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Horizon of events and the Church


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#1 Lakis Papas

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Posted 05 November 2016 - 01:05 AM

In physics there is the term "horizon of events" that states that any event has a local limitation in time and space. Therefore a horizon exist that puts borders that limit the extension of any event within a defined frame.

The creation of the Church took place in a limited place and time, after that a propagation in time and place started.

It took several centuries for some places to be touched by Church. And even today, some areas of the world are isolated from the Church due to geopolitical status, like the islamic states.

Church managed to expand geographicaly as centuries pass but she always was limited by a geo-historical horizon that put barriers in her expansion.

Even Christ's life was limited by a human horizon as human nature put limits in time and space - even though He proved by many miracles that He was capable to overcome these limits with an effortless way. Yet, He choose to live under the limits of human nature.

Now, when we talk about the Church and her history, we have to define places and times: st Paul talked to Corinthians after visited Thessalonikians.

But humanity is historicaly and geographicaly bigger than the Church. It seems that Church has no intention to become trully global, or at least she shall use several centuries to accomplish this purpose.

As the horizon of Church events change in time and in geography, there are two realms: one within this horizon and one beyond this horizon. Even if the horizon borders are not well defined, they are always there.

And Christ talked about the small flock.

It seems to me that Church is not a universal body. She is the Body of Christ, that by Church members is within a limited horizon of events.

Have you any patristic statements on this?

#2 Anna Stickles

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Posted 08 November 2016 - 01:53 PM

It is One, Holy, Catholic (ie universal), and apostolic Church. So it cannot be right to say the Church is not universal. When something doesn't make sense, we should not deny the faith, but rather seek for the sense in which it is true.

 

The ontological being of the Church is not confined by a "horizon of events", even if it seems that she is limited in time and place on the material level. 

 

An illustration - we are used to human beings being constrained by time and place, but there are stories of several of our saints who were in one place, and yet who were seen and talked to people in another place many miles away.   The current physical laws came into being at the Fall, in as much as the saints are in an ontological space that is a foretaste of the kingdom to come, they live in a way in which their "horizon" is greatly expanded. Christ's body itself is not constrained by time and space. We see this in our understanding of the Eucharist - otherwise how could the Eucharist be offered everywhere? 



#3 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 08 November 2016 - 04:05 PM

In his book, The Mind of the Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) describes the catholic nature of the Church referring to patristic sources. We ought to note that the Church incudes the Church in the heavens as well as the Church on Earth. The Church is indeed catholic or universal inasmuch as it is everywhere and both within and outside time. What I suspect Lakis means is that because 'wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction' and 'few there be that find it', and because 'many are called, but few are chosen', most people (past, present, and future) are not within the Church. This fact does not in any way qualify the catholicity of the Church (just as the Church's holiness is not qualified by having me in it). If I am right about what I think Lakis means, patristic commentary can be sought on the matter.



#4 Lakis Papas

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Posted 09 November 2016 - 07:20 PM

Thanks for both answers.

 

Anna, how a native Indian in North America was affected by the Church before missionaries arrived at America? Church existed for centuries before she might have the opportunity to reach North America.

 

Rdr Andreas, yes, Church can be without me, then what is the point to ask me to join her ? If my absence is not essential, why my presence within the Church is making any difference? 



#5 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 09 November 2016 - 08:16 PM

'Rdr Andreas, yes, Church can be without me, then what is the point to ask me to join her ? If my absence is not essential, why my presence within the Church is making any difference?'

I wonder, Lakis, if you have misunderstood me. The Church exists in all its fullness without those who are not members of it. To 'ask' or evangelize non-members to come within the Church is a separate matter; the point of asking those outside it to join it is to put them on the path to salvation. Christ would have all to be saved -  but that, as 'would' implies, is a wish, and will not become an accomplished fact.



#6 Lakis Papas

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Posted 10 November 2016 - 06:08 PM

'Rdr Andreas, yes, Church can be without me, then what is the point to ask me to join her ? If my absence is not essential, why my presence within the Church is making any difference?'

