, "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, “Some say that you are John the Baptist, some say Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.” He said unto them, “But who do you say I am? And Simon Peter answered and said: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him: Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah; for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say unto you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

     This is the foundation of the Church, not Peter like the Papists falsely claim, but Peter’s confession revealed not by men but by enlightenment of the Father in heaven. This fact shows it to be of the greatest importance to everyone. This is the fundamental law of the Church. Anyone can come to Christ in His Church only if they completely embrace this believe: Jesus is the Christ, Son of the living God. The fundamental law governing the papacy is not this law established by Christ. Their law requires belief that Peter was the first Pope, only head of the Church and all the Popes of Rome, whether good or evil, saints or scoundrels they claim them to be successors of Peter.

     The Church is also conceived as a body with Jesus Christ as its Head and enlivened by Holy Spirit. Thus Paul says: “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and everyone members of one another” (Rom. 12:4-5). Also he says: “For as the body is one and has many member, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink of one Spirit” (1Cor. 12:12-13). This means that all Orthodox Christians form a single body of Christ and each Christian is a single member of the whole body. Each member of the body acts according to his gifts: “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.  For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit, to another the working of wonders, to another prophecy, to another various kinds of languages, to another interpretation of languages” (! Cor. 12:7-11). To the Ephesians: “”And gave Him to be Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all” (Eph 1:22-23).  These Scriptural quotations establish firmly that Christ alone is the Head and Teacher of His Church. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Foundation and the Head, the Beginning and End of the entire universe.   

     The Church also can be considered as a single city or state ruled by God in agreement with the terms contained in the New Testament, which He made with all those who believe in Jesus Christ whom He sent and who being a perfect God and having become a perfect man, He became intercessor between God and men.

     The word church is in biblical Greek “ecclesia” which indicates a free people of a free city governed by well-chosen laws “called out” by speech to their interest. The Church is the house of God, the body of Christ, and the city of the living God. It is a society of men in whom God dwells, and fulfilled all their needs, and who are enlightened by God. When the Divine Liturgy begins the Priest cries out” “Blessed is the kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever and unto the ages of ages." Amen. This signified that the people of the holy Church have all blessings and benefits, being ruled by the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, the one and only true God who is good and loves mankind.                                                                                                                                                              

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