My Mother, the Church


My Mother, the Church

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The church of Christ, my mother, is so glorious, so awesome! God’s love for her is so tender, and His promise to protect her is compelling and confirmed, He says, “Sing to her, a vineyard of red wine! I, the Lord, keep it, I water it every moment; lest any hurt it, I keep it night and day.(2)

But, what is the church? Or who are the people who constitute a church? “Who is she who looks forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, awesome as an army with banners?” (3)… Is she that beautiful and magnificent building, in which the soul finds solace and comfort, the spirit reveres, and the tongue enchants saying: “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (4)?… Or is she the saintly wise shepherds who guide us by their example, their piety and meekness, more than by their sermons, their services or their love-sacrifices?… Surely, the church is both, but she is primarily her saints and her martyrs who were “tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection… of whom the world was not worthy” (5). Then the church is the flock, you and I… the herd of the sheepfold who gather around their Redeemer pleading for His mercy, barter love with Him… “(He) will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (6)… The church for us is the safe haven from the waves of the world and the wars of evil… She is for us the joy, the peace and the righteousness in the warm bosom of our Savior.

This is how the church is precious to me, and how her sacraments are essential for my salvation; but how precious is she to the Lord, and how cherished is she in His eyes? The Bible explains:
The church is the glorified bride of Christ: “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” (7)
Christ is the head of the church and we (the church) are His members: “as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body… For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones” (8)
Christ is the vine and we are its branches: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes that it may bear more fruit” (9)

Christ is the cornerstone and we are the building stones: “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” (10)

The church is the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem: “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Me-diator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.” (11)

Christ calls Himself a brother for the members of His church: “For whom He fore-knew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.(12)

Christ id the Great High Priest in His church: “So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.”… Called by God as High Priest according to the order of Melchizedeck.”(13)

The church is my mother. When I was a child, she gave birth to me in the water of bap-tism and my sins were forgiven when I rose from it. She fed me by the gracious milk of her teachings and the sayings of my fathers, the saints and apostles. I grew up joyfully by her sacraments, in her bosom, and the bosom of her glorious Groom, the Only Begotten Son, my brother and Good Shepherd: “Oh, that you were like my brother, who nursed at my mother’s breasts! If I should find you outside, I would kiss you; I would not be de-spised. I would lead you and bring you into the house of my mother, she who used to in-struct me. I would cause you to drink of spiced wine, of the juice of my pomegranate. His left hand is under my head, and His right hand embraces me.”(14)

I thank you Lord, who takes good care of me, for my church, your bride. I thank you for our superlative Patriarch, Your beloved Pope Shenouda III, the successor of St. Mark, and the teacher and spiritual guide of generations. I thank for Anba Serapion, our com-passionate and righteous Bishop, and for all our Bishops who toil for our comfort, and intercede for our weaknesses so we could live peacefully in the bosom of Christ.

Emil Bishay

1. Song 5:1
2. Isaiah 27: 1,2
3. Song 6:10
4. Genesis 28:17
5. Hebrews 11: 35, 38
6. Revelations 7:17
7. Revelations 19:7,8
8. Ephesians 5:23, 30
9. John 15: 1,2
10. Ephesians 2:19-21
11. Hebrews 12:22-24
12. Romans 8:29
13. Hebrews 5: 5, 10
14. Song 8:1-3