the tangibility of Christ

(Pervasive in the Orthodox Church Worship and Life)

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life- the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us- that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. (1st Epistle of St. John 1:1-3)

Indeed! And of what does this fellowship with the apostles consist? Is it not a sharing, with the apostles, now in Glory, of the continuing tangible manifestation of and participation in Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist, and in the other Mysteries and sacramentals, and in the life of the Church in its mission to the world as well?

Yes, the apostles walked with the Lord during His sojourn on earth. But we, by faith, share in an equally tangible union with Christ. In the Orthodox Church, through the sacramental priesthood, we have an organic connection with the apostles and every generation of the saints. And in the sacraments or mysteries Christ is tangibly manifested.

We are called to a deep respect to our leaders, our bishops and priests, and to obedience to them. (Hebrews 13:17) We are also- each one of us- called to uphold and defend the Faith . In the 7th Century St. Maximus the Confessor, for instance, stood against the heresy of his Hierarch, preserving the Faith. And consider Fr. Joseph Huneycutt’s recent critique of our Ecumenical Patriarch’s new book: http://southern-orthodoxy.blogspot.com/2008/03/review-encountering-mystery.html )

The tangibility of Orthodox worship is not merely a nice distinctive we experience, but a most precious and illumining dimension of our life in Christ, which the non-Orthodox Christians, by and large, are missing. I know, because I was there. From the perspective of Orthodox worship, the meaning of “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (St. John 6:53b) becomes most clear. In fact, our prayerful and tamgible worship– sacraments, architectural traditions, icons, vestments, candles, incense, traditional gesturals (sign of the cross, bows, prostrations, kissing, etc.), chants, and the prayers – is the wellspring for discerning the Truth in the incarnate Christ.

Lex orandi, lex credendi: (the rule of prayer is the rule of faith)” is a traditional saying that further brings out the importance of receiving the manifestation of our Lord Jesus in the right order, as it were-

FIRST, experiencing His tangibility in (1) prayerful worship: in the Divine Liturgy, the Eucharist, as well as in Baptism, Chrismation, Confession, Holy Anointing, etc., (2) in hearing the preaching of the Word, and (3) in the “Liturgy after the Liturgy,” our service in the Church, among our neighbors, relatives, friends, and enemies, and in all God’s creation.

And this service certainly includes (as a priority!) persons with disabilities. (Luke 14)

and THEN discerning our beliefs, our “creed” (credendi) The Holy Fathers explicated the Holy Scriptures experientially, dynamically. And they sorted out doctrinal disputes in Councils- not systematically, but as the need would arise (in the appearance of soul-destroying heresies) They were always reluctant to introduce anything new, preferring ancient precedents based on the sayings of tried and true teachers of old.

Fr. Chris Metropulos concisely explains “Lex orandi, lex credendi” here: http://listserv.goarch.org/scripts/wa.exe?A2=ind0502&L=TRINITYOK&T=0&F=&S=&P=1479

Towards the very end of Divine Liturgy, the faithful receive the command, “Let us go forth in peace.” This connects our Life in the Heavenlies, in Divine Liturgy, with our weeklong practice of Christ’s co-suffering love and presence and victory.

This is the “liturgy after the LiturgyHis Grace Bishop Kallistos Ware explains what this means here: http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/older-issues/go-forth-in-peace Ion Bria also writes, with some theological rigor, concerning the “liturgy after the Liturgy:” http://www.rondtb.msk.ru/info/en/Bria_en.htm

Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Clapsis, in “Wealth and Poverty in the Christian Tradition,” writes a word of caution concerning the phrase “liturgy after the Liturgy:”

I am uncertain whether the concept of “liturgy after liturgy” has been helpful to protect the ethos of Orthodoxy from collapsing into a kind of sacramentalism that disconnects eschatology form history; and, I share the concern of those who express fears that this notion gives preeminence to the ethical implications of the Eucharist at the expense of its ontological and doxological character. Perhaps, it would be much more prudent to affirm that the ethos of the Church is simultaneously shaped through the celebration of the Eucharist, the proclamation of the Word of God and the mystery of the poor brethren. None of them should be considered as a substitute for the other or that in itself and apart from the other can communicate the fullness of the church’s ethos.

As to “the mystery of the poor brethren” he writes,

Christians, based on Matthew 25:31-46, believe that Christ is sacramentally present in the poor and the needy.

Fr. Emmanuel quotes a number of the Church Fathers, including St. John Chrysostom, who concludes, concerning the matter of providing for those in need in relation to expenditures on Church furnishings,

Don’t neglect you brother in his distress while you decorate His house. Your brother is more truly his temple than any Church building. (On Matthew; Homily 50:4)

You can read the entire essay here: http://www.myriobiblos.gr/texts/english/clapsis_wealth.html

And, to extend the implications of “Go forth in peace,” here is an article by Fr. Michael Plekon, “Becoming the Jesus Prayer,” which considers all the ways our goal of praying unceasingly can find expression in the many situations we may find ourselves in, which of course includes all the people, needy and disabled in a variety of ways, whom Christ may call us to pray for and serve and even die for. The lives and sayings of St. Seraphim of Sarov, the 20th century Orthodox writer Paul Ekdokimov, and St. Maria of Paris are brought forth as living examples of both becoming the Jesus Prayer and the liturgy after the Liturgy: http://incommunion.org/articles/previous-issues/issue-36/becoming-the-jesus-prayer

And finally, here is a portion of an Orthodox Parish (St. Raphael of Photo of some of the core parish members.Brooklyn Antiochian Orthodox Christian Mission of Iowa City, Iowa) website concerning Growth & the Sacramental Life- Worship & Love & Prayer, which beautifully brings out the practical ways this Life together in Christ has unfolded in their lives:

Of course, growth is not primarily in numbers but in our shared life in Christ, in working out our salvation together, through the Sacraments and fellowship of the Church.  . . . for more, click on:

http://www.straphaelorthodoxchurch.org/index.php/straphaeloc/pages/C16/

In conclusion, one might say, “The rule of prayer is the rule of faith and love, in Christ- God with us- both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages, Amen.”

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