Notes on the Liturgy and the Church, S.I.Fudel

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For we walk by faith, and not by sight. (II Corinthians 5: 7)
Come ye faithful, let us raise our minds on high
and enjoy the Master's hospitality
and the table of immortal life in the upper room;
and let us hear the exalted teaching of the Word whom we magnify.
(Canon of Great Thursday)

Chapter 1

Christianity found its permanent religious structure in the Mystical Supper, and one could say that Christianity is the Mystical Supper. The Mystery - all Christianity, the disciples gathered around their Teacher at the timeless and immortal Mystical Supper: "Taste of the Heavenly Bread and the Cup of Life, and see that the Lord is good." He, at the center, offering Himself up to Crucifixion. During the Supper, already heralding that Crucifixion by offering up His Body and Blood for the incomprehensible, supernatural nourishment of the faithful: "Take, eat, this is My Body." The narrow path onto which Christ led mankind after that night is so clearly beyond sinful mankind's natural inclination and ability, that of necessity, the opening of that path began with supernatural support.

However, it also stands as both the goal, and the culmination and accomplishment of the goal: "That ye may eat and drink at My table in My Kingdom." (Luke 22: 30). Communing of the Divine World, entry [into that World] by overcoming nature in human, already transfigured and deified Eternal life, is the both the way to and the goal of Christianity. The reality of such entry here on earth, entry into a world that already is not merely earthly, the reality of man's rebirth, has always frightened people.

"Whosoever eateth My Flesh and drinketh My Blood dwelleth in Me and I in him."... On hearing that, many of His disciples said: "This is an hard saying; who can hear it?" "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve: 'Will ye also go away?'" (John 6: 56, 60, 66, 67)

Here is the test of faith and love, and not only of faith, and a test not only for the Apostles, but for all of us. "Then Simon Peter answered Him, Lord, to whom shall we go?" It is amazing that he began his response in that manner, and that his response was in fact so recorded for us. He could have said something quite safe, such as: "We are unlike those people of little faith; we understand everything." It is as if he began his response with "Yes, of course, we also harbor doubts, but Lord, we have no doubt in our love for Thee." [Then] Peter said, "Thou hast the words of eternal life." (John 6: 68). Perhaps it was this very point in the Gospel that was the origin for Dostoyevsky's confession of faith arose, [a confession] so fundamentally, materially erroneous and yet for many people so powerful: "If someone could prove to me that Christ is outside the truth, and if it were true that the truth were outside of Christ, then I would rather remain with Christ than with the truth."

"Lord, to whom shall we go?" Love for the person of Christ is that fiery furnace in which all doubts burn up, in which the gold of faith is purified. One can follow Christ only through loving faith, and then that faith ceases to fear what is beyond our nature, what is as yet incomprehensible, ceases to fear the invisible world, knowing that now, today, in our awful times, the Lord Jesus lives, in His human Body, in that invisible world. It is only through acquiring Him in that invisible state that we begin to understand that the life of faith is a mystery which must be accepted through love. Einstein said, "The most wonderful and profound emotion we can experience is the apprehension of wonder. In it is the fountain of all true knowledge. One to whom that emotion is foreign has lost the ability to be amazed, to stand stock-still in holy trepidation, and can be considered to be a corpse." And we know that many of us are frightened of Christian mysticism. The Mystery of Christianity lies in that a new man or a new world is established by It or in It. To not know that mystical life of Christianity is to vitiate oneself, to render oneself powerless in the face of coming dangers or great trials. And, according to the teachings of the Gospel, all human history, especially its end, is unsuccessful; it is a great mistake to train one's mind to accept the opposite, to create theocratic illusions, to draw warmth, as they do in old English novels, from the victory of virtues in history. Divine life on earth begins to celebrate its victory with Pentecost, but that victory is a hidden one, a victory to be revealed beyond the bounds of history. And to participate in that victory, one must create courageous warriors within the confines of history. Christianity is a battle, all the more terrifying in the fact that, according to the Apostle, it "is not against flesh and blood," i.e. not against people and governments, but against invisible, dark, mystical forces. While still here on earth, specifically here on earth, the Christian must enter the invisible world of Divine life; otherwise he is impotent before the world of invisible evil. He must recognize not only the full breadth, but also the full depth of Christianity, for only that will give him "the full armor of light" against the full armor of darkness. It is the Liturgy, Holy Communion, that best leads us into the Mystery of Christianity, into its Mystical Supper. St. Cyprian of Carthage, a 3rd Century bishop and martyr, wrote that it is impossible to leave undefended and without weapons those who we send into battle; they must be surrounded by the protection of the Body and Blood of Christ... they must be armed by being frankly filled to satiation with Divinity." (St. Cyprian of Carthage. To Cornelius. Works. Kiev, 1891 Book 1, pp. 283-284). We are not directed to seek after miracles. To the contrary: "This evil and adulterous generation seeks after signs." This attraction to wonders [is condemned] both in religious literature and in life. We are directed to seek not after wonders, but the Miracle, the greatest Miracle in human experience: partaking of life by partaking of the Divine Body. That Miracle takes place in the Liturgy.

Chapter 2

The Liturgy is at the center of Christianity, and in the center of the Liturgy is the "Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13: 8), or as stated at another point [in the Scriptures], "Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world." (I Peter 1: 20). Of course, those words are beyond our comprehension, but we cannot simply pass them by. The Mystery of Christianity begins with the question of its origin. St. Symeon the New Theologian wrote, "He [God] is known to us to the same degree that someone is able to see the boundless sea while standing on its shore at night with a small lighted candle." It is difficult, even for a mind illumined by grace.

However, our difficulty in comprehending the Divine world is not a basis for rejecting what we cannot or will not comprehend. St. Basil the Great writes, "If we measure everything with our [intellectual] understanding, and come to conclude that whatever is incomprehensible to reason does not exist at all, the reward of faith will perish. What else can render us worthy of the benefits announced to us on condition of our belief in the invisible?" Rational faith, faith governed by reason, is Apostolic faith, but rather remains that same Kantian "religious [faith] within the bounds of reason alone," for which everything is comprehensible or must be comprehensible, one which in our day strives to fashion a faith adaptable to lack of faith, a Christianity that overall raises no objection to non-Christianity.

Beginning in the 1st Century, many saints sensed Christianity's divine pre-existence. St. Dimitry of Rostov wrote, "This salvific name, Jesus, was already prepared before all ages, in the Council of the Trinity. The power of the name of Jesus in the Pre-eternal Council, was hidden, as in a vessel." During the reading of the Epistle for the Feast of the Annunciation, the Reader exclaims, "His Name shall continue longer than the sun." (Verse 2 of the Alleluia - Ed.), i.e., on the same day that we sing, "revealing to thee the pre-eternal counsel, O Maiden" (sticheron for "Lord I have cried…"), when we commemorate the Angel's bringing of the human name of Jesus from Heaven to the Most-pure Virgin (Luke 1: 31).

Bishop Theophanes the Recluse wrote the following regarding St. Paul's pronouncing the judgment of the Church that "great is the mystery of godliness" (I Timothy 3: 16), resting in the fact that "God was manifest in the flesh" (loc.cit.) and that of this Flesh, the Body of God, the Church was made: "The substance of our faith is hidden and so by reason of its being beyond comprehension, is its action within us. It (the mystery of godliness) was engendered in the Mystery of the Tri-hypostatic God, before all ages." Only by understanding the Church as having been created "before all," (St. Hermas), as being the 'Wisdom of God, a secret, hidden Wisdom that God foreordained for our glory before the ages' (I Corinthians 2: 7), is it possible to actually believe in it. We are given to believe in it not as a human organization, but only as a Divine-human Being, with its origin in Divine existence before time."

However, first and foremost, the Church is the Liturgy. Therefore, the Liturgy is eternal. The Lamb is pierced and sacrificed in the bosom of the Holy Trinity (Archimandrite Cyprian Kern).

Metropolitan Nicholas Cabasilas (XIV C.) wrote that all liturgical action is as the one image of the One Body and Kingdom of the Savior (i.e. the Church)... The Church is shown in the Mysteries not as symbols, but as the heart shows the members, the body, like the roots of a tree, outgrowths and, as the Lord said, like branches of the grapevine; here is not mere similarity of name or analogous appearance, but identity of matter, for the Mysteries are the Body and Blood of Christ." He also wrote, "If one could see the Church of Christ in its real aspect, that it is united with Christ and participates in His Body, he would see it as nothing less than the Body of the Lord." St. Ignatius the God-bearer describes the Liturgy as follows: "The Eucharist is the Body of our Savior Jesus Christ, Which suffered for our sins." The Church exists in that "God appeared in the flesh," in a suffering human body; the Church is the Incarnation of God. Without abandoning His Divine Being, He entered the world, in human being/nature. Christian history began from this, and its entire substance is emulation of Him, of this going out of God, but only in a reverse process: God comes down from Heaven to earth, and becomes man, while in Christianity, man goes out of his humanity to meet his God; he goes out of his "too human" being into the world of the Divine. The ordinary and constant formulation [expressed by] the Saints is, "God became man, that man might become God."

The Saints teach that man exists in three states: the natural state, the unnatural or sinful state, and the supernatural or spiritual state.. The Christian first of all does battle with sin, sin pulling him into the pit beneath his nature. Only sin is contrary to man's nature. Speaking of the supernatural, the Church affirms that the supernatural is not contrary to nature, that it merely surpasses or goes beyond the natural. And Christianity is not only a battle with the unnaturalness of sin, but also a challenge to overcome the earthly "natural state" and to go "beyond nature" to "the supernatural." In general, in following our "nature" we want only to eat, drink, sleep and enjoy ourselves. However, Christianity calls us to a new birth in the Holy Spirit, not to an allegorical birth, but to a quite painful one. In the Gospel, it states, "A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come…." Elsewhere it states, "And she, being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered." (Revelation 12: 2). Only love for God gives us the strength and joy to pursue [those labor pangs]. That birth of spirituality is a mystery to us, and that is precisely what scares off people. Christ said to Nicodemus "You must be born from above," and Nicodemus was frightened by those words. A righteous man and a lawyer, he immediately understood that this was more than a talk about the battle with sin, and anyone who has not taken the step, to even the slightest extent, into the supernatural, has not yet begun [the Christian journey]. However, that interior overcoming of nature, the overcoming on which rests all Christian podvig, i.e. of the everyday occurrences in Christian life, is merely "the sun in a tiny drop of water." All Christianity rests in the original, supernatural nature of the Divine Incarnation. The Church sings in the 9th Song of the Canon for the Dormition of the Virgin and Mother "In thee, O Virgin without spot, the bounds of nature are overcome: for childbirth remains virgin and death is betrothed to life…"

"The bounds of nature are overcome" as well in the origin of the Church before all time, and just as God's becoming man is incomprehensible to us, so "beyond comprehension" for us is the Church. "D. Khilkov writes, "Body and blood" cannot impart to us knowledge and faith regarding the Church, just as once "flesh and blood" could not impart understanding that the carpenter from Nazareth was the Son of the Living God." We take little note of the point in the Gospels that provides us a revelation of the Church (see Matthew 16). It turns out, that all of that revelation about the Church was given only after it had been revealed that man was capable of living not merely in his own nature: "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it (the mystery of the Incarnation - S. F.) unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16: 17-18). "The bounds of nature are overcome" in the Eucharist as well. Priest Pavel Florensky writes: "Partaking of Christ in the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist is the source of all spiritual joy." "The Mystery is the Divine act of partaking of the Kingdom on high." "As in the earthly life of Christ, partaking of the Life Above was accomplished by means of the Savior's human nature, just so now the visible partaking of that life is accomplished by means of the visible and tangible human nature of the Body of Christ."

And if the Church pre-ordained in the Council of God even before the existence of the world is incomprehensible to us, then the very same applies to its center, the Liturgy. St. John of Kronstadt writes, "The Life-giving Trinity deigns to permit the performing of the life-giving Mysteries, foreordained from the formation of the world." That is why, most of all at the Liturgy, we so clearly feel blessed and loving eternity, warm as a mother's bosom. That is why at the Liturgy we breathe the air of an entirely different world.

In the Apostle's words, "Creation still cries out and travails," but the seed of immortality has already dipped into the world and the faithful, standing at the Liturgy, already know that death has been 'swallowed up by victory."

Chapter 3

The Church is God's creation, but one whose acquisition is not given to a poisoned mind, for through the Divine Incarnation, it is "raised up above the Heavens."

The Saints often point out that we have an inborn knowledge of the heavenly realm: "The names of some of the [heavenly] powers have not yet been announced to us, and are as yet unknown." (St. John Chrysostom).

St. Symeon the New Theologian also wrote of the "creations as yet unknown to us." There are creations that are "known" and those that are "unknown." But we stand before the "known," as if before the Church, as on the threshold of another world. What is the meaning of Christ's words about His humanity, "And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write: These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God…" (Revelation 3: 14)? Why to the Church of Laodicea, i.e. to the last in the history of the Church, to the one, according to the Word of God, burdened with a conceited and indifferent external appearance? Does it need that reminder of God's human flesh, self-sacrificing and suffering, weak and victorious and raised up above the Heavens - that Flesh thanks to which humanity [could find] salvation in the Church, becoming the Body of God?

St. John Chrysostom writes, "As Adam's wife was created while he was asleep, so during Christ's death, from His rib the Church took shape... As a groom, having left his father, comes to his bride, so Christ, having left the Father's Throne, came to His Bride… This is why the Apostle says, "This is a great Mystery… for I speak of Christ and the Church." He writes in his talks on the Epistle to the Ephesians that God raised her (the Church - S.F.) to a great height, and placed her on that same throne, for where the Head (Christ - S.F.) is, so is the Church there is no break between the Head and the Body. <...> Lest on hearing the word "head," you not see its meaning as simply "authority," but see its actual meaning, lest you not merely consider Him the leader, but see in Him as it were, a real physical head, the Apostle adds, "[the Church is - S.F.] the "fulfillment of the One Who fulfills all in all..." The Church is the fullness, the fulfillment of Christ, just as the head is fulfilled, completed, by the body and the body fulfilled, completed, by the head.

