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Pastors and Teachers.

"And He (God) gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-12).

"The Spiritual Meadow" is the book that has a story of an old man who lived a very righteous life. When he offered Liturgies, he saw angels standing at the Altar Table. Being of little dogmatic knowledge himself, this man adopted the order of worship from heretics and, in all simplicity and with good intentions, during the divine services he repeated the words, which he thought he had to. By Divine Providence, a deacon visited him once, who knew the right order of worship. He noticed the error in the elder's words and corrected him. The old man did not believe the deacon and asked the angel, who was standing at the Altar Table, what was the right way to say the prayer. The angel answered, "You should listen to him: he says the right thing." "But why have you not corrected me earlier when I prayed?" the old man asked the angel. The angel answered, "God made it so that people would correct other people's errors." The elder worshipped correctly thereafter, and was grateful to God and the deacon.

This ancient moralistic story illustrates an important element of salvation: God's plan is that people must help one another in doing good!

If we look into the organization of the world and human life, then we will see that God-established principle of mutual help, assistance and cooperation underlies everything. Every thing and each living being has its own purpose, and one creature needs another. For example, plants are food for animals and humans, and also they produce oxygen, which is necessary for breathing. In their turn, plants need carbon dioxide, exhaled by animals, and insects for reproduction. Germs, inhabiting stomach and bowels of animals, are nourished with substances animals eat, and at the same time they facilitate the animals' digestion and nutrition. The male and female functions add one to the other in the process of conception and development of new generations. It is often in nature that death of some creatures is a necessary condition for the existence of others.

The need in mutual help is even more evident in the life of human society. When man comes into the world, he is helpless. His life, growth, nutrition and upbringing are fully dependent on his parents. Heritage, succession and communication form the basis of culture and progress. Coming to school age, man learns science and the arts, the results of efforts and studies of many generations of scientists, poets and authors. The entire modern life with its high technologies and tremendous achievements in medicine, science and arts, is the fruit brought by previous generations. This is how man constantly makes use of the achievements of those who passed away long ago. He cannot exist in a vacuum, separately and independently of other people. Even Christianity itself needed the preparatory work of the Old Testament period, needed its Law, its Prophets and the spiritual experience of the Old Testament's righteous people.

In a word, wherever we look in physical or animal or human life, we will see one universal and unbreakable law of cooperation and interaction everywhere. Without this law progress and the very life would not be possible. As interaction and cooperation are so inevitable in the everyday routine, they are even more wanted in our spiritual life, for success in virtues. This is why God "gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints (i.e. for spiritual improvement of Christians), for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-13). It is not the goal of our life to mechanically move the soul to the paradise; the primary goal is interior, spiritual renewal. In its turn it requires knowledge, experience, guidance, assistance, cleansing and sanctification. And for this the Church is needed, as the spiritual treaty of the faithful.

The Holy Apostle Paul who urged Christians to help each other in virtues often picks up this thought. He takes the human body, of which every part has its own task, and teaches:

"For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked. That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?" (1 Corinthians 12:12-30).

The Apostle's key thought is that within the Church every member, even if apparently unimportant, is still needed for the common good. A Christian family, the "home church," forms the first cell of the universal Church. The parents and the elder care for the smaller and guide them to the good way. Caring for the minors and giving them a good example by this, the elder at the same time perfect in virtues. At a higher level, families and members of the Christian community become united in their parish church. The gather for the common prayer, take part in worshipping, receive the communion of the Holy Gifts, share spiritual experiences. Here, through God's will, the efforts of worship and guidance are assigned to the shepherds, presbyters, who are responsible to God for each "sheep." At even higher level, Christian communities group into dioceses and local churches, where bishops, these "angels of the church" (Revelation 2:1), lead the spiritual life of Christians and care for preservation of the purity of the Christian faith. Finally, local churches together with the celestial church form One Body of Christ, endowed with life by the Holy Spirit.

In a normal, healthy family there should not be a conflict between parents and kids, the elder and the younger; so in the Church, the ministries can be different but all of them are needed for the common good. "The elders which are among you I exhort," writes St. Peter, "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock... Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder" (1 Peter 5:1-5).

We Orthodox Christians must value our belonging to the Church. She is our spiritual treasure, our guide in the issues of faith and life, our cleansing, sanctification, source of moral power and cheerfulness. We should try to become living, green branches of the vineyard of Christ out of the scarce of fruit and drying out branches that we are!

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