One of the things that has struck me the most on this pilgrimage so far is the intimacy the Christian community shared together during the early Church. It first occurred to me at the cave churches in Cappadocia while pondering the friendship of Basil and Gregory of Nazianzus and the tight knit communities and homes that the believers would have shared. It was clear that these Christians were not just a people gathered together but an intimate group of family and friends. The tables from which they ate their meals resembled the table that Our Lord and the Apostles would have eaten from during the Last Supper, rectangular and long, able to hold up to 40-50 people. From these tables you can see the deep connection that these Christians had between the table of fellowship, (from which they shared their meals), and the table of the Eucharist (from which they received the bread of life). I would love to see this same koinonia and sharing of life in our parishes back home.
This intimacy was also apparent in Greece as well, as we pondered the lives of Cyril and Methodius and the many saints who had given their lives for Christ in Thessaloniki, the ancient city addressed in the First and Second Letters of St. Paul to the Thessalonians. In this city alone, there were multiple saints who gave their lives for Christ, one of whom was the martyr, St. Demetrius. I couldn’t imagine having a city in the United States filled with multiple saints, but I immediately began to believe that this could be possible, and that if it could happen here, surely it could happen back home too.
In addition, we learned that if it wasn’t for orthodox priests sharing the Greek language with the children in underground gathering spaces during the time of the Ottoman Empire, the Greek language wouldn’t have survived. You can imagine the intimacy they shared together as they gathered around candlelight to share the gospels in the koine Greek in which it was first written. So too in Phillipi, where Lydia was baptized, you could see the intimate love that the Lord had for Lydia, as well as the closeness between Paul and Lydia, his first convert. Out of everyone, the Holy Spirit chose Lydia, and chose to do amazing things through her entire household, which would have included hundreds of people since she was a rich business owner.
So what is the message? The Holy Spirit is working to develop deeper intimacy in our lives and in our Christian communities where people not only come together but become intimate friends and family with one another. Sometimes these communities weren’t big, but the love they shared together was truly amazing. These are the types of communities that the Lord wants to form in our parishes and in our homes. Let us be ever fuller of the Holy Spirit, and the friendship that God desires to share with us, and realize that the saints always come in pairs.
-Jack Watt, Diocese of Peoria