Commenting on the same Epistle, Blessed Theophylact writes "The formerly scorned race of man took its place higher than any Angelic power. God placed the Church on the same throne, because where the head is, so is the Body…and the Church is His fullness, for as the body is the fullness of the head, making it complete, so the Church is the fullness of Christ, for Christ is filled in, as it were made complete, by all of the members (of His Body) in the persons of all of the faithful."

"It was for this reason that He mixed Himself with us and dissolved His Body in us, so that we might comprise some single thing, like a body, connected to the head. And that is a sign of the most powerful love." (John Chrysostom).

No matter how long we might stand with our candle at the shore of that sea of knowledge of those mysteries, the only thing we can see is the impossibility of separating in any way, be it conditionally or in a methodological manner, the Church from Christ. Any such division is a splitting of the divine-human nature of Christ, i.e. something encroaching on the very basis of Christianity. "God appeared in the flesh." The Divine united with the human, and that ineffable union is called the Church. "You are the Body of Christ,' writes the Apostle (I Corinthians 12: 27).

"I am the vine, ye are the branches." (John 15: 5), i.e. the Church. St. John of Kronstadt writes, "It is because the Lord is holy, that the Church is holy." "…for the Church is one with the Lord, is '…His Body, of His Flesh and of His Bones…'"(Ephesians 5: 30). Never imagine the Church separate from the Lord Jesus Christ, or from the Father and the Holy Spirit. Great and most honorable is the body of the Holy Church."

The inseparability of the Church from Christ is revealed to us in another way. It is the literal image of the 'sign" [Icon] of the Theotokos. On it, Christ is depicted in His mother's womb, in the bosom of the Mother of God; God is not only depicted in the flesh, but surrounded by the flesh of the Most-pure Virgin.

At the Liturgy, that 'sign" is made in each true communicant of the Mystery. St. Symeon the New Theologian writes, "God the Word of the Father enters into us, as into the womb of the Ever-Virgin. We receive Him, and He abides in us, like a seed. Hearing of that awesome Mystery, be affrighted… Thus we likewise conceive Him: not bodily, as the Virgin and Theotokos Mary did, but spiritually. "We have this treasure in earthen vessels…" (II Corinthians 4: 7). He [Ap. Paul - Ed.] calls the Son of God a treasure, Whom we have in our hearts. As it is impossible for Him to again be incarnate, be physically born in each of us, He gives to us in the Mystery that very same most-incorrupt Flesh which He took on from the Most-pure Theotokos Mary; in consuming It, we - of course those who worthily commune - have It, the fullness of Incarnate God, within us.... In his own words, "He that eateth My Flesh, and drinketh My Blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him." (John 6: 56). Moving in to us, He, incorporeal, is within us, and ineffably unites with our matter, and deifies us; for we share in His Body, being flesh of His Flesh and Bone of His Bones.

And this is precisely the great fruit of our Lord's ineffable construction of His House, and His condescension to us!"

Through Communion, not only our soul, but also our body begins its Eternal Life, its incorrupt Pascha. "To receive the Eucharist is to receive the teaching of deification of the flesh." (Archimandrite Cyprian Kern). This is the completion of the "little church" of the separate individual, of which Makarios the Great writes, the little cell of the Universal Church Body.

"Communing of the Body and Blood of God, you are also one Body with Him, and are dissolved in and merged with His Blood." (Ven. St. Theognost). "Having partaken of the Body and Blood of Christ, you will be of one Body and Blood with Him. For thus we are Bearers of Christ, sharing His Body and Blood." (St. Cyril of Jerusalem.) As it is impossible to separate the Church from Christ, so it is impossible the Liturgy from the reality of our entry into the World of the Divine.

Chapter 4

The Church puts an end to solitude. To live in the Church, you must go to others, stand with them in the church, and drink of the Divine Gifts from one single Chalice. But does one want to put an end to his solitude? Some people find that aspect of Christianity to be the most difficult. They say, "Isn't that an outmoded phase of religion?" "Does not God see me when I am praying alone?" Of course, God sees all, but the Church begins where, as Christ says, "two or three are gathered in My Name." Not where there is "one," for love begins only where there are "two or three." "Two or three" is love's most basic cell, and the Church begins there, where existence in self-isolation is overcome, and where love begins. It is both possible and necessary to talk about what the hierarchy is for the Church, about the hierarchy's role in the history of the Ecumenical Councils. However, when Christ's words about "two or three" are forgotten, love as the wellspring of the Church, of its Councils, of its dogmas, is forgotten as well. Then all of the rest of the words lose their power, and become a "tinkling cymbal" of no use to anyone. Then, it would be better not to know them at all.

The concept of union in love lies in the Greek word for Church itself: The word ecclesia means "assembly" or "convocation." Let us remember the blagovest, the Good News peal-calling people to gather in church.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (4th C.) writes, "It is appropriately called the Church [Ecclesia], for it summons everyone and gathers them all together." Likewise, St. Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd C.) states that the Church "is God's gathering, which God, i.e. the Son Himself, assembled through Himself." God gathered together those who loved Him, around the Holy Table of the Mystery; that is the Church. The Church is God's love toward people, among God's people. St. John Chrysostom says, 'so that…He might show His love for us, He allowed those who wished not only to see Him but to touch and feel Him, and to consume Him." The nature of the Church is Eucharistic." That sense is also found in the Greek word leitourgia, i.e. common matter, common service, something done by all of the people. The Liturgy is the common matter of love, the love Christ's Disciples had for Him, the love that brought them into community not only with their Teacher, but with one another.

In discussing communing of the Mysteries, St. John Damascene wrote, "It is called communing, and so it truly is; for in so doing, we commune with Christ, and are communicants of His Flesh and His Divinity. We communicate with and unite with one another. And thus, as we commune from one single Bread, we are all one single Body of Christ, of one single Blood of Christ, and are members of one another, called one Body with Christ."

Chapter 5

"In everything…visible [in the Church]," writes Makary the Great, "imagine to yourself the images and shadows of the hidden: in the visible temple [church building] - the image of the temple of the heart."

Each church is the image and likeness of the Church of Christ. Its walls are barriers guarding both God's holy site and the people serving therein, from the world of evil. The Lord says [through His Apostle} "Come out from among them, and be ye separate… For... what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" (II Corinthians 6: 17; 6: 15). The world's evil lies in people's sins and passions, and man rushes toward the ship of the Church as to a safe harbor.

Churches were built in the form of a ship, or sometimes in the form of a circle, indicating that that the Church is forever. Sometimes they were built in the form of the Cross, as the Cross is [the Church's] foundation. Of course, there was a time when neither such buildings nor the clerical vestments we see during services existed in the Church. Moreover, of course, should the need arise, one can also perform Divine Services someplace other than a church - e.g. in a home. The martyrs served the Liturgy in prisons, and without vestments. But to Christian love it is frightening to think of serving Divine Services in the same clothing in which, and in the same place where, their sinful life goes on. Love also encompasses a pious fear of offending one's Beloved. If that fear lives in the heart, it will teach respect both for the order of service, and for freedom within ritual. "The Spirit breathes where it will," - both in obedience to the rubric and in freedom from it.

Suppose we are standing in the church before the beginning of the Liturgy. The quiet gathers up our thoughts and feelings - which had been scattered in the hubbub and passions [of our daily life]. Already the vigil lamps and candles throughout [the church] are burning, reminding us of the never-setting light of Jesus Christ: "And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1: 5) The silence makes it seem to us that the service has not yet begun, but in that we are certainly mistaken. Usually, the first part of the Liturgy is performed in hushed tones in the Altar. It is called the Proskomedia. This is a preparation for and an inseparable part of the Mystery about to be performed. In the Mystery, five loaves, known as Prosphora, i.e. offerings, are used. Each of the Prosphoras consists of two parts, in token of the fact that Christ is at the same time both God and man. Often, the upper part bears a depiction of the Cross and the initial letters of the name Jesus Christ, and the word Nika, which in Greek means "conquers." The priest takes one of the five Prosphoras and cuts from it a cube-shaped piece, while saying the words "In remembrance of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ." As he pronounces those words thrice, let us come closer to the Altar in order to delve with our minds and hearts into the mystical commemoration of the work of Christ on earth.

In the Liturgy, "remembrance" is not a simple, human remembrance, but a Divine and ineffable one. "Do this in remembrance of Me," said the Lord regarding this Mystery. We sense that here, in this commemoration, the past becomes the present, that Christ's sacrifice for the world is once again, bloodlessly, about to happen. How well the Lord put it, "Liturgy is eternal repetition of the great spiritual feat of love." "Liturgy is Golgotha continuing in the Mystery." (Priest V. Sventsitsky) In the Liturgy, times are specifically mingled, and the promise that "there should be time no longer," (Revelation 10:6) is specifically fulfilled. Speaking of the liturgical "Prayer of Commemoration," (the anamnesis) Archimandrite Cyprian wrote that "for the earliest Christians, (It - S. F.) was substance, reality, something mystically appreciable, and not at all merely a remembrance as we understand the term." Once again we hear from the Altar the words "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a blameless lamb before his shearer is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth... In His lowliness His judgment was taken away. And who shall declare His generation? For His life is taken away from the earth."

Christ's "life is taken away from the earth,

for "God so loved the world that he gave His Only-begotten Son" (John 3: 16) so that the world might be saved through Him. Through Christ's death comes life for humankind. He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree (the Cross - S.F.) 'so that we, being dead to sins, should live in righteousness: by whose stripes ye are healed." (I Peter 2: 24).

The priest slowly pronounces the holy words (taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, chapter 53), and we once again hear 'sacrificed is the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world, for the life and salvation of the world. These words in essence are endlessly repeated in various ancient Christian Liturgies, in the works of the Fathers, and in prayers.

"Thou, O Lord didst combine Thy Divine with our human and our human with Thy Divine, Thy life with our mortality, and our mortality with Thy life. Thou didst receive what was ours and granted Thine to us." (Syrian Liturgy of St. James). But God not only became man, but also became man Crucified; God became the sacrificial Lamb. That is why St. Cyprian of Carthage wrote about the Liturgy: "At any sacrifice, we remember the Lord's passion, for the sacrifice we bring is His suffering." All of the transfiguration of man and the world is for one single reason: the suffering and death of Christ. This is why the Apostle Paul, speaking of the Liturgy, writes, "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come." (I Corinthians 11: 26). As we chant [on Great Saturday], in the Lenten hymn that replaces the Cherubic Hymn at the Liturgy, "For the King of kings and Lord of lords draweth nigh to be sacrificed and given as food to the faithful." "He draweth nigh (now - S.F.) To be sacrificed..." Thus in the prayer before Communion "Ever sacrificed" Or as in the ancient Syrian Liturgy of St. James "The Heavenly powers stand together with us in the sanctuary and perform the service at the Body of the Son of God, sacrificed in our presence." Archimandrite Cyprian writes that in the remembrance "of Christ's Passion the very action of the Lord's Passion takes place."

This happened at some time in the world, once, not to be repeated, "in the place known as Golgotha," but it happens again and again - and now in church - bloodless in appearance but ineffably real, so that until the end of its history, humanity lives and acts by this alone: by Christ's death and Resurrection, only by this sacrificial spirit of the Liturgy.

And it is only so that we might yet more clearly sense the full Divine reality of what is transpiring, the priest says, "One of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water."

Holy Hierarch St. Dimitry of Rostov writes, "Pierced through are the ribs of the One Who from a rib fashioned Eve. That Heavenly Bridegroom now creates out of His rib His beloved bride, His Holy Church, redeemed by His blood." In one of the prayers is sung "God suffers in the flesh."

On the Cross was not an apparition of, but the actual, true, human body of God, and it was thanks to the fact that it was truly human that the Church and the Liturgy became possible. "For blood can come forth," writes St. Irenaeus of Lyon, "only from veins and body and all the rest that comprises man's substance, which the Word of God truly became, and [He] redeemed us through His blood." The entire conception and design of the Church is in the unity of love. Hence in establishing It, Christ prayed, "That they all may be one; as Thou, Father. art in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us." (John 17: 21). And at the Proskomedia, the priest's liturgical actions express images of that unity of the Church and God. First of all, he mixes wine and water in the Chalice. St. Cyprian of Carthage writes, "The mixing of wine and water in the Chalice demonstrates the union of the people and Christ, the believers with the One in Whom they believe. After being mixed in the Chalice, the water and wine are so indissolubly united that… they cannot be separated…likewise nothing can separate from Christ, the Church, i.e. the people who make up the Church."

In token of the unity of the Church, or its conciliarity, the priest performs another liturgical action. He removes particles from four separate Prosphoras in the name of all those who are part of the Church - the Church Triumphant in Heaven and the Church Militant on earth; he then arranges them around the Lamb on the Diskos. The Diskos is a small metal dish on a supporting stand. From the second Prosphora he takes a particle "in honor and remembrance of our most blessed Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, through whose intercessions do Thou, O Lord, receive this sacrifice upon Thy most heavenly altar."

"Praying to the Theotokos, to the Angels and the Saints, we recognize them as being one mystical body of the Church - to which we belong as well... Praying for the repose of those who have fallen asleep… we consider them to be of one body with us… There is the fruit of the Christian Faith: a union of love with everyone… For everyone is one body, one spirit, one Church, the Church of angels and people." (Archpriest John of Kronstadt)

"Eucharist is conciliar unity of its communicants." (Archimandrite Cyprian).

The priest places the particle for the Theotokos to the right of the Holy Bread, i.e. the Lamb already on the Diskos, with the words, "At Thy right hand stood the queen, arrayed in a vesture of inwoven gold, adorned in varied colors." In commenting on those words from the Psalm, Basil the Great writes, "The Prophet is speaking about the Church." "These words," writes St. Symeon the New Theologian, "refer to the Most-holy Theotokos, but also apply to the Church of Her Son and God... The Church is the Body of Christ, and the Bride of Christ, and the world above, and the Church of God… it is necessary for all informed by God to also be filled up with what is beyond this world, the world of the Church of first-born, the heavenly Jerusalem; then the fullness of the Body of Christ will be accomplished, encompassing within itself all of those foreordained by God to be of one likeness to the image of His Son… Then... the body of the queen of God's Church… will appear in its fullness and perfection."

