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Orthodox Ecclesiology

The Church of the Trinity
and the Church of Christ

 

Some theologians speak of Orthodox ecclesiology in terms of two models: the triadological and the Christological. In fact, there are not two models, but one. The Church is both the Church of the Holy Trinity and the Church of Christ. It is true that only in Christ is the second person of the Holy Trinity incarnate. Yet, the entire fullness of the Godhead dwells in the body of the incarnate Son, as in a temple. This is clear from the teachings of the New Testament and from the teachings of the Fathers of the Church. Christology is inseparable from Triadology. No adequate doctrine of the Son can be developed without the Father. At the same time, the gift of the incarnate Son to humanity, both His incarnate presence and our incorporation into His Body, are unthinkable without the Holy Spirit.

It is true that Orthodox theologians have made different attempts to interpret this interpenetration of the Trinitarian and the Christological dimensions of Orthodox ecclesiology. Some, for instance, would see the work of Christ as referring to the unity of nature, and the work of the Spirit to the diversity of persons, whilst both Christ and the Spirit bring the whole of humanity, nature and persons under the monarchy of the Father.

Others, however, would point to the biblical pattern of the revelation of the Trinity in salvation history and would see the beginning of the Church in the Father. They would also see in creation the establishment or revelation of the Church in history, in the Incarnation of the Son, and, finally, in the growth and perfection of the Church in the economy of the Holy Spirit, which reaches its end in the final resurrection. This strictly biblical pattern seems to be closer to the ethos of the liturgical traditions of Orthodoxy, but the other model (which is more dogmatic and ontological) also seems to have its basis in the Church's mind concerning Christ the Lord. The triadological and Christological dimensions cannot be divorced in Orthodox ecclesiology, because the Church is the Church of the Holy Trinity insofar as She is the Church of Christ, and vice versa.

Home | Preliminary Remarks | Introduction | Church of the Triune God | Church of Christ | Church of the Trinity and the Church of Christ
Church of the Fathers | Church of the Saints or Those Who are Called To Be Saints | Conclusion