A Community of Love
Catechumens: Where any two of us are gathered together in the Name of Christ, there is Christ in our midst. Therefore one of us speaks: “Christ is born.” and another responds: “Glorify Him.” One of us says “Christ is in our midst.” and another answers “He is and ever shall be.” We hold to the One Church, founded upon the Apostles, following the Fathers, and unified under the Bishop. We stand firm in our Confession of the One Faith which except we hold whole and undefiled, we imperil our salvation. And yet, the Church is also we who gather in Christ’s Name. And the One Faith is confessed in our gathering together in His Name. Not, to be sure, a nominal gathering, or a gathering of nominalism. We do not mean that anyone who claims to do something in Christ’s Name is indeed doing so. For it is also true that those who are His are in His Church, love His Saints, glorify His Mother, cling to the Bishop, and confess the Faith He delivered. We are the Church both in being correct and in being a community of love – never one without the other.
One thing impressed upon me by the Holy Supper on the Eve of Nativity is that the early Orthodox ate together, and that they ate together the way a family does. This is significant, I think, as a sign of their unity in love. Throughout the Acts of the Apostles, we read of the Church gathered together breaking bread. They went even farther, of course; they sold what they had, gave mightily to the poor, and lived in community, working each for the common good. We can learn much from this. Which of us would not be willing to sell at least some of what we have to satisfy the needs of others? Which of us would be unwilling to give and to work where we also receive and partake? But how too is it so significant that the early Orthodox ate together?
Perhaps it is speculation, but it does not seem too much of a stretch to suggest that they were making of one another a kind of family. Not only ‘begetting’ children in the Faith and standing as ‘parents’ at Holy Baptism, but these families became ‘interlocking’ members of each other, bearing witness to the reality of the Church as the One Body of Christ by sharing in each others’ sufferings and joys. They were mutual members not merely in the sense of a theoretical set of relationships, but they were continually gathered together, according to the Acts, devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. The implication is a community seeking theosis, with each other, whose bond and unity is love.
And again, I am reminded of this by the Holy Supper, since the Holy Nativity – God becoming man for us – has the sole purpose of our theosis, our union with God, the deification of ourselves and all creation. Because of the Incarnation, all things are now for our salvation, but most especially each other. Sartre said “Hell is other people.” but we believe that other people lead us to Heaven, in our love for them, and in their manifold helps to us. The Holy Communion in Christ’s Incarnate flesh and blood fulfills all meals and all possible union between men. The common meal of the family of God then indicated the extension of this reality of being and sharing the Body of Christ into a continual attitude
The Law and the Prophets bare witness entirely to Christ, the Incarnate God, and it is He that said to us “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” When we say “Christ is born.” therefore, it is this love for each other that is one meaning of our answer – “Glorify Him.”
– Catechetical Letter 12/28/2005