"The Lord's flesh," writes the same saint - "is the flesh of the Theotokos." In the consciousness of the Saints, the Church and the Ever-virgin Mary merge into an incarnate unity of creation, the Temple of God, the "Conciliar Being."

Chapter 6

Ordinarily, during the Proskomedia, the priest gives the blessing for those on the kliros to begin reading the so-called "hours," usually the 3rd and 6th Hours, which in large part consist of Old Testament Psalms composed by the Prophet, King David. The "3rd Hour" (in Old Testament reckoning, corresponding to our 9:00 AM) takes our thoughts back to what happened to the Apostles at that hour - the Holy Spirit descended upon them, forming the Church. It was from that day and hour the Church's great journey through history began. Therefore, in the prayer of the 3rd Hour, the Church asks "O Lord, Who didst send down Thy Most Holy Spirit at the third hour upon Thine apostles: Take Him not from us O Good One, but renew Him in us who pray unto Thee." During the 3rd Hour, the 50th Psalm [Ps. 51 in the KJV] ("Have mercy upon me, O God…") is read. In addition to the fact that it is more comprehensible and more familiar to us than other psalms, it contains a very powerful prayer [asking God] to send the Holy Spirit down upon us, something especially needed in the Liturgy. "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and with Thy governing Spirit establish me." These readily understandable works express all of the Church's teaching regarding repentance, regarding every Christian soul's acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. "Create in me a clean heart…" "Fill my heart, O lord, with life eternal" (St. Isaac of Syria). "Come, into my heart, O Lord and give it to drink of the abundance of Thy joy" (Gregory of Zadonsk).

The 'sixth Hour" (in our reckoning, 12:00 Noon) brings to mind the time "those crucified with Him mocked Him." In the Sixth Hour "darkness covered all the earth" (Mark 15: 33). That is remembered in the prayer of the Sixth Hour, "O Thou who on the sixth day and in the sixth hour didst nail to the Cross Adam's daring sin in paradise, tear up also the handwriting of our sins, O Christ God, and save us." Adam's sin is "nailed to the cross." This is why after His Resurrection, Christ said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28: 18). It is the Cross that is "Christ's great weapon," "the victory that conquers the world." This is why during the Sixth Hour, the hour of suffering on the Cross, that Psalm 90 is read: "He that dwelleth in the help of the Most High... with a shield will His truth encompass thee." The hour of Christ's Passion became the hour of great defense and preservation of believing humanity.

The Sixth Hour ends with the prayer of St. Basil the Great, a teacher of the Church in the 4th Century. We will be able to understand it all if we but heed its sacred words, "…incline not our hearts unto thoughts or words of wickedness, but wound our souls with Thy love, that looking ever to Thee and guided by Thy Light, we may behold Thine unapproachable and everlasting Light, and may send up unceasing confession and thanksgiving unto Thee…."

We read in the Paterikon, "Abba Isaiah said: love is reflection on God with unceasing thanksgiving; God rejoices in joy (in as much as - S.F.), it is a sign of peace and tranquility." Thanksgiving takes place in the Liturgy in great peace and tranquility from beginning to end. The Liturgy is also known as the Eucharist, a word that means "thanksgiving. This calm, emanating from the bloodless Sacrifice, is offered on behalf of all and for all, for the entire world. The Hours have come to an end, and in the Altar, the Poskomedia has been completed. However, from the Altar we hear what seems to be a prayerful conversation between priest and deacon. With head bowed, the deacon says to the priest, "It is time to act for the Lord. Master, Bless," i.e. the time for the second part of the Liturgy has come. Bless. The priest replies, "Blessed is our God," i.e. "may God's blessings be upon it." Then the deacon asks, "Pray for me, Master," as if to say, "I accept the blessing, but [to perform] my angelic service is frightening - pray for me!" The priest encourages him by replying, "May the Lord direct thy steps." It would seem that the deacon should now go and begin, but we hear him, as if still uncertain, ask again, "Remember me, holy Master." After all, as it says in one of the liturgical prayers, "Now the Hosts of Heaven invisibly worship with us; for behold, the King of Glory enters in. Behold, the accomplished mystical sacrifice is being escorted in." And then the priest, as one possessing grace-given authority, says to him, "May the Lord God remember thee in his Kingdom." Although we are unworthy, we call upon God, and "with faith and love draw nigh."

And finally we hear the deacon in the Altar say, "Amen." The word "Amen" means 'so be it." Blessed Hieronymus calls that word the 'seal of prayers." For a moment, there is absolute silence in the church. Everything is ready for the main part of the Liturgy. But are we ready? Do we participate in that liturgical action of silence? St. Ignatius the God-bearer writes, "Whosoever has acquired Christ's word can truly hear His silence as well."

"They told of Abba Apollo, that he had a disciple named Isaac. Quite educated in all manner of good works, he descended into and achieved silence (for the Mystery - S. F.) of the Holy Eucharist, and when he would go out into the church, he would not permit anyone to approach him... When the services ended, he would hurry, as if pursued by fire, back to his cell."

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."

Chapter 8

Right after the announcement of the Blessed Kingdom of God the "Great Ektenia" [Great Litany] is read. The word ektenia signifies devoted, intense prayer. "In peace let us pray to the Lord…" "In peace" is in peace of the soul, in its serenity, in calm, "in peace and in council," i.e. with one mouth and one heart with other people. Here, in this prayer of the Liturgy, we once again raise ourselves up to the idea of the Church. Archpriest John of Kronstadt writes, "The Great Litany is an ektenia beyond wisdom, an ektenia of love; in it, Christians - those living as well as the saints - are seen to be one great community joining to make up body of Jesus Christ."

The second petition of the Litany is, once again, a prayer for peace. "For the peace from above and the salvation of our souls" is a reminder that everything in our life, any peace - in the soul, the family, society, and government - depends upon the peace that comes down from Heaven, from the World of God, which according to the Apostle "passeth all understanding." In acquiring it, we acquire salvation of the soul as well. After all, that salvation is in our unity with God, in our entry - still here on earth - into His Kingdom, which is "truth, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." St. John Chrysostom writes, "There is nothing equal to it [peace - Ed.] and therefore we… everywhere ask for peace in the churches… and the protector of the church imparts it to the church once, twice, thrice, and many times over, (saying) 'peace be unto you'... for it is the mother of all good things, and the foundation of joy."

There follow a series of prayers or petitions in the ektenia for various good things in our earthly life, for our ecclesiastical administration and governmental authorities. Prayer for the authorities is grounded in a direct Apostolic commandment to pray for all [government] authorities, including pagan ones (see I Timothy 2: 2). In the 2nd Century, Tertullian wrote, "We pray from the heart, with arms upraised, for long life for the emperors, for the good estate of the empire, for the bravery of the armed forces, and the loyalty of the Senate." The ancient Christian Church, the Church of the Martyrs, was able to combine rejection estrangement from the world with prayer for that world, prayer for the emperors and prayer for those tortured by those emperors.

In some ancient liturgies, in addition to the petition for "the suffering and the imprisoned," there was the following petition "for those [working] in the mines and in exile, in prisons and incarcerated for the sake of the Lord's name, let us pray." In the liturgy of the "Apostolic Constitutions" there was a prayer "for those outside and gone astray," that [God] might turn them to good and tame there rage."

Everything that happens to man and to the world, is according to the will of God, and He knows, better than we, what we need and what we do not need. For that reason, the Great Litany ends with turning everyone and everything over to the will of God: "let us commit ourselves and one another, and all our life unto Christ our God." The choir responds, "To Thee, O Lord." Holy Hierarch St. Dimitry of Rostov writes, "…in that is the kingdom, delight, joy and the light of the soul, that it love God; one who loves God, also loves in everything His holy will, and with great delight receives from His hands both the good and what appears to be bad; such a person is ready to receive even torture as [if it were] the kingdom, according to God's will. I knew one of the fathers, one who … prayed every day thus, "O Lord, if Thou shouldest want to have me in the light of Thy grace, blessed art Thou. If Thou shouldest want to have me in the darkness of rejection from Thy sight, likewise, blessed art Thou." After the Great Litany, the so-called antiphons are chanted. The word "antiphon" refers to chanting by two choirs, the right and the left, alternately. The first antiphon is Psalm 102 "Bless the Lord, O my soul…. The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens, and His kingdom ruleth over all…."

The second antiphon is Psalm 145: "Praise the Lord, O my soul, I will praise the Lord in my life, I will chant unto my God for as long as I have my being… (i.e. throughout my life. - S. F.)," Both psalms are Old Testament revelations of the idea of God.

Thereafter, "O Only-begotten Son and Word of God" is chanted. All of this hymnody is filled with praises of God, "who executeth judgment for the wronged, who granteth food unto the hungry." However, "O Only-begotten Son" also reveals to us the great truth of faith, the "dogma" that Christ, the Son of God, is not only True God, "one with the Holy Trinity," but also true man, Who without change was incarnate of the holy Theotokos. The two natures of Christ, Divine and human, combine - without violating their individual characteristic quality - in Him in the unmingled unity of one Person, God-man, "who together with the Father and the Holy Spirit is glorified." After this, the choir sings the Commandments of the Beatitudes, recorded in Chapter 5 of the Gospel according to Matthew. Nine New Testament Commandments added to the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament the great [fact] that they spread the power of the moral law over the internal workings of the soul. Christ said, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill, and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment; But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment," (Matthew 5: 21-22). Christ considered anger to be equal to murder, and secret desire to open sin. He cast a blinding light on the whole of the internal, hidden life of the soul, and everything in that life, even the most hidden thoughts and feelings now had to choose between light and darkness, whether to follow and obey Christ, or to go into bondage to the devil.

There is also a great difference between the Commandments of the New Testament and those of the Old Testament. The Commandments of the Beatitudes are given as Commandments of personal good fortune; to follow them is not merely an obligation or requirement, but a condition of great joy, spiritual joy, a joy that is not allegorical, abstract joy, but one that is completely real. Those poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek, those who are merciful, are truly fortunate, bearing within themselves Christ, their Teacher. St. Hermas writes, "Remove from yourself all sorrow, for it is the sister of doubt and anger... The prayer of a sorrowful man never has the power to go up to the throne of God... If you will be magnanimous, the Holy Spirit (the spirit of sanctity, or holiness - S. F.), making its abode in you, will be pure and will not be darkened by some king of evil spirit; rather, it will joyously expand together with its vessel (the flesh - S. F.), in which it makes its abode it will joyously serve the Lord." St. Hermas lived at the close of the 1st Century, in an epoch of persecutions. One who lives a Christian life, simply perceives happiness and joy together with the difficulties, sorrows, sufferings, and heartaches in his life. He does not perceive and sense them because that is "required by the rubric" or because it is a "commandment," but because he cannot help but sense them. This is something that happens not somewhere on high, but at the very beginning of his [Christian] journey.

"God is fire… The soul... is a sentient, intelligent being. That is why at the very first, it senses and recognizes the lighting (in itself. - S. F.) of that flame, and moreover, that it is accompanied by … unbearable aching (of the heart) (St. Symeon the New Theologian).

But let no one think that when (as - S.F.) communion with God is man's ultimate goal, man would be made worthy of reaching that goal afterwards, for example after completion of all of his efforts. No: It (communion with God - S.F.) must be man's constant, ever-present, uninterrupted state. Thus, as soon as there is no communion with God, as soon at it is no longer felt, man must recognize that he has stepped outside his goal and his calling. (Bp. Theophan the Recluse, "Letters regarding Christian life."

"There is a joy that is introductory, and different one that is a culmination… One must first use that introductory joy to invite the soul to engage in spiritual labors" (blessed Diadochos). In one of the prayers of St. Ambrose of Milan, "for presbyters preparing to serve the Holy Liturgy, it says "…remove a hard heart from our flesh and grant a heart that fears Thee, a loving [heart]… that follows Thee and draws nourishment from Thee." "Be so kind as to allow me, a sinner, to offer this heavenly sacrifice with fear and trembling, with a clear conscience, with flowing tears, in spiritual joy and divine merriment, that my mind may perceive the sweetness of Thy blessed presence, and the guardian host of Thy Holy Angels about me." "O sweetest Bread, heal the lips of my heart, that I might feel within me the sweetness of Thy love." St. Symeon the New Theologian writes "Insensitivity is the death of the soul." Upon us are fulfilled the Lord's words that "what those with sight do not see and those with hearing plug up their spiritual ears and do not hear the words of the Spirit."

Sensing the Divine warmth the joys and spiritual happiness is a foretaste of the age to come, and that 'sensation of the age to come in this world is the same thing as a small island in the sea; one who approaches it is no longer troubled by the sight of the waves of this age." (St. Isaac the Syrian).

St. Symeon the New Theologian writes, "If you commune of the Most-holy Gifts without sensing some kind of grace in your soul, you only have the appearance of communing, and do not take anything into yourself…" "When you eat this Divine Bread and drink this Wine of Gladness, and yet do not perceive that you have awakened to eternal life, having partaken of the power of the light-bearing and fiery… that you have drunk of the Lord's Blood, like living water that causes rejoicing, if, I say, you do not sense within yourself that you have partaken of something of which I just spoke, how can you think that you have communed of life eternal… have become a communicant of the unceasing light?"

It is frightening to say, but some church-going people today have a kind of theory, directly contrary to [teachings of] the saints, that one must stand stock-still in church, i.e. not feeling anything except perhaps that obligation to stand in such a manner. For such people of false humility, the commandments have yet to become commandments of the beatitudes, and the Old Testament has not yet turned into the New. In them, the age-old sowing of religious externals brings forth its harvest.

