In the prayer for the previous Sunday, we found that the Church has elements of both the spiritual and the physical, and there the spiritual and mystical flock and bride of Christ has concrete children and priests to take care of them. The priesthood, which is the class of servants of the Church, provides for the spiritual needs of the children of the Church in a highly visible way. The nourishment of the soul that comes about by receiving the Body of Christ, which is a heavenly reality, reaches the believer under the appearance of bread; the spiritual forgiveness which Christ effects secretly within the soul of the believer occurs through the audible words of the confessor; the very faith and love which are the spiritual foundations for the relationship between God and man, are the result, somehow, of baptism:
To your Church, O Savior, who has followed you perfectly by love and the faith which comes from baptism,
It is backwards to think that our faith establishes the Church. On the contrary, the Church, the mystical but still physical reality, is what provides us with our faith through her teaching and her sacraments.
Indeed, the Church is not only called the “Pillar of Truth,” (1 Timothy 3:15), but in the first letter of Peter even more dramatic language is used: “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things which have now been announced to you by those who preached the good news to you through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which the angels long to look.” (1 Peter 1:12). Through the teaching of the Church, we have something the angels do not have; or at the very least, it was from the Church that even the angels learned something of God. It was precisely through baptism – the baptism of the Lord by John the Baptist as well as the baptism he commanded his disciples to perform – that the teaching of the Trinity was revealed to the world. At the Lord’s baptism, we have the voice of the Father saying “this is my Son,” and the Holy Spirit descending like a dove and resting upon him. At the end of Matthew, the commission to baptize is the most explicit Trinitarian teaching of the New Testament: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19). It was through the Church, therefore, that first learned of the Trinity:
To your Church, O Savior, who has followed you perfectly by love and the faith which comes from baptism, you first showed the Qnome of glorious Divinity;
Preaching to the Choir
The physical sacraments are not, therefore, any lower for being physical or embodied. The Son of God became flesh, became man, in order to exalt the flesh and unite it perfectly to his Divinity. It is no surprise, therefore, that even the angels of heaven were taught the depth of the knowledge of the Trinitarian God through the agency of the Church on earth:
and through her, the perfect teaching of the mystery of the Trinity was revealed to the spiritual assemblies. By your grace, O Lord, may the creed that has been delivered to her by you in your Gospel be preserved without stain.