The Apostles Established The Church
Contrasting Protestant, Roman Catholic & Orthodox interpretation of "Church"
I. Apostolic Foundation
Christ Establishes the Church, the One Church. "And I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18).
The Witness of the Scripture establishes the Church. St. Paul says that the Church has been "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the cornerstone" (Eph 2:20). Christ bestowed upon them all Apostolic authority (John 20:20-23).
The Nicene Creed (381), states, "I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church." In this way, the Creed speaks of the established church.
II. The Church is "One"
There is one body and one Spirit, just as your were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all." (Eph. 4:4-6).
"Now what is this one Body? The faithful throughout the whole world, both which are, and which have been, and which shall be. And again, they that before Christ's coming pleased God, are "one body." (Chrysostom, Homily on Ephesians).
"The glory which you have given me, I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (John 17:22-23).
"One" in signs and teachings.
"That by miracles, that by teachings, and, that they should be of one soul; for this is glory, that they should be one, and greater even than miracles." (Chrysostom, Homily 82 on John).
"One" because it is in God's nature to be perfectly united.
"And men admire God because there is no strife or discord in that Nature, and this is His greatest glory, "so too let these," He said, "from this cause become glorious." (Chrysostom, Homily 82 on John).
The Teaching of the Church is that the Church is the body of Christ, and that the Church is the community of Christ Himself.
"Orthodox Tradition is unanimous in its affirmation of the Church as an organic unity. This organism is the body of Christ and the definition is not merely symbolical but expresses the very nature of the Church." (Fr. Schmemann, "The Idea of Primacy in Orthodox Ecclesiology," in The Primacy of Peter, Meyendorff).
The Roman Catholic statement of the Vatican 1870 on the nature of the Church states that each community, each local Church is but a part, a member of this universal organism; and it participates in the Church only through its belonging to the whole.
The Protestant Denominations state that the "Church embodies the Truth, and the Truth can never oppose itself with "many" truths for there is only one Truth. Since the Truth is whole, the Church cannot be sliced and diced into competing denominations. A differing doctrinal confession does not create another "Church," it creates another denomination. (Jordan Bajis, Common Ground: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity for the American Christian, p. 122, Light and Life, Pub, 1989).
The Confessional "Church" states instead of doctrines being a means to deepen one's experience of God, each doctrine became merely another "theological brick: cemented in the confessional barrier. Christians now had ‘theological" reasons for their fleshly divisiveness." (Bajis, p. 123).
Orthodox understanding of the nature of the "Church" is based upon the teaching that where the "Eucharist is" there Christ is in His fullness, thus, the Church in her fullness. It is not understood in terms of "parts" and "whole" which leads to the need for a "Universal Pope" through whom the parts become a whole.
Orthodoxy teaches that each local Church, gathered in its' Bishop (The Head of the body), celebrates the Eucharist and makes present the church in its fullness. Orthodoxy believes that the Bishop is the "Head," and leads the celebration of the Eucharist. The "Headship" of the Bishop has never been understood by the Orthodox as being a "power" over and above the Church.
III. The Church is "Holy"
Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself as glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing but that it should be Holy." (Eph. 5:25-27).
"But you have come to mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriad of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant." (Heb. 12:22-24).
The Church is one in Christ.
"She (The Church) is a community of those who abide and dwell in Him, and in whom He Himself is abiding and dwelling by the Spirit. Christians are set apart, "born anew" and re-created, they are given not only a new pattern of life, but rather a new principle: the new life in the Lord by the Spirit. The point is that the Christian community is the Ekklesia, a mystical community, a "fellowship in holy things," i.e. in the Holy Spirit." (Florovsky, The Church: Her Nature and Task, p. 61).
Our "Theosis" our salvation, our sanctification is another example of Church oneness.
"Theosis means no more than an intimate communion of persons with the Living God (and to) be with God means to dwell in Him and to share His perfection."
This is only possible because of the incarnation. To quote St. Athanasius, "Through the flesh bearing God we have become Spirit-bearing men and sons of God in the likeness of the Son of God." (Bajis, p. 242).
The extent to which our will unites with God's will we are transformed from glory to glory.
"St. Paul obviously uses the terms "Church" and "saints" as co-extensive and synonymous. It is remarkable that in the New Testament the name "saint" is almost exclusively used in the plural. For the name refers not to any human achievement, but to a gift, to sanctification of consecration. Holiness comes from the Holy One, i.e. only from God. To be holy for a person means to share the Divine Life. Holiness is available to individuals only in the community, or rather in the "fellowship of the Holy Spirit." (Florovsky, p. 62).