Makary the Great writes, "The Church ustav states that even if all of the church rules are fully carried out, but the mystical Eucharist has not been performed by the priest, and there has been no partaking of the Body of Christ, then the priestly liturgical action is incomplete, and the service of the Mystery is insufficient. One should look upon the Christian in like manner: If he succeeds in fasting, in maintaining the vigil, in chanting psalms, in all spiritual struggles and virtues, but the grace of the mystical action of the Spirit has yet to work on the sacrificial altar of his heart, and in full spiritual calm is fully perceived, then all such rites of spiritual struggle are incomplete and almost useless, for the person does not have spiritual joy mystically working in his heart."

Chapter 9

During the chanting of the Commandments of the Beatitudes, the central doors, known as the "Royal Doors" (in honor of the Lord "King of Glory") are opened for the 'small entrance." The priest and the deacon, holding the Gospel in his hands, go from the Altar Table, onto the Ambo through the "North" (i.e. left) door. This signifies and reminds us of Christ's setting out to preach. "Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God" (Mark 1: 14).

The candle carried before the Gospels represents John the Baptist, who was the Lord's "forerunner," and the "candlestand of the light." Christ's setting out to preach is realized - now no longer as a symbol - in the Liturgy several minutes after the 'small entrance" with the reading of the Word of God - the Epistles and the Gospels. In the Liturgy, we contemplate and reflect on the Savior's entire life.

Metropolitan Nicholas Cabasilas of Thessalonika writes, "In the Liturgy, we contemplate Christ, Who is depicted in it, and His works and His Passion. For through the Psalms, readings, and priestly actions and rites the Savior's caring over us is revealed... and it is a mystical process, as it were a single delineation of the single Body of the Savior's life, affording a vision of every part of that life from beginning to end, so that comprehension of that life might illumine our souls and make them worthy of receiving the Holy Gifts. And as that Body had then resurrected all creation, so it now makes the soul reflecting upon it better, and vouchsafes unto it the greater, most divine, spiritual gifts." According to the Apostle, the Body of the Savior is the Church. This means that the Liturgy, as the "delineation of the single Body of the Savior's life" is the delineation of the Church. Before we hear the actual reading of the Word of God, the choir sings the "Holy God," or the "Trisagion." According to tradition, in the 5th Century, a young boy in Constantinople heard that prayer sung by the Angels. During the reading of the Epistle, the priest prays silently, or "in secret," that in our hearts should shine forth the incorruptible light of divine understanding of the Word of God. To the Saints, that light was not an allegorical one, but a true light. A certain spiritual struggler told of a vision he experienced in the church: "When… the Apostolic teaching had been read, and the deacon came out to read the Gospel, I saw the church roof opened up, the sky was visible, and each word of the Gospel was like a fire ascending to the Heavens."

In antiquity, the priest uttered no secret prayers, i.e. all of the prayers read by the priest were read aloud. The people, of whom the Church is comprised, participated in all of the prayers. Archimandrite Cyprian wrote, "Contemporary liturgical practice sees the mystical ones (prayers - S.F.) as 'secret"… it was not so in antiquity… Chrysostom clearly teaches us that the priest performs the prayers together with the people… In secretly reading prayers the Church…. deprives the faithful people of participating in conscious Eucharistic life." In antiquity, the people chanted all of the prayers. It was only in the 4th-5th Centuries that special "chanters," choristers separated from the people, began to take on an ever-greater role in chanting….

The exclamation "Wisdom, let us attend," or simply "Wisdom," uttered at this and other points in the Liturgy, represents a call for the faithful to be particularly attentive. "Aright" means "let us stand up straight, piously." The Hebrew word "Alleluia" generally means "praise ye the Lord," but "beyond that literal meaning, it is a kind of untranslatable joyous exclamation and celebration of praise." Blessed Augustine considered neither the "Amen," nor the "Alleluia," heard in Heaven by the Apostle John (See: Revelation 19: 1), capable of being translated, as they are ineffable. Let us once again bring to mind Chapter 3 of the Apocalypse: "And the Angel of the Church of the Laodiceans write: These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness…." There the word "Amen" became as it were the personal Name of the Son of God. In the Church, great significance is attached to understanding of a name. For someone living in love for Jesus Christ, His Name is He Himself, in the sense of His work of grace within those who call upon Him from the heart. The Name of God, called upon with love, immediately responds to the caller with a ray of God's love. St. Hermas states in The Pastor, "The Name of the Son of God is great and immeasurable, and holds and supports the entire world." That same teacher of the Church called the Church a "tower;" "the Name of God is a mighty Tower." (Proverbs 18: 10). This is why the Priest Pavel Florensky said that "the Name of God is the mystical Church." The Name of God is "God's outline," "the sun in a little drop of water," the sun gathered up in that drop because of love in the Christian heart. But as we can see the relationship of the Name to God being so named, we can perceive a like relationship in human names. We should respond to them as we would to the individuals themselves. To us, those names are also mystical "outlines" of some specific souls in need of our love. For that reason, great importance is attached to the reading the names of people, both living and deceased, in the Liturgy. Every particle [of bread from the prosphora] removed for them will be immersed in the Blood of the Lord unto purification and life eternal. With how much love and trepidation over someone else's fate should we treat these sometimes-worn scraps of paper bearing names of people often no longer remembered by anyone on earth. In this lies the undying memory of the Church, God's eternal memory, His love and the gathering up within it of all humanity. Recently, while reading the commemoration lists in the Altar, I read the following, "For the salvation of all people, blood relatives, relatives, known and unknown, the ill Lydia and all who are ill."

The names read at the Liturgy are uttered in close proximity to the Table of Oblation and the Altar Table, on which rest the as-yet un-sanctified Holy Gifts. Venerable St. Theognost wrote, "The Holy Gifts, which are yet to be sanctified, lie uncovered after the Symbol of Faith, for the reason that in some way they as it were pray for those who are offering [them] and call out with ineffable voices to the One Living in the heavens, that he not disregard them…. remembering His Son's voluntary exhaustion, ineffable condescension and man-loving sacrifice for us sinners."

Chapter 10

After the reading of the Gospel and the ectenias that follow (one of them known as the "augmented litany," in which "Lord have mercy" is chanted thrice after each petition), prayers for the "catechumens" begin. In our days, this part of the Liturgy can be seen as a merely-ritual token of what had once been an actual living part [of the Liturgy].

[St. John] Chrysostom says the following about the richness of the early Christian life as compared to his day (the close of the 4th Century): "Then, the Church was the Heavens. The Spirit arranged everything in the people, [It] guided and inspired each of the leaders [of the Christian community]. But now, we have mere tokens of the gifts of those times." In the ancient Church, the usual practice was to Baptize adults, who had prepared for Baptism by hearing the word, i.e. listening the words spoken by Christian teachers, "catechizers," "announcers of the word." Those being "catechized" in the words of instruction could remain at the Liturgy only until the beginning of the "Liturgy of the Faithful." Hence, the portion of the Liturgy at which they had the right to be present was known as the "Liturgy of the Catechumens."

Even in our day, the deacon proclaims, "Ye faithful, for the catechumens let us pray, that the Lord will have mercy upon them…that He will reveal unto them the Gospel of righteousness…that he will unite them to His holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church...."

One need look through but a few lines of the liturgical prayer for the catechumens dating from the time of St. John Chrysostom (4th C.) to realize that in antiquity, these people "being catechized," people everyone would see leaving the church building, leaving as those yet unworthy to remain for the rest of the religious rites, were people who were already of a high level of Christian education: "Let us assiduously pray for the catechumens, that our most-merciful God might hear their prayers, might open their hearts to understanding of what eye does not see, ear does not hear, what does not enter into one's heart. That He may teach them the learning of Truth... Ye catechumens, pray for an Angel of peace. Pray that all that is to come to you will be peaceful, that today, every day of your life, be peaceful. Pray for a Christian death. Dedicate yourselves to the Living God and to His Christ." In antiquity, it was not only the catechumens who could not remain in church during the Liturgy of the Faithful: those Christians who for their sins had been banned by the Church from receiving the Mysteries - sometimes for a very long period - also had to leave.

The Apostle Paul forbade us "…to keep company, if any man that is called a brother (one of the faithful, a believer. - S.F.), be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idololater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, with such an one no not to eat… Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person." (I Corinthians 5: 11, 13). "What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?" (II Corinthians 6: 14). In Christianity, morality and obeying the Commandments are inseparable from faith. Obeying the Commandments is love in action. "If ye love Me, ye will follow My Commandments," said Christ. Faith cannot be a Faith that is not loving, that is inactive. "Everything … is wonderful, if ye believe with love," wrote St. Ignatius the God-bearer at the beginning of the 2nd Century. 'strive…to improve with your body and soul, your faith and love." Faith is the Body of the Lord, love - the Blood of Jesus Christ." Just as in the Liturgy, we receive both the Body and Blood of the Lord, so in our Christian life we must realize and implement not faith alone, but also love, or according to the Apostle, "faith which worketh by love…" (Galatians 5: 6). The action of love is the Christian podvig, the Christian spiritual struggle. Without it, without love, the body of faith, drained of its life-blood, perishes. The unrepentant sinner excommunicates himself from the Body of Christ, from His Church, and thereby cannot participate in Its Mysteries.

Venerable St. Theodore the Studite writes, "Let us live in a manner worthy of our Head, as of one body with, and co-participants and co-inheritors of, Christ… One who sullies the body is no longer a member of the Body of Christ, just as one who refuses to forgive or holds to some other type of passion and as a result is not worthy to commune of the Holy Gifts

Sinners not allowed to receive Communion would leave the church before the beginning of the main part of the Liturgy.

Thus it was in the ancient Church. But even in the Middle Ages, in the 11th Century, St. Symeon the New Theologian advised sinful people who had repented, and were not under Church ban, but had not yet sufficiently illumined themselves with a new, pure way of life, to refrain from Communion until, according to St. Symeon, "your intention and your disposition removes itself from evil works of sin, until you acquire a firm intention to never again abandon Good works and…(until - S.F.) you completely hate sin." Until then, "when the Divine Liturgy is taking place, and the priest or deacon says "As many as are catechumens depart," leave the church; stand at the threshold of the church, and bringing to mind your sins, weep. Then, when the Divine Liturgy is over, you may re-enter the church." "…You should stand outside the church doors, like a catechumen…, for the designation "catechumens" should not only apply to the non-believers (those as yet unbaptized - S.F.) but also to anyone who does not see the glory of the Lord with the frankly open mind."

Another Church teacher - Symeon, archbishop of Thessalonica (14th -15th C.), applies this rule - about not combining in the communion of the Mystery members of the Church with those who have divorced themselves from It through sins of which they have not repented - even to the removal of particles from the prosphora. "Being put into the Chalice," he writes, it (the particle - S.F.) is united with the Blood. Therefore, grace, spiritual communion, is sent down to the soul of the one for whom that particle was offered. If the soul is pious or has repented of its sins, it will invisibly receive communion of the Spirit, and often will derive good for the body. But if anyone commits sin and does not depart from it, thereby rendering himself unfit to commune (of the Mystery - S.F.), the offering of that sacrifice on his behalf will be unto condemnation for him. Therefore, the priest must take heed, and must not accept offerings from such a person; he must not bring offerings for people who are shamelessly sinning, lest he be condemned along with them. It is from such temptation that sorrows ensue. St. Paul says, "For this cause, many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." (I Corinthians 11: З0)."

In the spiritual ignorance that characterizes our present age, it is difficult to imagine the possibility of following these instructions. However, we should at least know about them and about all of the concern shown by those guiding the ancient Church - first of all by the Apostles - to ensure that the Holy Church might be in holy hands, that Judas not appear once more among those disciples sharing in that Mystery. He was allowed to be at the Mystical Supper, 'so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled." However, that allowance was an awful warning for the future and a call for the Church to remain vigilant. We must also know this for ourselves, so that "Communion of the Most-holy Mysteries not be to me unto judgment or condemnation." Our prayers before and after Communion are filled with Apostolic warnings about the danger of communing unworthily: "Let me not be consumed by fire, O my Creator!"

The ancient attitude to Communion seems to stem from two polar opposites: the striving to unite with the Lord as often as possible, and the fear of communing unto condemnation, unto "being consumed by fire." The first is a striving to partake of Commune on a weekly or daily basis, the second is to sometimes abstain [from Communion] for long periods of time. In order to understand the truth of the fear of God before the burden of the Mystery, I will bring to mind a story about Venerable St. Philemon: "Having long since become worthy of being a presbyter, and having so sincerely touched the heavenly in both life and mind, he took pains to avoid performing priestly rites, as if they were a burden... and despite such a constantly cautious way of life, he refrained from communing of the Divine Mysteries whenever he had been called upon to associate with and converse with others… When, however, he had the intention to commune of the Divine Mysteries, before doing so he would pester God for a long time, [seeking to] elicit His kindness with prayers, chanting of Psalms, and Confession. He was terrified by the voice of the priest that said the words "Holy things unto the Holy," for at that time, he would say, the entire Church was filled with holy Angels and the King of the powers Himself, mystically performing the religious rites and changing the bread and wine into His Body and Blood, which through Communion takes up its abode in our hearts. Therefore, he would add, it behooves us to dare to partake of the Holy Communion of the Most-pure Mysteries of Christ at least in an incorrupt and pure state, as it were outside the body, without any doubt or vacillation [in our faith].

