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Author Topic: Church Militant & Church Triumphant  (Read 2824 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: January 02, 2009, 12:47:12 PM »

I tried using the search engine to see if we had ever discussed this and I didn't find anything promissing. 

Can anyone give me a detailed explanation of how exactly this works?  There is one church, not separated by death.....right?  But where do we get this from, how does it work, what is the difference (other than death), how does the Eschaton play into it, how does the Resurrection play into it, how does prayer play into it, what is the relationship in terms of other theological points and this theological point (i.e. the idea that the afterlife is a foretaste, but if we are still church...ONE church, are we not also living that foretaste HERE and NOW, then/therefore?) 

Sorry I'm just trying to wrap my mind around this idea.  Any help would be great! 
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« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2009, 12:56:37 PM »

I'm not under the impression that the Orthodox use these terms to distinguish between the Church present on the Earth (i.e. Church Militant) and those that are currently in the foretaste of the Beatific Vision in Heaven (Church Triumphant).

I do know, in the Western Church, these terms are accompanied by the Church Suffering (i.e. those who are in Purgatory). So, in the Western Church, there is a similarity with the Body of Christ and the Trinity (i.e. 3 in 1). I have 'never' seen this among Orthodox discussions of the Church though.
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« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2009, 01:05:56 PM »

To answer your first statement...I HAVE heard the terms quite often in discussions with people, but almost NEVER heard it in any of my academic classes.  This is why i'm trying to figure it out.  I would be surprised if we did not cover the IDEA of a church triumphant and church militant but it was never explained as a topic. 

In the Liturgy we commemorate both the living and the dead, and BOTH groups go into the chalice, thus showing that we are still in communion with all orthodox christians, both in this life and the next.  But what is the fleshing out of this theology, etc.?  Maybe that is more helpful...
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« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2009, 09:30:24 PM »

Here are some random thoughts. As to where we get the idea from, I think it was partly the consequence of acknowledging a couple of things. First, that there is one Church, one body of Christ (Eph. 4:4). And second, that there are saints alive in heaven (Rev. 5:8; 6:9-11; 7:9-15), or as Hebrews puts it when speaking of the Old Testament saints: "we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses" (Heb. 12:1). So, speaking of a Church triumphant is gives full expression, and takes literally, the Scriptural passage which says that "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." (Matt. 22:32)

As far as how prayer plays into it, I think that this idea is partly why the Orthodox affirm that saints in the afterlife can indeed pray for us. The saints are not disconnected from the body of Christ, but aware of what is going on, even participating with us in the spiritual life. I've been told that this is one reason that we cense the entire Church, even if there is no one on a side where the priest is censing--because whether we see anyone or not, the Church triumphant is there, participating with us. Thus also one of the reasons that we fill our Church with icons, to remind us that we are indeed surrounded by the Church triumphant.

Regarding the resurrection, I'm not sure what to say about that. Of course there is the particular judgment immediately upon death, after which people get a foretaste of what they will experience for all eternity. The resurrection doesn't happen until the end of time, when "the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." (Rev. 20:12)  Until that time, the saints in the Church triumphant can understand the prayerful communications to them from the Church militant, and can also communicate prayers to God. After the general resurrection, I suppose there will be no more Church militant, but only a Church triumphant, and on the other hand those who experience the "second death," who are "cast into the lake of fire." (Rev. 20:14-15).
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« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2009, 11:06:02 AM »

Here are some random thoughts. As to where we get the idea from, I think it was partly the consequence of acknowledging a couple of things. First, that there is one Church, one body of Christ (Eph. 4:4). And second, that there are saints alive in heaven (Rev. 5:8; 6:9-11; 7:9-15), or as Hebrews puts it when speaking of the Old Testament saints: "we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses" (Heb. 12:1). So, speaking of a Church triumphant is gives full expression, and takes literally, the Scriptural passage which says that "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." (Matt. 22:32)

As far as how prayer plays into it, I think that this idea is partly why the Orthodox affirm that saints in the afterlife can indeed pray for us. The saints are not disconnected from the body of Christ, but aware of what is going on, even participating with us in the spiritual life. I've been told that this is one reason that we cense the entire Church, even if there is no one on a side where the priest is censing--because whether we see anyone or not, the Church triumphant is there, participating with us. Thus also one of the reasons that we fill our Church with icons, to remind us that we are indeed surrounded by the Church triumphant.

