A friend sent me this quote this morning in response to a longish discussion we had yesterday about the Eucharist, belonging to a church, and being “in communion” with a body of believers. Fr. Seraphim Rose (d. 1982) was a hieromonk (a priest-monk) of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Father Seraphim Rose ended the last talk of his life with the words of a modern-day Romanian confessor of suffering Orthodoxy, Fr. George Calciu, about what it really means to be a member of the Church:
“The Church of Christ is alive and free. In her we move and have our being, through Christ Who is her Head. In Him we have full freedom. In the Church we learn of truth and the truth will set us free (John 8:32). You are in Christ’s Church whenever you uplift someone bent down in sorrow, or when you give alms to the poor, and visit the sick. You are in Christ’s Church when you cry out: ‘Lord, help me.’ You are in Christ’s Church when you are good and patient, when you refuse to get angry with your brother, even if he has wounded your feelings. You are in Christ’s Church when you pray: ‘Lord, forgive him.’ When you work honestly at your job, returning home weary in the evenings but with a smile upon your lips; when you repay evil with love – you are in Christ’s Church! Do you not see, therefore, young friend, how close the Church of Christ is? You are Peter and God is building His Church upon you. You are the rock of His Church against which nothing can prevail… Let us build churches with our faith, churches which no human power can pull down, a church whose foundation is Christ… Feel for your brother alongside you. Never ask: ‘Who is he?’ Rather say: He is not a stranger; he is my brother. He is the Church of Christ just as I am.”
“With such a call in our hearts,” Fr. Seraphim concluded, “let us begin really to belong to the Church of Christ… Outward membership is not enough… If we truly live the Orthodox worldview, then our Faith will be a source of inspiration and salvation for those who will be seeking Christ even amidst the shipwreck of humanity.”
As Fr. Seraphim so often reiterated, there are no formulas in the spiritual life. The first and important thing is not “rightness” at all, but Christian love and harmony. Before he found the truth, Fr. Seraphim suffered for the lack of it; having found it, he suffered for the sake of it.
—The Orthodox Word Magazine, #165, 1992