Notes on the Liturgy and the Church.



Chapter 4


The Church puts an end to solitude. To live in the Church, you must go to others, stand with them in the church, and drink of the Divine Gifts from one single Chalice. But does one want to put an end to his solitude? Some people find that aspect of Christianity to be the most difficult. They say, "Isn't that an outmoded phase of religion?" "Does not God see me when I am praying alone?" Of course, God sees all, but the Church begins where, as Christ says, "two or three are gathered in My Name." Not where there is "one," for love begins only where there are "two or three." "Two or three" is love's most basic cell, and the Church begins there, where existence in self-isolation is overcome, and where love begins.


It is both possible and necessary to talk about what the hierarchy is for the Church, about the hierarchy's role in the history of the Ecumenical Councils. However, when Christ's words about "two or three" are forgotten, love as the wellspring of the Church, of its Councils, of its dogmas, is forgotten as well. Then all of the rest of the words lose their power, and become a "tinkling cymbal" of no use to anyone. Then, it would be better not to know them at all.


The concept of union in love lies in the Greek word for Church itself: The word ecclesia means "assembly" or "convocation." Let us remember the blagovest, the Good News peal-calling people to gather in church. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (4th C.) writes, "It is appropriately called the Church [Ecclesia], for it summons everyone and gathers them all together." Likewise, St. Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd C.) states that the Church "is God's gathering, which God, i.e. the Son Himself, assembled through Himself." God gathered together those who loved Him, around the Holy Table of the Mystery; that is the Church. The Church is God's love toward people, among God's people. St. John Chrysostom says, 'so that…He might show His love for us, He allowed those who wished not only to see Him but to touch and feel Him, and to consume Him." The nature of the Church is Eucharistic."


That sense is also found in the Greek word leitourgia [Liturgy - editor], i.e. common matter, common service, something done by all of the people.


The Liturgy is the common matter of love, the love Christ's Disciples had for Him, the love that brought them into community not only with their Teacher, but with one another. In discussing communing of the Mysteries, St. John Damascene wrote, "It is called communing, and so it truly is; for in so doing, we commune with Christ, and are communicants of His Flesh and His Divinity. We communicate with and unite with one another. And thus, as we commune from one single Bread, we are all one single Body of Christ, of one single Blood of Christ, and are members of one another, called one Body with Christ."

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