In our day, many people have no fear before the Mystery. Thus, it might perhaps be useful to know how the Saints would caution not ordinary laity, but priests, to abstain from the Mystery and to distance themselves from the priesthood to avoid being condemned as unworthy. Venerable St. Theognost writes, "Do not dare touch the Holy Mysteries without having [first] cleansed yourself, lest you be burned, like hay, by the Divine fire." Having been made worthy of the Divine and honorable priesthood, you are obligated first of all to always bring as a sacrifice the mortification of the passions…if you have not been informed by the Holy Spirit that you are a favorable and acceptable intercessor between God and man, then lest it be unto your perdition, do not dare to perform the All-holy and Awesome priestly actions of the Divine Mysteries, before which the Angels stand piously, and from which "many of the Saints piously abstained… After becoming conscious of your weaknesses, it is infinitely better to turn down the rank of priest, than to assume and carry that rank with a conscious awareness of your impurity … Without having managed to repel and cleanse yourself of a passionate disposition, how can you, the wretched one, touch what cannot be touched even by the Angels?... Either use the power of the divine Priesthood worthily and purely - not to mention, in an angelic manner - or step away from that awesome service." St. Dimitry of Rostov writes that the Eucharist "is brought not only for all of the faithful, but also (for - S.F.) the unbelievers, so that they might turn [to God]." That offering for the entire world, which is done in the second part of the Liturgy, the Liturgy of the Faithful, becomes even more daring, even more powerful; yet it requires daring, so that around that Mystical Offering for the world, there might stand only those dedicated to it, only those who themselves are ready to offer themselves to Christ.

Metropolitan Nicholas Cabasilas writes, "There is no other means of prayer, in so many ways so powerful, so capable of granting unto us such firm hope, as this form of awesome offering of sacrifice," where, according another teacher of the Church, Christ Himself is "the Priest, the Altar (the Prothesis - S.F.), God, Man, King, Bishop, Sheep and Lamb…" (St. Epiphanius). Or, as stated in the prayer read by the priest during the Cherubic Hymn, "For Thou art He that offereth and is offered, that accepteth and is distributed, O Christ our God…"

Chapter 11

"Let us, who mystically represent the Cherubim, and chant the thrice-holy hymn unto the life-creating Trinity," now lay aside all earthly cares, that we might lift up the King of all, who comes invisibly upborne on the spears of the ranks of Angels. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

In the church, the "Liturgy of the Faithful" begins with those words. In fact, it is only up to those words that we can speak or write about the Liturgy. From that point on is something beyond our understanding, something by the Saints lived and continue to live. "It was said… about Abba Marcellus of the Thebaid… that… when [he] stood during the service, his chest was drenched in tears. For he would say that while the service was going on, 'I would see the entire church as if ablaze, and upon the conclusion of the service, the flame would again die down.'" However, on the other hand, how can one not write [about it]? Is it not specifically beginning with the Cherubic Hymn that the will of God becomes something quite different: that we - all of us - might participate in His holy [action], that we might attain unto holiness - 'we who mystically represent the Cherubim'? Priest Paul Florensky asks, "Does not like depict like?" This means that within each of us there is something like unto the Cherubim... It is that which is of such great importance, it is the Cherubic kernel of our soul... God instilled in man His greatest gift - the image of God." Holiness is something ineffable, but we sense that it is one's stepping out of the mental and physical darkness of man into the light-bearing image of God, that Cherubic kernel of Him. That step takes place through grace, when God sees the labor of love and repentance, when He sees that someone understands that he is in no way worthy of God's grace, but nonetheless seeks it. The entire Word of God and all of the teachings of the Church are filled with calls to holiness and revelations of holiness, while we over the course of centuries have gotten used to the idea that 'saints" exist only in icons, that in our lives such things do not exist, and that all of the calls to holiness are only allegorical ones. And in fact, for those who prefer that it not be real, holiness began to fade out of life and into allegory, and the land of the Church began to experience a drought, and to yearn after the rain of grace. "When the Son of Man cometh, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18: 8)

Holiness is not immaculate perfection. Not one saint would consider himself to be immaculate. When the Apostle says, "Christ came to save sinners, of whom I am chief, he was speaking the absolute truth. St. John Chrysostom writes, "What madness? A man, you call yourself clean… and are convinced that you are clean… Thousands of passions surround your soul… and you dare say that you are clean of such a multitude of disturbances?.. Tell me, can anyone affirm that he remains clean over the course of one single day?.. Can he boast that he did not fall into vanity... that he has not been reckless, that he has not looked out through unrestrained eyes?"

For the saints, holiness is not perfection, and especially, is not seeing oneself as perfect, but rather a constant striving toward it, or more accurately, toward God, in repentance and love. "I count not myself to have apprehended," says the Apostle (Philippians 3: 13). - " but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3: 12). In striving toward God, man abides in grace. Thus, one can say that holiness is the state of grace, the actual state of grace, rather than a grant of license or something "assuming the responsibility to act on behalf of" something. It is a crown - one sometimes received and perhaps sometimes lost and again found over the course of one's life. St. Tikhon of Zadonsk writes that "A sinner remains a sinner until he stops sinning and stops living without fear (of sin - S.F.); when he tears himself away from his sins and repents of them, he is already united to God's grace and the ranks of the righteous."

There are two reasons for holiness becoming more scarce. The first is an unwillingness to work at cleansing the soul, and here no explanation can be of help; only the ray of God's Light is capable of lighting the narrow path. The second cause is our ignorance: we think that the state of grace is a reward for moral labors, for good works, something we achieve by some kind of religio-juridical right, and many of us prefer not to believe in a holiness other than that attainable through such a commercial transaction. We do not know the teachings of the Church. One is saved by God's mercy alone, by grace, i.e. by a gift, and not by performing some spiritual feat. However, that spiritual feat (or "good works") is an essential factor in demonstrating our will to God, in demonstrating our love for Him, showing Him the only thing He wants from us. Just as in the case of holiness, there is something unfathomable in this union of the gift of salvation and spiritual struggle; their inseparability is one of the Mysteries of Christianity. In his Epistle to Titus, Chapter 3, verse 5, the Apostle writes: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us… . In verse 8 of the same chapter, we read: "...that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men." Everything within us that is good comes from grace, and all good works are performed through it and thanks to it. However, man must also want to obey the Commandments and undertake to do so with all his will, i.e. he must apply to it his total effort and dedication; in his turn, the Lord, seeing this act of will, man's will striving towards Him, will immediately send grace to accomplish the work. Our attempt, our striving or effort to accomplish the work is a podvig, a spiritual struggle. Thus, our podvig is our effort to lift a weight utterly beyond our capacity to lift. The lifting is done by grace, by God's help. Without grace, nothing is accomplished, but the Lord does not grant it unless he sees our efforts, or the podvig of our love, our will, for "love (is - S.F.) the virtue of the will" (Nicolas Cabasilas). St. Symeon the New Theologian writes, "...As to all the good works any Christian should do, he must confess that they are done by Christ, and not by himself; it is in vain that anyone who does not contemplate on that is a Christian... All who repose in holiness and virtues are saved by a free gift and not … in reward for their virtues.... However, for a Physician to come, one must invite Him to come...."

This is why in one ancient Liturgy (the Syriac Liturgy of the Holy Apostle St. James) the interweaving of holiness and humility, something so difficult for us to comprehend and yet so natural for that time, is so clearly expressed: "Let us attend in fear and trembling, humility and sanctity. Lo the sacrificial gift is offered, and Glory is revealed. The Heavens open up, and the Holy Spirit comes down upon these Holy Mysteries, and they are permeated with It. We stand on this awesome spot together with the Cherubim and the Seraphim. We have become brethren and concelebrants with the Angels, and together with them we perform the service of fire and the Spirit." That direct simplicity of the ancient attitude toward holiness is the result of the sincere awareness that it is found not as the result of virtues, but as a gift, by God's mercy.

"The Holy Gifts are called Divine Gifts… (they - S. F.) are offered to us by the Lord absolutely freely; we on our part do not at all deserve them." (Archpriest John of Kronstadt).

Ven. St. Mark the Ascetic writes: "The Lord, wanting to show that despite the fact that all Commandments were mandatory, mankind was granted adoption as a gift, by His Blood, He said: "...when ye shall have done all those things which are commended you, say 'we are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.'"(Luke 17: 10. - S. F.). Thus, the Kingdom of Heaven is not a recompense (payment - S. F.) for works, but the Lord's grace, prepared for His faithful servants." Seeing God's Blood, man understands that it is only through It that he is saved, only because of It does he receive grace. In the Liturgy used in the early centuries, there was a prayer before Communion which spoke of the simplicity of apprehending sanctity: "Remember, O Lord, Thy Church, to preserve It from all evil and to make It perfect in Thy love. And from the four winds, gather it up sanctified, into Thy Kingdom, which Thou hast prepared for It. For Thine is the power and the glory forever! May Thy grace come, and this world pass away! Hosanna to the God of David! If any should be holy, let him approach. If any not be, let him repent. Maranatha (Yea, Lord, come! - S.F..) Amen."

"If anyone not be holy, let him repent." - There is that most-holy direct simplicity of early Christianity that we have lost. Holiness is just what our standing before God should be. In our cold times we do not desire holiness. We fear it, and fail to understand it, although it is but striving toward love for God, and it is in the resolution of the question of holiness for each of us and for the whole Church that our future and the future of the Church lies. The fate and future of Christianity is not decided at international conferences, but in the spiritual struggle of repentance by each and all, in their Golgotha and their Resurrection, in their holiness. And once, again, that is revealed most of all in the Liturgy.

Chapter 12

In the interval between the first and second parts of the Cherubic Hymn, the clergy take the Holy Gifts that had been prepared at the Table of Prothesis during the Proskomedia, and transfer them to the Altar Table. That [liturgical action], known as the "Great Entrance," represents Jesus Christ's Entry into Jerusalem. The Gifts are carried across the Ambo, so that the entire Church might participate, might accompany the Lord on his journey toward Golgotha. The Lord said, "Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted upon; and they shall scourge Him, and put Him to death; and the third day He will rise again." (Luke 18: 31-33). The clergy ask the Lord, who is going up to His death, to "remember" in His Kingdom His entire Church on earth: the Orthodox episcopate, "you and all Orthodox Christians may the Lord God remember in His Kingdom…" That is how the thief, seeing the dying Lord, prayed to Him, "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom…" (Luke 23: 42)! Through the peace and light of the Cherubic Hymn, we already see Golgotha and Christ, and His Church. Thus it was in the Lord's earthly travels. His Transfiguration took place on Mount Tabor, where He revealed to the disciples His divine power and glory, so that remembering this on Golgotha, they might know that [His Passion] was not the consequence of a lack of power, but of His freedom and love, that they might know that His Passion was a voluntary one. On the Feast of Transfiguration, we hear "Thou wast transfigured upon the mountain," so that "when they saw Thee crucified, they might know that Thy suffering was voluntary, and might proclaim unto the world that Thou art truly the brightness of the Father." Placing the Holy Chalice and Diskos on the Altar Table, the priest says, "The noble Joseph, having taken Thy most pure Body down from the Tree and wrapped It in pure linen and covered It with spices, laid It in a new tomb." What happens in the Altar now is the actual removal of the Body of Christ from the Cross, and its placing in the tomb.

After placing the Chalice and Paten on the Altar Table and after censing them, the priest also pronounces these words from the 50th Psalm: "Do good, O Lord, in Thy good pleasure unto Sion; and let the walls of Jerusalem be builded…". According to some of the saints, this is a prayer about the founding of the Church, God's Zion. Thereafter, the priest says to the deacon, "Remember me, brother and concelebrant." The deacon replies, "May the Lord God remember thy priesthood in His Kingdom," and immediately adds [a request] for himself: "Pray for me, holy master." The priest says to him: "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee." These were the words spoken by the Angel to the Most-pure Virgin at the Annunciation. The deacon responds, "The same spirit shall minister with us all the days of our life..." and once again, moved by divine trepidation, exclaims: "Remember me, holy master." And the priest, blessing him, says, "May the Lord God remember thee in His Kingdom."

During the litany of petitions that follows, the priest prays, "O Lord God Almighty…accept…the supplication…for our sins and for the errors of the people and vouchsafe us to find grace before Thee, that our sacrifice may be acceptable unto Thee, and that the good Spirit of Thy grace may rest upon us, and upon these Gifts (the bread and wine - S.F.) set forth, and upon all Thy people." For the time to effect the Mystery is at hand. Completing the litany, the deacon says, "Let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess…" and the choir completes the sentence by singing "the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Trinity One in Essence, and Undivided."

We must love, so that we might be of one mind in confessing the Faith. "Love is the fountain of faith," says St. John of the Ladder. "Love is the root, the wellspring, and the mother of everything good…" says St. John Chrysostom "All labors and spiritual struggles that do not have their beginning and their end in love, with a spirit of compunction, are in vain and are of no use…" writes St. Symeon the New Theologian.

"The beginning and the end…" Love is not only the culmination, the crown of the Christian journey, something the ascetics call "perfect love," but is also its beginning - the practical beginning of each movement along the path, each step and action, prayer, and effort. At the start of the journey, love may be but a "beginning" love, but without at least the tiniest bit of love, that journey cannot begin, or [if it is undertaken] will be interrupted internally. Many in your time do not understand, and calmly abide in their own "cell" rule - in something understood only externally as religious effort. They see it as being the very substance of monasticism, while, for example the opening item in the ancient monastic rule of St. Makarios of Alexandria states, "Warriors of Christ must so arrange their procession [in life], that they manifest most perfect love in everything."

Love is the original wellspring of good, while non-love is the original evil. The ultimate cause of Adam's fall into sin was not his disobedience or his failure to abstain. Those already were its manifestations, its results. Adam's fall consisted of his transgression against love for God, writes Metropolitan Nicholas Cabasilas. It was for that reason that "God the Word … went over into a different nature (was incarnate and became man), so that… man might love God." Non-love, the absence of love, is the cause of the fall, the original sin. Love is the goal of the Divine Incarnation, and the salvation of mankind. St. Maximos the Confessor writes about that purpose, "Christ endured all of the temptations, beginning with the temptations by the devil in the wilderness, and ending with Golgotha, all so that man might go along the path of love, so that he might accept love as the 'tree of life.'" Christ, writes the saint, "until his death, pursuing a human struggle to follow the commandment of love and maintaining a total victory over the devil…." Such was the Lord's purpose: to be obedient to the Father, even unto death... keeping the commandment of love.... He gave us that …victory … to ever oppose the evil demons through love."

