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Each Member of the Church Always Works for the Whole

St. Justin Popović from his book "The Orthodox Church and Ecumenism"

St Justin Popović writes:

"In all respects, the organism of the Church is the most complex known to man. Why? Because it is a unique theanthropic organism in which all divine and human mysteries and all divine and human powers constitute one body. Only the omniscient, omnipotent Theanthropos, the Lord Christ, could unite and assemble all this into one Body, His own, of which He is the eternal Head. He, the miraculous and wonderworking God and Man, guides and directs the whole of life in this miraculous and wonderworking Body. Every tiny part of this Body lives by the whole Body, and the whole Body lives in its every part. All live through each and in each, and each lives through all and in all. Every part grows by the general growth of the Body, and the whole Body also grows by the growth of each tiniest part. All these numerous, tiny parts of the body, all these organs, limbs and senses, all these cells, are united in one eternally-living, theanthropic Body by the Lord Christ Himself, who coordinates the action of each part with the conciliar life of the Body. Each part works according to the measure of its powers. The strength of each member of the Church comes from the evangelical virtues.

The evangelical activity of each member of the Church, although separate and personal, is always ultimately conciliar, common and general; it is integrated into the general activity of the whole Body. While man is transformed by this evangelical activity, growing into Christ, the Lord Christ turns this activity into general, conciliar, theanthropic energy and thus maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love (Eph. 4:16). The activity of each member of the Church is, therefore, always at the same time personal and conciliar, personal and collective. Even if it appears that a member acts only on his own behalf (for example, in the ascesis of hermits), each member of the Church always works for the whole. Such is the dispensation of the theanthropic organism of the Church which is constantly led and guided by the Lord Christ Himself.

The lives of angels and men, of the righteous and unrighteous, of the departed and those living on earth, are interwoven in the conciliar life of the Church. Those who are more righteous and holy help those who are less so, to grow by divine growth into greater and greater righteousness and holiness. The holy power of Christ the Theanthropos flows through all these members, even the smallest and most insignificant, according to the measure of their incorporation by grace into the organism of the Church, through the ascesis of faith, love, prayer, fasting, repentance and other holy virtues, Thus we all grow together unto an holy temple in the Lord (Eph. 2:21), organically linked through grace with each other by one faith, the same holy mysteries and virtues, one Lord, one Truth, one Gospel.

We all partake in the one theanthropic life of the Church, each in his place in that Body, the place allotted to him by the Lord, the Head of the Church, for the Body of the Church grows from Him and is by Him harmoniously joined and assembled. The Lord determines the place of each according to his spiritual aptitude and Christian character, especially according to the evangelical love that each freely nurtures in himself and by which he acts. In this conciliar life of the Church, each edifies himself in love through all, and all through each. Hence, even an apostle needs the prayers of the ordinary members of the Church."

Saint Justin Popović, The Orthodox Church and Ecumenism (Birmingham: Lazarica Press, 2000), 32-34.

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