I wonder, Lakis, if you have misunderstood me. The Church exists in all its fullness without those who are not members of it. To 'ask' or evangelize non-members to come within the Church is a separate matter; the point of asking those outside it to join it is to put them on the path to salvation. Christ would have all to be saved -  but that, as 'would' implies, is a wish, and will not become an accomplished fact.

 

Exactly! The two domains ( inside - outside of the Church ) will remain non-unified for ever!

 

The issue is not about the completeness of these two domains, but I ask about the huge gap between them. The gap is similar to a frontier that delimits the horizon beyond which there can not be, perforce, a shared ground. This is like a division - I do not seek for the reasons here - and all divisions create isolation. It is this isolation that I am asking about in my initial post. Church members may overcome physical boundaries and may succeed in spiritual triumphs but these accomplishments remain within the Church domain; what is their significance for non Church members ? (the question is about their ontological significance, not about their ephemeral impressiveness).

 

Ι understand that the spiritual and ecclesiastic life has the power to shake others and to move them into becoming aware of the Holy Spirit, but this is happening within time limits and in specific locality and by no means has a global effect or timeless scope. 



#7 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 10 November 2016 - 07:32 PM

There is, so I recall being told, the cosmic effect of sins on the one hand, and of prayer and the Divine Liturgy on the other. Both, as when a stone is cast into a pond, like ripples spread out to the ends of the earth and beyond.



#8 Anna Stickles

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Posted 11 November 2016 - 01:37 PM

http://www.bogoslov....xt/2314168.html

 

This understanding of the ‘total Adam’ means that, on each occasion when we
say the Lord’s Prayer, we offer it not only on our own behalf but on
behalf of everyone. As Fr Sophrony says, ‘When we pray “Our Father” we
think of all mankind, and solicit the fullness of grace for all as for
ourselves’.
[14]
St Gregory of Nyssa emphasizes this same point when he states that,
since we ‘share in Adam’s nature and therefore share also in his fall’,
in consequence the petition in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Forgive us our
trespasses’, is something that we offer for Adam’s sake as well as for
our own.
[15] This fits exactly with St Silouan’s line of thought.

On
the basis of this theology of the ‘total Adam’, the Starets is able to
give a particularly powerful interpretation to Christ’s command, ‘You
shall love your neighbour as yourself’ (Matthew 19:19). I am able to
love my neighbour as myself, because by virtue of the unity of all
humankind in ‘Adam our father’, my neighbour is
myself. I am likewise to pray for others as I pray for myself: ‘All my
desire’, says St Silouan, ‘is to learn humility and the love of Christ,
that I may offend no man but pray for all as I pray for myself
(350: italics in the original). In the same way the suffering of the
other is my suffering, and my neighbour’s healing is healing for me as
well; ‘my brother’s glory will be my glory also.’
[16]
‘If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is
honoured, all rejoice together with it’ (l Corinthians 12:26).

This
leads St Silouan to affirm in a strong and literal sense that my
neighbour’s life is my own: ‘Blessed is the souls that loves her
brother, for our brother is our life’ (371: italics in the original). For the one who prays, says Fr Sophrony,

The
existence of mankind is not alien and extraneous to him but is
inextricably bound up with his own being.... Through Christ’s love all
men become an inseparable part of our own individual, eternal existence
(47).

Christ
has taken up the ‘total Adam’ into Himself and has suffered for him; we
therefore should take up into ourselves ‘the life of all mankind’,
looking upon every other person as our ‘eternal brother’:

Each of us must, therefore, take heed not only for himself but for this single whole (47-48).

So
it is that, according to the Starets, ‘in his deep heart the Christian
after a certain fashion lives the whole history of the world as his own
history’; for ‘no man is alien to him’ (234).



#9 Anna Stickles

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Posted 11 November 2016 - 02:28 PM

quotes from Bishop Irenei Steenberg (Axios!) on a previous thread on the nature and limits of the Church. It provides some additional food for thought.


 

To expand a bit on what I wrote before, if the Church is the body of Christ, she has no limits; and yet, as Christ is not a concept of truth, but a person met and encountered and known, inauthentic experience yields a false relationship. Can salvation come ‘outside the Church’? Clearly not, if the above is true.

