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Catholicity.


What is catholicity? The words "The Prophesy of Faith of St. Athanasius the Great," highly estimated in the Christian world, show how important it is for a Christian to find an answer to this question.

This prophesy says: "The man, who desires to be saved, first of all must keep to the catholic faith. If anyone does not keep this faith pure and innocent, then with no doubt he will perish forever."

The word catholic was translated by our saints and spiritual first teachers Cyril and Methodius with the word council. This shows that they in the full accordance with the understanding of the entire Orthodox Church, put in this word not the same sense, which the contemporary West assigns to it, interpreting the word "catholic" as "ecumenical, universal." The same way the Trident Council of the Roman Catholic Church was interpreting the meaning of this notion, which by the way stated: "The third feature of the Church is its catholicity, i.e. ecumenism and universality" (Catechismus ad Parochos, 1567)

The fact, that the Church understood that word not the way the Roman Catholics did, is seen through the circumstance, that already in the 11th century, in the epistle about martyrdom of St. Policarpus, it is said about "the bishop of the Catholic Church in Smyrna." The idea of the Ecumenical Church in Smyrna is senseless. Clement of Alexandria (the 3d century) writes: "We say that in its essence and ideas, in the origin and development, the authentic Catholic Church is the one, which is unanimous, as it has to be, about the unity of faith" (Stromates, VII. XVII R. D. IX, 552).

Though, the notion "catholic" needs to be explained. What is a council, and catholicity? For the correct understanding of this word, we have to look back at the very beginning of the physical world and rise to the heights of theology.

God reveals Himself in front of us not as a Unite-Monad, but as the multitude, trinity in unity: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, but not three gods, One God, Three Personalities, but the Only Creature.

How such unity of the Three Divine Personalities is achieved? Through fullness and perfect love of One Personality to Another and full complete authenticity of the Divine Persons, through the absence of any shade of untruth, falsity in the Holy Trinity.

This is the true, original image of catholicity, council character, the way the Holy Church calls the Ever-Holy Trinity: the Pre-Eternal, Divine, Trinity Council.

Such council-like or catholic existence is the source of the greatest absolute joy and blessedness. That is why, on His inexpressible goodness, God wished that the joy of the council existence could be shared with other creatures, whom He created as able for that: first the angelic council and then the human kind.

He put in these creatures thirst for perfection, which can be reached due to the closer approaching to Him. Exactly the same is the state of angels and those people, who will inherit the Kingdom of God, as St. Basil the Great said: "I am a creature, but got the task to become God."

Joy and love grow more, according to the measure of approaching God, coming close to Him, and consequently, in sharing His joy and blessedness. It follows, that for God joy is a state, while for angels and blessed people a process, but the infinite process, for the Divine joy, which they partake of, is absolutely infinite.

With that, this process is not individual. The angels have council character, they are catholic. Each angel is a personality, but all together they comprise to one, indivisible council, similar to the Trinity, Divine Council.

From this angelic council fell out that angel, who did not want to communicate with God and be close to Him, but chose the way of self-establishment and isolation. He lead a part of the angels, those who followed him, onto that way, dooming them for estranged existence, deprived of any joy, for they fell off from the source of joy — God.

The man was called to the council existence. St. Basil the Great writes: "The monastic, exterminating in themselves the sin of Adam, restore the prehistoric beauty, because people would not have had any divisions, discords, wars, if the sin did not split the unity. Monks imitate the Savior, His life on earth. For, as the Savior was the image of the disciples, and even made Himself unanimous with the apostles, the same way they do. Monks imitate the life of angels, preserving council state in everything, like angels do. They anticipate the blessings of the promised kingdom, presenting with their virtuous life and mutual communication the absolute imitation of that kingdom’s way of living and state. They have definitely showed to the world, how many blessings the incarnation of the Savior brought to us, for they bring into unity with God the torn in thousands of pieces and scattered human entity, as hard as they can. For this is the most important in the house-building: to bring human nature into the unity with itself and the Savior and, destroying the sly division, to restore the primeval union, similar to how an experienced doctor again makes the body, falling into many parts, strong with the help of medicines" (Basil the Great, chap. XVIII, "The Ascetic Regulations").

Consequently, according to the Divine plan, people should be not the separated from one another units — monads and individuals, but personalities, connected with one existence, i.e. everyone, preserving his individual features, should live with the rest of the people, leading common, but not separate life.

This Divine plan was distorted by sin, when human nature turned out to be cut in pieces — individualities — with the fact that the man opposed his will to the Divine one.

But the man committed a sin not because of definite and mature decision to step onto the way of opposition to God, that was why his sin was not so awful, and distortion of his being was not hopeless. The original, authentic council character of mankind, its ancient catholicity, to some extent was preserved in the depth of the human soul. And everything kind and truly precious, of what was in the pre-Christian world and up to the present moment can be observed in the non-Christian world, has its roots in this in the first place harmed, but not destroyed council character — catholicity of mankind.

The man leads not only his individual life. Only to some extent, not fully, but still he feels the necessity of the other type of existence — the council-like one. From our experience we know the feeling of compassion, typical of all people, their desire as if to come out of oneself and walk in another’s shoes, feel for his grief, share his happiness. These are the pieces of the original ability of the man to live not only within himself, but in his neighbor. We possess the ability to understand another person, to be imbued with thoughts and feelings of other people, sometimes in such a measure that these thoughts and feelings become as if our own. The main and most precious trace of original catholicity is the possessed by all people ability to love. Love drives the man out of the destructive separation, which conceals in itself cold and torture, and returns to him, in the measure of the strength of his love, the ancient joy of council-like existence.

