Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

A Return to the First Church

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As we are about to celebrate the Holy Apostles Fast, also known as the Church's Fast, dare we call upon the life, the first church had lived? Dare we do so, now that we have received and put on Power from above just as our forefathers the apostles had been given; allowing the fiery Spirit to mould and shape them all over again?

My beloved, could we aspire for a holy deep communal life, of the same strength as the life experienced by the first church; to the extent that every member gave up their belongings for the sake of everyone else to satisfy everyone's need? "Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need" (Acts 4:34-35).

Children of God, dare we aspire for the unity of heart and soul that belonged to those who believed? "Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul" (Acts 4:32).

Could each one of us be expected to be a powerful, faithful testimony concerning the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and God's Grace that has been bestowed upon us and poured in our hearts? "And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all" (Acts 4:33). Have we acquired a spirit of fear and concern for each other that we may say with St. Paul "Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?" (2 Corinthians 11:29).

Let us pick up this blessed occasion of the Apostles Fast and look retrospectively into the church's life; for this fast is considered the foundational basis for a spiritual life with God and the first building block in a walk with Him. This walk must be built on a foundation of faith, knowledgeable of the work of God and the support of the Holy Spirit who had been poured on the church on Pentecost obtaining for us all the blessings that Christ had procured through His incarnation, Redemption, Resurrection and the promises of the Father "And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, 'which,' He said, 'you have heard from Me'" (Acts 1:4).

"And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams" (Acts 2:17).

My brethren, the work of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit will remain ineffective until we realize who the church truly is; and until a real communal life is birthed in us. For Christ's sole aim behind His incarnation and act of Salvation is that we may all be one with Him and the Father "that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me" (John 17:21).

That desire of our Lord Jesus Christ was not fulfilled until after the Holy Spirit had descended on the individuals making them a group of one heart, one mind, and one soul showing deep love for one another. That is the heart of the Holy Spirits work to gather people together and unite individuals into groups so that neither religion nor salvation be found outside the church whose members are of one heart and one spirit; in whom the members are one body; members with Christ the Head of that body and the Holy Spirit being the Supernatural power that unites heads together in a magnificent hidden way until each member, through a strange motion, feels drawn to the other with deep unfathomable love that cannot be understood by the mind; but can only be realized by the sons of God in whom the Spirit of God dwells. That is exactly why every morning the church prays:

"What is better or what is good except that the brethren live in one spirit, abiding with true love, evangelical as the Apostles. As the ointment on the head of Christ that is poured down to the end of the feet to anoint every day the elders and the men and the youth and the deacons, those whom the Holy Spirit has appointed as a harp praising God at all times with psalms and praises and spiritual songs day and night praising with an unceasing heart" (from the Morning Doxology).

The first church was not a body of culturally, emotionally, intellectually, socially, nor ethnically homogenous individuals. In essence, they were far apart in all those areas separated by pain, death, persecution, and martyrdom. There was no chance of them to be driven by emotional urgency; nor could it have been intellectual harmony that underlined their actions; for they had no certain philosophies or precepts except Christ, the persecuted, the crucified and resurrected: "a stumbling block to the mind and ignorance to human earthly wisdom" (1 Corinthians 1:23). Nor was it a social revolution, for it was a call for volitional poverty in pursuit of the beloved One in hunger and in need satisfied with the least.

That body of Christ was the work of the Holy Spirit who had bonded the hearts with the bond of perfect Love. And so, each day the Lord used to add to that group those who had been saved and received the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus His Word increased and the group multiplied and love deepened further more.

This is not just the portrait of the church in the holy apostles days, born under the specific conditions and the specific elements predestined for her. Rather that is the identity of the church at all times, generations and under any circumstances. For the church is not a bunch of practices by separate members, but a collective liturgical task that cannot be complete in the presence of the priest alone or the laymen alone; but happens only in the presence of both, recognizing the fact that God does not find rest except in the midst of a congregation that meets with a oneness of mind, heart and spirit.

My beloved, while we live the Church's Fast, let us ask God fervently and persistently for a true communal life dedicating this fast for this cause, that we may come to know each other not as separate entities with different names, jobs and titles; but as members in one Body, indispensable to each other with no self sufficiency albeit personal differences, social status, position in church, spirituality level or even degree of relationship with God. Whenever during Divine Liturgy, the priest prays "And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you"; let us genuinely respond, "Amen and with your spirit" with a oneness of heart in order that this unity of Gods Spirit may actualize within us making us one body and one spirit in order to find inheritance with all the saints.

Oh my brethren, if you just knew our Lords pain and agony because of the spirit of separation, individualism and aloofness that reside among us in spite of our spiritual achievement and our audacity to partake of the Holy Communion, the nourishing Bread that feeds our membership in the One Body for the sake of fellowship in Him. Proceeding to partake of the Holy Communion while we are in this spirit of aloofness and preoccupation and engagement with our personal salvation hoping to obtain forgiveness of sin and peace of conscience, will not take us any step further in our relationship with Christ. Nor will it remove our sins.

Let us take close heed of the Divine Liturgy prayers especially after "Prayer of the Descent of the Holy Spirit": "Make us all worthy O our Master, to partake of Your holies, unto the purification of our souls, our bodies, and our spirits, that we may become one body and one spirit and may have a share and an inheritance with all the saints who have pleased you since the beginning" where it becomes very clear the essentiality of receiving Holy Communion in pursuit of the oneness in body and spirit, in purity, as members of One Body and not as separate individuals.

My beloved, the world is waiting for a witnessing church declaring the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and His mission for which the Father has sent Him "that the world may believe that You have sent Me" (John 17:21).

The world is waiting for a church whose members live in harmony recognizing each other as members in the Body of Christ. The world is waiting for an alert church that absorbs and dissolves every individualism and division; turning them into unity and love.


Our Lord Jesus Christ, the only true One. Grant us that we may be one and not two in order to escape separation from You. You are the One who knows no separation. Grant us a life of fellowship that we may advance with a witnessing spirit as a chosen church telling about our salvation and Your mission so that we may bring forth to you a big harvest of souls. During this fast, grant us Lord, love to each other and to Your Word in the Holy Bible that we may fulfill your desire of making us one in your Holy Body.

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