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Fr. Kyrillos’ Comments and Confessions

 

(November 2001)

 

I have to inform you, my readers, that October’s Comments and Confession somehow were not completely mine. They were based on my original but were so adulterated by the hand and mind of the Editor of the LIGHT of CHRIST that they did not transmit my comments and confessions-in plural and not in singular-with its full meaning. Moreover, some lines were so modified that they gave a totally different meaning. Half of the second paragraph had been deleted, therefore you could not understand the reason and consistency of the article.

 

Let us examine one example. Paragraph 5, lines 5 and 6, says:

 

“…The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and because the Church as a whole sends ‘strait glory to God’-Orthodoxia-we say Orthodox”.

But, it should have said:

“...what we call the Ecclesia is The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. And because the Church is a ‘whole which sends a strait glory to God’-Orthodoxia-we say Orthodox.

Apart from the printing error, there is a totally different meaning, so different it completely distorts it. I did not want to say that the Church as a whole but that the Church is a whole. For this reason we confess that the Church is CATHOLIC, that the Church is a fullness, a wholeness. Now you will appreciate the motives of my fussing. You read a totally different article to the one I wrote for publication, it seemed that our editor, hurrying to prepare the text for printing, introduced modifications that he thought made it easier to understand!!!

 

Last month I said that to be a Christian one has to live “in the Church, with the Church and according to the Church.” This month I would like to emphasize and discuss the meanings of living in the Church. And in the future I shall do so ‘with the Church’ and ‘according to the Church.’ 

 

What do we mean saying that a Christian lives in the Church?

We all have in our minds the Church building. When we speak of the Church, for good or bad, that is praising the good that has done or the points that some people dislike in our days or in the past, we all think of the Church as a whole, a unit, a society. It is in our mind a place that contains individuals called The Christians. Of course, the word Church in English is the translation of the Greek word Ekklesia, which was used by the seventy two translators of the Torah and the Prophets from Hebrew into Greek, in Alexandria, about two hundred and fifty years before Christ. They used the word Ekklesia to express the Congregation or Assembly of the People of Israel. St Luke in the book of Acts (19:39) used to express a political assembly. Our Lord Jesus Christ on the Gospel of Mathew (18:15-18) uses Ekklesia to give directives to his disciples on how they, as his Church or Ekklesia, should conduct themselves in matters of judgement of the members of the Church who have sinned. And we should not forget (Mat. 16:18) the words about the faith of Peter: “…upon this rock I will build my church.” Here we have the reason for this concept of the Church as a building and a holy house of God against which the gates of hell shall not prevail.” Therefore, a sure house of eternal salvation.

In the Library of Gregoriou, in Athos, there is a book written about the mid-second century, The Sheperd of Hermas, which is one of those called The Apostolic Fathers by Church historians. In it the Church is presented, first as an elderly lady because “she was created first of all, and for her the world was made.” This Lady clarifies the cause of sadness in the Christian man’s heart: the sins committed after Baptism. This sin could be even a thought or desire: “For it is an evil and shocking wish…if it desires an evil deed.” The words and insisting instruction of the Church are like a smith, beating his work with a hammer who becomes master of the skill which he wishes, so she does not cease instructing her children: “For I know that if they repent with all their heart, they will be inscribed in the books of life with the saints.

Also the Church is presented as “a great tower being built of lustrous square stones upon the water.” Let us quote these beautiful passages:

The tower was being built in a square by six young men; but myriads of other men were bringing stones, some from the deep, and some from the land, and were handing them to the six young men. They were taken them and building. All the stones that were dragged from the deep were set in the building just as they were, for they were prepared and fit with the other stones at the joints. And they were so closely to each other that their joints did not show. And the structure of the tower looked as if it were built of one stone. And of the other stones which were brought from the dry land, some they rejected, and some they placed in the building; others they broke up and threw far from the tower. And many other stones were lying in a circle around the tower, and they did not use them for the tower. For some of them were rough, others had cracks, some were damaged by cutting, and some were white and round, so that they would not fit into the building. And other stones were thrown far from the tower and going to the road and not staying on the road, but rolling off the road into the rough ground; and others were falling into fire and being burned; and others were falling near the water and were not able to roll into the water, although they wished to roll and go into the water.

Why is the tower, that is, the Church, built on water? “Because the life [of the Christian] has been and will be saved through water [of Baptism]. And the tower has been established by the word of the almighty and glorious name, and is supported by the unseen power of the Master.”

Who are the six young men who are building? 

“These are the holy angels of God who were created first, to whom God committed all his creation to develop and to built up and to govern the entire creation…” Who are the others who bring the stones? “They are also angels of God…” Who are the stones? “The stones that are square and white and fit their joints are the apostles and bishops and deacons who have walked according to the holiness of God, and who have sincerely and reverently served the elect of God as bishops and teachers and deacons. And they always agree with one another and had peace with one another and listened to each other. That is why their joints fit together in the building or the tower. And the stones who were dragged from the deep, and whose joints fit with the others stones that were already laid, are the Christians who suffered for the name of God. The stones that go into the building, from dry land, and are not hewn out are they whom the Lord approved because they walked in uprightness of the Lord and carried his commandments and also those who are new in the faith and are faithful.”

Who are the stones that were rejected and thrown away? 

“They are the ones who have sinned and wish to repent. For this reason they were not thrown far from the tower, because they will be useful in the building if they repent. So the ones who are about to repent, if they repent, shall be secure in the faith, if they repent now while the tower is being built, But if the building is completed they will no longer have a place, but will be excluded. And they have only this-that they lie close to the tower.”

Therefore, we have a very good mental picture of the Church if we think of her as a house, a tower or a strong building where, in the mystery of our life we look for refuge to accomplish our death, as we commented last August. Also we have a good mental picture of Her as an elderly Lady who guides us in the knowledge of the way, road and gate to the salvation of Eternal Life, as we commented last month of October. This elderly lady, built as a tower whose stones are each Christian, built in the Holy Waters of the Baptism, through which we are born again to be a new man, from the old and sinful, is also the young and fruitful mother that gives us to the Light of the Kingdom of heaven. This new birth makes us from children of the body into children of the Kingdom of God, into being a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17.) “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5) and “except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5.)

Also we should bring to mind that what is required of him/her that seeks to be baptized: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38) and “He that believes and is baptized, shall be saved” (Mk. 16:16.)

I’ll see you next month…, God willing!

© Fr. Kyrillos LERET-ALDIR.

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