But does the Christ of the Church, that encountered person, wholly restrict this encounter to those placed in the territorial space of the Church on earth? Here too
we must say, clearly not. The Church has recognised saints that were beyond this territory. She acknowledges the ongoing reality of others.
The experience of Christ is one that can transfigure a life or lives, which the fractures of sin may have set outside that living organism of the Church’s worldly life.

I do not deny that this position clashes strongly with much modern-day ecclesiology, and I do not claim it is simple to comprehend. But Orthodox ecclesiology is rooted firstly and chiefly in encounter, rather than territorial lines or limits—so the questions of ‘what lies beyond’ take on the same aspects of mystery
that all personal relationships do. But, this view is to proclaim the great hope that comes in the witness of God’s grace—the grace of the
Church, which is God’s body—working beyond the boundaries of sin and the human attempts to fracture what can never be broken; and at the same
time to see that grace and that redemption as the ultimate fruit and evidence that the Church is ever and always one.

 

 


Edited by Anna Stickles, 11 November 2016 - 02:29 PM.


#10 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 11 November 2016 - 05:13 PM

'The Church has recognised saints that were beyond this territory.'

 

I do not know what Bishop Irenee meant by this. Can anyone clarify?



#11 Anna Stickles

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Posted 11 November 2016 - 10:22 PM

St Isaac of Syria, there is a discussion of this somewhere on Monachos.

 

You can check out some of the discussion here. I can't find the main thread that discussed this.


Edited by Anna Stickles, 11 November 2016 - 10:31 PM.


#12 Lakis Papas

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Posted 13 November 2016 - 08:10 PM

On the same line, it is written in Revelation that Christ is at the door waiting to enter in the heart, waiting for a welcome call from inside.

This isolated place, that heart is, where God is an outsider, limits the Church event horizon in the personal frame.

It is a mystery how God excludes the human heart from His presence, and how He makes Himself subject of the human will. Somehow God becomes servant of man.

The picture of Christ waiting at heart's door is exceptional! It gives to the Church a passive role. She might has the initiative to knock the door but the final decision is not made by her.

It is also a mystery that God enters into History but His presence is not decided by Him.

#13 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 13 November 2016 - 10:49 PM

This is an off-the-cuff answer but something does not ring right about post #12. Also, there is no reference to any authority to support what was said. God is everywhere present and fills all things - there is nowhere He is not. That God desires a response from the person - an answer to His knock - does not imply He is not already within. The image of God is within every person.



#14 Lakis Papas

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Posted 13 November 2016 - 11:30 PM

This is an off-the-cuff answer but something does not ring right about post #12. Also, there is no reference to any authority to support what was said. God is everywhere present and fills all things - there is nowhere He is not. That God desires a response from the person - an answer to His knock - does not imply He is not already within. The image of God is within every person.


Yes, the image of God is within each human, but not God. The true Image of God is Christ, Christ's image is within each human.

#15 Olga

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Posted 14 November 2016 - 02:50 AM

Yes, the image of God is within each human, but not God.

 

All three persons of the Holy Trinity are God. So Christ, the Son and Image of God, is still God.



#16 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 14 November 2016 - 04:35 PM

Indeed. We are told in Genesis that God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness' - the plural tells us this was the Holy Trinity. Whilst God is everywhere, the point of the knock at the door by Christ the Word is that God respects our free will to respond, to open the door - the handle to which is on the inside. Thus the passage continues, 'if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him'. The question may be asked, though, what impels a man to hear the voice and open the door? The answer (so I was taught) is humility - to the man who, in his humility, seeks God and a relationship with Him, God gives the grace to respond.


Edited by Rdr Andreas, 14 November 2016 - 04:36 PM.


#17 Lakis Papas

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Posted 14 November 2016 - 05:58 PM

The true meaning of "image" is explained in the following paper:  Human Person as a Being Created in the Image of God and as the Image of the Son: The Orthodox
Christian Perspective
 by Assist. Prof. Dr. Nicolae Răzvan Stan, Theological Faculty of the University of Craiova, Romania (with many patristic references)

 

Man was created "in the image of God" .... the main distinction between “the image” and “in/after the image of”, both defining different doctrinaire realities. Therefore, while “in/after the image of” alludes to the human being, the term “the image” is strictly and solely confined  to the Son of God. Whereas the Son solely is  the Image of the Father, as He is equal with the Father, man appears to have been created in the image and likeness of God, or as the image of the Image. Man is the image of the Image according to his Christological dimension and constitution, or, to put it differently, man was made in the image of the Only-Begotten Son of God.
...
 
