Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Salvation: A Matter of Becoming

Christ does not see male, female, rich or poor, slave or free but rather Christ looks at the heart of each and sees how much we loved.  

Many today think and hold to the idea that salvation is more or less like a math equation. X + Y= Z. Of course this cannot make sense because what happens if the answer is not Z? Rather salvation is not a state of being but a state of becoming. Life is always a state of becoming. Society has made us comfortable with everyday terms like "done" "finished" "graduated" and the list goes on. However, as good as all of these things are and I am not bringing these concepts down because they are good-instead I am suggesting that for the general purpose, life should not be reduced to an equation but rather a state of becoming-being perfected at every step we take.

Salvation then in the eyes of Orthodox theology can be summed up in the following: Salvation is not a state of being but a state of becoming-a constant movement toward union with God. This is a process that begins now and is perfected in heaven. The saints always realized that to work for perfection for there salvation it was realized in being united with God. This explains the tradition of the Jesus Prayer being passed down from one father to the next (Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on me a sinner). We are all called to be saints however, by becoming saints we are in a constant state of awareness of sin because in the constant awareness of sin is when we realized that our weakness (sin) is perfected. As St. Paul says my strength is made perfect in weakness.

Vladimir Lossky writes the following:

"The deification or theosis of the creature (human) will be realized in its fullness only in the age to come, after the resurrection of the dead. This deifying union has, nevertheless, to be fulfilled ever more and more even in this present life, through the transformation of our corruptible and depraved nature and by its adaptation to eternal life". "The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, Page 196.

Father Thomas Hopko writes the following:

"St. Gregory said that there are two differences between God and us: "God is the archetype and we are the image"; "Gos is the Being, and the Super Being, and we are becoming," that is, "God is an inexhaustible abyss and we are an inexhaustible possibility of growth." Therefore the human spirit is an inexhaustible as the Being of God. The growth in perfection is, thus, the human perfection, It is not as if, "keep on trying and some day you will be perfect," but Gregory of Nyssa said, when you try, when you are growing,  then you are perfect. Then you are as perfect as a human can be, because the growth is perfection, the movement towards perfection, is in fact what it means for the human to be perfect...whatever stage you reach there is literally an infinity of possibility for growth still before you...That is the character of what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God". 

The saints (which includes all of humanity if we are willing to accept this call) are called to live out this life in Christ in the world. We are constantly working towards this perfection in God because beauty and goodness proceeds from God. If creation is good then we must live and become part of this creation in order to realize our potential in the hope and faith to be united in God. By constantly living out the life of prayer and liturgy will union with God be realized and attained in the life of the world. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Secularism and Religion

A summary of Father Alexander Schmemann main points that he makes in his book For the Life of the World:

Father Alexander’s vision of the liturgy forms part of a theological vision which he formulated for the first time in one of his earliest publications, originally a series of lectures for the World Christian Student Federation, entitled For the Life of the World. This little book deals with the sacraments, but it is far from a scholastic or academic treatment of the topic -- which explains its success and its translation into many languages. Father Alexander speaks about the Sacraments within the context of a vision of the world, of creation. He explains that creation has been given to man as a means of communion with God. Eating and drinking, therefore, are sacred acts. Being hungry means being hungry for God. This explains the practice of fasting, which reminds us that we are completely dependent on God, the Origin of our life. In the celebration of the Eucharist, food appears as the means par excellence by which our communion with God is again restored.

Father Alexander pointed out that this Christian outlook of the world had been lost in the secularist culture of our time. According to the secularist view, the world, creation, had become an end in itself. Father Alexander explained that secularism is not the same thing as atheism. A secularist may believe in God but in the secularist vision of the world, God is no longer at the center of man’s life. The world has become separated from God. That is why Father Alexander characterized secularism as the main heresy of our time.
Father Alexander taught that religion is essentially not different from secularism. For religion has the same point of departure: the separation between God and man, that is, between the “sacred” and the “profane.” Only its approach is different: it intends to overcome this separation by sacred rites, to touch the “sacred” and to escape from the world.

