Thursday, April 3, 2014

Human Element in the Church

Many people don’t understand why, if the Church is the Body of Christ and it’s the House of God, why then do we see wrongs and sin within it. However, what most people ignore is the fact that the Church is not only a divine body; it is also a human one. This inevitably emphasises the fact that, due to the human presence, sin and human characteristics enter the Body of the Church. Metropolitan Kallistos explains, in his book The Orthodox Church (p. 244): 

“…Orthodoxy tries not to forget that there is a human element in the Church as well as a divine. The dogma of Chalcedon must be applied to the Church as well as to Christ. Just as Christ the God-Man has two natures, divine and human, so in the Church there is a synergy or co-operation between the divine and the human. Yet between Christ’s humanity and that of the Church there is this obvious difference, that the one is perfect and sinless, while the other is not yet fully so. Only a part of the humanity of the Church – the saints in heaven – has attained perfection, while here on earth the Church’s members often misuse their human freedom. The Church on earth exists in a state of tension: it is already the Body of Christ, and thus perfect and sinless, and yet, since its members are imperfect and sinful, it must continually become what it is.
But human sin cannot affect the essential nature of the Church. We must not say that because Christians on earth sin and are imperfect, therefore the Church sins and is imperfect; for the Church even on earth, is a thing of heaven, and cannot sin. St. Ephraim of Syria rightly spoke of ‘the Church of the penitents, the Church of those who perish’, but this Church is at the same time the icon of the Trinity. How is it that the members of the Church are sinners, and yet they belong to the communion of saints? ‘The mystery of the Church consists in the very fact that together sinners become something different from what they are as individuals; this “something different” is the Body of Christ’.  

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