This morning, our family was enrolled as catechumens at St Peter’s. While it was a fairly short moment, it was filled with much significance and meaning. Several years ago as an Evangelical, I read the following quote from St Cyprian of Carthage, who lived in the early 3rd century:
“He cannot have God for his Father who has not the Church as his Mother.”
At the time, I was learning the incredible value of spiritual formation and spiritual community and this quote rang true. However, I had a problem. I didn’t know what to do with it practically. Theologically I had been formed to understand the Church as consisting of everyone who called Jesus “Lord and Savior.” Did that mean this large ambiguous and amorphous group of people with vastly different beliefs, values and practices was to spiritually nurture and form me as my “Mother?” If so, did that mean I would have to “pick and choose” which elements would form me and my family?
As my family and left professional ministry, I began constructing a somewhat eclectic Christian spirituality drawing from sources I thought were important. N.T. Wright formed my theological foundation. Dallas Willard and others constructed an individual rule of life for my spiritual formation. The Vineyard shaped my practice of worship and spiritual gifts. The Emerging Church formed a vision for relevant mission. Our house church filled the need for deep spiritual community.
But as I journeyed further with my family and friends, I sensed significant gaps in my eclectic spirituality. Would my own ability to gather and meld these various elements together really develop the fullness of Christ’s life in me, my family and my community? As much as I wanted to believe it would, deep down I knew that I was not smart enough, creative enough, knowledgeable enough or spiritual enough to lead myself and others into the genuine life of Christ. I’m talking about the deep authentic life of Christ in which the core of who we are is radically transformed so that we consistently think and act naturally like Jesus. Everything I did seemed so… shallow.
So while I was much further along than I had been my entire Christian life, I knew myself well enough to admit that my abilities created a very low ceiling. I did not have what I or my family needed to lead and train us ultimately into the deep wellspring of Christ’s life and likeness.
Over the last nine months, our family has been exploring Orthodox Christianity. And while there are elements that are still very strange and foreign and even difficult to accept, I am convinced that we have finally found what our hearts have been longing for. I truly believe that in the Orthodox Church, we have found the very fullness of Christ’s life. There is absolutely nothing lacking in Orthodox worship and life. No assembly or batteries required.
I want to say this again. We have found FULLNESS. Nothing needs to be added or changed or supplemented or created or re-envisioned or recaptured.
During my 20+ years as an Evangelical, I have never experienced this before. Instead, I have witnessed wave upon wave of spiritual fads and enthusiasms washing over us — worship, Church growth, spiritual warfare, spiritual gifts, renewals, spiritual formation, leadership models, books, and conferences.
But not anymore; not for me and my family. We have found Christ’s Church — the fullness of his life embodied throughout the ages and generations from Christ himself to the present. And today, our family is one step closer to living in the reality of St Cyprian’s quote. The Church will be our Mother, truly nurturing and forming us to embody the life and likeness of Christ as she has unchangingly through the ages.