The Theological – and Practical – Necessity of the Church

“Manifesting Thyself to Thine Apostles, Thou didst send them forth to preach; and through them hast granted Thy peace to the world, O Thou Who alone art plenteous in mercy.”
From a Resurrection Troparion (hymn) from Matins.

The Church from its first days has been essential to the post-Ascension activity of Christ. Incarnate ministry, prayer, teaching, preaching, touching, healing, suffering, being killed, rising to new life, ascending to the Father– God has always been involved with humanity, and in Christ God became human, and continues being involved with humanity. Through His Grace the life of the Orthodox Church (on a good day) is the Life of Christ. We’re not just followers or adherents or believers in Him: WE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST. Western Christianity devalues this reality in its emphases on popes or reformers or “bible” or “spirit.” (Though Vatican II may have turned a corner here.) This is why breaking away from the Church is so problematic. Both schism and heresy are de-theos-izing actions, they turn Christianity into a merely human project. It’s not just human church-politics!

Why didn’t God just say ‘peace to the world’? Because God’s Peace is a relationship, and not just an esoteric one, but a concrete, face-to-face one. If you’re at peace with the Orthodox Church, you’re at peace with God. (Though that’s only a beginning, and Orthodox still must struggle.) It’s also by the Mercy of God that He allows us to reach Him through the Church and its means. And God’s Peace is comprehensive: The Orthodox Church is God’s community of peace for humanity. Even when this fact is obscured by our sin, Communion isn’t lastingly disrupted like among nation-states.

The organic and doctrinal continuity between Christ and the Orthodox Church, from the past to the present, from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, is a weighty thing.


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