I came across this beautiful piece of writing from Abbot Tryphon of the All Merciful Saviour Orthodox Monastery this morning while trolling Facebook.  In his words, we find some practical and convicting words about the role of the Church and the Christian.  This short morning post from the good Abbot is a masterpiece, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.  Here are some strong points I gathered from Abbot Tryphon today…points for the Church to live by, and points for the Christian to live by:

1) The Church, even in antiquity, was never intended to be a religious institution, but a place of healing for hurting and troubled souls.

2) The Church is intended fully to be a place where humanity can commune with God.

3) The primary vehicle for this meeting of heaven and earth is Holy Communion.

4) Holy Communion is the primary means by which we can receive grace.

5) Participating in Holy Communion has a fourfold impact upon us…It makes us whole, complete beings….It opens the door to God…It brings about spiritual, inward change…And it is the primary sign of corporate unity for Christians.

6) Though the Church is a unique figure, it is not intended to be exclusive.  All are welcome.

7) The Church should not judge those who are not a part of her.

8) While the Church possesses absolute truth, she is to respect the basic dignity of all peoples.

9) Holy Communion bind us together as believers; binds us together with other believers across the ages (Communion of Saints); and binds us as a corporate body to the Kingdom of Heaven.

10) The traditions of the Church have been passed down for two thousand years, and represent the truth.  The greater culture may disagree with the Church on many points, but the truth is the truth.  There aren’t many different versions of truth.  Only one.

All that being said, here’s the morning thought from Abbot Tryphon…

The Church Fathers saw Orthodoxy as a Way of Life, rather than a religion.  Although the Church has many of the same attributes as religion, this does not mean she is herself a religious institution.  Rather, she is a Hospital for the Soul, where in we can receive the healing that makes it possible to commune with our Creator.  It is within this hospital, the Church, that we are made holy (whole), making the communion possible.  The Eucharist, which is the chief vehicle by which we can receive the grace that opens the doors for communion with God, brings about spiritual transformation, and is the chief sign of our unity in Christ.

Although there is uniformity in doctrine and practice within the Orthodox Church, the unity within the Church does in no way exclude those who are outside the Church, for all are God’s children, and the doors of the Church are open wide, even to those who are blind to this truth.  The Church does not judge those who remain outside her walls, but loves them, and prays for them.  She is not an exclusive institution, but rather the living embodiment of Christ.  Her claim to divine origin, and absolute truth, in no way suggests a denial of the basic dignity of humanity as being the children of God.

The Church’s claim to divine origin is no where more clearly seen, then her celebration of the Eucharist, for this is the moment when heaven comes down to earth, and her faithful are united one to another, in the Christ Who gives Himself so freely and completely. In this way the Eucharist is the vehicle to unity in Christ, and a sign of a unity that transforms time and space. Yet without unity of faith, where each believer has received as their own, the teachings of the Church in all her integrity and authenticity, communion would simply be a common participation in a symbolic act, rather than the participation in the Divine. Our reception of the very Body and Blood of Christ, is that point in eternity that brings about transformation and holiness.

These teachings are in direct opposition to the theories and philosophies of today, for they would deny the existence of Absolute Truth. The Church’s strict adherence to the beliefs, teachings, and practices, that have been handed down from Apostolic times, are the basis for our unity, for we have bound ourselves to the unchanging Apostolic Church, and forever united ourselves to Christ.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

To read more of Abbot Tryphon’s writing, please visit his blog, The Morning Offering

Also, take some time to visit the website for the All Merciful Saviour Orthodox Monastery.  Located on Maury Island in Puget Sound (a short ferry ride from both Seattle and Tacoma, Washington), the monastery is in a beautiful setting, and is definitely another spot that is on my list of places I would love to visit.

Peace of the Lord be with you all…

How very good and pleasant it is when the kindred dwell together in unity.   (Psalm 133:1)

Since this is hopefully the beginning of a little online community, I could think of no better topic to begin with than community itself.  It’s a big subject, and a controversial one.  If you’re reading this post, there’s a pretty good shot that you belong to a different denomination than me, if not a different belief system altogether.  What I hope to offer to the conversation about  unity is not a pie in the sky hope of perfect unity and love amongst the Bride of Christ.  I’m not John the Baptist, cleverly disguised as Rodney King, crying “Can’t we all just get along?” out here in the post-evangelical desert.  We could talk about the Acts 2 church, and how they shared goods and meals and worshiped together, and say their church members were ideally committed to providing for each others’ needs, but we would only end up with an argument over whether they met in a house or at the temple, so I’m not taking that path.  We could talk about the blood and the body, but we Christians can’t even agree on the purpose and power of these.

Instead, I wanted to take a stab at defining some marks that we as believers should hold to that bind us together as community.  Again, it’s a big topic.  There’s already been about 2000 years worth of discussion on the things that bind us together, and those things that divide us.  Unfortunately, the things that divide us are the ones that seem to draw the most attention, and the things we believers focus on the most.  We’re going to avoid all the theological arguments about justification, methods of baptism, and spiritual gifts, and look at the things that should glue us all hopelessly together.

Being a complete liturgical, historical Christianity nerd, I went straight back in time to find some practices that imply that we are bound to one another;  that we are responsible for each others’ well-being;  that we’re in this boat together.  I came up with three ideas that I wanted to explore, three things that I believe define us as a community of believers when we participate actively in them:

1)  We are a people of Baptism

2)  We are a people of  Communion.

3)  We are a people of Creed.

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