The Fellowship of the Faithful
No one exists alone — not even God (Gen 1:26). Human beings are communal by nature, for we are made in the image of God, the Holy Trinity who is a communion of Persons. We are designed for communion with God in union with Christ and with one another in him. To be fully human, and to share in the eternal life of God is to be in this communion.
In uniting ourselves to Christ, we are united with God and with the Church, “... which is his Body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph 1:23). Just as it is not possible to be united to God apart from union with Christ, so it is not possible to be united to Christ apart from our union with one another in his Body, the Church (Eph 1:22–23, 5:30–32; 1 John 1:3).
Our union with the Holy Trinity in the Body of Christ is a communion of love with one another through which we partake of, and participate in, the eternal life of God in Christ Jesus. Eternal life is not to be understood as a never-ending existence. Rather, it is primarily a kind of life. The biological life of our bodies has a beginning and an end. Eternal life, which only the Divinity has in Himself, (John 5:26) has no beginning and no end (Rev 4:8). Therefore, when Holy Scripture speaks of us having the gift of eternal life, it is speaking of the gift of personal participation in the divine energy of the love of God: in the kind of life shared by the persons of the Trinity (1 Pet 1:2–4). This is why when John the Beloved Evangelist and Theologian tells us that “love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7) and that he writes these things “in order that you may know that you have eternal life,” (1 John 5:13) he is not primarily telling us that we will live forever and ‘go to heaven when we die.’ He is speaking rather of our participation in the very life of God in Christ’s own Body, the Church. He is assuring us that if we are sharing the love of God with one another in his Body, then we are participating in the kind of life that only his divine energies can create; and therefore, the kind of life we have is eternal, not primarily in its duration (although this is also true), but in union with the Divine Fountain of Immortality1 from whom it flows. We have eternal life because we live in him, sharing in the eternal communion of love with one another that is his life (1 John 5:20).
“Receive the Body of Christ, Taste the Fountain of immortality” (Communion Hymn) ↩