Father Alexander taught that the only answer both to secularism and to religion is the revelation, given to the Church, of the restoration of the world (the creation) through Christ’s Death and Resurrection, as the Kingdom of God. This revelation is experienced in the liturgy of the Church, first of all and foremost in the celebration of the Eucharist. The Eucharist, and in general the liturgy, is no longer to be seen as a private devotion (either of the clergy or of the faithful), but as an ecclesial act. This cosmic and eschatological dimension of the Church, and the ecclesial meaning of the liturgy are the main themes of Father Alexander’s theological writings.

Father Alexander was not an academic theologian or a scholar. His writings have a personal and prophetic style. The point of departure of all his theological reflections was one particular theme, or rather, one particular vision, which he repeated over and again: eschatology as the essential characteristic of Christianity, and the Eucharist (and the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church) as the expression and experience of the Kingdom. This prophetic vision makes him one of the major Orthodox theologians of the 20th century.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Cost of Understanding Father Matthew the Poor

                             Fr. Matthew the Poor (left) and Patriarch Cyril (Kirolos) the 6th.

The following was a talk given in 2013 at a local Orthodox Parish community in the greater Toronto area. Father Matthew the Poor is a modern Coptic theologian of great importance in the area of monasticism, prayer, liturgy, Eucharist, biblical exegesis and the list is endless. A modern reformer within his own monastic community which he began the renovation of St. Macarius Monastery in 1969 commisioned by the late Patriarch Cyril (Kirolos) the 6th. He arrived with his disciples to find 6 old aged monks, two of whom were blind and the monastery was on the verge of collapsing. Today with close to 140 monks and his disciples living out his message, Father Matthew the Poor is a monk who's starting point in life and his works was Christ. He saw Christ as his starting point and Christ then became his thesis not only in his writing but in his life. What it means to be a human being is to live a life in the image and likeness of Christ. Becoming icons of Christ is what it means to live Christ and be Christ like to all. This is how Fr. Matthew the Poor lived in a world that bows down to idols, power and money-money and power which he gave up by selling his two pharmacies, gave up all his riches and began the monastic life in 1948.

The beauty about what it means to live in Christ being your starting point is that you do not have to be wearing a black cassock in order to live iin Christ. Christ can be lived out in the world within the community that constitutes the body of Christ. Actually, father Matthew the Poor and father Alexander Schmemann, may there memories be eternal, would probably say that you do not have to be a monk to make Christ your starting point. They would instead say make Christ your starting point from which ever position you find your life to be in. If Christ is your starting point then living in Christ is the life we are meant to share and behold in the world. As the institution narrative says "He gave up his life for the world".   

The talk was given by a church youth who I am pleased to call my brother and father. I am indebted to him because he showed me what it means to live in Christ at a time when I did not know who Christ was. His knowledge of Father Matthew the Poor goes beyond a doubt that makes him an expert on his works and knowing Father Matthew the Poor, a man in whom both of us have never met but I can reserve with no hesitations we have both become indebted to. Owing our lives to this man my friend sees in no other way but to share his work to others not to glorify this humble monk but rather to become a living witness of Christ through the example of the life of Matthew the Poor. His contribution to Coptic monasticism, liturgy and prayer life has not only given us life but has become life for all. What it means to live out prayer in our lives is based on making Christ and union with Him our starting point. Christ is all and in all:    

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Cost of Understanding Schmemann in the West

                                           Fr. Alexander Schmemann is on the top right.

