Source: The Orthodox Church, Volume 44/Number 4
“I believe... in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.”
Many years ago, well over a decade and a half, I was wrestling with the fact of the many denominations that are found in our country, and now around the world. At that point, I (erroneously) tried to reason that God reached some through this group, others through that group, etc., etc. This thinking is pretty easy, for one justifies all kinds of things.
I remember one congregational meeting years back, when one gentleman said, “Pastor, let’s just release these folks that don’t come so the other denominations can have a crack at them!”
And how many times have we wrestled with the fact that friends and relatives are divided six ways from the middle in their own “churches?” What does one say?
Of course, the easy way, and the way that I’ve heard often, is that it doesn’t really matter! Now this I hear from Orthodox, also! Part of it comes from those raised in the Faith and who have children who have departed the Faith for “other pastures.” It is a way of “dealing” with the pain. Just excuse it!
And there are those who just push it all aside, suggesting that one “church” is as good as another.
But these approaches raise serious questions.
What of the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church” confessed each Sunday? And, if “it doesn’t matter,” why have many come to Orthodoxy at no small cost?
The Truth is that there is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, the very Body of Christ, the pillar and ground of Truth, that has lived throughout the ages. There are not many truths, but One Truth, not many christs, but One Christ. And it does make a difference where you go, what you do, and whom you believe.
We sing this marvelous hymn in the Divine Liturgy: “We have seen the true Light. We have received the Heavenly Spirit. We have found the true Faith, worshipping the undivided Trinity, Who has saved us.” And we pray: “Those who depart from the Orthodox Faith, dazzled by destroying heresies, enlighten by the light of Thy holy wisdom, and unite them to Thy Holy, Apostolic, Catholic Church.”
In the midst of all the “churches” out there stands The Church, the pillar and ground of Truth, the very Bride of Christ. Through all the ages, she guards the deposit of Truth, and in her and through her men and women and children are saved and strengthened as they look to Christ’s return. But in her, they experience now His presence, His love and forgiveness, heaven on earth.
We must be wary of compromising this Faith as we wrestle in love with those whom we love. Only the Holy Spirit gives strength and wisdom to speak the Truth in all Love, as we pray for the salvation of friends and relatives – living in such a way as to say “Come and see! Come and see Jesus! Come and join us in receiving the True Light, the Heavenly Spirit! Come and rejoice in the True Faith, worshiping the undivided Trinity, Who has saved us!”
Not many churches, dear friends. One!
Ezekiel Wolf was received into the Orthodox Christian faith in February 2006, after serving as a Lutheran pastor for 33 years. He and his wife are members of SS. Constantine and Helen Church, Swansea, IL.