The Parish

From Father Thomas Hopko

Jesus says that God must be loved first of all with all one’s heart. In biblical usage, the heart is the center of a person’s being. It is the ground of a person’s life, the seat of a person’s will, and the source of a person’s activity, beginning with one’s words. It is the “place where God bears witness to himself,” according to St. Isaac of Syria; the place in a person, according to St. Macarius, which contains God himself, and Christ and the Holy Spirit, and the whole of creation, visible and invisible, spiritual and material, good and evil. A person’s heart reveals what he or she really is, and really thinks, and really wants and really does. “For where your treasure is,” Jesus tells us, “there will your heart be
also.” (Matthew 6:21)

The heart of a parish, if it is Christ’s one holy Church, will be totally given to God. In this sense, the heart of an Orthodox Christian parish will be its liturgical and sacramental worship. Worship will constitute the parish’s core. It will be the parish’s essential mode of self-realization. It will be its basic reason for being, the foundational purpose for its existence and life.

An Orthodox Christian parish is first and foremost a worshipping community. It exists to praise, bless and glorify God, to ceaselessly sing the thrice-holy hymn to the life-creating Trinity. Its essential purpose is to baptize people in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; to enable them to die in Christ and to be raised with Him to newness of life; to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit; to hear God’s word, to respond to God’s gospel, to confess and repent of our sins, to participate in the eucharistic sacrifice of Christ’s Body and Blood; and to actualize God’s Kingdom on earth, in spirit and truth, by faith and grace, until Christ comes in glory at the close of the age.

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