Orthodox Mission – Hyde Park, Chicago

Community: Being True Members of the Orthodox Church in Our Everyday Life

We all believe, as Orthodox Christians that we have been given the true light of the true faith. We understand that Orthodox Christianity means true worship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It means believing that the Son and Word of God became flesh and suffered the Cross and died for us, to raise humanity and reunite us to God in Him. But these truths are given to us, freely, even if we seem to be ‘finding it for ourselves’ as converts to the Faith. It is all a gift of the Holy Spirit. If we are raised in the Faith, it is even more a gift—we certainly didn’t, and can’t ‘earn’ or ‘deserve’ the blessing that we have been given.

So what do WE do to at least make our life in the Church real and correct? We must live a life that is changed, transformed by our Faith. That ‘life transformed’ begins with the ‘Church’.
What is the Church? It is not a building, or multiple buildings; or at least, it is not a building in the literal sense. The Church is the gathering together, mystically, of all true believers throughout time and space: it is the gathering of saints, people who live and have lived transformed lives. No saint ever started with perfection, except perhaps the Virgin Mary—the bodily source and image of the Church as humanity receiving and being sanctified in Christ. So we must begin, with our imperfect lives, to seek the gifts of the Holy Spirit in patience and humble peace. The Church takes us in, totally. The Church is the Body of Christ, and either we are in it always and everywhere; or we are fake, shallow, at best an existential self-contradiction. By baptism, we are obliged to live as ‘priests’, people who are, by covenant, responsible for the Church and its sanctity and worship of God.

We cannot begin to have our lives transformed if we think that Church is a thing held off at a distance to us; a place where we get certain feelings validated; a distant club which one has membership in; an occasional spiritual fueling station. The Church is with us always, because we are baptized, we are all part of the priesthood. The actual community that we belong to, should reflect this. When I go to the store, walk down the street, or browse through the stacks in the library, I should see people I know from Church and recognize that how I act, how I live, whether I have prayer in my heart, whether my life is set in order toward communion with God and my neighbor in Christ is a present and constant reality. If I think of other realities as above the spiritual concerns, I am leaving the mystical Church, which is the place and state of sanctification. If I treat the Church as a distant place which I go to and relate to as an individual, apart, even alone—then I am not working on being a part of a community or Communion of the people of God, raised up on high through the holiness of the Spirit into the heavenly kingdom.

In other words: go to Church where it will have most impact on your daily life. Go to Church with people you can have real relationships with. Go to Church where you can invite friends. Go to Church where you can go more often, where you can go to confession when needed, where you can be supported in times of need. Go to Church where you can have a real community. Go to Church where you can be who you really are and seek to become better with help that is as near and quick as the help of God when we call on him in need. Don’t hide out.

It’s easy to wall ourselves off from others. But if we want God to reveal his love, life, help and mercy to us, how can we think that we should be hiding and holding onto our own imperfection? If our life is revealed to God, it can be healed and made perfect by his unconcealed grace and mercy. The community of the local parish Church can help us to approach, be what we are supposed to be, and receive the sacramental reality of the mystical Church, the power of the Holy Spirit, which is transforming us to be more perfectly the Body of Christ.

Of  course, there is much more detail to it than this, but we cannot begin any of that without going to a Church and being part of a community. So come to Church! You are welcome! God loves you and desires to see every spiritual blessing come to you… so that you might be transformed in union with Him.

Fr. Elijah
from 10/4/09 Bulletin