Regarding the resurrection, I'm not sure what to say about that. Of course there is the particular judgment immediately upon death, after which people get a foretaste of what they will experience for all eternity. The resurrection doesn't happen until the end of time, when "the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." (Rev. 20:12)  Until that time, the saints in the Church triumphant can understand the prayerful communications to them from the Church militant, and can also communicate prayers to God.  After the general resurrection, I suppose there will be no more Church militant, but only a Church triumphant, and on the other hand those who experience the "second death," who are "cast into the lake of fire." (Rev. 20:14-15).

I like your point about God of the Living and not the Dead, but the Body of christ metaphor doesn't really make sense to me because if a member of the body is dead....then how can the body function?  Maybe you can give me some more thoughts on this metaphor b/c I think it is an excellent one, but I'm not sure exactly how that would work...

Quote
Until that time, the saints in the Church triumphant can understand the prayerful communications to them from the Church militant, and can also communicate prayers to God.

Where in scripture or in the fathers would you find this concept?  That the church triumphant can communicate their prayers to God, and etc.?  You already gave me some other great references for which I am very grateful, but do you know of some clearer connector?


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« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2009, 11:07:26 AM »

More random thoughts:

St. Dositheus of Gaza would draw a circle on the ground, and then draw a number of lines from the circle to the center.  "The circle represents the Faithful, the center is God: as the lines cannot reach the center without drawing nearer to each other and meeting in point, so to you cannot draw nearer to God without drawing nearer to your brother [with echoes of the Epistle of John]." So the farther you are in theosis, the more you are united to others.

I've seen a number of arguments (though, I don't think I have seen the Triumphant/Militant terminology in an Orthodox context), based on St. Paul, Gal. 1:24 (fullfilling in his suffering what is lacking in Christ's passion for the sake of the Church), I Cor. 9:21, Gal. 2:2, Phil. 3:14, Heb. 10:36, 12:1 etc. (the race analogy) that compares the Church to a relay race: how can the saints, who prayed for others during their lives, now stop, having won the prize and finished the race successfully?

Myself, I think of the analogy of a ship.  It was built perfectly, and set on a course to a distant port, theosis.  On the way, a storm (the Fall, original sin, etc.) blew all the crew off the ship.  The captain (IC XC) threw out a rope (the Church).  Those who grab hold (the Faithful) turn around and grap hold of those still floundering in the sea.  As those on the rope make their way up back into the ship, they continue to try to hawl the rest in:the more of the crew you have, the better to navigate the waters out of the storm and onto the destination (Lossky blames the Protestants for the idea that once we are saved from the shipwreck, justified, that's it: no idea that you are to continue the journey to the original destination).

Another is the idea of "not me, but Christ in me."  We are called Christians because we are supposed to be like Him, Christ-like.  If Christ comes to save, then that is what we are to do.  That is what it means to know the Spirit to which we belong (Luke 9:55).
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« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2009, 11:11:33 AM »

Here are some random thoughts. As to where we get the idea from, I think it was partly the consequence of acknowledging a couple of things. First, that there is one Church, one body of Christ (Eph. 4:4). And second, that there are saints alive in heaven (Rev. 5:8; 6:9-11; 7:9-15), or as Hebrews puts it when speaking of the Old Testament saints: "we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses" (Heb. 12:1). So, speaking of a Church triumphant is gives full expression, and takes literally, the Scriptural passage which says that "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." (Matt. 22:32)

As far as how prayer plays into it, I think that this idea is partly why the Orthodox affirm that saints in the afterlife can indeed pray for us. The saints are not disconnected from the body of Christ, but aware of what is going on, even participating with us in the spiritual life. I've been told that this is one reason that we cense the entire Church, even if there is no one on a side where the priest is censing--because whether we see anyone or not, the Church triumphant is there, participating with us. Thus also one of the reasons that we fill our Church with icons, to remind us that we are indeed surrounded by the Church triumphant.

Regarding the resurrection, I'm not sure what to say about that. Of course there is the particular judgment immediately upon death, after which people get a foretaste of what they will experience for all eternity. The resurrection doesn't happen until the end of time, when "the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." (Rev. 20:12)  Until that time, the saints in the Church triumphant can understand the prayerful communications to them from the Church militant, and can also communicate prayers to God.  After the general resurrection, I suppose there will be no more Church militant, but only a Church triumphant, and on the other hand those who experience the "second death," who are "cast into the lake of fire." (Rev. 20:14-15).