The following was a talk given in 2009 at the Father Alexander Schmemann symposium in which individuals like Father Robert Taft gave talks in memory of Father Alexander Schmemann and his legacy in the field of Liturgical Theology. Dr. David Fagerberg gave a talk on what it means to understand Schmemann and his legacy. His thesis is based on two ambiguous terms in his title. First he discusses the "west" and what that means. Secondly, he talks about "the cost of understanding Schmemann" and this leads to seven points he would make based on Fr. Alexander's Journals. The following is the audio of the talk which was given at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theology Seminary in 2009. Just like Dr. Fagerberg is grateful for a man he has never met before so to am I grateful and indebted to Fr. Alexander, a man I never met but I owe my life to with his writings. His contribution and revival to the field of Liturgical Theology has given me life. What it means to live out liturgy in our lives is based on making Christ your starting point. Christ is all and in all:

The following is the introduction of the talk transcribed from the talk:

"I am grateful for this opportunity to make a small repayment of a debt I owe to a man I never met, but who had a life-changing impact on my vision. I first met the works of Fr Alexander through Fr Aidan Kavanagh, who would become my thesis director. Fr Aidan was on leave from teaching when I arrived at Yale, so I begged him for a directed readings course. He agreed on the condition that we read everything we could by Schmemann, for he was just finishing the Hale-Seabury lectures that would become his book, On Liturgical Theology. So in those first weeks of my first semester studying under him, we went through most of Schmemanns material together, and I tell people that I spent the rest of my graduate studies trying to get the number of the bus that hit me. I had come as a systematician, with scalpel in hand, ready to dissect a liturgical cadaver to see the makeup of its internal organs, and Kavanagh introduced me to a thinker for whom liturgy was life. Kill it, in order to study it, and one would not be able to watch liturgy at work. Wrestling with Fr Alexanders concept of liturgical theology changed everything for me, and I am thankful to be able to express my gratitude to the man I never met by standing at a podium in this institution to which he was so devoted.   

I have left two intentional ambiguities in my title. The first is the word "west"—"understanding Schmemann in the west." I wont distinguish the Roman Catholic Church from Protestant ecclesial communities. I do not plan to specify whether this word indicates ancient Roman practicality, medieval university scholasticism, post-Enlightenment secularized culture, or a modern, low grade anti-ecclesiastical prejudice in those academic theologies independent from the Church. I will, however, mention three conceptual uses of the term that I detect, and find in this example. Orthodox scholars frequently note that a certain approach to the sacraments (along with the Latin language by which it was taught) came to Russia from the west; they mean the word geographically here. The result is called the "Western captivity" of Orthodoxy, and here they mean something that altered Orthodoxy's ecclesiastical cultural identity. And this captivity is denounced as "a deeply 'westernized' theology. ,.."1 Here the word is used pejoratively to describe something no longer orthodox. So "west" means geographical origin, or certain changes in Orthodox liturgy and theology, or something unorthodox, even if it can be found in Orthodox history. Almost every Orthodox theologian I've ever read or spoken to recognizes what is "western" when he or she encounters it, and here I am going to see how close I can come to articulating their tacit understanding. A western Christian myself, the defendant might have unique insights into the charge. I am less interested in finding out what the west has missed, than why it has missed it.

The second ambiguous term in the title is the word "cost"— "the cost of understanding Schmemann." There may be similar or parallel costs also demanded of the Orthodox Church to understand Schmemann, but I am concentrating here on the west. The term comes to me from another of my mentors, Paul Holmer, who liked to comment, "You cannot peddle truth or happiness. What a thought cost in the first instance, it will cost in the second." Whatever it cost Irenaeus to think recapitulation, it will cost us to understand recapitulation. I want to explore what it would cost the west to understand what Schmemann thought liturgical theology is, but I leave it ambiguous whether that cost is a forfeit or an addition, a letting go or a picking up—a sacrifice of some categories, or embracing larger ones. A term has different meanings in different language games, so even as the west hears Schmemann say "leitourgia" or "lex orandi" it must still pay the hermeneutical fee of listening to the grammar behind his words, namely, an Orthodox grammar. This causes me to be tentative in my approach, for as a Roman Catholic I am outside his Eastern Orthodox world. But my hope is that the contours of an object might be felt from both the inside and the outside, and I have tried to feel what Schmemann is describing without altering its shape. One final note: I have already presented my understanding of Schmemann's concept of liturgical theology in my book, and will avoid the tedium of simply summarizing it. Instead, I hope to locate this paper upon a source that was not available to me at that time, Schmemann's subsequently published Journals"...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Early Second Century Literature: Epistle of Clement

First Epistle of Clement 42:

The Apostles received the gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus the Christ was sent from God. The Christ therefore is from God and the apostles  from the Christ. In both ways, then, there were in accordance with the appointed order of God's will. Having therefore received their commands, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with faith confirmed by the word of God, they went forth in the assurance of the Holy spirit preaching the good news that the kingdom of God is coming. They preached from district to district, and from city to city, and they appointed their first converts, testing them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of the future believers. And this was no new method, for many years before had bishops and deacons been written of: for the scripture says thus in one place: 'I will establish their bishops in righteousness and their deacons in faith'. (Taking from Isaiah 60.27).

First Epistle of Clement 44: 

Our Apostles also knew through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife for the title of bishop. For this cause, therefore, since they had received perfect knowledge, they appointed those who had already been mentioned, and afterwards gave them the direction that if they should fall asleep, other well-tried men should succeed to their ministry (εαν κοιμηθωσιν, διαδεξωνται ετεροι δεδοκιμασμενοι ανδρες την λειτουργιαν αυτων). We consider therefore that it is not just to remove from their ministry those who were appointed by them, or later on by other eminent men with the consent of the whole Church

First Epistle of Clement 7.2-5:

Let us put aside empty and vain cares, and let us come to the glorious and venerable rule of our tradition (τον της παραδοσεως κανονα), and let us see what is good and pleasing and acceptable in the sight of our Maker. Let us fix our gaze on the Blood of Christ, and let us know what it is precious to his Father, because it was poured out for the salvation, and brought the grace of repentance to all the world. Let us review all the generations, and let us learn in generation after generation the Master has given him a place of repentance to those who will turn to him.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Early Second Century Literature: Letter of Diognetus

More early second century literature talking about becoming the new human being in Christ. The fulfillment of Christ death and resurrection lies in the mystery of Christ as we are made into a new human being having been baptized into Christ. "It is not I who lives but rather Christ who lives in me" (cf. Gal 2.20).  

Letter to Diognetus 2.1:

Come then, clear yourself of all prejudice which occupies your mind, and throw aside the custom which deceives you, and become as it were a new man from the beginning (εξ αρχης καινος ανθρωπος), as one, as you yourself also admitted, who is about to listen to a new word (λογου καινου). 

Letter to Diognetus 11.4:

This one was from the beginning, the one newly appeared and found to be old, and is every young, being born in the hearts of the saints.

(ουτος ο απ αρχης ο καινος φανεις και παλαιος ευρεθεις και παντοτε νεος εν αγιων καρδιας γεννωμενος)           

Letter to Diognetus 10.6:

Whoever takes up the burden of his neighbour, and wishes to help another, who is worse off in that in which he is the stronger, and by ministering to those in need the things which he has received and hold from God, becomes a god (θεος γινεται) to those who receive them-this man is an imitator of God (ουτος μιμητης εστι θεου). 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Early Second Century Literature: Letter of Barnabas

What it means to be a human being? This passage from the ancient letter of Barnabas examples this thought more thoroughly. The one point I want to expand on is when the letter quotes scripture when it reads "See, I make the last things as the first". What does the gospel writer mean by this? This reference is made of the person of Christ. Through Christ death, resurrection and his own incarnation the creation of humanity was made last by being made first. This great paradox explains the meaning of what it is to be human. Humanity was truly created through Adam and Eve. But life of this creation was attained through Christ own death and resurrection. Christ said "it is finished" on the cross. What was finished was not that he had died but rather has bestowed upon his creation life, eternal life which is given through the death of Christ and through our own death that we accept Christ in ourselves. This is the mystery of Christ and the mystery of becoming human. Creation was made perfect through the last thing (Christ death and resurrection) that was made first (Adam and Eve). Christ then is called the new Adam because he bestowed life in creation while the first Adam brought death. The evlogitaria which is chanted during the funeral rite at Byzantine services captures this moment on what it means to be a human being. See the bottom for the link.   

Letter of Barnabas 6.9-15:

What does the other prophet, Moses say to them? "Lo, thus says the Lord God, enter into the good land which the Lord swore that he would give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and inherit it, a land flowing with milk and honey." (Ex 33.1-2; Lev.20.24). But what does knowledge say (τι δε λεγει γνωσις)? Hope, it says, on that Jesus who will be manifested to you in the flesh. For man is earth which suffers (ανθρωπος γαρ γη εστιν πασχουσα), for the creation of Adam was from the face of the earth. What then is the meaning "into the good land, a land flowing with milk and honey"? Blessed be our Lord, brethren, who has placed in us wisdom and understanding of his secrets. For the prophet speaks a parable of the Lord: "Who shall understand save he who is wise, and learned, and a lover of the Lord?" Since, then, he made us new by the remission of sins, he made us another type, that we should have the soul of children, as though he were creating us afresh. For it is concerning us that the Scripture says that he says to the Son, "Let us make man after our image and likeness..." Again I will show you how he speaks to us. In the last days he made a second creation; and the Lord says, "See, I make the last things as the first" (cf. Mt 19.30; 20.16). To this then the prophet referred when he proclaimed, "Enter into a land flowing with milk and honey and rule over it" (Ex 33.3). See then, we have been created afresh, as he says again in another prophet, "See saith the Lord, I will take out from them" (that is those whom the Spirit of the Lord foresaw) "the hearts of stone and I will put in hearts of flesh" (Ezk 11.19; 36.26). Because he himself was going to be manifest in the flesh and to dwell among us. For, my brethren, the habitation of our hearts is a shrine holy to the Lord.    

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Decadent Liturgy: Heaven on Earth

The beauty of liturgy is not based on a few actions the priest performs or a few response the chanter or reader respond but rather the beauty of liturgy lies within the notion of living out liturgy. When the travelers sent to Constantinople by St. Vladimir came back to report to there general they had summed up the liturgy as being "we saw heaven on earth". Now imagine that, people who to our modern definition would be atheists were able to conclude after going to there first liturgy that they said it was heaven on earth. Truly the liturgy is heaven on earth but in our modern times sometimes this message is forgotten. The following video discusses the matter of a decadent liturgy and the consequences that follow if a decadent liturgy is the viewpoint we would have on the liturgy. The maker of the video is David Withun. David makes clear points about liturgy using Father Alexander Schmemann as his modern source:

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Why Morality is Not Christian-Father Stephen Freeman

Morality today has been misunderstood and been robbed of its essential meaning by western thought and theology of our modern time. Legalizing our faith and turning our faith into steps being taken in order to be on top of the other person has been the great heresy of our modern time. Father Stephen Freeman speaks more on this modern dilemma in the following blog post. I recommend everyone to follow his blog:


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Early Second Century Literature: Epistle of Clement

Clement of Rome writing on the body of the Church. This would have been composed around the late 1st century to the early 2nd century.

Second Epistle of Clement 2:

"Rejoice o barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in travail; for the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her that is married." In saying "rejoice O barren one who did not bear," he meant us, for our church was barren before children were given to her.

Clement is referring to the church giving birth to her children and is referencing Isaiah 51.

Second Epistle of Clement 14:

Brethren, if we do the will of our Father God, we shall belong to the first Church, the spiritual one which was created before the sun and moon... (reference to the church standing outside of time and creation)

Now I imagine that you are not ignorant that the living church is the body of Christ. For the Scripture says "God made man male and female": the male is Christ and the female is the Church. And moreover, the books and the Apostles (τα βιβλια και οι αποσοτολοι) declare that the Church belongs not to the present, but has existed from the beginning; for she was spiritual, as also was our Jesus, but was made manifest in the last days that he [or more likely: she] might save us; and the church, which is spiritual, was made manifest in the flesh of Christ, showing us that if any one of us guard her in the flesh without corruption, he shall receive back again in the Holy Spirit.

Second Epistle of Clement 17:

And let us not merely seem to believe and pay attention now, while we are being exhorted [teaching] (εν τω νουθετεισθαι) by the presbyters, but also when we have gone home let us remember the commandments of the Lord...

Monday, February 4, 2013

"Oriental" "Eastern" Orthodoxy

Orthodoxy is not a denomination; Orthodoxy is life. And with that began my search for the truth and the meaning of life. Big terms to use to try and understand a lot of things within the modern world however that will not be the case for this blog entry. My point being is that the truth of Orthodoxy if comprehended in the correct light leads to life. However, with the imperfection of our nature Orthodoxy is always looking to correct anything that might harm such a beautiful life and the faith for that matter. Orthodoxy then can be defined as being the correct faith, or the straight faith. This loose definition ties in with the acceptance of the church adhering to the beliefs of the Apostles and all the successors that came after the apostles. This explains the importance of the church fathers such Clement, Irenaeus, Athanasius and many more. This also would explain how Orthodoxy is life because this life is always constituted as a growing process to live out the image of Christ. Orthodoxy then as stated before is not a denomination but rather is life. Orthodoxy to become the truth of life must be lived out.

The sad phenomenon that has developed and has sprouted out of modern society is breaking up the body of Christ; breaking up Orthodoxy. As we all know Christ proclaims that his body can never be broken (divided) into two. Paul also preaches the same message saying we are all one in the body of Christ (cf. Rom 12.5). So as Orthodox Christians if we believe and truly live out Orthodoxy then why do we, representing the body of Christ, go around and preach about becoming members but as the same time throw labels out of our mouths about being "eastern" and "oriental" or for that matter "Chalcedonians" and "non-Chalcedonians"? Since when did the entire faith become based solely on a council? On a geographical location? On a silly term (monophysite is a derogatory term used to classify Orthodox Christians in Egypt, Syria and other locations in the world) that classifies a few churches within the Orthodox world? It is very unfortunate that we walk around today using such silly terms to group people. It's a sad reality, but a reality that needs clarification and love in order to respect each other because we are all one in the body of Christ. These terms need to be dropped from the English language in order to produce love held together by Christ and becoming an icon to the world. I urge people, no I plead with every Orthodox Christian to stop using such silly language when we refer to other churches. These post World War II terms were imposed on the Orthodox Christians by Western Theologians. Hence, why this development is modern in nature. Let us quickly just like the terms sprang up destroy them to the ground because it bears no fruit when you sum up "Orthodoxy being life" based on one council in time or a geographical location of a few churches.

At the conclusion of Byzantine Matins or Vespers the choir would recite "preserve [confirm] O God the holy Orthodox faith and Orthodox Christians unto ages of ages". It does not say "eastern" or "Chalcedonian" but it recites Orthodox! The prayer has two parts. It asks to preserve the integrity of the Orthodox faith. This is based on the salvation of the entire body which is united within the church to the body of Christ. This transitions into the second part of the prayer asking for the preservation of all Orthodox Christians. The main point of this is the prayer for the faith which preserves and saves the faithful by giving life. Orthodoxy then is constantly being lived out and the services of Matins and Vespers remind the faithful of this at the end of each service.

All the churches can learn from each other. I always advice my Coptic brothers to attend a Byzantine service whenever they can. Why you ask? Because beauty and life is not only held within the Coptic Church but rather all Orthodox Churches maintain the same beauty and life that Orthodoxy is fundamentally grounded in. People should have the opportunity to go to all Orthodox Churches to see the beauty and life held within each Church. Sadly, I hear people telling me that this should not be the case because "they are not Orthodox". I find this highly offensive and dare I say heretical because to say that any other Orthodox Church is not "Orthodox" by saying that one would be breaking the body of Christ and as stated previously the body of Christ is not broken. So then I would ask and challenge people who lay to such claims are you not breaking the body of Christ by telling others not to go to other Orthodox Churches? Those who speak in that nature tend to see Orthodoxy as a denomination and not life. To those I would say go, taste and see for the glory of God is not held to only your home parish or to the ethnic community you come from but the glory of God extends to those who do not break the body of Christ. As the picture at the beginning alludes to, Orthodoxy is not a name you call yourself, Orthodoxy is a life you are called to live.             

The following is a nice article examining this issue:

Speaking truth love- Unity in Diversity 

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Life of the World- Part 2

Fr. Alexander Schmemann speaks in terms of the world being a sacrament-pointing to and participating in something beyond itself. The world in its transformation has become the resource to how humanity can offer itself for the life of this world. Sadly, today when many think of the "term" "sacrament" what comes to mind is something completely different. Seven "mysteries" that the presbyter performs in order to give a "chance" for the human to gain "salvation" through the participation of these sacraments. Now I would not want anyone to quote me by saying there is no such thing as seven sacraments but rather the point being is that salvation and life constituted within the world is not equivalent to a simple equation equaling to the magical number seven. Instead salvation, for non-western terms, living the life of the world is constituted within the body of Christ. Western ideology (theology) has destroyed this sense of living in Christ. Western ideology (theology) has brainwashed society into thinking salvation and living within the world is self-ambitious goal that we should all strive to attain. If this is true then how can a community gather together in the unity of the body of Christ? How then can we approach the Eucharist thinking that we are saved by our own self-ambition? To those who think in that respect I would say re-evaluate your thoughts. The body of Christ is not about forming the "i" and "me" but instead its about seeing Christ all in all and by living out his image (becoming an icon of Christ) then and only then can we live for the life of this world. A wise theologian once said "we were saved, we are being saved, and that we will be saved". This constitutes that best definition to how we should come and not only understanding our theology within Christ and to live it out within the context of community.

The unfortunate part is that we turn life in this world into a symbol and as Fr. Alexander says in the passage I quote at the bottom says, "to make Christ the symbol of this passing world is the ultimate in foolishness and blindness, for He came to perform exactly the opposite-to save the world by restoring it as the "symbol" of God...". By restoring the world as a symbol of God then we must come to understand the world and everything in it to constitute the goodness of God. Everything within the world is good. What makes the world "bad" is when people say this is "right" and this is "wrong". Right and wrong are subjective terms because my right and your wrong can be the complete opposite of each other. Instead everything in the world is created good but due to our fallen nature we have turned creation into the "bad" as we see it. The greatest sin is not our birth into this world but rather when we lay judgments on others and take the goodness of creation out of creation. The greatest sin is when we take that goodness and turn it into our own self-ambition thinking that it will benefit "all" when really it only benefits "me". The world then has become through the cross and resurrection the sacrament in which we must engage our lives completely. If we do not become the sacrament to the world as Christ intended it to be then there is no hope and meaning for the life of this world. Instead, through the incarnation, the cross, the tomb the resurrection we can now offer our lives as sacraments to Christ for all and in all. Just like as the Anaphora prayer of St. John Chrysostom (whom we celebrated the feast of the three hierarchs yesterday) in the culmination of the epiclesis reminds of this life for the world when the presbyter recites:  "Remembering, therefore, this command of the Savior, and all that came to pass for our sake, the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the enthronement at the right hand of the Father, and the second, glorious coming, Thy own of thy own we offer unto thee, on behalf of all and for all." The culmination of the Eucharist does not involve one person but rather the entire gathered community. The community becomes the priesthood of Christ. The life of the world culminates in the gathering of the community living out the image of Christ as we are be formed into icons of Christ. Christ is in our midst; He is and ever shall be.

