Do I know what the Church is?
This might at first appear to be a foolish questions to ask and I do not ask it lightly. This fundamental question is most appropriate as we prepare to welcome Christ being born in the world. Most adults in the Church are too embarrassed to admit what we don’t understand or what we don’t know. For many of us asking ourselves this question we really must answer, “I don’t truly know what the Church is!” We might answer it is a place I go to pray or a place I go to be with other Orthodox Christians. The basic truth of our faith is that our God is a personal God who humbly came to earth, being born in a manger, so that each of us could enjoy a personal relationship with Him. This is the miracle of Bethlehem. Knowing this, the most basic question we should ask to help answer the question: “What is the Church?” is another question: “Do I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”
Through God’s Holy Spirit, we are no longer lonely individuals. We become personally united with Christ and through Him with each other. The Church transcends time and space. It has cosmic dimensions that connects us with Christ and all our fellow Orthodox Christians. This bond is not limited even by physical death. The Church is Christ and all who are joined with him. This miracle is the mystery of faith. As St. Paul explains in his letter to the Hebrews: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen” (Hebrews 11, 1). We cannot see the Church, yet it is! It is for us the ultimate reality, the Kingdom of God on earth and a foretaste of heaven. This is as personal a relationship as we can experience. This is the answer to the ultimate question that makes the Church a reality in our lives. Once again, St. Paul says it best, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
After His Crucifixion and Resurrection and Ascension, Our Lord sent His Holy Spirit to empower us; so that we could truly live our life with Him. With our Baptism, we become new creatures in Christ. At our Chrismation, we are given, as a free gift, His Spirit to allow us to grow in Him. By partaking in Holy Communion, we become united to Christ. The added dimension is that we are also united to everyone who participates in His Body and His Blood. The Church is actualized when we, as the faithful, come together and become the Body of Christ. This is the mystery that began in that manger in the cave of Bethlehem. As His Nativity approaches, let us look to Christ to enlighten us to truly be the Church, to have Christ born in our hearts as He was born of the Virgin. Only in this way can we know Him and know within our being that we are the Church.
I pray you all have a blessed Nativity. May Our Lord continue to bless you, your family and all of us. ….Fr G