[Excerpt from Encyclical on Spiritual Life, Synod of Bishops, Documents of the Orthodox Church in America, 1976]
A PARISH’S SACRAMENTAL LIFE.
practice of personal and liturgical prayer, we Orthodox Christians in America must strive to revitalize
the mystical, sacramental life of our churches and monasteries. To renew sacramental participation
in the life of the Church we need only begin. Everything is there. Nothing needs to be added. All
things are prepared. We need only receive what the Church gives us, practice what the Church teaches
us. It is a very sad fact, the saddest of facts, that when [heterodox] Christians are looking to Orthodoxy
for guidance in the mystical life of sacramental action in the Church, we Orthodox ourselves are so
lacking in proper practice of those sacramental treasures which we possess by the grace of God and
the gift of Holy Tradition.
Nourished by the Word and Spirit of God through the soundBaptisms and chrismations, marriages and funerals, the services of healing through the
anointing of the sick must once again be understood and experienced as corporate acts of worship
celebrations and be placed in the center of our corporate spiritual lives.
again the communal actions of the Church
liturgical actions of the whole people of God; witnessed, celebrated and accomplished by all, together
in one place, at one time.
They must be taken out of the dark corners of our private devotions and socialThey must become onceas the mystical body and bride of Christ; the common■
regular and frequent.
deformalized and revitalized as the most common and normal of actions of a people continually
united and reunited with each other and with God.
regulated by the Holy Synod of bishops in 197, and practiced as a common act of confession and
repentance by those in communion with Christ in the Church, must take its place alongside individual
and private confession as a sacramental sign of reconciliation, healing and forgiveness of
become normal and regular for all of the members of the Church.
exception, that the faithful come forward at the Divine Liturgy, with fear and with love, to receive
the Body and Blood of Christ for the sake of their salvation and inspiration in the faith.
Lord himself who invites, for he himself has said: Take, eat, this is my body! Drink of it, all of you,
this is my blood! He who does not eat of the Lord’s body and drink of his blood with faith and devotion
does not have eternal life abiding in him.
COMMUNION. Participation in the holy Eucharist, the sacrament of sacraments, mustIt must be the rule and not theIt is the■
as servants of God and members of Christ’s Church. It is our unique and certain means of communion
with God the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit, with the Holy Theotokos Virgin Mary and
all the angels and saints. It is our deepest and most perfect means of communion with one another
and with the whole Church of God, with all mankind and the whole of creation. May the Divine
Liturgy be for us always our entrance into the Kingdom of God, our participation in the Marriage
Feast of the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, as envisaged by the beloved apostle John in the Book of
CENTER AND FOCUS. The holy Eucharist is the center and focal point of the spiritual livesIt is the inexhaustible source and unalterable goal of all that we are and all that we do■
called as Orthodox Christians to go forth into the world to do the work of God and to accomplish our
mission, each one of us in his or her own way as guided by the Spirit of God.…
Let us realize clearly the responsibility that is ours as members of the Church.
demonstrate in life what we confess with our lips.
Christians, to show forth in deeds what we proclaim in our words.…
Beginning with the clergy of the Church, every member of the body must be in continual
struggle for growth in the Spirit of Christ.
be making the constant effort to overcome that which is evil and to do that which is good according
to the commandments of God. Every member of the Church must be perpetually striving to cooperate
with God’s grace that the works of God’s righteousness might be present and powerful among us.
The Lord Jesus Christ will come at the end of the ages to render to every man according to his works:
to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal
life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be fury
and wrath. (
Our task today in America as Orthodox Christians is the only task which is given to all human
beings by God: the task to become by God’s grace all that God himself is by nature, following Christ,
the Perfect Man, in the accomplishment of goodness and truth, in self-emptying love for the sake of
―Synod of Bishops,
Documents of the Orthodox Church in America, 1976ACTION. Rooted in prayer and grounded in the sacramental mysteries of the Church, we areIt is our task toThe burden of proof is upon us, as OrthodoxEvery man, woman and child who lives in the Church mustRomans 2.8)CONFESSION. Confession, the sacrament of reconciliation with the Church, must be madeIt must become once again an abiding element in the lives of the faithful,The “general confession,” approved and
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