I am spending this weekend in Nicholasville, Ky, with my Archbishop and several clergy friends. We are saying goodby to Fr. David Rucker who will soon take up a position at the Orthodox Christian Mission Center, and we say hello, to Fr. Justin Patterson, my former assistant priest, as the new priest in charge of St. Athanasius in Kentucky. In addition tomorrow, we will see the tonsuring of two men as Readers, another two as Sub-deacons, and another ordained to the Holy Diaconate. My job as Dean of the Appalachian Deanery is mostly to hang around and be overjoyed at all of these wonderful happenings.
But apart from that, I have a very strong vision this night, a reminder of the nature of the Church. St. Paul said the Church was built on the foundation of the Apostles and the Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. Such language can become so encrusted with the centuries of “Scriptural usage” that we forget what it means. That the Church is built on the foundation of the Apostles and the Prophets, for the writer Paul, is nothing other than saying that the Church is built on the foundation of men that he knows. Nor is it any different today. Even though the foundation has been laid, and no other foundation can be laid, other than Christ Jesus, still each course of stone that is laid, is the living stone of the saints. I am witness to the laying of yet another course (this time of ordained ministry) other times of other ministries. I stand in witness to one of the successors of the Apostles and watch him lay yet another layer of the foundation.
The Church, whatever and however we approach it, cannot be other than men and women in the body of Christ. It is not an institution, in any non-personal sense. It is utterly and only personal, being built entirely of persons.
It is this great assemblage of persons that I think about on occasions such as this weekend. Not just the persons that I am sharing these wonderful events with, but with the persons of the Church everywhere. With the parish of St. Anne back home, with my Deanery and Diocese, with the Orthodox Church in America and throughout the world, and the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us at every move. But none of it is other than persons. All of them live and die and live in Christ. Each had nervous days like my own (this weekend). Each had wonderful moments and of great joy. But all of it, is built in the manner that God intended – not of syllogism and statement, but of lives lived in union with Christ. The Church consists of nothing other than that – lives lived in union with Christ. May He bless this wonderful weekend, and the lives of which He is constructing His Church.
Matthew, you asked: “If grace is everywhere present filling all things, then why do we also need the explicit mysteries…