The Importance of the Right Faith in the Life of the Church
The dogmatic boundaries of the Church
The significance of the right faith for the existence of the Church
God’s love knows no bounds, it’s without limits. As Saint Gregory of Nyssa puts it in his Dialogue on the soul and resurrection, the divine life is activated through love and God’s agapetic. Energy has no boundaries. The creation of the universe and, in particular, the human race, is an expression of God’s boundless love, as is the whole history of His dispensation, with its culmination in the incarnation of the Son and Word of God: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten son so that all who believe in him should not perish, but have eternal life (Jn. 3, 16).
In imitation of the Triune God and His dispensation, the love of the Church knows no limits, either. It’s directed to all and receives all without distinction: Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, men and women (Gal. 3, 28). No distinction of any kind- racial, national or social- has a place in the life of the Church, because all people are created in the image and likeness of God and are therefore of equal value to everyone else and are destined, if they so desire, to become sharers in the divine nature (2 Peter 1, 4). This is why the Church always prays for all people and for the whole world. The whole of its liturgical life is a constant prayer for the whole world, and the private prayer of each individual believer should be the same.
A particular manifestation of the unlimited love of the Church is the love of its saints. As expressed principally in their prayers for the whole world, the love of the saints really does acquire cosmic dimensions. In the heart of saints at prayer ‘are gathered the sufferings of the whole world’ and, with a sorrowful heart, they pray for all people and all things. Their love envelopes the whole of creation and then ‘they grieve with all those who have been deprived of God’s glory’. Their repentance ‘proves to be repentance on behalf of the whole world, the whole of humankind’ (Elder Sophrony, On Prayer). The great ascetics in the desert even dared to pray for the demons. This is love which transcends every limitation and becomes infinite, as is the love of God, love which, between personal salvation and the salvation of other people, prefers the latter. The words of Saint Paul are very moving: ‘For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh’ (Rom. 9, 3). As, indeed, are those of Moses after the Israelites had constructed the golden calf and had begun worshipping it: ‘But now, if you will, forgive their sin; and if not, blot me out of the book that you have written’ (Ex. 32, 32).
But while the love of the Church knows no limitation and no boundary, faith is specific. It’s belief in God in the Trinity and His universal dispensation; the faith in Jesus Christ as God and human and His incarnation; the faith in Holy Spirit, ‘the Lord, the Giver of Life’; the faith in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church; the faith in the resurrection of the dead and ‘life in the age to come’. Christian truth cannot be understood as an abstract concept, but as incarnate in the reality of this world.
The truth is the incarnate Son and Word of God, Who revealed God the Father to us and sent the Holy Spirit. The truth is the Triune God, the Lord and Creator of the world and of history. The mystery of the Triune God is beyond comprehension and access, but has been revealed to us through the incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, through the mission and teaching, the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. It is preserved unaltered in the Holy Spirit, in the faith and life of the Orthodox Church. According to the words of Saint John, the Apostle and Evangelist: ‘No one has ever seen God. The only Son who is in the bosom of the Father has made him known’ (John 1, 18). In this way, God isn’t perceived by Christians as the abstract Absolute of the philosophers, but as the Triune God of the Revelation: ‘Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a son (Heb. 1, 1-2).
Knowledge of God isn’t the result of a rational process, but rather it’s personal communion with Him. This is possible only within the context of the faith and life of the Church. According to Biblical and Patristic Tradition, God can’t be conceived through reason, but is revealed and speaks ‘to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend’ (Ex. 33, 12). According to Saint Symeon the New Theologian: ‘God reveals Himself to us to the extent that He wishes to be known by us. And insofar as He’s revealed, He’s seen and known by those who are worthy’.
(to be continued)
ABOUT THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN NETWORK
The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is an official agency of the Assembly of Canonical Bishops of the United States of America originally commissioned by SCOBA to create a national, sustainable, and effective media witness for Orthodox Christianity and seekers around the world through media ministry. CLICK HERE to download our brochure.
This 501(c)3 is recognized as a leader in the Orthodox Media field and has sustained consistent growth over twenty years. OCN shares the timeless faith of Orthodoxy with the contemporary world through modern media. We are on a mission to inspire Orthodox Christians Worldwide. We have reached 5.7 Million People in One Week. Much like public radio, the Orthodox Christian Network relies on the support of our listeners, readers, and fans. If you are interested in supporting our work, you can send your gift by direct mail, over the phone, or on our website. Your gift will ensure that OCN may continue to offer free, high-quality, Orthodox media.
OCN has partnered with Pemptousia, a Contemporary post-modern man does understand what man is. Through its presence in the internet world, Pemptousia, with its spirit of respect for beauty that characterizes it, wishes to contribute to the presentation of a better meaning of life for man, to the search for the ontological dimension of man, and to the awareness of the unfathomable mystery of man who is always in Christ in the process of becoming, of man who is in the image of divine beauty. And the beauty of man springs from the beauty of the Triune God. In the end, “beauty will save the world”.
Do you find it hard to keep focused on Christ when you’re on the go? OCN makes it easy! Give today to help you and your Orthodox community stay connected no matter the location.
ORTHODOX MOBILE APPS ARE HERE!
Click here to download the Spark OCN and Orthodox Prayer Book.
Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network. OCN is on Social Media! Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube,