The spiritual evening of the month of May took place, as usual, on the monastery’s YouTube channel. It highlighted another beautiful gift brought to us by our Savior—the Church, in which we are born and grow spiritually.
Saint Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia tells us: “The Church is without beginning, without end and eternal, just as the Triune God, her founder, is without beginning, without end and eternal. She is uncreated just as God is uncreated. She existed before the ages, before the angels, before the creation of the world.”
Saint Paul succeeds in painting an organic description of the Church. It may be the most beautiful description: “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. […] And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). We need to live this mystery of the Church, to understand it in this way.
The Church has its hidden, secret part, but it also has an visible part in which the work of our Savior, that of giving birth to us and making us like Him, is fulfilled. The visible side consists of its servants and buildings. The Church is not open for criticism, just like a mother is not open for criticism. As Saint Ambrose of Milan says, “The Church is the mother of the living.”
Everything that happens in the Church is a mystery, realized through the Holy Spirit. Father Stăniloae says: “The Mysteries are the means through which this vision of the Body of Christ is revealed and through which this unity with Christ is strengthened, by the receiving the inner condition of His sacrifice. The Church is a continuous renewal of this unity; she does not let this unity become weak. The believer deepens this unity in every Mystery.” Father Stăniloae explains that each specific Mystery gives us a specific grace to dismantle our egoism and make us capable of sacrifice.
Our Church is a treasure which has as its foundation all the prayers of the saints and believers throughout the ages. In the Church, there is no counting of merits, each person must work his gift and follow this guidance: “freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:7-8). The Church is a communion of gifts, as Saint Silouan the Athonite says: “In early matters each has his own obedience: one person is a king, another a patriarch, another a cook, or blacksmith, or teacher, but God loves all, and whoever loves God the most will be compensated the most. God gave us the commandment to love Him with all of our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind (Matthew 22:37). But how can you love Him without praying? That is the reason our minds and hearts should always be free for prayer.” And Elder Porphyrios delves deeper into the essence of the Church: “When we isolate ourselves from others, we are not Christians. We are true Christians when we have the deep feeling that we are members of the mystical body of Christ, of the Church, in an unbroken relationship of love, when we live united in Christ, that is, when we live united in His Church, bearing the consciousness that we are one.” This is the mystery of the Church, this is what we are called to do, and we can attain it through the sacrifice of our ego, which is the only obstacle.
Father Zacharias Zacharou gives us a more practical way in which can partake in the gifts of the Church: “To obtain the full benefit from attending services and from gathering in the church, before meeting with the other members of His Body, we must first prepare a secret place within us, where the warmth of our repentance gathers all the humble inclinations of our heart, all our love for the word of God, all our aspirations of brotherly love, all our spiritual dispositions. If we bring all these dispositions, all that we have best, as a gift for the meeting with our brethren, then our appearance before the Lord will not be in vain and will not remain unfruitful”, “The small gift that we bring to the Church synaxis will unite us with the rest of the Body of the Church and will help us enter into the communion of gifts of all the members of the Church, of those present who are seen and of those present who are unseen, but still as real as can be. Thus, entering into the communion of the gifts of the saints, of our brothers, we become rich, although we are poor. And then every word spoken during the service will not be said out of our strength, but of the power of the grace of which we have become partakers.”
The hymn about love of the Holy Apostle Paul: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal…” (1 Corinthians 13:1-13) is pertinent to the Church because no matter what personal gifts we have, if we do not have love, those gifts don’t help us with anything. In the Church, I offer myself freely, I do not affirm myself, and all these are a hymn of love. All my personal merits do not unite me with Christ, but love does. In the Church, there is love, humility, and communion.