Moreover, Christ Himself belongs to this community, as its Head, not only as its Lord or Master. Christ is not above or outside the Church. The Church is in Him. The Church is not merely a community of those who believe in Christ and walk in His steps or in His commandments. She is a community of those who abide and dwell in Him, and in whom He Himself is abiding and dwelling by the Spirit. Christians are set apart, “born anew” and re-created, they are given not only a new pattern of life, but rather a new principle: the new Life in the Lord by the Spirit. They are a “peculiar People,” “the People of God’s own possession.” The point is that the Christian community, the ekklesia, is a sacramental community: communio in sacris, a “fellowship in holy things,” i.e. in the Holy Spirit, or even communio sanctorum (sanctorum being taken as neuter rather than masculine – perhaps that was the original meaning of the phrase). The unity of the Church is effected through the sacraments: Baptism and the Eucharist are the two “social sacraments” of the Church, and in them the true meaning of Christian “togetherness” is continually revealed and sealed. Or even more emphatically, the sacraments constitute the Church. Only in the sacraments does the Christian Community pass beyond the purely human measure and become the Church. Therefore “the right administration of the sacraments” belongs to the essence of the Church (to her esse). Sacraments must be “worthily” received indeed, therefore they cannot be separated or divorced from the inner effort and spiritual attitude of believers. Baptism is to be preceded by repentance and faith. A personal relation between an aspirant and his Lord must be first established by the hearing and the receiving of the Word, of the message of salvation. And again an oath of allegiance to God and His Christ is a pre-requisite and indispensable condition of the administration of the sacrament (the first meaning of the word sacramentum was precisely “the (military) oath.” [sic] A catechumen is already “enrolled” among the brethren on the basis of his faith. Again, the baptismal gift is appropriated, received, and kept, by faith and faithfulness, by the steadfast standing in the faith and the promises. And yet sacraments are not merely signs of a professed faith, but rather effective signs of the saving Grace—not only symbols of human aspiration and loyalty, but the outward symbols of the divine action. In them our human existence is linked to, or rather raised up to, the Divine Life, by the Spirit, the giver of life.
26 October 2007
The Church: Fellowship in Holy Things
This brief reading comes from George Florovsky (from his book Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View) and is paired up with 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 (today's "Reading II") in the prayerbook For All the Saints (pp. 1011-1012). One wonders how familiar Florovsky was with the Augsburg Confession and what it says on both the Church and the Sacraments.