Thursday, February 13, 2014

God's Family

ST. PAUL WROTE to the Ephesians: “So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. . .” (Eph. 2:19). Every Christian has status. He or she belongs. We are fellow citizens with the Saints and members of the household of God! Christians should be taught from infancy to have the right kind of family pride: the kind that makes us want to live up to the family standard. The Head of our family is Christ Himself. Some of our brothers and sisters are the Virgin Mary (Theotokos), John the Baptist, the Apostles, St. Basil, St. Chrysostom and countless others. We belong to them, and they to us. It is a distinguished family tree.

A Christian does not walk alone as if sealed in a space capsule. We are members of God's family. As such, we must help and be helped by others. Orthodox Christianity does not espouse a narrowly individualistic “God-and-me” relationship. The Church is a family, God's family, in which we are concerned for one another. In the words of St. Paul: “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Cor. 12:26).

The Russian theologian Alexis Khomiakov (1804-60) said, “We know that when one of us falls, he falls alone; but no one is saved alone. He is saved in the Church, as a member of her and in union with all her other members.”

As members of the household of God, Orthodox Christians feel that they can call upon their brothers and sisters in the faith-the Saints-for family support. This they do through prayers, beseeching the prayers of the Saints in their behalf.

The late Fr. George Florovsky, eminent Orthodox theologian, wrote: “The final purpose of the Incarnation was that the Incarnate should have a 'body', which is the Church ... Christ is never alone. He is always the Head of His Body. In Orthodox theology and devotion alike, Christ is never separated from His Mother, and His 'friends', the Saints. The Redeemer and the redeemed belong together inseparably. In the daring phrase of St. John Chrysostom (inspired by Ephesians 1:23), Christ will be complete only when His Body, the Church, has been completed.” Speaking on the concept of the Church as the family and household of God, Nicolas Zernov wrote: “The Orthodox... regard the saints... as teachers and friends who pray with them and assist them in their spiritual ascent. Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry was surrounded by disciples who did not prevent others from meeting Him, but on the contrary helped newcomers to find the Master. In the same manner fellowship with the saints facilitates communion with God, for their Christ-like character brings others nearer to the divine source of light and life''.
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