In Paradise, man was given the opportunity to love, but he did not, for that was something requiring a struggle of will, "love, the virtue of will." Failing to love, [man] was disobedient, and did not abstain from [eating of the fruit of] the forbidden tree. His free will did not choose to want to love, for love first and foremost is abstinence, forgetting about oneself, and he wanted to be "like unto gods." It turned out that to persuade that free will, to strike the spark of love in the stone-hard human heart, was a work so great that its accomplishment required God to come down from the Heavens, take on human flesh, and most important of all, take on human will without merging it with His Divine will. That [human] will engaged in a human struggle to follow the commandment of love and won a "complete victory over the devil." It was that will that brought Him to Golgotha, for it knew that only God's Blood could reveal love to man.. "For not [while] remaining in place (in Heaven - S.F.), does he call his servant to Himself, but He Himself, coming down, searches him out: the Rich One comes into the home of the poor, and …shows love, and desires equal love in return, and does not distance himself from those who reject Him, does not become angry at being insulted, and, cast out, remains at the doors, doing everything to show Himself to be loving, and endures torture, and dies..." (Nicholas Cabasilas).

At that moment, the priests in the Altar kiss first the Chalice, the Paten (Diskos), and the Altar Table, and then one another, with the words: "Christ is in our midst!" "He is, and ever shall be."

In ancient times, that kiss was also exchanged by all of those assembled to pray in the church, and they each said to one another "Peace be unto thee." In his commentary on Canon 19 of the Council of Laodicaea, having to do with this part of the Liturgy, Zonaros writes, " "Now we don't have the part that has to do with those repenting (their exit from the church before the Liturgy of the Faithful), and I do not know how that practice came to an end. Later the priests would give peace, i.e. the kiss, to the bishops; for the kiss is the sign of love, and following after love is the giving of peace. And again the laity would give peace to the priests, something that does not happen now, for, like many other things done in antiquity, it has been lost." Zonaros live in Byzantium in the middle ages, when people were still not embarrassed to openly express their amazement and regret over the disappearance of ancient customs. Here is another account regarding ancient Liturgies (at the close of the 4th Century), along with instructions on how we should understand and receive it now as well. "When the time for giving peace and receiving it in return again approaches," writes John Chrysostom, " we still kiss one another. At the time of performing the awesome Mysteries, the priest prays for the people, and the people pray for the pries, for the words 'and with thy spirit,' mean… exactly that. And the prayer of thanksgiving is also a communal one, for it is not a single priest, but the entire people, that offers thanks. Having received from the people first their response and then their agreement that what is being done 'is meet and right,' the priest begins to offer thanks… I say this so that everyone, including the subordinates, might have sobriety, that we might know that we are all one body… and so that we might not put everything only on the priests, but that we ourselves might also care for the Church, as for our common Body."

In Slavonic, that last sentence is phrased more forcefully: "For let us ourselves take care over the entire Church, as our body in common." Someone said that the Liturgy is performed by the entire people, through the hands of the priest. In the Patericon we read, "Another of the elders used to say that often, when the deacon would say, 'Let us love (kiss) one another,' he would see the Holy Spirit on the lips of the brethren." We should take literally the reference to "lips." In Christianity, it is not only the soul that is sanctified by contact with God's holy things; the body is as well, for it also takes part in his divine eternity. That sanctification of the body unto eternity takes place through the Eucharist. St. Irenaeus of Lyon writes, "For our teaching is in accordance with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist, in its turn, confirms the teaching. For we offered to Him (God - S.F.) what is His (bread and wine), consequently announcing the communion and unity of body and spirit. For, after the invocation of God upon it, earthly bread is no longer ordinary bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two things - the earthly and the heavenly. So, by receiving the Eucharist, our bodies are no longer corrupt, for they have the hope of Resurrection." "I received the image of God and did not preserve it; He (God - S.F.) takes on my flesh, both to save the image and to render the flesh immortal." (St. Gregory the Theologian.) St. Cyril of Jerusalem points out to us an ancient symbol of faith in which it is said, "...and in one holy catholic Church, and in the resurrection of the flesh, and in life eternal."

At this point, the choir is to sing the Creed, i.e. the Symbol, the delineation, of the Christian Faith. But prior to that, the deacon says, "The doors, the doors, in Wisdom let us attend." In the ancient Church, "the doors, the doors" was meant to indicate to the "porters," those guarding the doors, that at that point no one should be in church unless he had the right to be there. Without a knowledge of the Symbol of Faith - the recitation of the dogmas (truths) of Christianity - Baptism, by its very nature, would be impossible. And when the faith is sanctified with the light of love, all of the words of the Symbol can be seen not as symbolic, but as living, direct, words having an effect on the heart. To show that this is so, I will cite an excerpt not from the writings of a Father of the Church, but from a secular book by a secular author. He speaks of the most important moment in the formulation of Church dogmas, the 4th Century battle between Athanasius the Great and the rationalists, regarding the dogma of the "homoousis," that the Persons of the Holy Trinity are of one essence, a dogma regarding the well-spring of love, a dogma which of course is a profoundly mystical one. He writes, "Athanasius stood up against the world… [people] today (have completely - S. F.) ceased to understand (that - S. F.)... Enlightened people like to cite as an example of 'dogmatic pedanticism'... the question of the pre-eternal Son (His being of one essence with the Father - S. F.). Those same liberals always cite the example of the words of pure, mere Christianity, untainted by dogmatic argument: 'God is Love.' Yet, after all, that is one and the same thing… the one is almost meaningless without the other (without the dogma of the Trinity - S.F.). Dry dogma is the logical expression of the most wonderful feeling. If unoriginate God exists before everyone, whom then did He love, when there was no one to love? If within that incomprehensible eternity He was alone (i.e. neither the Son nor the Spirit existed, as one Essence with Him - S. F.), what sense does it make to say that He is Love?.. He begat something and observed what He had begotten... all of the love and mercy of Bethlehem sounded especially loudly and clearly when Athanasius challenged the cold Arian compromise. He was battling for God, Who is Love… He was defending the Infant Christ from the colorless divinity [espoused by] the Pharisees. He was striking for that incomparably wonderful link... by which the Most-holy Trinity is filled with warmth and love, like a Holy Family." Speaking of the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity, St. Maximos the Confessor refers to them as "eternal movement in love."

Only by believing in the Trinity do we believe in love. Following [the recitation of] the "Creed," the concluding portion of the mystical liturgical action begins. Accordingly, the deacon admonishes us, "Let us stand well, let us stand with fear, let us attend, that we may offer the holy oblation in peace." In Christianity, fear [of God] is what engenders faith (not, as some believe, the very opposite). Faith in the absence of love is unimaginable. This means that in the absence of the slightest bit of love for the Lord, in the absence of love by which to recognize Him, there can be no Christian fear. "The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord," say the Scriptures. "But how," writes St. Symeon the New Theologian, "do we come to have fear of One Whom we do not see?.. it is necessary to search out and find the intelligent Light of God, that the mind, enlightened by It, might intelligently (spiritually - S. F.) see God. And lo, when someone should behold God in that manner, he can then have the fear of God."

Here is what was said in an ancient Syriac Liturgy at this point, "...this is the hour of offering the sacrifice of propitiation.. Clergy of the Church, have trepidation, for you are distributing living fire. You have been given power more glorious than the power of the Seraphim. Blessed at this hour is every soul that stands in purity in church, for the Holy Spirit writes down its name and carries it up to the heavens. Deacons, have trepidation at this holy hour, when the Holy Spirit descends to sanctify the bodies of those who are capable of receiving It."

Chapter 13

As a repetition of Golgotha and the Resurrection, the Liturgy is the healing of the world, "the Pascha of incorruption, the salvation of the world." An ancient prayer expresses that healing of the world in this manner: "We eat Thy Holy Body, which was Crucified for us, and drink Thy life-giving Blood, which was shed for us. May Thy Body be a fountain of life for us, and may Thy Blood be unto the remission of sins. In return for the gall that Thou didst drink for us, deliver us from the bitterness of the enemy. In return for the vinegar that Thou didst drink, in our weakness strengthen us. And in return for being spat upon us for us, allow us to taste of Thy perfect life. And in return for the Crown of Thorns Thou didst receive, allow us to receive an unfading Crown." (From the Eucharistic prayers in the "Acts of Thomas.")

We receive everything through the grace of the crucified Christ, Who revealed to us the mystery of the Holy Trinity. The next exclamation has to do with that: "The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all." "Let us lift up (i.e. to Heaven, to the Divine Realm) our hearts. 'set your affections on things above…" (Colossians 3:2) says the Apostle - think of that which is above.

The priest's exclamation during these final minutes before Communion should wrench us out of our "hardened insensitivity," out of our spiritual deafness. "Let us lift up our hearts," is the final call for us to commune with God, with His awesome and ineffable reality. "May this bread be for you both food and sweet delight, insatiable and inexhaustible. And may the wine, which in this Mystery is truly God's Blood, be for you ineffable light, inexpressible sweetness, eternal gladness…" (St. Symeon the New Theologian).

However, according to Christ, the "Kingdom of God is within us." Therefore, that "lifting upward" must also be achieved within ourselves. The same saint, as it were speaking on behalf of Christ, writes, "When you see the sun in the water, you do not see the actual sun, as you are looking down. So likewise understand what happens within you. Lock yourself up and strive to always see Me plainly and clearly within yourself, like the sun in pure water."

"Let us lift up our hearts," but living in the grace of the Church, we can dare to say, "and to the earth," for according to St. John Chrysostom, "this Mystery makes earth into Heaven," and it was not in vain that the Saints called the Church the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. As someone once said, "Christians believe not only in the inconceivable heaven, but in the inconceivable earth," in the sacred treasure that is earth, "the footstool for Christ's feet." In essence, the entire Liturgy is a prayer that the Grace of God, the heavenly fire, might come down from Heaven to earth. St. John Chrysostom writes, "The priest… pronounces a lengthy prayer…that the Grace which descends upon the sacrifice, through [that sacrifice] might ignite everyone's souls..." (On the Priesthood).

"Let us give thanks unto the Lord," says the priest. - "It is meet and right to worship Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…" While those words are being sung, the priest reads a silent prayer, offering up thanks to God, "for all of the things whereof we know, and whereof we know not, for the benefits both manifest and hidden which have come upon us. We give thanks unto Thee also for this service (the Liturgy - S.F.) which Thou hast been pleased to accept from our hands, though (despite the fact that - S.F.) there stand before Thee thousands of archangels and ten thousands of angels..." In conclusion, the priest says aloud, 'singing the triumphal hymn, shouting, crying aloud, and saying…"

The choir answers, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabaoth...". 'sabaoth…" the Lord of the Heavenly Host. The word "holy" is sung thrice, and while the choir sings, the priest reads the prayer, "With these blessed hosts, O Master Lover of Mankind, we also cry aloud and say: Holy art Thou and most holy, Thou, and Thine Only-begotten Son, and Thy Holy Spirit; holy art Thou and most holy, and majestic is Thy glory, O Thou Who so loved Thy world that Thou gavest Thine Only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Who when He had come and fulfilled all the dispensation for us, on the night in which He was betrayed, or rather gave Himself up for the life of the world, took bread in His holy and most pure and unblemished hands, and when He had given thanks, and had blessed it, and hallowed it, and broken it, He gave it to His holy disciples and apostles saying…" The priest then says aloud, "Take, eat, this is My Body, which is broken for you for the remission of sins." Pointing to the Chalice, he says, "Drink of it, all of you: this is My Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins." Drink of it, all of you: that is God's call to people. "A certain man made a great supper, and bade many… Come; for all things are now ready… that my house may be filled… (Luke 14: 16-18: 23). "Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars: She hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table. She hath sent forth her maidens: she crieth upon the highest places of the city [prophesying on the Chalice saying]… Come eat of my bread, and drink of the wine, which I have mingled. Forsake the foolish, and live…" (Proverbs 9: 1-6). For though "exalted prophesying" on the Holy Mystery, man learns that "neither the magnitude of mine offences nor the multitude of my sins suprasseth the abundant long-suffering of My God and His exceeding love for mankind; but with sympathetic mercy Thou dost purify and illumine them that fervently repent, and makest them partakers of the light, sharers of Thy divinity…" (prayer before Communion). God gives man everything, and in return wants of him nothing but his love and repentance. "Thine Own of Thine Own, offering unto Thee in behalf of all and for all." We now offer up to Thee, O Lord, Thy gifts to us, the bread and wine, so that Thou mightest change them into Thy Body and Blood, given up for all mankind. The choir sings, "We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we give thanks unto Thee, O Lord; and we pray unto Thee O our God." In the Altar, the clergyman prays, "O Lord, Who didst send down Thy Most-holy Spirit at the third hour upon Thine apostles: Take Him not from us, O Good One, but renew Him in us who pray unto Thee." The entire church prays as well, and bows down to the ground, for it is during the singing of "To Thee we sing," following the priest's special prayer over the bread and wine, that the great Mystery is accomplished, changing them [the bread and wine] into the Body and Blood of Christ.

St. John Chrysostom writes the following about this point in the Liturgy, "When the priest stands before the Throne [the Altar Table], with his hands upraised, calling the Holy Spirit to descend and touch the Holy Gifts, there is a great silence."

In the Patericon, we are told that a certain monk doubted in the actual transformation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. After the Liturgy, he told the monastery brethren: "When… the clerics (the serving clergymen - S.F.) came out of the diakonikon, holding the Holy Gifts for Communion, I saw that the Heavens once again opened, with fire coming down from them, and with the fire, a multitude of holy angels; among them were two other marvelous individuals of indescribable beauty. They were radiant as lightning, and in their midst was a little child. The holy angels stood about the Holy Trapeza (the Altar Table - S. F.), and the two individuals, with the child between them, were above. When the holy prayers ended and the clergy approached to break the bread of Communion, I saw the two individuals hold the infant… and pour his blood into the cup (the Chalice - S. F.); cutting apart his body, they placed it atop the loaves, and the loaves became the body. When the brethren approached [for Communion], they received the body, but when they exclaimed "Amen," it become bread in their hands. When I approached… I heard a voice tell me, "…will you receive with faith what you hold in your hand?" And I said, "I believe, O Lord!" When I had said that, the body I was holding in my hand became bread; having given thanks to God, I ate the holy prosphoron. At the end of the service… I once again saw the infant… and after the clergy had consumed the Holy Gifts, I once again saw the church roof open, and the Heavenly Powers ascending into the Heavens. On hearing that, the brethren (of the Monastery S.F.) remembered the Apostle, who had said, "For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us." Moved [by what they had heard], they went to their cells, praising… God."

