The life and character of an Orthodox Christian is in large measure shaped, nourished, and enriched by the liturgy or worship of the Church. Replete with biblical readings, imagery, and expressions, the texts of the liturgy set forth in doxological form the Church’s authentic and living tradition. In the liturgy, the Orthodox Christian is in constant touch with the fundamental truths of the faith. Worship becomes a theology of fervent prayer, a living sacrifice of praise of a biblical people, a vision of the spiritual world, a betrothal with the Holy Spirit, and foretaste of the things to come.
The mystery of the Church as the Body of Christ is fully realized in the Divine Liturgy, for the Eucharist is Christ crucified and risen, in his personal presence. Every local Church, living in full the sacramental life, is the:
“… miracle of the new life in Christ lived in community and is built upon and around the Table of the Lord. Whenever and wherever the Divine Liturgy is celebrated, in the context of doctinal unity and canonical norms, the local Church possesses the marks of doctinal unity and canonical norms, the local Church possesses the marks of the true Church of God: unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity. These marks cannot belong to any human gathering; they are the eschatological signs given to a community through the Spirit of God” (John Meyendorff).
The Eucharist unites the members of the Church, both Christ and to one another: “because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread: (1 Cor. 10:17). Sharing in the life of Christ and revivified by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Church becomes an epiphany of divine love. “If union is in truth with Christ and with one another, we are assuredly also united voluntarily with all those who partake with us” (St. John of Damascus).
The necessity of Christian friendships
In this age where secularism is on the rise, and materialism has become a major distraction from spiritual pursuits, Christian friendship has never been more important. The pursuit of personal fulfillment, entertainment, worldly pleasure, and the acquisition of material goods, has become the dominant theme of our age. Families that once placed the life of the Church as the center of their week, have drifted away from God. Having made idols of worldly pleasures and pursuits, their family life has become focused on transitory goals, leaving them in a state of spiritual bankruptcy. Parents who once brought their children to the temple, having lost their own way, watch those children stray far from faith.
Centered on worldly pursuits, we’ve allowed our spiritual life to be displaced by things that are transitory in nature, no longer thinking on the things of God. Our spiritual illness has infected our youth like a virus, leaving them with little to sustain them, when times get tough. The economic, political, and social instability of our age demands that we be spiritually fit, yet we give our youth virtually nothing that will help them through the hardships ahead. The terrible storms that have destroyed whole towns in the Midwest, appear to be just the beginning of what many scientists see as our future, yet we continue on a path that remains focused on material gain, and personal fulfillment. Hardly the elements that can sustain the human heart during disasters, or terrible personal loss.
The life of a Christian has never been easy, but in an age that is proving to be hostile towards the things of God, Christian friendship is all the more important. We need each other. We need the encouragement that Christian friendship can give us, as we face a world that has rejected Christ. The unity we have when we receive the Body and Blood of the Saviour, during each and every celebration of the Divine Liturgy, gives us strength to withstand whatever may be coming. When all else has failed, and our culture, economy, and material world has fallen into ruin, only faith will have the power to sustain us.
It is only our faith, supported and strengthened by our fellowship in Christ, that will have the lasting power to keep us from falling into despair, as our world enters into a darkness that will seem unconquerable. Hiding from the reality of a world that has lost it’s way, will in no wise make the future brighter. Lifting each other up, as we share our faith in the Christ Who came to make all things new, is the only hope we have. Let us not waste this life God has given us, but let us move forward in faith, together, knowing that ultimately, the gates of hell will not prevail against those who love God.
With love in Christ,