The Church, the Creation and Gift of Christ

Fathers Geoffrey Neal and Edward Bryant have launched a series of six meditations on the Church, the images and marks that have underpinned an orthodox vision. An overview of the meditations – with the present first in line – is available here.

The present challenge

The whole season of Pentecost is a time to reflect on what it means to be the Church rather than the place to attend. It seems that most people both Christians and non Christians do not see a need to have an adequate understanding of what it really means to be the Church. In 2014 Andrew Walker and Robin Parry in the book “Deep Church Rising” highlighted this crisis for all denominations. A lack of teaching, knowledge and confidence in the Sacred Tradition about what the Church is, has brought about confusion and weakness. There has been an unwillingness to accept the drift into error and diversity and the fact that the established institutional churches have in Lesslie Newbegin’s words “thrown in the towel and surrendered to secularism”. Confusion like this brought about the Nordic Catholic Church (NCC) over twenty years ago.

Descent of the Holy Ghost, S.S. Peter and Paul’s Church (Andreas F. Borchert / CC BY-SA 3.0 DE)

The meaning and purpose of the Church is the question that should be in our thoughts and prayers over the coming season. It was the mind and purpose of our Lord as he prepared to leave the Apostles to continue his work and that is what by the power and strength of the Holy Spirit came into existence on the first day of Pentecost.

There are some for whom Church still means the old familiar frequently closed building in our towns and villages, while others think it is the meeting place for those who have their own mixtures of private religious views, with little need to adhere to any agreed belief apart from love and kindness, and who meet without awareness of the problems caused by this great diversity of meaning and purpose.

The more we probe the question, the more confusion emerges, with the result that the faith becomes vulnerable and out of touch with its history and unity of belief. There are warnings ever present in the Old Testament which records an endless series of consequences for the Hebrew people of God who are forgetful of their calling and turn to other Gods. In the New Testament, the Jerusalem disciples and their companions who first experienced the overwhelming power of the Holy Spirit believed they were to become the new “chosen people of God, a new creation” who would take forward the crucial ministry of Jesus the Son and Word of God. This was the vision of the New Testament, a united “body of Christ infused with the Holy Spirit with many images and marks to help keep the new Church on course.

Anonymous Russian icon painter (before 1917) / Public domain

In 1830’s, the Russian saint and mystic Seraphim of Sarov in a conversation with Nicholas Motovilov taught that the whole purpose of a Christian life within the ark of the Church was “the acquisition of the Holy Spirit”, an idea that has helped many to keep alive the Apostolic vision and must help us again.

The gift and creation of Christ has grown dim. So now is the time to underscore this vision of the Church as the body of Christ in history infused and united in the Holy Spirit. This is the task our NCC has as a goal. Seeing the established churches becoming comfortable and ready to accommodate to the secular world, and no longer able to offer the vision of a body of people “souls hard wired” by the Holy Spirit, we are prepared to do what it takes to get back to an Apostolic mind.

Far too long Christians have accepted individual concoctions of faith frequently out of step with the apostolic vision and mind of Our Lord, the head of His Church. If this continues we shall not survive. We should be like instruments in an orchestra continually being re-tuned to the perfect “A”. No orchestra can function if every instrument does its own thing, so too the Church of Christ, needs continually to return to the unity of perfect pitch of the Apostolic vision and gift of Christ Jesus to the world.

Fr. Geoffrey Neal

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