Chapter 14

Just as they did during the Cherubic Hymn, during "To Thee we sing" the priests pray with hands upraised. In antiquity, through the 6th and 7th Centuries, not only the priests, but all of the faithful would pray with arms upraised during various prayers. A certain remnant of that ancient custom is reflected in the Typikon instruction regarding the Great Lenten prayer "O Lord and Master of my life." It turns out that in those medieval times when the Typikon was being assembled, already long after the days of the early Christianity, that prayer was to be said with hands upraised, not only by the priest, but by all of the laity as well.

It is about just that manner of praying that the Apostle Paul writes to us. It is precisely that most powerful manner of prayer that forms out of man the image of the Crucifixion, that makes of him a complete [as it were] Cross. That is something especially needed at the Liturgy, especially at those moments in which the Mystery of the Cross is performed. Man co-suffers with his Lord. In that is the Mystery of love of the Creator and His creation, as united with the Creator as the body is with the head. Can the sufferings [of the body and its head] be separate? The Church ascends to Golgotha along with the Lord.

"The Church sees in the Mystery enacted on the Table of Oblation," writes Blessed Augustine, "that It Itself is offered in what it offers… The Church of the faithful and the community of Saints is offered in sacrifice by the Great High Priest, Who… offered Himself for us in His suffering, in order to be for us the Body… such a Head, by having taken on the image of our servitude." Suffering or sorrow in Christianity is not self-torture and is not taking on an obedience or a 'rule,' but rather the involuntary unity of feeling of one single Body. 'As a woman who is with child clearly knows it…so one who has the Image of Christ within him, knows its movement...' says Symeon the New Theologian. Let us once again call to mind the Icon of the 'Sign,' the Theotokos with the Infant in her womb - the Sign of the Church. "My Love was crucified", - says St. Ignatius the God-bearer of himself [141]. "The world was crucified for me and I for the world," - says the Apostle Paul. "For through love thou wast crucified with Him Who was crucified for our sake, O all-glorious Paul,"- we read [in the 5th Ode of the second canon] in the service to the Apostle on 29 June, O.S. That is the union of love with the Divine Passion. "Who is near to me is near to the flame" it says in a certain aphorism; the fact that not one, but three ancient teachers of the Church cite the phrase provides evidence that those were words actually spoken by Christ himself.

"I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, it be already kindled?" (Luke 12: 49).

St. Demetrius of Rostov used the following prayer: "O my God, may my heart be wounded by Thy Divine Love! May I seek Thee day and night, O my Lord that I might be united to Thee with my entire being; may my soul be burned and enflamed with Thy Divine desire that it might ever be as a comfort to my soul, might ever be as a calm harbor and immutable peace." "From the bloodless Sacrifice, through which we become participants with Christ in [both - S.F.] suffering and Divinity," - says St. Gregory the Theologian.

That participation is the essence of all Christians, of the entire Church. "The Church, the true Bride of Christ… established in exile, whose walls were formed with the blood of the Apostles and the Martyrs, and which in that same foundation of suffering is to be completed." (Book Regarding the Faith) [146], for the Church will complete its historical path through that same participation in the suffering and Divine life of Its Teacher. The love that is within man is an inexpressible alloy of Divine joy and human sorrow. That is why Christians do not fear sorrow unless it should interfere with love; that is why "we must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God." (Acts 14: 22) - into the Church in Heaven and on earth. The way to the Resurrection can only be by way of Golgotha. St. Ignaty Brianchaninov writes "Faith leads us up to the Cross, one who is not crucified is not of Christ." [147] There is in the Liturgy that "participation in His sufferings," of which the Apostle writes, as well as an Apostolic tendency. That is probably why it is as brief and easy as a breath. "You will drink of My cup, and will be baptized with My Baptism…" "The Religious Rite... is ended... - writes Nicholas Cabasilas, - "the Gifts blessed… the great sacrifice and offering, the sacrifice for the world, on the blessed Table we see the offering. For the bread is the Lord's Body… the most-holy Body of the Lord... Who bore witness to the good before Pontius Pilate, Who was abused, vexed, and spat-upon, and Who tasted gall… What is sacrificed is not the Lamb that was then sacrificed, but this bread that becomes the Lamb sacrificed (on the Cross)." It is toward Him that the entire Liturgy is directed, to Him, not only to the One Sacrificed, but to the One Resurrected, and with Him resurrected Man. That same commentator writes "The bringing of sacrifice at the Liturgy is not only one of propitiation but also of thanksgiving. What is the essential reason for thanksgiving? The Saints! In them the Church found what it was searching for, received what it desired." In them the Church blossomed, in them the Lord's work on earth was accomplished: the establishing on earth of a transfigured mankind, the establishing on earth of the Kingdom of God; in them "the great idea did not expire," in them in the darkness of history the light-bearing Body of Christ was formed, "The Conciliar [Catholic] Entity." As we sing at Pascha: "Lift up thine eyes about thee, O Sion, and see, for behold, there cometh unto thee like God-illumined beacons, from the West, and from the North, and from the sea, and from the East, thy children, in thee blessing Christ unto the ages."

Symeon, Archbishop of Thessalonika, writes, "[The priest] calls down upon himself and upon the gifts being offered the Divine Grace of the Spirit, that same Grace by which was accomplished the blessing and the calling down of the Holy Spirit, for he sees both Jesus offered [in sacrifice], and That Same [Jesus], as bread and the cup [of wine]. For the bread is His Body. Also, this: what is in the cup is His Blood, and the universal sacrifice, and the general purification, and life-giving sweetness, and endless rejoicing, and the Heavenly Kingdom, and truly the greatest Blessing…[offered] at the Divine Banquet Table. "

Chapter 15

"Lo, there lies the sacrifice which redeems the whole world. Let us now dare to offer prayers for peace and for the Universal Church… Let the priest approach God and pray to him for the cessation of wars and uprisings, for peace, for the blessings of the year, for speedy deliverance from all evils, personal [afflicting the individual] and general [afflicting everyone]" - Such was the prayer following the consecration of the Gifts at the ancient Antiochian Liturgy. Symeon of Thessalonika writes, "...then the bishop daringly prays for everyone. He dares, for seeing lying before him, sacrificed, the Lover of Mankind, the One without hate, he both hymns, and prays for everyone, and commemorates the departed, in particular the young virgin-mother, the Mother of God; in so doing he bears witness that by this sacrifice we have become companions of the saints and have united with them, and that they, who have daring before the One Who loves them, and Whom they love, may also reconcile and unite us to Him. And in particular..."

Those words, spoken by Symeon of Thessalonica, correspond to the priest's exclamation: "Especially (we especially offer you this rational service - S. F.) for our most holy, most pure, most blessed, glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary." She is the acme, the height, of human sanctity; thus, having commemorated all of the saints, all those who have ever served God, the priest concludes his mystical commemoration (prayer, thanksgiving - it is impossible to exactly delineate this "rational service") with the name of the Virgin and Mother. Then he turns from the Church Triumphant to the Church Militant, and to the entire world. "The entire world is entrusted to the priest," says St. John Chrysostom, "and he, as father to all, in that capacity approaches God, praying that everywhere the flames of battle might be extinguished, that confusion might cease and that peace and prosperity... might be granted." "Again we pray unto Thee," he reads silently in the great prayer, "remember, O Lord, Thy Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church." Further, "...deliver the captives, heal the sick, those under trial and in the mines, and in prison, and in bitter labors, and in all affliction, necessity and distress... and those who love us, and those who hate us… and all Thy people, do Thou remember O Lord our God… And those whom we, through ignorance, or forgetfulness, or the multitude of names, have not remembered, do Thou remember O God… Be Thou all things to all men, Thou who knowest every one, and his petition, his abode, and his need. (Liturgy of St. Basil the Great) The ancient Liturgy of St. Mark contained the following words, "Accompany us in our sojourn in this life, tranquil and unharmed, to the end."

In those minutes when the Church is praying for everyone, during the singing of "It is truly meet…" each of us as well should school ourselves to also pray for everyone, beginning with our neighbors, those close to us, living and dead, those who love us and those who do not. St. John of Kronstadt writes, and not for [monastic] spiritual strugglers, but for the laity, for us, "When you pray, try to pray more for everyone than for yourself alone… pray for everyone as you pray for yourself, with the same sincerity and fervor…" He also left us the following word of instruction, "Don't be too lazy to diligently pray for others, either at their request or on your own initiative…" "God's will (in us - S.F.), which is love for all, for enemies as well, and our holiness."

The priest concludes his great prayer by commemorating aloud the bishops of his Church, and the choir responds with "and each and every one." The fact that this was a prayer not only for the Orthodox may be seen in the text of the same prayer in the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, "...comfort the faint-hearted, gather the scattered, turn them back from their wanderings, and unite them to Thy Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church…" The response by the choir, or it would be better to say, by the people, "and each and every one," is of profoundly significance.

The Church can only be one. "There is one God, one Christ, one Faith, one hope, and one Church. " (St. Cyprian of Carthage). However, the "hidden ties that bind our earthly Church with the rest of mankind [have not been] revealed to us." (Khomiakov). We only know that they exist, that "although without love for Christ man cannot be saved, but someone else who has never heard of the Righteous One, worships the substance and essence of our Savior." (Khomiakov) The Church knows this, and therefore while affirming its being the sole [Church], it maintains an awareness, beyond denomination, of all Christians, of all faithful [believing] humanity, of the entirety of God's Creation, which expects of it [the Church] the liturgical commemoration "and each and every one." After all, "... all Creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now." (Romans 8: 22). As strict a zealous proponent of Orthodoxy as he was, the recently reposed Bishop Athanassy (Sakharov), basing his opinion on the ideas of Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, considered it permissible to raise up prayers for faithful Christians who were not Orthodox, and to do so not only at home, but in the Liturgy, at the Proskomedia (see his Commemoration of the Reposed, Chapter 2).

"And grant unto us," exclaims the priest, "…that with one mouth and one heart we may glorify and hymn Thy most honorable and majestic name: of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit..." It is with that prayer for unity of faith and love that the so-called Eucharistic Canon, the "Anaphora," the spiritual center of the Liturgy, concludes. St. Cyprian writes, "The Mystery of the sacrifice of the Lord, points out the Christian oneness of mind, made fast by firm and indissoluble love. For when the Lord calls bread His Body, bread that consists of the union of many grains, He points out that our people, whose image He assumed, forms one whole. When He calls wine His Blood, wine that was squeezed out of bunches of grapes, out of many individual grapes, merged into one, he thereby indicates that our flock is also made up of many individuals who have merged and been made fast as one."

"Love ... is the action of the Spirit," says Venerable St. Symeon the New Theologian. Thus, love is the essence and substance of the Church as the Body of Christ, which out of love gave Itself up for the life of the world. In the prayer following the consecration of the Holy Gifts in the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, the priest asks, "And all of us who partake of the one Bread and the one Cup do Thou unite one to another, in one communion of the Holy Spirit..." It is only through the grace of the Holy Spirit that we achieve that love for one another. A determination of a certain ancient Council states, "God's grace... breathes love into us." This is why V. Lossky expressed it well in saying that grace is "God's respiration," and when respiration departs from us, so does life. To understand that in the Church even the slightest lack of love deprives the Mystery of grace, I will cite yet another story from the Patericon regarding serving of the Liturgy: "When the clergy made their offering (offering them up during the Liturgy - S. F.) of the Holy Gifts in the Scete, the Holy Spirit would descend in the form of an eagle on the prosphora, and no one but the clergy could see it. One day, some of the brethren asked a deacon for something, and the deacon answered him 'I don't have time right now.' When they went to offer the Gifts, the image of the eagle did not come down [upon them] as it ordinarily did. The presbyter asked the deacon, 'What does this mean? Why did the eagle not come down as it customarily does?' The presbyter said to the deacon, 'Truly, either I have [committed] a transgression, or you have. Step a little away from me, and if it descends, it will be obvious that it is because of you that it had not come down. If it does not, it will be clear that it has not descended because of me.' When the deacon stepped away, the eagle immediately descended. When the service had concluded, the presbyter said to the deacon, 'Tell me what you did.' The deacon explained, saying, 'I do not see that I have sinned, except that my brother asked me for something and I said that I did not have the time.' The presbyter said to him, 'Truly it was because of you that the eagle did not descend, because you offended your brother.' The deacon went away and repented before his brother."

"Let us be united in the bond of love, that we might dare to enjoy the offered Feast." (St. Herman the Patriarch). Grace-filled love is the substance of holiness and the door to the Divine Mysteries. The saints cautioned us especially insistently about this single door. "...The great, awesome, terrifying Sacrifice (allows us - S. F.) to approach It with perfect oneness of mind, and flaming love… The Lord's Supper does not give entry to those who have enmity toward one another. Let those dedicated to the Mystery heed this." (St. John Chrysostom). St. Irenaeus of Lyon writes, "If anyone should only superficially begin to make the offering (the Eucharist - S. F.) purely, correctly and according to the rules, but in his soul should not have either the appropriate relationship to his neighbor or the fear of God, then, having an internal sin, he will not deceive God."