The following are a few quotations that inspired this blog entry:  


They hopelessly do not understand that for Christ to be "symbol” of anything in the world, the world itself must, in the first place, be known, viewed and experienced as the "symbol” of God, as the epiphany of His holiness, power and glory—that, in other terms, it is not "Christ” or "God” that have to be explained in terms of this world and of its passing needs so as to become their "symbols” but, on the contrary, it is God and God alone that has made this world His symbol, has then fulfilled this symbol in Christ and will consummate it in His eternal Kingdom. When deprived of this symbol the world becomes chaos and destruction, idol and error, and it is condemned to disappear, for the very nature of its "schema” (image, fashion) is to "pass away” (I Cor. 7:31). To make Christ the symbol of this passing world is the ultimate in foolishness and blindness, for He came to perform exactly the opposite—to save the world by restoring it as the "symbol” of God, as thirst and hunger for fulfillment in God, as "signum” of and passage into His Kingdom. And He saved it by destroying its self-sufficiency and opaqueness, by revealing in "this world” the Church—the symbol of the "new creation” and the sacrament of the "world to come.” Page 148-49. Fr. Alexander Schmeman For the Life of the World. 

He instituted for us this great Mystery of godliness, for, being determined to give Himself up to death for the life of the world”. From the institution narrative of St. Basil's liturgy. 

The following are thoughts that are echoed by Father Matthew the Poor's writings on the church:

The church by its very nature is not of the world; but paradoxically enough, it is in the world and for the world! It is here to change the world for the better! ... to work for the salvation of the world!

Christ is the way, the truth, and the life; His Church is the way to eternal life, not only by her teachings and her prayers, but by bearing her cross and proclaiming her Gospel every time and everywhere. This is the mystery of the New Birth. The Church should die for the sake of others and for the world at large which the Lord loved. In this way she will bring this living love to others. She would then be a vivid manifestation of faith and an unmatched example of life in God's greatest mysteries!

It would be noticeable, above all, that divisions amongst societies and nations are due to the glaring fact that the church has missed its functional role in bringing people back to God. Her weakness has made any form of reconciliation impossible even in the areas of piety and pure spirituality, which made saints and men of God in the past, prominent leaders who were consulted by heads of states, kings and emperors.

Unfortunately it is evident that the world is moving away from the church. Church-goers are becoming lesser and lesser in number. Church attendance is on the decline and people are becoming less and less religiously minded. And, unless the church goes back to the Spirit of God by all spiritual means, no revival would be at all possible. But, it is well-known that it is impossible to be united with God without the church as she is the place of worship, communion, righteousness, faith in Christ and redemption.

A Church which is genuinely united has within its precincts the food of life for the whole world. It can offer the divine Manna of Truth and the blessed Eulogion of Grace. It can also open the jewelled gates that lead to the Eternal Life of the Celestial Jerusalem!

Worship is then a communion with God on the level of the godly service and the avowed fulfilment with His Divine Spirit. "The theology of the liturgy," Fr.. Matta states, "is not limited to worship inside the church, but it should be extended to cover the necessary religious services for the whole congregation" (p. 13). From Fr. Matthew's book entitle The Eucharist and the Liturgy.

In the Coptic Orthodox Church the distribution of the Eulogion (sacred bread) at the end of the liturgical service is a remaining element of the rite of the feast of agape. It is an emblem of blessedness and union into the one Body of the Lord.

The crucial point of this liturgical celebration is that the whole congregation becomes then one unit in the Body of the Lord and ready to receive the sacred elements. The bread and the wine are now transubstantiated and should never be crossed (i.e. making the sign of the cross upon them) again.