The Holy Church is a deep mystery of our Lord which cannot be defined in only a few sentences. Below are three helpful ways that attempt to point to, rather than define, this most profound mystery
1. The Orthodox Church is not an organization but a living organism-the very body of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the head and we (the Church) are His body. The Holy Gospel and the entire sacramental life of the Church transmits His very life to each of His members. St. Paul states this clearly when he says “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread. (1Co 10:16-17 NKJ)
2. The Orthodox Church is the Bride of our Lord Jesus Christ. St. Paul, again, states this clearly when he says “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (Eph 5:31-32 NKJ)” This union between our Lord and His Church is so very intimate that we might live in Him and He might live in us-through the Church.
3. The Orthodox Church is that continuous and discrete historical entity which has always communed with and worshipped the One God “in Spirit and in Truth” (Joh 4:24). This started at the beginning of creation with the Angels. It developed over the period of the Old Covenant with the Patriarchs and Prophets. It took its full and final form with the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost-a body which has direct spiritual, dogmatic, and physical continuity with the Orthodox Church of the 21st century. It includes those now living in the Church and those who have gone before us- for there are no “dead” in Christ Jesus. St. Paul, again writes this clearly…“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, (Heb 12:22-23 NKJ)”