As he brings out the Chalice at the ancient Liturgy of St. James, the deacon says, "With fear of God and faith and love, draw nigh." And now, in the Liturgy of the Pre-sanctified Gifts, we sing, "With faith and love, let us draw nigh." And our prayers before Communion begin as follows, "And when thou drinkest the Divine Blood unto Communion, first (first of all - S.F.) be reconciled to them that have grieved thee." Not only must there be no enmity toward men in our hearts before Communion of the Holy Gifts; there must also be no "grievance" against them, no annoyance, no condemnation.

Here is yet another one of the multitude of stories in the Patericon regarding the meaning of condemnation as an act contrary to love.

"Abba Isaac of the Thebaid came to the cenobium, saw a brother falling into sin, and condemned him. When he had returned to the desert, an Angel of the Lord came and stood before the doors of his cell, and said, "I will not allow you to enter." Abba implored him, saying, "What is the reason for this?" The Angel said to him in response, "God sent me to you, saying, 'Ask him where he wants Me to throw his fallen brother.'" Abba Isaac immediately threw himself to the ground, and said, 'I have sinned before Thee, forgive me.'"

Chapter 16

The Lord, the Holy Spirit had consecrated the Gifts, but we perhaps, nonetheless internally oppose our transfiguration, and fail to grasp where we are. It is essential to pray that "our Man-befriending God, might accept them (the Holy Gifts – S.F.) on His holy, heavenly, and noetic Altar… and might send down upon us divine grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit." Such are the words we hear at the beginning of the litany before the "Our Father." We pray that the ritual just performed might also shine the light of grace within us as well.

One must always pray for the grace of the Holy Spirit, but especially now, at these moments of the Liturgy. After all, the Holy Spirit is the "Witness to the Passion" of Christ. Clement's ancient Liturgy had the following Eucharistic prayer: "We ask of Thee, O Lord, that Thou shouldest send down Thy Holy Spirit, Witness to the Passions of the Lord Jesus, upon this Sacrifice, so that this bread might be transubstantiated into the Body of Thy Christ, and this cup into the Blood of Thy Christ. "

We receive grace both through the Mystery and through prayer. "The Spirit descends not only when the Gifts are offered, but also when the (holy) hymns are chanted," says St. John Chrysostom. "The Spirit breathes where It will," says the Apostle.

And every day we should seek Him, should spiritually commune of His grace, breathe His breath. Holy Hierarch St. Tikhon of Zadonsk used to say that "we need the grace of God at every moment." Receiving of grace is like unto a double receiving of grace – through the Mystery and through prayer. A stone falling in the water forms a center, and from it wide circles go out across the calm water. In such manner, we comprehend the Mystery of the Body and Blood as the center from which a multitude of circles of grace go out to the world, grace we acquire in prayer, in work, in sorrow, and in sighing, and in life's joys. - we find it everywhere: in churches, in forests, and in the deserts of the city. But we are able to find It only when we believe in the Mystery of the Body and Blood, when we are moved in the heart to ascend to Golgotha.

Now they are about to sing "Our Father." But do we realize that Saints saw the prayer for our daily bread as referring first of all to "the Bread which cometh down from Heaven" (John 6: 50), to Holy Communion and to the acquisition of the Spirit?

"Holy things are for the Holy", exclaims the priest, and the people reply, "One is Holy, One is the Lord, Jesus Christ." St. Cyril of Jerusalem writes the following about that point in the Liturgy: "The holy things are offered, the Gifts, which have received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. You, having been made worthy of the Holy Spirit, are holy as well. Thus, it is appropriate [to say] "Holy things are for the Holy." In response you say, "One is Holy, One is the Lord, Jesus Christ," for in truth, only One is Holy, One Who is innately Holy. We are holy, but not by nature, but through Communion, spiritual struggle, and prayer." In the spiritual struggles of life and prayer, we move toward communion of His grace, toward communion with Him and His Holiness. Well, and what if out of ignorance or our of a lack of humility we do not at all accept the idea of holiness?

St. Symeon the New Theologian writes, "Holy Things are offered to the Holy, as the priest says and preaches every day, in a loud voice (oh, that they might say it to themselves as well!)… So, what is the result? Whoever is not holy is also unworthy? No, that is not so. It is the one who does not confess what is hidden in his heart, who does not show due repentance for that and for what he has done out of ignorance, who is not constantly in tears and sorrows and who does not take on… spiritual struggles… that is unworthy." The only one unworthy of Communion is one who does not wish to follow after Christ along the narrow path of repentance and love. Only in repentance and love can one whisper in the sudden quiet of the heart, along with the priest bringing out the Chalice, the words, "Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God, receive me today as a communicant. For I will not give Thee a kiss as did Judas, but like the thief will I confess Thee: remember me O Lord, in thy Kingdom."

Chapter 17

"...all of them that came unto Thee in repentance Thou didst number among Thy friends, O Thou Who alone art blessed, always, now and unto endless ages. Amen." - we read in the prayers before Communion of the Holy Gifts. Our Lord expects of us only true repentance, so that we might receive His Body without condemnation, so that we might be raised up to Divine heights. As it says in another prayer before Communion "...Thou dost purify and illume them that fervently repent, and makest them partakers of the light, sharers of Thy divinity without stint. And strange to angels and to the minds of men, Thou conversest with them oftimes, as with Thy true friends. These things make me bold, these things give me wings (direct and give me concentration – S.F.) O my Christ. And taking courage from the wealth of Thy benefactions to us, rejoicing and trembling at once, I partake of Fire I that am grass. And strange wonder! I am bedewed without being consumed, as the bush of old burned without being consumed."

All of the prayers before Communion are filled with this incomprehensible pairing of sensations: awareness of one's extreme insignificance and unworthiness, together with a vision of oneself as numbered among "God's friends," as the burning bush that is not consumed. It is a vision and not a recognition or assertion; like the Mystery, it is a sensation granted beyond the intellect.

"No one should consider himself worthy of Communion, but should say "I am unworthy, but believe that I am sanctified by Communion." According to his faith, this is wrought over him by our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory unto the ages, Amen." (Barsanophios the Great). Of course, that pairing of humility and exaltedness, that ineffable union of human impotence and divine power is found not only here in the Liturgy, but it is in the Liturgy that it is most completely accomplished.

In the Patericon we hear an account of how a person possessed by a demon was brought to a certain Elder. "The Elder… says to the demon: "Come out of God's creation!" The demon said to the Elder: "I am coming out, but I ask you… and tell me: who are the goats and who are the sheep in the Gospel?" The Elder said: "I am the goats, and God knows who the sheep are." On hearing that, the demon cried out with a loud voice: "Lo, I am coming out because of your humility…"

The saints so clearly felt that life-creating and miracle-working power of humility, that they completely merged it with love. One of them used to say, "Humility is love's precursor." Or, "The root of love is humble mindedness." And that is understandable: if love is the giving of oneself for the sake of another, disregarding oneself for the sake of others, who can disregard oneself without humbling himself, without sincere humility? That is why it hardest of all to learn humility; it is the same as learning to love. Several times during the Liturgy, the priest or the deacon calls us to bow our heads ("Bow your heads unto the Lord."). That would seem to be no great feat, but to do it is not at all easy, for pride resists humbling oneself before everyone, and does so quite artfully, so that we tell ourselves that it is for some different reason that we are not bowing our heads.

The Rule Before Communion, i.e. all of those divine prayers composed by the saints, lead us to recognize true humility and the true greatness of man in God, man as God's friend, and to recognize God by grace. We must strive without fail to read them before Communion, but only, of course, if we read them not to comfort ourselves that we receive thereby the "right" to commune, like some "admission ticket" to the Mystery, but rather so that with those prayers we might push the doors of our heart to open. "God does not look upon the face or upon external propriety, or upon our calling out [to Him]; rather, he looks at the heart...." (Ven. St. Symeon the New Theologian).

The Righteous John of Kronstadt wrote, "The main thing is living faith of the heart and the warmth of repentance... Some people set before God all of their success and good order in the reading of all of the appointed prayers, without paying attention to internal correction, to the heart's preparedness for God. For example, many people read the rule for Communion in this way… if your heart has become true within you, by God's grace, if it is ready to encounter the Bridegroom, then also glory to God, even if you have not had time to read all of the prayers." "Let not the communion of Thy holy Mysteries be unto me for judgment or condemnation O Lord, but for the healing of soul and body." - with those words, and with arms crossed over their chests, people approach the Chalice: it is in the sincerity of those words that their preparedness to encounter [God] lies.

In antiquity, Christians communed quite often. If, for some reason, e.g. persecution, they could not be in church, they communed themselves at home, with a portion of the Holy Gifts given to them earlier by the priest. St. Basil the Great provides reliable evidence of such a practice dating from the 4th Century. In one of his epistles, he writes, "It is good and extremely beneficial to commune of and accept the Holy Body and Blood of Christ… By the way, we commune four time each week… It would be superfluous to try to prove that when it is necessary in times of persecution to receive Communion from one's own hand because of the absence of a priest or clergyman that is not the least bit dangerous.... For all monks living in the desert, where there is no priest, keep [the Holy Gifts] in the house, and commune themselves. And in Alexandria and in Egypt, every baptized layperson usually has [the Holy Gifts for] Communion in his home, and communes himself when he wishes. For, when the priest has once performed and offered the Sacrifice, the one receiving it as a complete [sacrifice], and communing daily, rightly must believe that he receives it and is sanctified by the One who was offered. "

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (also 4th C.) describes the moment of Communion in church in the following way: "In chanting the verse, "O taste and see, for the Lord is good," the faithful approach God's holy table of oblation and receive the Body of Christ in their hands, which they haved placed with the right palm on the left, like unto a throne for the King, they say "Amen"." Then they commune of the Blood of the Lord, likewise with the word "Amen.""

Archpriest John of Kronstadt writes "When you receive the Life-creating Mysteries, mentally sign them with the sign "Jesus Christ" and with the noetic sign… mentally escort them into the depths of your heart, and there noetically place the Life-giving Guest."

Sometimes during Communion we hear the priest pronounce the words from the account of the Prophet Isaiah's mystical vision, spoken when the one of the Seraphim touched his lips with the burning coal, "Lo this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged." [Isaiah 6:7] "Let us commune of the divine coal, so that with the fire of love in us after we have received the burning coal, our sins will be consumed" (St. John Damascene).

Chapter 18

After everyone has communed, the Chalice is taken back into the Altar, and placed on the Altar Table, and we then hear the priest utter Paschal chants, "Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ, let us worship the Holy Lord Jesus…" Shine, shine o New Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord is risen upon Thee… Do thou exult, O pure Theotokos, in the arising of Him Whom thou didst bear,"; "О great and most sacred Pascha! O Wisdom and Word of God, and Power! Grant us more perfectly to partake of Thee in the unwaning day of Thy Kingdom." During the proclaiming of those Paschal words announcing the Good News, the priest lowers the particles that had been removed from the prosphora for the living and the dead, into the Chalice, i.e. into the Holy Blood, while saying "By Thy precious Blood, O Lord, wash away the sins of those here commemorated, through the intercession of Thy saints." The particles that had been removed are the people whose names were read while the particles were being removed. They are lowered into the Divine Blood, into Christ’s incorrupt life. That is the "Pascha of incorruption," the "feast of faith." On the night of Pascha we hear the homily of [St. John] Chrysostom: "Enjoy ye all the Feast of Faith; receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness!" That is the Church of His Body, "the Church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." (I Timothy 3: 15).

God became man, so that in the Mysteries of the Church, man might begin his unification with his Lord. God completely changes the recipient of the Mystery" (Communion – S.F.) writes Metropolitan Nicholas Cabasilas "and transfigures him into His Own, and dust (human. - S.F.), having taken on the mien of royalty, is no longer dust, but is the Body of the King." He also says that in communing, we "receive into our souls the Very Sun." "After the Eucharist, there is nothing else toward which we have to strive." He also writes, "For that He came to earth, offered Himself as a sacrifice and died; that is the reason there are altars and priests, that is the reason for all of the purifications and all of the commandments, and the instructions and admonitions, in order to offer us this Meal."

The Church, and the Liturgy as Church, is the goal, the end toward which God’s activity, this "building and establishing a house" is directed. That is why, as St. John Chrysostom said, "for God, the Church is the desire for Heaven. He took on not a Heavenly Body, but rather the Body of the Church. Heaven [exists] for the Church, and not the Church for Heaven." At another point, he said, "For the Church… is Heaven extended ... the earth was founded, and paradise planted." Those words exactly echo St. Hermas, "for It (God’s Church – Ed.) the world was created. After Golgotha and Christ’s Resurrection, man stood at a height greater than where he was at the creation of the world, for now in Christ he was "taken up to the heaven of heavens [the highest heaven]." (Ven. St. Symeon the New Theologian).

"He acquired much better inheriting us (as the Son of Man. - S.F.), than what He had before, having brought it into being. For after creating matter, (He - S. F.) simply ruled over man, but by legacy (of His Incarnation, into humanity - S. F.) he became the Lord over our mind and will, which is true Lordship over men; while the [other] one (i.e. by creation) is ours in common with the speechless (creations)... How then did He by inheritance become Lord over mind and will? Because, by His having come down to earth and been crucified and resurrected, we vanquished our mind and will: for we recognized Him [to be] true God... for it was of our own choosing: for we [came to] love Him and His dominion, and we joyously carried His burden." (Metropolitan Nicholas Cabasilas).

The wound of love has opened up and revealed in man! In leaving on himself the wounds of Golgotha after His Resurrection, Christ "shows that by loving people, he loves them [the wounds] as well, for it was through them that He found the perishing one and …. acquired a beloved one"(Metropolitan Nicholas Cabasilas). The purpose for which the world had been created was achieved! And each time our hearts awaken, we apprehend the rite of the Liturgy, we hear it and know that man has finally entered into Divine love.

"And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.," said the Lord before His Ascension (Matthew 28: 20). He is with us in the Church of His Body. The Liturgy comes to an end, but its Mystery is never-ending.

"At the Walls of the Church, S.I.Fudel"

Address of our Cathedral

  • 4001 17th St. N.W.,
  • Washington, D.C., 20011

Phone  (202) 726-3000




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