The Church is Paradise on Earth

Icon of the Holy Liturgy, Michael Damaskenos, from the 16th century Cretan school

Icon of the Holy Liturgy, Michael Damaskenos, from the 16th century Cretan school

With the worship of God you live in Paradise. If you know and love Christ, you live in Paradise. Christ is Paradise. Paradise begins here. The Church is Paradise on earth, exactly the same as Paradise in heaven. The same Paradise as is in heaven is here on earth. There all souls are one, just as the Holy Trinity is three persons, but they are united and constitute one.

Our chief concern is to devote ourselves to Christ, to unite ourselves to the Church. If we enter into the love of God, we enter into the Church. If we don’t enter into the Church, if we do not become with the earthly Church here and now, we are in danger of losing the heavenly Church here and now, we are in danger of losing the heavenly Church too. And when we say ‘heavenly’ don’t imagine that in the other life we will find gardens with flowers, mountains, streams and birds. The earthly beauties do not exist there; there is something else, something very exalted. But in order for us to go on to this something else we must pass through these earthly images and beauties.

Whoever experiences Christ becomes one with Him, with His Church. He experiences a mad delight. This life is different from the life of other people. It is joy, it is light, it is exultation, it is exaltation. This is the life of the Church, the life of the Gospel, the Kingdom of God. ‘The Kingdom of God is within us.’ Christ comes within us and we are within Him. This occurs just in the way a piece of iron placed int he fire becomes fire and light; once it is removed from the fire it becomes iron again, black and dark.

In the Church a divine intercourse occurs, we become infused with God. When we are with Christ we are in the light; and when we live in the light there is no darkness. The light, however, is not constant; it depends on us. It is just like the iron which becomes dark when removed from the fire. Darkness and light are incompatible. We can never have darkness and light at the same time. Either light or darkness. When you switch on the light, darkness vanishes.

Elder Porphyrious, Wounded by Love, pp. 90-91