Father Who Art in Heaven."
When people talk about the Church, they usually think of her
worldly aspect, the Church Militant. In various countries, and throughout her
history, this Church has had periods of tranquility and prosperity, and periods
of persecution and abasement. At times of ordeal, people who set store by the
Church start fearing for her fate and asking, whether the end has come to her
existence and the world has reached its last days.
In the time of hardship of the Church, it is
comforting to raise our spiritual eyes aloft, and to pray to the Lord, "Our
Father which art in heaven." Through such prayerfulness, we enter into
mysterious fellowship with the Omnipotent God and with the spiritual world, and
the existence of our Church in her out-of-this-world glory becomes revealed to
our sight. Then we start to clearly comprehend and feel that the spiritual
community we belong to is in fact much greater and stronger than it has
seemed. Parts of this community are the Holy Virgin Mary, Apostles, prophets,
martyrs, saint monks, fools-for-Christ-sake, saints, innumerable righteous
people of all times and nations, and finally, the infinite ocean of the angel
world, with its glory and power above comprehension. And this grand multitude
is lead by the Chief of our salvation, the Victor over the devil and Conqueror
of death, our Lord Jesus Christ!
The Holy Apostle Paul comforted his compatriots,
Judean Christian persecuted by non-believing Jews, by reminding them about this
genuine glory of the heavenly-and-worldly Church, "But ye are come unto
mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to
an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the
firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the
spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant"
(Hebrews 12:22-24). And yet in another place he compared the Church to a great
building and inspired the faithful with the following words, "Now
therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the
saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the
apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In
whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the
Lord" (Ephesians 2:19-21).
In relationship to the universal
heavenly-and-worldly Church, our local, national Orthodox churches are just
small cells, as though stones on a slope of a big mountain, or huts in the
outskirts of a large city; and the parishes we belong to are simply
But the seeming scarcity and even mediocrity do
not mean that we have been forsaken by our glorified brothers and left for the
servants of the prince of darkness. Contrarily, the more powerful the onslaught
of the enemy's forces, the closer to us is help of the entire Church. If we
cannot permit a bully to hurt our small brother before our eyes, then even more
the saints, who have reached perfection in charity, are always ready to come to
our rescue. And, in accordance with the words of the Savior, "joy shall
be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine
just persons, which need no repentance" (Luke 15:7).
Our world is like a battlefield, and maybe
it is in the center of the struggle in which God and Satan fight for each and
every human soul. Indeed, the front line of this war goes far beyond the boundaries
of our universe, and the Heavenly Church takes very vigorous action in
the struggle with the dragon and its servants. We are able to watch only a
minor portion of this arduous, tense spiritual war.
In order to see this battle in a wider scale, it
should be looked at through the eyes of the Holy Visionary, the Apostle John
the Theologian, the writer of the Book of Revelation.
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