IV. The Church Is "Catholic"
Catholicity is synonymous with wholeness, fullness, integrity, and totality.
"The Church is Catholic precisely because it embodies all Truth and stands opposed to all forms of particularized and sectarian separatism or heresy which would compromise the Truth. (Florovsky).
"Where Jesus Christ is, there too is the Catholic Church." (St. Ignatius).
"The Church is called catholic because; in the Church the dogmas are taught "fully, without any omission, catholicity and completely because again, in the Church every kind of sin is cured and healed." (St. Cyril of Jerusalem).
"Catholic Church" never meant to the early Christians a worldwide Church but to the "inner quality" of Truth.
V. The Church is "Apostolic"
"However, when He, the Spirit of Truth has come, He will guide you in all Truth; He will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you (John 16:13-14).
Apostolic Succession is not a matter of historical continuity but of continuity in the Truth, the Holy Spirit.
"It was created and sealed by the Holy Spirit in the Twelve Apostles, and the Apostolic Succession is a living and mysterious tread binding the whole historical fullness of the Church life into one catholic whole." (Florovsky, Vol. 1, p.45).
"Tradition is the authority to teach, authority to bear witness to the truth. The Church bears witness to the Truth not by reminiscence of from the words of others, but from its own living, unceasing experience, from its catholic fullness. Tradition is a charismatic, not a historical principle." (Florovsky, p. 47).
VI. What Happened to The Twelve Apostles?
St. Simon Peter: Feast Day June 29
St. Peter was the brother of Andrew. He was the first lead Apostle in Jerusalem at Pentecost. He was a miracle worker (when his shadow healed). The first Bishop of Antioch (33-40 AD) followed by Ignatius. Peter visited the Church in Corinth and preached there with his wife ( I Cor. 9:5). He was jailed twice in Jerusalem and crucified upside down in Rome under Nero. The ruins of the home of St. Peter were discovered by archaeologist in Capernaum beneath a Basilica erected in the mid 5 C. over the house, which had been made into a Church. At this home (Mark 1:29) Jesus healed the mother-in-law of Peter, and healed many others (Mk 1:33), and Christ slept there (Mk 1:35). Jesus returns to Peters home after the election of the 12 (Mk 3:19) and there He taught the apostles privately. (Mk 7:17).
St. Andrew "The First Called": Feast Day November 30
St. Andrew was born in Bethsaida. His mission was directed to "Georgia, Russia." St. Andrew was the first Bishop of Byzantium or Constantinople. He was crucified in Patras in the shape of an X in 69 AD. The head of St. Andrew is in the Church of St. Andrew in Patras. In 1460, the head was taken to Rome and it was returned to Patras in 1964.
St. James (Iakovos) the Son of Zebedee: Feast Day October 23
St. James "The brother of the Lord," a cousin, was Bishop of Jerusalem. He was the first Martyred Bishop of Christ 61 AD (Acts 12.1-2). James was the elder brother of John "the beloved" and a partner in fishing with Andrew and Peter. James, Peter, and John became the "inner circle" of Christ. They alone were present at the Transfiguration, the raising of Jairus' daughter and the agony in the garden of Gethsemane. St. James' mission was directed to Spain.
St. John the Theologian and Evangelist: Feast Days May 8 and September 26
Solome was the Mother of St. John, (maybe the sister of Mary). St. John died peacefully in Ephesus in 100 AD. He took care of Mary after the death of Jesus. While in exile on the Island of Patmos he wrote the Book of Revelation. The tomb of St. John is in Ephesus and a church was built over his tomb.
St. Phillip: Feast Day November 14
St. Phillip was born in Bethsaida. He preached in Asia Minor, in Athens. He was crucified with Marium his sister and Bartholomew, (they survived).
St. Bartholomew-Nathaniel: Feast Days June 11 and August 25
St. Bartholomew was placed in a sack and thrown into the sea. He traveled in his mission, with St. Phillip.
St. Thomas "The Twin": Feast Day October 6
St. Thomas traveled in his mission to India. He was buried in Mylapore, India.
St. Matthew: Feast Day August 9
St. Matthew was the brother of James (the son of Alphaeus).
St. James, son of Alphaeus: Feast Day October 9
St. Thaddaeus: Feast Day August 21
St. Simon the Zealot: Feast Day May 10 St.
St. Simon the Zealot was born in Cana of Galilee. He was the Bridegroom of the Wedding at Cana. St. Simon the Zealot went to Africa, Maurentania, and England. He was tortured to death in England.
St. Matthias: Feast Day August 9
St. Matthias was one of the seventy. He went to Armenia and Ethiopia where he was put to death.
Note: June 30 is the Feast of the Twelve Apostles