The scientific and artistic creativity from the very primitive manifestations up to the most elevated, as well roots in the original council character, since scientific creativity is the strife for finding the truth, and art — for seeking and expressing the beauty, for they are the traces of the authentic process, to which the man is called — to the comprehending of Fullness, Truth and Beauty of God. And the joy, which brings scientific or artistic creativity, is the trace and reflection of that joy, towards which, on the plan of the Creator, was originally called the man, and of which he got deprived, committing a sin.

Surely, these traces of the council character, put into our nature, are now very weak and powerless, because of our sinful nature. Everyone, who examined his intentions in a good way knows, how much infirm these kind, natural feelings are. For example, how much can the man sincerely and with all his heart sympathize with the excruciating sufferings of a neighbor, without being distracted by his own interests and concerns?

The return to the completeness of the council character catholic life, to human one-essence existence is not possible for our natural forces alone. That is why all the ancient and new attempts to build the natural morals, undertook out of the Christianity, are powerless: even the most loving and self-denying people in the final run would give preference to their interests, than to those of the others. The demands of self-establishing and ego in the fallen man are stronger than the reflections of the violated council character.

And meanwhile, only catholicity leads to salvation, for it returns the man onto the way of approaching God, and consequently leads to joy. Separation and reticence conceal torture in themselves.

And so, for returning catholicity to the man, God comes down onto the earth.

Each person inherits his physical and spiritual qualities from his parents. In the essence of each one of us there is nothing that was not in our father or mother, or in any of the antecedents. Consequently, the fullness of our qualities, both physical and spiritual, was put in Adam, the father of mankind. So, if he committed a sin, then any of the descendents earlier or later could commit it as well.

That is why it was necessary for the salvation of mankind that something new, that Adam lacked, would be brought into human nature. This new thing was brought to the people by the Son of God, connecting the essence of Adam with His own. Becoming a human, He was subjected to all temptations, typical for us, but, unlike Adam, He resisted and did not yield to the temptation to oppose his will to that of the Father, and therefore remained sinless.

Having taught the people with word and His Personal example to lead righteous life, he lifted their sins upon Himself, suffered and died to efface them. For He personally was sinless, then death did not have any power over Him. Hell, where He descended after His death on the cross, could not tolerate the glory of His Divinity. Destroying the walls of hell, and exterminating the bounds of death, Christ was risen.

Though these extraordinary qualities of Jesus Christ — wisdom, holiness, unceasing life, spiritual strength — would have remained His personal advantages, if His ever-good will would not have pleased to spread them over entire mankind.

But how did the Lord achieved that? He created the new Creature — the Church.

The sin cut in pieces the human essence; therefore a sinful man cannot become one with another. Only some slightest reflections of possessing common essence remained in mankind. Though a sinless person can gain common with the others essence.

So, the sinless Man, Jesus Christ, obtained common essence with those people, who attach to Him and get freed from sins, due to His redeeming the sins of the world.

Such a mysterious connection with Christ happens in Baptism.

Though, the fact that Christ redeemed our sins does not mean that we can sin further, and remain sinless. No, the Lord does not force anyone to come to Him, for love and communication with God are built upon freedom. Every time the man sins, i.e. freely chooses the evil instead of the good, he separates Himself from Christ. On the infinite Divine mercy, he can again come back to Christ through repentance. Therefore, in the sacrament of confession a priest reads a prayer: "Reconcile and unite him (or her) to Your Holy Church, through Jesus Christ our Lord." Receiving sinless state through confession, the man again connects himself with Christ in the sacrament of the Holy Communion.

Thus, the Church is the new Creature — the human Council, guided by Christ, the authentic organism, in which He is the Leader. In it all the members are of the same essence with Christ and one another, representing the multitude in its unity, the similarity of the pre-eternal Divine Trinity Council.

This is what council character, or catholicity is.

What does it mean the "catholic faith," which St. Athanasius mentions to be the indispensable condition of salvation?

This is that faith, which is professed with the Council of co-essential with Christ and one another personalities, among which is the Holy Spirit, teaching them truth. This catholicity equally comprises of all departed and alive, those Christians, who believe catholically, i.e. correctly. Each of them is responsible for the purity of their faith, for to believe otherwise than the others, who form the Church do, means to separate oneself from the Council, and to oppose the own will and ideas to the will and ideas of the Council, lead by Christ and inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, it is very important to believe and live in the unity with the whole Council, the entire Church, not opposing oneself to It in anything. To be in unity does not mean to be dissolved in featurelessness, for each person is a unique personality, individual inimitable image of the Divinity, with only belonging to him, and never and in no one repeated qualities, as the qualities of Each Divine Personality of the Holy Trinity are. Each man has his own tasks in life, but he has to fulfill them in catholicity, unity, one-essence existence with the other members of the same organism — the Church.

This is the short scheme of catholicity. About catholicity, the council character of mankind, about the restoration of the damaged with sin unity of mankind Christ the Savior was praying in the Archpriest prayer before His cruciferous sufferings: "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are…Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us" (John, 17:11, 20-21).

Here Christ prayed about the establishment of the Church, the human Council, similar to the Pre-Eternal Trinity Council, for we are called to be similar to God from the moment of our creation.

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