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Preparing Your Little Home Church …

The time is short before the final persecution of Christianity becomes widespread, and therefore it is important for Orthodox Christians to make preparations.

Yes, it was good while the Church had the protection of a Christian Emperor, the last one being Tsar Nicholas II, but the absence of this protection does not mean the Church does not exist. The Church is a spiritual communion, not an earthly Organization as World Orthodoxy (and even more Catholicism) would like us to believe. The protection was indeed established starting with St. Constantine the Great by God’s grace for a specific reason – to protect the Church so it can grow and bring the message of salvation to as many as possible, thus maximizing its fruit bearing potential, but before then there were three centuries of persecution during which time the Church did not exist in any organized form. Our Holy Fathers have prophesied that the Church will end the same way it started – in the catacombs.

The fact that there are virtually no true bishops or priests left to lead the flock to salvation should not lead to desperation. Those that are blessed to be close to the few that are still continuing unabated on the lines set forth by our Holy Fathers are indeed fortunate and should strive to preserve what they have in any way they can. But what should the majority of Orthodox Christians that feel disenchanted do?

The answer is found in the early days of Christianity. Many of the Holy Fathers of the Church fore-warned us that these times would come. Since we are more familiar with the Romanian Saints, one such recent example was Fr Adrian Fageteanu who clearly pointed out that there would be no more Church of the masses, but it would be possible for an Orthodox Christian to preserve his faith in his own family.

Family is indeed the most basic and important form of Catacomb Church – “The Little Church”, and the Bible has quite a few references to home Churches, please allow us to mention a few.

Since St Aquila is going to be celebrated in only a few days (July 27/14), we are going to start with the Home Church of husband and wife Aquila and Priscilla. In Romans 16:3-4 we can read “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my coworkers in Christ Jesus, who put forth their heads for my soul, whom I do not alone thank, but also all the Church of the Gentiles and the church of their household. Saints Aquila and Priscilla were directly instructed in the mysteries of the Faith by Saint Apostle Paul. In the Orthodox Synaxarion we can read “it was in their large house in Ephesus that the Christians met for the holy Eucharist. It was there too that Priscilla and Aquila brought Apollos to the full knowledge of the faith”. This passage clearly shows that it was in this family’s home Church where another one of the Great Apostles of the first century was formed – St Apollos. Moreover, the Orthodox tradition teaches us that St Paul ordained Aquila as a Bishop in Asia (while still married since the Holy Tradition teaches that Aquila and Priscilla died together by beheading at the hands of pagans). Indeed the teachings of the Holy Orthodox Church say that a married man can be ordained as Bishop under certain circumstances – particularly if the wife accepts to live a life in a monastery as a nun.

Just as a side observation, when St Paul made Aquila a bishop in Asia, would anyone think St Paul went to register the new Archdiocese in the “official business registry” of that time as an earthly organization, or just the simple act of appointing him was enough in the eyes of our Lord Jesus Christ?

Another example of a Home Church in times of great persecutions can be found in Acts 12:12: “When he [Peter] realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who is called Mark, where there were many people gathered in prayer”. This verse refers to the time right after the ruler of Judea, King Herod Agrippa, suddenly became intolerant of Christians. Seeking to win support from Pharisaic Jews, he had James “the brother of the Lord” beheaded and Peter thrown into prison (12:1-3).

Lydia’s House Church is also another example: “When they [Paul and Silas] had come out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house where they saw and encouraged the brothers, and then they left” (Acts 16:40).

And also, Nympha’s Home Church: “Give greetings to the brothers in Laodicea and to Nympha and to the church in her house.” (Colossians 4:15).

Finally, please let us mention Philemon and Apphia’s House Church: “Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon, our beloved and our co-worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church at your house.” (Philemon verses 1-2).

In a family Church, if the man is not a priest and can not do the Eucharist, all the other daily services are permitted, encouraged and recommended. It is therefore perfectly Orthodox that in times of great persecutions to resort to Home Churches without the fear of being “schismatic” as the World Orthodoxy likes to call us. Rather, as Orthodox Christians, let us seek cover until the storm passes and the splinters of the Church once again come together as a whole, before the end.

Reference: http://oca.org/saints/lives/2014/07/14/101950-apostle-aquila-of-the-seventy

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