Church: Greek = Ecclesia (the summoned ones)
What is the Church? Is it a building in which we meet and spend some time praying? No. Of course, it is important that we be churchgoers, but that is not the Church. Is the Church an organization that makes us feel good, or one that does charities, or one that provides lovely works of art and culture? Does it make us feel like “good people”? Could it have to do with ceremonies and rubrics – state or otherwise? It is just the “Padres”? All these things might be very nice and useful, but they are not the Church. So let us see what the Church is, and why She is a necessity.
“Church” is nothing more than… God. Yes, exactly; it is just another name for the person-to-person relationship in which the Father has invited us to become united with Him. Even prior to the creation of the world, before the “Big Bang”, the Church had existed. Which was it? It was the Holy Trinity Itself – three Persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which together comprised One God.
The original term for Church (Ecclesia) does not imply anything other than a congregating, a union of persons with God. Thus was the first Church, with the three Persons that comprised it. Then, after the creation of the Universe, God desired to create more persons that would be in a communion of love – in that union with Him… He wanted other persons to become acquainted with that love, but not by losing their individuality – their person – as is the case in Hinduism for example; nor to be “absorbed” – the way that a drop of water is “lost” in the ocean. God desired to be a Father to them – to have a personal relationship with them. And it was with love also that He created the angels first, then mankind – so that they too can become one with the Church.
The persons He created (the angels and the humans) He created with the freedom to choose the kind of relationship that they wish to uphold with God, otherwise, they would have been robots, without a will of their own and without freedom. When you love someone you cannot keep him enslaved…
Certain angels did, however, misuse their freedom; they decided that they would be better off on their own, without the unity of the Church’s Love. They apostatized from God and left Him. Then, they convinced mankind to also apostatize from the Church. Thus, mankind forfeited the loving power of God; they denied the Church.
But mankind also possessed the will to repent – that is, to alter their orientation and correct their error. Mankind did not wish to remain bound to their aberration; they still had inside them a spark of love – albeit sullied. The Angels however who had apostatized did not wish to be healed. Humans, who by now were deep into malice, nevertheless possessed the will to be cured; they sought therapy and a return to their original condition. Seeing this, God did not take long to send them His therapy: Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is God, Who became human. By becoming human, He healed mankind; He brought mankind back to the Church, in communion with God, giving all of us the potential to re-enter the Church – the Body of God. By becoming incarnate, He became one of us. After we had left Him, He Himself came looking for us, to become our Father once again and to call us one of His own. So that we all become one. So that the entire world might become the Church.
Jesus ordained that the Terrestrial Church should have Bishops and Priests. First the 12 Apostles, who later appointed others, in a chain that reaches to our days. The role of the people and the institutions and traditions of the Church in the world and throughout the ages is to heal our souls – a course that requires time and perseverance…
This course begins with Baptism. It is with Baptism that we begin to rejoin the Church. But that is not enough. Our course continues, with the other Mysteries (“Sacraments”, Confession, Holy Communion..); we are shown the ways that we should love, by being taught how to cease being selfish and swell-headed. The aim of all the above is to become aware of how we can become members of the Church in the world – a “Hospital” in which we will heal our soul so that it can become reunited with God. That will help us feel God’s love like a cool breeze and not like a hot “river of fire”.
Our Church provides us with the God-given method for the therapy of the heart of each one of us – as well as mankind’s overall – that have been wounded by egotism and malice.
“And this also must be noted: that God does not punish someone in the future; rather, each person makes himself receptive to the partaking of God. And the partaking of God is bliss, while the non-partaking of Him is punishment (Hell)…” “...those sinners who desire sin, albeit not having the materials of sin, shall be punished as though devoured by fire and worm, with no solace whatsoever. What is “hell”, if not the deprival of something desired?”
Saint John of Damascus (676 – 749) “Against Manichaeans” PG 94 , 1545 D – 1548 A, and 1573 C