I like your point about God of the Living and not the Dead, but the Body of christ metaphor doesn't really make sense to me because if a member of the body is dead....then how can the body function?  Maybe you can give me some more thoughts on this metaphor b/c I think it is an excellent one, but I'm not sure exactly how that would work...

Quote
Until that time, the saints in the Church triumphant can understand the prayerful communications to them from the Church militant, and can also communicate prayers to God.

Where in scripture or in the fathers would you find this concept?  That the church triumphant can communicate their prayers to God, and etc.?  You already gave me some other great references for which I am very grateful, but do you know of some clearer connector?

For the time being, the Martyrdom of Polycarp:
Quote
We have written to you, brethren, as to what relates to the martyrs, and especially to the blessed Polycarp, who put an end to the persecution, having, as it were, set a seal upon it by his martyrdom. For almost all the events that happened previously [to this one], took place that the Lord might show us from above a martyrdom becoming the Gospel. For he waited to be delivered up, even as the Lord had done, that we also might become his followers, while we look not merely at what concerns ourselves but have regard also to our neighbours. For it is the part of a true and well-founded love, not only to wish one's self to be saved, but also all the brethren

...But the most admirable Polycarp, when he first heard [that he was sought for], was in no measure disturbed, but resolved to continue in the city. However, in deference to the wish of many, he was persuaded to leave it. He departed, therefore, to a country house not far distant from the city. There he stayed with a few [friends], engaged in nothing else night and day than praying for all men, and for the Churches throughout the world, according to his usual custom...

His pursuers then, along with horsemen, and taking the youth with them, went forth at supper-time on the day of the preparation with their usual weapons, as if going out against a robber. Matthew 26:55 And having come about evening [to the place where he was], they found him lying down in the upper room of a certain little house, from which he might have escaped into another place; but he refused, saying, The will of God be done. Matthew 6:10; Acts 21:14 So when he heard that they were come, he went down and spoke with them. And as those that were present marvelled at his age and constancy, some of them said. Was so much effort made to capture such a venerable man? Immediately then, in that very hour, he ordered that something to eat and drink should be set before them, as much indeed as they cared for, while he besought them to allow him an hour to pray without disturbance. And on their giving him leave, he stood and prayed, being full of the grace of God, so that he could not cease for two full hours, to the astonishment of them that heard him, insomuch that many began to repent that they had come forth against so godly and venerable an old man. Now, as soon as he had ceased praying, having made mention of all that had at any time come in contact with him, both small and great, illustrious and obscure, as well as the whole Catholic Church throughout the world,...

...But when the adversary of the race of the righteous, the envious, malicious, and wicked one, perceived the impressive nature of his martyrdom, and [considered] the blameless life he had led from the beginning, and how he was now crowned with the wreath of immortality, having beyond dispute received his reward, he did his utmost that not the least memorial of him should be taken away by us, although many desired to do this, and to become possessors of his holy flesh. For this end he suggested it to Nicetes, the father of Herod and brother of Alce, to go and entreat the governor not to give up his body to be buried, lest, said he, forsaking Him that was crucified, they begin to worship this one. This he said at the suggestion and urgent persuasion of the Jews, who also watched us, as we sought to take him out of the fire, being ignorant of this, that it is neither possible for us ever to forsake Christ, who suffered for the salvation of such as shall be saved throughout the whole world (the blameless one for sinners ), nor to worship any other. For Him indeed, as being the Son of God, we adore; but the martyrs, as disciples and followers of the Lord, we worthily love on account of their extraordinary affection towards their own King and Master, of whom may we also be made companions and fellow-disciples!....

The centurion then, seeing the strife excited by the Jews, placed the body in the midst of the fire, and consumed it. Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, as being more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more purified than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, whither, being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps.

