Fr Georges Florovsky: Are You Inside the Church?

Feast of the Holy Righteous Martyr Dometius

Florovsky_Square_3.jpgEXTRA ECCLESIAM nulla salus: Outside the Church there is no salvation. All the categorical strength of this aphorism lies in its tautology. Outside the Church there is no salvation, because salvation is the Church. For salvation is the revelation of the way for every one who believes in Christ’s name. This revelation is to be found only in the Church. In the Church, as in the Body of Christ, in its theanthropic organism, the mystery of the Incarnation, the mystery of the “two natures,” indissolubly united, is continually accomplished. In the Incarnation of the Word is the fullness of revelation, a revelation not only of God, but also of man. “For the Son of God became the Son of Man,” writes St. Irenaeus, “to the end that man too might become the son of God” (Against the Heresies, 3.10.2). In Christ, as God-Man, the meaning of human existence is not only revealed, but accomplished. In Christ human nature is perfected, it is renewed, rebuilt, created anew. Human destiny reaches its goal, and henceforth human life is, according to the word of the Apostle, “hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3.3). In this sense Christ is the “Last Adam” (1 Cor. 15.45), a true man. In Him is the measure and limit of human life.

He rose “as the first fruits of them that are asleep” (1 Cor. 15.20-22), He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God. His Glory is the glory of all human existence. Christ has entered the pre-eternal glory; He has entered it as Man and has called the whole of mankind to abide with Him and in Him. “God, being rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, quickened us together with Christ . . . and raised us up with Him, and made us to sit with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2.4-6). Therein lies the mystery of the Church as Christ’s Body. The Church is fullness, to plhrwma that is, fulfillment, completion (Eph. 1.23). In this manner St John Chrysostom explains the words of the Apostle: “The Church is the fulfillment of Christ in the same manner as the head completes the body and the body is completed by the head. Thus we understand why the Apostle sees that Christ, as the Head, needs all His members. Because if many of us were not, one the hand, one the foot, one yet another member, His body would not be complete. Thus His body is formed of all the members. This means that the head will be complete only when the body is perfect; when we all are most firmly united and strengthened” (On Ephesians, Homily 3.2). Bishop Theophanes repeats the explanation of Chrysostom: “The Church is the fulfillment of Christ in the same manner as the tree is the fulfillment of the grain. All that is contained in the grain in a condensed manner, receives its full development in the tree. . . . He Himself is complete and all-perfect, but not yet has He drawn mankind to Himself in final completeness. It is only gradually that mankind enters into Communion with Him and so gives a new fullness to His work, which thereby attains its full accomplishment” (Explanation of the Epistle to the Ephesians).

—Fr Georges Florovsky, The Catholicity of the Church

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