In Genesis we read "Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. And this is how you shall make it..." (Genesis 6:14-15)
The ark is a symbol of the Church. Everyone outside the ark perished, whereas everyone inside the ark was saved. Similarly the Orthodox Church teaches us that the Church is essential for our salvation, through which we receive the Mysteries which God gave us. Many church buildings are designed to be shaped like Noah's ark for this reason.
God instructed Noah to cover the ark with pitch from the inside and the outside. The pitch here is used to protect the ark from the water so that it wouldn't leak through inside the ark. Notice here that the pitch is to be on the inside and the outside, not just the outside. Similarly the Church should be protected from attacks on the inside and the outside. Also note that God instructed Noah to cover the ark with pitch from the inside first. The attacks that target the Church from the inside are usually more detrimental than the attacks from the outside.
Protecting the Church from the inside:
Attacks on the Church from the inside could come in many forms. One form would be attacks of heresies. For example a heresy that says that Christ is not fully divine, or Christ is not fully human. Some might not think much of this and say that as long as we have our hearts with God and are doing good, then all the rest doesn't matter. The fact however is that it matters and it matters a lot. Our Church Fathers fought hard and sometimes even gave their lives defending the true faith because they were defending their own salvation as well as ours! If the Church were to succumb to every flawed thought then the Church would end up losing the true relationship with her One True Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. It is as if a wife would say that it's not essential to learn more about her husband as long as she's faithful to him. It's impossible to stay faithful to the husband without knowing who he is, how he behaves and what he likes. Otherwise, any action the wife takes could be against her husband's will.
Aside from heresies, another form of attack from within the Church could be from sins in general. In a previous article we talked about how the sin of an individual person affects the whole Body of the Church. Protecting the Church from the inside is important for the stability of the Church, the Body of Christ.
Protecting the Church from the outside:
One of the most obvious ways the Church could be attacked from the outside is by physical harm to the buildings or people from non-believers. These attacks however are usually futile and result in the opposite effect where the Church ends up stronger than before it was attacked. We've heard many stories of youth that start to come and pray in the church after it was burned down to the ground. Liturgies that are prayed on the rubbles of burnt down churches might be more full than when its walls were still up!
A more dangerous attack from the outside however is from other churches. Our youth would attend a service at another non-Orthodox Church and say "Their service is more fun" or "Our Liturgies are not entertaining", etc... While we must engage our youth with activities, we must not lose focus from the fact that the Church is not for entertainment. Noah didn't gather all the animals in the ark to start a circus! Rather he gathered them all to save them. Similarly, the Liturgies are not for our entertainment, but for our salvation. Just as God gave specific measurements of the ark to Noah down to the very details, Christ also gave us specific instructions for our Church down to the very details. If Noah were to change anything in the specifications of the ark he could have risked his own salvation and the salvation of the people with him in the ark. Not only that, but if the people in the ark didn't survive, then he would have also risked the salvation of their descendants also.
God tells us to "Hold fast what you have..." (Revelation 3:11) St. Paul tells his disciple "Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. " (2 Timothy 1:13-14) We are to hold fast to the Church as it was handed down to us by Christ. Not in a close minded or a fanatical way, but in "spirit and truth" (John 4:24)
Saved for a new Beginning:
Finally we note that "the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights" (Genesis 7:12) The number 40 in the bible resembles preparation before a new beginning. Noah and his family were in the ark for 40 days then they had a new beginning after the destruction of the earth. We too are here on earth for a period of preparation, before we go to heaven, the new Jerusalem, where we have our new beginning and live forever with our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.
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