Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Orthodox Ecclesiology: Scope and Purpose

τωι Aναγνώστηι Λεωνίδας
χαίρε εν Κυρίωι και Σωτήρι Χριστώι Ιησού

This Blog site is intended to serve as forum for serious intellectual discussion on matters that regard Orthodox Christian ecclesiology. Orthodox ecclesiology, succinctly defined, is the theology of the Church's existence as the Body of Christ. It is the Church's reflection on its own being and identifying characteristics. In the Orthodox Church, ecclesiology is inextricably tied to the entire edifice of its theology insofar as it is precisely in the Church that theology--discourse on the divine--is possible. As Fr. Justin Popovich described:

"The whole mystery of the Christian faith is found in the Church; the whole mystery of the Church is in the God-Man; the whole mystery of the God-Man lies in the fact that that God became flesh and brought his entire Godhead, with all His divine values and perfection, with all the mysteries of God, into that flesh. The entire Gospel of the Theanthropos, the Lord Christ, is condensed into a few words, into this Good News: Great is the mystery of true religion, God was manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16)" (The Orthodox Church and Ecumenism, 3)

Indeed, the entire life of the Church as the theanrthopic Body of Christ lies in this truth. It is in the Church that humanity is united to divinity, since it is the body of Christ that was raised to the right hand of the Father. It is in the Church that the Holy Spirit breathes His uncreated gifts, manifesting the Son and uniting man to Him, since it was Christ the Word that sent the Spirit which proceeds from the Father to His disciples. And it is to the Church that all of humanity is called, summoned to freely participate in the life of God as He partakes in humanity's.

Thus, in Orthodoxy, the Church is not merely a socio-temporal community, since it is the unity of humanity; it is not merely an institution, since it is not limited to its administrative structures and hierarchies; it is not a cultural artifact, but a mode of life, a mode of thought, a mode of being that is ineffibly interpenetrated by the life uncreated Godhead.