After consulting and considering various Biblical texts, Orthodox Christian anthropology points to the fact that man was made in the image of God, as the image of the Image, since only the Son is the Image of God as such. This terminology distinguishes, on the one hand, between man as a created and limited being who never identifies with God, and, on the other hand, man as participating in the divine life and enjoying the filial relationship with the Father.
 
By defining man as the image/icon of the Son, Orthodox theology emphasizes the divine-human dimension that characterizes man’s existence. Jesus Christ is both divine and human. Likewise, man, following Christ, lives his life according to the precepts of Christ and in communion with Christ. In order that he might live forever in communion with the Holy Trinity, in Whose image he was made, man should receive the divine life from God.


#18 Lakis Papas

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Posted 14 November 2016 - 06:07 PM

All three persons of the Holy Trinity are God. So Christ, the Son and Image of God, is still God.

 

I agree, the Son and Image of God is indeed God, all three persons are God.

 

The human nature is not "the image". Human nature is “in/after the image of”. 

 

Olga, please look at the paper that I posted on the previous post.



#19 Lakis Papas

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Posted 14 November 2016 - 06:40 PM

Indeed. We are told in Genesis that God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness' - the plural tells us this was the Holy Trinity. Whilst God is everywhere, the point of the knock at the door by Christ the Word is that God respects our free will to respond, to open the door - the handle to which is on the inside. Thus the passage continues, 'if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him'. The question may be asked, though, what impels a man to hear the voice and open the door? The answer (so I was taught) is humility - to the man who, in his humility, seeks God and a relationship with Him, God gives the grace to respond.

 

God is everywhere, yes.

 

Then, there is the heart of man. A "place" where God asks to enter, waiting for man to open a certain door through which He is going into the heart.

 

Orthodox theology rejects the idea of pantheism where the essence of God is everywhere in one way or another. We accept though that God's energies are everywhere, creating and sustaining the world into existence. Through God's energies man communicates physically, noeticaly and spiritually with God, in Christ, through the Spirit.

 

Christ knows the most inner depths of the heart of every man. But, there is one thing to know a place and another to be in that place ontologically. According to neptic fathers our hearts are empty from God and they are dark places mostly covered by passions. We need to follow ascetic practice in order to illuminate our hearts, and make darkness to go away. Several Fathers of the Church make quite clear that the image of God is stained in our human nature. This is an ontological status.

 

I understand the issue of "free will", but we also must understand that a human with a heart full of passions is not free. It is not our will that will keep the door closed, it is our ontological status that keeps the door closed. And by having our hearts clean the door is opened, not by our will.  Our God, has the humility to wait for the proper time to illuminate His creature, as the creature defines how and when the preparation will take place.

 

And a last thing, that I will put as a question: while Christ knows when the answer is going to be "no" why He waits for a vain attempt outside of the door? 



#20 Olga

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Posted 14 November 2016 - 09:43 PM

 I understand the issue of "free will", but we also must understand that a human with a heart full of passions is not free. It is not our will that will keep the door closed, it is our ontological status that keeps the door closed. And by having our hearts clean the door is opened, not by our will.  Our God, has the humility to wait for the proper time to illuminate His creature, as the creature defines how and when the preparation will take place.

 

And a last thing, that I will put as a question: while Christ knows when the answer is going to be "no" why He waits for a vain attempt outside of the door? 

 

No-one is truly free from passions. Only Christ was dispassionate and sinless. Yet so many of us wish to let God into our hearts, as fallen and imperfect as we are, and it happens. Was St Mary of Egypt's heart clean when she begged God to enter it? No. It took many years of the harshest discipline for her to be purified, but this was only possible after she had accepted God.

 

Even the Mother of God's assent to Archangel Gabriel's message was required. God did not take the matter of His Incarnation out of her hands, she was still given the option of saying "no". Fortunately, she said "yes".






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