ON BEING A MEMBER OF THE CHURCH
Rev, Fr. Dean Nastos, February 26, 2012
Advise excerpted from a letter by St. Nikon the Abbot to a spiritual child who was being challenged on the importance of being a member of the Body of Christ, His Church:
Today I received your letter concerning the sanctity of the Church. Before examining why it is holy, one must define it. What is the Church? The Church is the Body of Christ (Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:24). The Head of the Church is Christ. (Eph. 3:28; Col. 1:18).
Those who believe in Christ enter the Church through the Mystery of Baptism and through the Mystery of the Eucharist they are joined into one body and spirit with the Lord. If a man does not consciously reject Christ through his words and deeds, and attempts to live according to the commandments, and repents of his transgressions, he is not “potentially” holy, but actually holy; he is a member of the Church, a member of the Body of Christ.
Through crude and conscious sins, he temporarily falls away from the Church, yet through repentance (a “second baptism”), he can rejoin the Church. Thus the spiritual father reads the prayer over the penitent: “reconcile and unite him/her unto your Holy Church…” If a sinner does not repent, he remains outside the Church. If he fights sin and is wounded but continues to struggle, repents, asks forgiveness and help from God, then he is a holy soldier of Christ. In this battle with sin, he acquires many spiritual treasures which he could not do otherwise. Just as the body rids itself of a foreign element through an abscess, so the Lord eliminates from the Church those foreign to Him, or rather, they themselves leave the Church. For this reason the Church is always holy. She is the Mystical Body of Christ. She is the pillar and stronghold of the truth. Fallen reason cannot fathom this. For this, faith is necessary: “I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.”
He who wants to know from experience the mysteries of Christianity should apply all his strength to spiritual labors and not attempt to understand everything with the mind alone.