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Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Holy Fathers: Worship and the Church

For when you see the Lord sacrificed, and laid upon the altar, and the priest standing and praying over the victim, and all the worshippers empurpled with that precious blood, can you then think that you are still among men, and standing upon the earth? Are you not, on the contrary, straightway translated to Heaven, and casting out every carnal thought from the soul, do you not with disembodied spirit and pure reason contemplate the things which are in Heaven? Oh! What a marvel! What love of God to man! He who sits on high with the Father is at that hour held in the hands of all, and gives Himself to those who are willing to embrace and grasp Him. And this all do through the eyes of faith! Do these things seem to you fit to be despised, or such as to make it possible for any one to be uplifted against them?


Would you also learn from another miracle the exceeding sanctity of this office? Picture Elijah and the vast multitude standing around him, and the sacrifice laid upon the altar of stones, and all the rest of the people hushed into a deep silence while the prophet alone offers up prayer: then the sudden rush of fire from Heaven upon the sacrifice:— these are marvellous things, charged with terror. Now then pass from this scene to the rites which are celebrated in the present day; they are not only marvellous to behold, but transcendent in terror. There stands the priest, not bringing down fire from Heaven, but the Holy Spirit: and he makes prolonged supplication, not that some flame sent down from on high may consume the offerings, but that grace descending on the sacrifice may thereby enlighten the souls of all, and render them more refulgent than silver purified by fire. Who can despise this most awful mystery, unless he is stark mad and senseless? Or do you not know that no human soul could have endured that fire in the sacrifice, but all would have been utterly consumed, had not the assistance of God’s grace been great. --St. John Chrysostom

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...In the Liturgy, the Christian soul moves towards experiential theology of God, acquiring intelligence equal to that of the angels, able to contemplate the tri-unity of the divine Godhead, for the Church is not an ecclesiastical institution distributing divine grace, but truly a Mystical Body that represents symbolically the whole divine-human mystery, the whole mystery of God’s good counsel, and the economy of salvation. ...

...The celebration of the Eucharist is the very center of our entire lives, the movement in which all things are unified towards God. . . . as a consummation of everything the distribution of the mystery takes place. It transforms in itself and renders those who participate worthily, through grace and participation, similar to the Good which is this Cause . . . In this way they may both be and be called gods through the gift of grace, since God as whole fills them entirely. God is Love, and He offered Himself wholly in His incarnated life, and so through His Body of the Church and Her worship, man finds his purpose and the fulfillment of his vocation. --St. Maximos the Confesor

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The Church and worship are the embodiment and realization of all Christianity: here in words, in persons and actions is conveyed the entire economy of our salvation, all sacred and Church history, all that is good, wise, eternal and immutable in God… His righteousness and holiness, His eternal power. Here we find a harmony that is wondrous in all things, an amazing logical connection in the whole and its parts: it is true divine wisdom accessible to simple, loving hearts. --St. John of Kronstadt

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