The Ark of Salvation

“And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’” Mat 8:24-25.

To be saved from the storms and tribulations of our life here on earth, we must place ourselves on the boat with Christ. This boat is the Orthodox Christian Church. For Orthodox Christians the Church is a life-saving boat. The Nave (from the Greek word ναῦς meaning ‘ship’) is the central part of the Church building where the faithful gather to worship God communally. This is a reference to Noah’s Ark, which, as recounted in the book Genesis Chapters 6 to 9, was built by the Righteous Noah at God’s command to save himself, his family and all the earth’s creatures from devastation. Since the name Noah means ‘Rest’, his entering into the ark signifies the ‘rest’ which the people of God obtain from this world by entering into the Church. According to St Peter the Apostle, it also signifies baptism (1 Pet 3:20-21); for the baptismal water is symbolised by the waters of the flood, and the grace of the Holy Spirit by the dove bringing the olive branch to Noah after the waters had subsided (Gen 8:11). The Church has always been seen through the ages as the company of faithful Christians struggling through the storms of life with all the temptations and persecutions that assault us, be they physical, spiritual or moral in nature, or heresies that undermine the teachings of the Church from the Apostolic times till now. St Nikolai Velimirovich writes: “The flood of madness and sin continues incessantly. Therefore, the Lover of Mankind constructed the ark of salvation. Ask for His ark, and you will soon be entering it. Do not let yourselves be led astray by the multitude of variegated vessels, decorated and adorned on the outside. Ask about the power of the engine and about the skill of the captain. The most powerful engine and the most skilled helmsman are to be found in the ark of Christ. This is the all-seeing, all-powerful, Holy Spirit himself.” (The Faith of Chosen People). As the waves of passions, temptations and persecutions confront us and threaten to throw us against the rocks, it is good to remember that as long as we remain on board the ship of the Church we are safe. We sail aboard a ship that is piloted by Christ Himself and we are comforted with the knowledge that this ship is headed for the safe harbour which is the eternal Kingdom of God.

Source: Lychnos June / July 2016