The Experience of Community

I was reading today an article based on a study done at Brigham Young University which states that our “social relationships [add] to the ‘short list’ of factors that predict a person’s odds of living or dying”. (See full article here.)  It seems as though community plays a role in both our physical and spiritual lives. Bishop Maxim (Vasilijevic) writes in an article, The Ethos of Holiness Between Ontology and Gnoseology, that “Holiness is a gift given to those who are open to the experience of community.” He writes later:

“Dogmatic formulations in the ancient church were “doxological” expressions of the liturgical community, as “hope delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), something that was continually and anew accepted from the conscience of the “community of saints” in new forms of experience. Therefore, dogmas were not untouchable fields of knowledge in which one is not permitted to enter, as some “conservative” theologians think (thus the dogmas of the Church would turn into stone remnants of the past). On the contrary, dogmas are “experienced” as existential ethos, “doxologically”, the exclamation of the community and thus something which requires constant “updating”, with a constant openness to the future. Saints accept dogmatic teachings as the empirical heritage of the Fathers (or the councils), and not as a collection of formulas which are to mechanically repeat themselves. Knowledge is identical to being in a community of Saints. Therefore holiness appears primarily as an existing reality of life in the community, and secondly as a knowing reality, subsequently the precedence of being over thinking/knowing. Hence in the church the same honor is shared by the educated saint and the unlearned holy ascetic. Their “equality” and equality-in-honor is unquestionable, even though their services differ. Namely, in terms of quantity of our knowledge (that is, the amount of information about God) we differ among one other in small fragments, being that we are all more or less equal in our endless ignorance; the lives of the Saints envisage no other but precisely that description of man’s reality in history.  Therefore it is preferable to speak of the quality of our knowledge of God, since God “does not give the Spirit by measure” (John 3:34). There are already great differences here, being that the question is do we know God personally or not.”

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