Notes on the Liturgy and the Church.


Chapter 7


The priest begins the main part of the Liturgy with a festive declaration: "Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever, and unto ages of ages." At that point, many people observe the pious custom of making a full prostration to the Holy and Blessed Kingdom of the Holy Trinity. From [those opening words of the Liturgy, Heavenly joy is in the air: they make clear that beyond our illusory and cruel world there lies a world of truth and kindness, light and joy, the world that ever awaits us. 'seek ye first the Kingdom of God" - That Gospel challenge reveals the very essence of Christianity: this Kingdom is not of this earth, but is the Kingdom of God which we should even now be seeking and acquiring. While Its fullness is in the life to come, our betrothal to It is here, on earth; we must take a breath of It yet here in this life. After all, as the Gospel says, "The Kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17: 21), in the grace you receive of the Holy Spirit. The saints constantly teach that there is but one goal in Christian life: the acquisition of the Holy Spirit, or Communing with God, finding Grace within ourselves.

"...I believe... according to Thy word, o Jesus Christ, I seek the Kingdom of God in my heart, that I might acquire It and abide in It... do not abandon me... spur me to seek Thy Kingdom until I find It." (George of Zadonsk). St. Symeon the New Theologian writes, 'struggle to consciously acquire within you the Heavenly Kingdom, i.e. the grace of the Holy Spirit, so that you not depart from this life bereft of It - especially those who think that they possess It [grace - S.F.] within themselves without being aware of [sensing - S.F.] It." […] Does one who had consciously sought to acquire the Kingdom of Heaven within himself have the means to enter into it after his death?" The Saint writes, "That goal (acquisition of grace - S.F.) is the very mystery of Christianity that had been hidden away from the beginning of the world." Sts. Seraphim of Sarov, Makary the Great, and others taught exactly that. "The beginning (of the Christian way - S.F.) rests in your partaking of Grace... the end is in [your] taking on, in holiness, the likeness of God. Neither the one nor the other will be accomplished without a living, personal communion with our Lord Jesus Christ." (Bishop Theophan the Recluse).

The search for grace is the beginning of true life in Christianity, life not according to calculation or by habit or reflex, not according to fear, but according to love and joy.

In the Egyptian anaphora of Bp. Serapion, one of the most ancient of liturgical prayers, we read, "We pray Thee, make us into living people; grant unto us the spirit of life, so that we might know Thee, the True God, and Jesus Christ, sent by Thee! Grant unto us the Holy Spirit, that we might speak, proclaim, and herald Thine inexpressible Mysteries."

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  • Washington, D.C., 20011

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