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But if it was just a matter of marvelling at Christ and His mother as remarkable phenomena there wouldn't be much point to it. What matters is the practical consequence that the unity of man and God in Christ enables the unity of man and God in us. In the Person of Christ, humanity is redefined. We were born in Adam, a humanity that cannot enter into unity with God. We are reborn in Christ, a humanity that can enter into unity with Christ: 'Except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God' (John 3.3)

This humanity of Christ, of a humanity capable of assuming God, which is to say, Eternal Life, is achieved through participation in the Church, which is the Body of Christ:

'Ye are the body of Christ and particular members of it' (1 Cor: 12:27).

As Christ tells Nicodemus:

'Except a man be born of water and the spirit he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.'

which of course is a reference to baptism into the Church. Returning to St Paul:

'For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one spirit we are baptised into one body, Jews and Greeks, slaves or free - and all were made to drink of one spirit.' (1.Cor; 12:12-13)

and in the church we assume Christ's body physically through communion:

'Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you; he who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is food indeed and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me and I in him. As the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me will live forever.' (John 6:53-9).

Little wonder that the disciples then say: 'This is a hard saying. Who can bear it?' (John 6.60).

When we go to Communion the bread and wine which is the Body and Blood of Christ becomes our body and blood, just as ordinary bread and wine becomes our body and blood (by a process that is also pretty miraculous).

Going to Church is in itself a participation in the Kingdom Of God, a return to Paradise. As another frequently used hymn to the Virgin declares:

'Thou art most glorified O Virgin Mother of God. We praise thee because through the Cross of thy Son, Hades was overturned and death was slain. We who had been given over to death were raised and were judged worthy of life. Once again we received the ancient joy of Paradise. So thanking him we glorify Christ our God, for He is strong and He alone abundant in mercy.' (my emphasis - PB)

The beauty of the Church is like no other beauty, the feeling it arouses like no other feeling. Perhaps we might think of a Beethoven concert as a taste of Paradise. Perhaps. But there is a huge difference between knowing that this is a participation in the Kingdom of Heaven, and not knowing. The concert gives us a lovely, refreshing experience, like a walk in the country, like working in a garden. The Church gives us a sense of direction. Towards Eternal Life.

The Cathedral of the Dormition and Holy Royal Martyrs (Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia) in Chiswick, London