LAY

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LAY - The words lay, laity, layman come from the Greek word laos which means people. "Laikos," layman, is the one who belongs to the people, who is a member of an organic and organized community. It is, in other words, not a negative, but a highly positive term. It implies the ideas of full, responsible, active membership as opposed, for example, to the status of a candidate. Yet the Christian use made this term even more positive. It comes from the Greek translation of the Old Testament where the word laos is applied ordinary to the People of God, to Israel, the people elected and sanctified by God Himself as His people. This concept of the "people of God" is central in the Bible. The Bible affirms that God has chosen one people among many to be His particular instrument in history, to fulfill His plan, to prepare, above everything else, the coming of Christ, the Saviour of the World. With this one people God has entered into "covenant", a pact or agreement of mutual belonging. The Old Testament, however, is but the preparation of the New. And in Christ, the privileges and the election of the "people of God" are extended to all those who accept Him, believe in Him and are ready to accept Him as God and Saviour. Thus, the Church, the community of those who believe in Christ, becomes the true people of God, the "laos" and each Christian a laikos — a member of the People of God.

The layman, is the one, therefore, who shares in Divine election and receives from God a special gift and privilege of membership. It is a highly positive vocation, radically different from the one we find defined in Webster. We can say that in our Orthodox teaching each Christian, be he a Bishop, Priest, Deacon or just member of the Church is, first of all, and before everything else a layman, for it is neither a negative nor a partial, but an all-embracing term and our common vocation.. Before we are anything specific we are all laymen because the whole Church is the laity — the people, the family, the community — elected and established by Christ Himself.

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