A Church Without Schism IV- We Rend and Divide Christ’s Garment

The Apostle Peter, writing to the Church Militant:

Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear, not only to those good and forbearing, but also to the perverse ones. For this is a grace, if for conscience toward God anyone endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it if you patiently endure while sinning and being buffeted? But if you suffer while doing good, and patiently endure, this is a grace from God. For you were not called to this? For Christ also suffered on our behalf, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps, He who did no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth, who when He was reviled did not revile in return. When He suffered, He did not threaten, but gave Himself up to Him who judges righteously. He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that dying to sins, we might live to righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed. For you were as sheep going astray, but now you are turned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.  – 1 Pe 2:18-25 (MKJV)

The Hieriomartyr Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage (3rd century A.D.), from Treatise I, On the Unity of the Church:

St. Cyprian of CarthageThis sacrament of unity, this bond of a concord inseparably cohering, is set forth where in the Gospel the coat of the Lord Jesus Christ is not at all divided nor cut, but is received as an entire garment, and is possessed as an uninjured and undivided robe by those who cast lots concerning Christ’s garment, who should rather put on Christ. Holy Scripture speaks, saying, “But of the coat, because it was not sewed, but woven from the top throughout, they said one to another, Let us not rend it, but cast lots whose it shall be.” (John xix. 23, 24.) That coat bore with it an unity that came down from the top, that is, that came from heaven and the Father, which was not to be at all rent by the receiver and the possessor, but without separation we obtain a whole and substantial entireness. He cannot possess the garment of Christ who parts and divides the Church of Christ…But because Christ’s people cannot be rent, His robe, woven and united throughout, is not divided by those who possess it; undivided, united, connected, it shows the coherent concord of our people who put on Christ. By the sacrament and sign of His garment, He has declared the unity of the Church.

“8. Who, then, is so wicked and faithless, who is so insane with the madness of discord, that either he should believe that the unity of God can be divided, or should dare to rend it—the garment of the Lord—the Church of Christ? He Himself in His Gospel warns us, and teaches, saying, “And there shall be one flock and one shepherd. (“John x. 16.)  And does anyone believe that in one place there can be either many shepherds or many flocks? The Apostle Paul, moreover, urging upon us this same unity, beseeches and exhorts, saying, “I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you; but that ye be joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”  (1 Cor. i. 10.) And again, he says, “Forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. iv. 3.) Do you think that you can stand and live if you withdraw from the Church, building for yourself other homes and a different dwelling, when it is said to Rahab, in whom was prefigured the Church, “Thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all the house of thy father, thou shalt gather unto thee into thine house; and it shall come to pass, whosoever shall go abroad beyond the door of thine house, his blood shall be upon his own head?”  (Josh. ii. 19.) Also, the sacrament of the Passover contains nothing else in the law of the Exodus than that the lamb which is slain in the figure of Christ should be eaten in one house. God speaks, saying, “In one house shall ye eat it; ye shall not send its flesh abroad from the house.” (Ex. xii. 46.) The flesh of Christ, and the holy of the Lord, cannot be sent abroad, nor is there any other home to believers but the one Church. This home, this household of unanimity, the Holy Spirit designates and points out in the Psalms, saying, “God, who maketh men to dwell with one mind in a house.” (Ps. lxviii. 6.)  In the house of God, in the Church of Christ, men dwell with one mind, and continue in concord and simplicity.

“26. But in us unanimity is diminished in proportion as liberality of working is decayed. Then they used to give for sale houses and estates; and that they might lay up for themselves treasures in heaven, presented to the apostles the price of them, to be distributed for the use of the poor. But now we do not even give the tenths from our patrimony; and while our Lord bids us sell, we rather buy and increase our store. Thus has the vigor of faith dwindled away among us; thus has the strength of believers grown weak. And therefore the Lord, looking to our days, says in His Gospel, “When the Son of man cometh, think you that He shall find faith on the earth?” (Luke xviii. 8.) We see that what He foretold has come to pass. There is no faith in the fear of God, in the law of righteousness, in love, in labor; none considers the fear of futurity, and none takes to heart the day of the Lord, and the wrath of God, and the punishments to come upon unbelievers, and the eternal torments decreed for the faithless. That which our conscience would fear if it believed, it fears not because it does not at all believe.  But if it believed, it would also take heed; and if it took heed, it would escape.”

The prayer of a servant:

Lord, At my Baptism, the Church called me to become a “reason-endowed sheep.” Instead, I confess that I have become a pride-filled goat. I often fall, believing I can chart the course of my own salvation without direction. I do not follow the example of Christ and his Apostles. My vanity does not want me to bend my stiff neck and see myself as a servant, while my timidity keeps from speaking up as is my right as a member of the Royal Priesthood. My weakness tempts me to flee from conflict and responsibility, while I complain and gossip from the sidelines. I do not work at mending the frays in Christ’s garment; rather I twiddle and pull at loose threads and make a small tear larger.

My Jesus, my Lord and my God, you promise me Christian peace and joy if I follow you, but peace and joy in the midst of suffering and strife and labor. Give me the grace and strength to live with You and stay faithful to Your Church, realizing all Your promises in my own life. May there be less of me, and more of Thee. Son of David, have mercy on me, the sinner.

St. Cyprian, pray for me; pray for the unity of the faith, so dear to you, and for the reconciliation of the Churches. Amen.

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