This month we turn in Growing Points to part of the formulation of The creed and what it says to us about the very heart of the meaning of Church and of Community:
Today all our ideas about ‘the Church’ must be recast. The time for monopolistic claims and monopolistic organisations is over. No single body can, in reality, be the sole possessor of the truth. Every honest attempt to observe the facts will make this clear. But there is no need for Christianity therefore to disintegrate into a number of warring sects. If we adjust our ideas, we can well conceive of a more living and organic ‘unity’ in which a great variety of ‘diversities’ can form a brotherly community.
The distinctive contribution of The Christian Community to this process of rethinking can be most concisely illustrated by the sentence in which ‘the Church’ is referred to in the ‘creed’ which is said in the Act of Consecration of Man. In the place of the traditional credo in unam sanctam catholicam etapostolicam ecciesiam (I believe in one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church), it states ‘Communities whose members feel the Christ within themslves, may feel united in a Church to which all belong who are aware of the health-bringing power of the Christ’.
Whole centuries must have breathed a sigh of relief when this sentence was formulated. … If nothing else were left of Rudolf Steiner’s work than his recasting of the Apostles’ Creed, of which this sentence is part, it would establish his fame as a religious genius. Characteristically, in this rebirth of the creed, communities are taken as the basic units of the Church. The fact that the Christian Church consists of differentiated branches is taken as fundamental. The Book of Revelation comes to mind, which describes seven churches as typical patterns of Christian communities with their characteristic virtues and shortcomings. But the ideal Church in which individual ‘Communities whose members feel the Christ within themselves may feel themselves united’, is broad enough to embrace spiritually ‘all people’ as belonging to it ‘who are aware of the health-bringing power of the Christ’. It has room for the solitary disciples, too, although it is somewhat unnatural and almost a contradiction in terms to be a Christian and not to be within the fellowship of a community. (Whether the various ‘Communities’ which ‘may feel themselves united’ in this ‘Church’ form a World Council of Churches or some similar body on the level of physical organisation is another matter, and perhaps, then, of secondary importance. If such a Council is inspired by the organic idea of a free and living union of Communities, it can be a very important interdenominational meeting place, and a means of speaking with an influential voice on world affairs. If, on the other hand, it sees itself as a pacemaker for a ‘reunion’ in terms of a universal, streamlined organisation, it is in danger of serving the ghosts of the past.)
Nothing has greater power to form community than common worship. And sacramental worship in which time and again the same sacred procession of words, symbols and acts passes through the souls of those present, is the most uniting form of worship. In it also ‘the health-bringing power of the Christ’ is active in purest form.
In a true Eucharistic service the true selves of the worshippers are united with Christ. When we remember him, he remembers us, for he has promised to do so. But his memory is not tied to a mortal brain which allows only mere shadows of the past to arise. His ‘memory’ is a true ‘re-membering’. He is there where he sends his thoughts, he becomes a real ‘member’ of the congregation at the altar, and he can be in many places at the same time. When he told his disciples at the Last Supper, ‘Do this in remembrance of me’, he did not suggest a pale commemoration of a past event, but a re-living of his real presence in which he will truly co-operate. ... Bread and wine carry Christ’s healing forces into us in order to include even the body in the process of redemption, and to impress upon it, stage by stage, the incorruptible perfection of Christ’s body of resurrection.
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