By Hieromonk John (Anderson)
The Church is literally the Body of Christ. This means that corporately, not individually, we are Christ Himself still incarnate in the world doing His work. If a person desires with their whole heart one can unite to Christ and become a member of His Body. Ideally, this is motivated by a simple desire to know God and to be where He is. Out of this love for God comes the desire to follow his commands and to worship Him. However, this happens in a context which is not our own.
Orthodoxy maintains the ancient Jewish belief that God is manifest in the temple. We believe that the same glorious presence of God, the Shekinah Glory, that dwelt on the Ark of the Covenant now resides on each altar in every Orthodoxy Temple. “God is with us, understand all ye nations.” Isaiah 8:10, as the hymn from Great Compline says. If we truly understood what this means -- that the God “who is a consuming fire” is literally present in the Church -- we would strive to worship before Him frequently.
Church attendance is not merely about obligation, guilt, or nostalgia. It is about being where the beloved is and worshipping Him simply because we love Him. It is about being the Body of Christ in oneness. By going to Church we learn to lay aside ego, we learn to love, we learn to live, and we learn how to be truly human. Christ Himself told us to make God the absolute center of our lives and to make all else secondary. Eternal life begins at the altar where we remain in His Presence without distractions, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matt 6:21.