Once when I was at a theology conference, I eavesdropped on a conversation between an Orthodox theologian and some conference participants. The topic was ecclesiology, the nature of ‘the Church.’
One person said, ‘I believe the Church is the people, period.’ The theologian softly replied in his Serbian accent, ‘No, the Church is Christ and those who by deifying grace cleave to him, and so to his Father and the All-Holy Spirit. If the Church is the people-period, I want no part, thank you very much.’
Awkward laughter followed, and a wonderful follow-up conversation that wrangled with the dangers of applying political models of governance to the Church apart from Christ.
I thought of this when I came across this Pope Benedict quote during my prayer time this morning: ‘…the church is not our institution but is the breakthrough of something different…we cannot ever simply constitute her ourselves.’
A stanza to catch this sentiment…
Church, born of the Christ,
God’s undying cleave to our flesh;
Church, born of the Strife,
Paradise tilled, Eden grown afresh.