Since, then, you requested that we would at large make you acquainted with what really took place, we have for the present sent you this summary account through our brother Marcus. When, therefore, you have yourselves read this Epistle, be pleased to send it to the brethren at a greater distance, that they also may glorify the Lord, who makes such choice of His own servants. To Him who is able to bring us all by His grace and goodness into his everlasting kingdom, through His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, to Him be glory, and honour, and power, and majesty, for ever. Amen. Salute all the saints. They that are with us salute you, and Evarestus, who wrote this Epistle, with all his house.  We wish you, brethren, all happiness, while you walk according to the doctrine of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; with whom be glory to God the Father and the Holy Spirit, for the salvation of His holy elect, after whose example the blessed Polycarp suffered, following in whose steps may we too be found in the kingdom of Jesus Christ!
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« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2009, 03:20:54 PM »

Thank you brother for that clip from the Martyrdom of Polycarp. 

Unfortunately, it was not really helpful to me.  I still don't get it.  I get that there are saints, martyrs, etc. which the letter said we are in communion with, through love and God, but how are they the Church triumphant, and etc.?  Also, why is it that EVEN though they are dead, they are still a member of the church?  Is it because Christ Himself came to the apostles, as the clip from Mathew indicated?  If that is the case then why can't we just say...hey, that was just Christ, and it doesn't pertain to all of us?  Did he promise that kind of life to us?  He gave us the salvation through Resurrection, but our resurrection will not come until the second coming....When Christ was in the tomb, he didn't do anything except proclaim His message to those in Hades.  So why arn't we saying that this is our job?  how do we get to these conclusions, and etc.? 

sorry to give you so many questions but i'm just not connecting the dots. 
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« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2009, 05:12:49 PM »

Regarding the saints in heaven hearing our prayers and communicating them to God, I think the following Biblical passage hints at it:

Quote
"And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps,  and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to  open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;  And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth." - Rev. 5:8-10

There are also other passages which show the saints in heaven communicating with God:

Quote
"And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the  testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood  on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a  little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled." - Rev. 6:9-11

"After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before  the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God  which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and  fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and  power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in  white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great  tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve  him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them." - Rev. 7:9-15

Regarding tradition, I'd first point out that according to articles/books I've read, inscriptions in the Christian catacombs asked for prayers  from those who had passed on. I don't have any references to give for that, though. Regarding Church Fathers, I'd start with The Martyrdom of  Ignatius, from the second century:

Quote
"Having ourselves been eye-witnesses of these things [the death of Ignatius], and having spent the whole night in tears within the house,  and having entreated the Lord, with bended knees and much prayer, that He would give us weak men full assurance respecting the things which were  done, it came to pass, on our filling into a brief slumber, that some of us saw the blessed Ignatius suddenly standing by us and embracing us,  while others beheld him again praying for us, and others still saw him dropping with sweat, as if he had just come from his great labour, and  standing by the Lord." - The Martyrdom of Ignatius, 7

Then there is Clement of Alexandria, who said:

Quote
"So is he always pure for prayer. He also prays in the society of angels, as being already of angelic rank, and he is never out of their  holy keeping; and though he pray alone, he has the choir of the saints standing with him." - St. Clement of Alexandria,  Stromata, 7, 12

And while it's from a questionable source, and I haven't been able to verify this with an internet source, I have also read that Origen believed  in this doctrine, saying that "not the high priest [Christ] alone prays for those who pray sincerely, but also the angels... as also the souls  of the saints who have already fallen asleep" (Prayer 11). I've also read that Saint Cyprian supported this doctrine (Epistles 56 and 57), but I  haven't been able to verify that either.

There is also the work of Methodius, which I believe is from the late 3rd or early 4th century:

Quote
"And you also, O honored and venerable Simeon, you earliest host of our holy religion, and teacher of the resurrection of the faithful,  do be our patron and advocate with that Savior God, whom you were deemed worthy to receive into your arms. We, together with thee, sing our  praises to Christ, who has the power of life and death, saying, Thou art the true Light, proceeding from the true Light; the true God, begotten  of the true God" - Methodius, Oration on Simeon and Anna 14

That takes us up to the beginning of the fourth century. There are more references from the fourth century and beyond, which I can provide if  you'd like. I don't know that they would address your exact questions, though. And I'm not even sure that the above is any more clear than what  I had said before, but it's the references I had handy here on my computer (from a paper I did years ago).

Regarding the body of Christ, I'm not really sure how to explain it. While our bodies rest after death, our souls go on to the afterlife. In some way, I don't know how, they are apparently still connected with the body of Christ. I can't exactly explain how we are connected to the body of Christ, for that matter. I guess it's just one of those things that I take on faith. Sorry I haven't been or more help than to say something like that! Smiley
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