This post ponders sections 10-12 of the second chapter of For the Life of the World. If you haven’t listened to it yet, here is the link to Deacon Michael Hyatt’s podcast over sections 9-16.
When man stands before the throne of God, when he has fulfilled all that God has given him to fulfill, when all sins are forgiven, all joy restored, then there is nothing else for him to do but to give thanks. Eucharist (thanksgiving) is the state of perfect man. Eucharist is the life of paradise. Eucharist is the only full and real response of man to God’s creation, redemption and gift of heaven. But this perfect man who stands before God is Christ. In Him alone all that God has given man was fulfilled and brought back to heaven. He alone is the perfect Eucharistic Being. He is the Eucharist of the world. In and through this Eucharist the whole creation becomes what it always was to be and yet failed to be.
We talk about new creation, but I’m not sure we adequately wrap our minds around it. In and through Christ we are not simply individually made new. Rather, humanity is restored in Christ, our Eucharist, to what our nature was created to be. Yet not only mankind, but all creation is made new. “Behold! I have made all things new!” Very often, our gospel is too small. I like how Fr. Schmemann next describes some of the things faith is not.
“It is fitting and right to give thanks,” answers the congregation, expressing in these words that “unconditional surrender” with which true “religion” begins. For faith is not the fruit of intellectual search, or of Pascal’s “betting.” It is not a reasonable solution to the frustrations and anxieties of life. It does not arise out of a “lack” of something, but ultimately it comes out of fullness, love and joy. “It is meet and right” expresses all this. It is the only possible response to the divine invitation to live and to receive abundant life.
The beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer is called the “Preface”. However, it is not something to simply skip over. In his podcast, Deacon Michael comments that if you read the preface or the introduction of a book, you’re a bit strange. Most people jump right to chapter one. (As the head of a publishing company, I assume it’s his business to know such things.) I got a chuckle out of that part of the podcast. As I’m sure will surprise no-one who knows me, I almost always read prefaces, introductions, author’s notes, and all the rest of any book I read. I guess I’m statistically odd. He reads the whole prayer in the podcast. I’m going to include one translation of it here as well, for it is beautiful and makes a profound statement.
It is meet and right to hymn thee, to bless thee, to praise thee, to give thanks unto thee, and to worship thee in every place of thy dominion: for thou art God ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, ever existing and eternally the same, thou and thine Only-begotten Son and thy Holy Spirit. Thou it was who didst bring us from non-existence into being, and when we had fallen away didst raise us up again, and didst not cease to do all things until thou hadst brought us back to heaven, and hadst endowed us with thy kingdom which is to come. For all these things we give thanks unto thee, and to thine Only-begotten Son, and thy Holy Spirit; for all things of which we know, and of which we know not, and for all the benefits bestowed upon us, both manifest and unseen. And we give thanks unto thee also for this ministry which thou dost vouchsafe to receive at our hands, even though there stand beside thee thousands of Archangels and ten thousands of Angels, the Cherubim and the Seraphim, six-winged, many eyed, soaring aloft, borne on their wings, singing, shouting, proclaiming and saying the Triumphal Hymn:
As Fr. Schmemann says, it’s the preface of the world to come.
This future has been given to us in the past that it may constitute the very present, the life itself, now, of the Church.
The Sanctus, the adoration of God, the thanksgiving of creation, taken from the words of the Seraphim, is the only possible response to the divine love. It’s also beautiful, so I include it here as well. Say these prayers aloud. Don’t merely read them silently.
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabaoth. Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord.
The next part of the great Eucharistic Prayer is called the Remembrance. But this is not simply an interior intellectual reflection. In a manner not unlike the Jewish Passover, we are making the past present. As we enter the Eschaton (the future), we bring forward Christ’s work, and our past and future collide in the present moment.
Holy and most holy art Thou in Thy glorious majesty, Who has so loved the world That thou gavest Thine only-begotten Son, That whosoever believeth on Him Should not perish but have everlasting life, Who, when He had come And had performed all that was appointed for our sakes, In the night on which he was given up, or In which, rather, He did give Himself For the life of the world, Took bread in His holy and pure and sinless hands And when He had given thanks, and blessed it, and sanctified it, He gave it to His holy disciples, saying: Take, eat, this is my Body which is broken for you For the remission of sins. And in like manner, after supper He took the cup, saying: Drink ye all of this: this is my Blood of the New Testament, Which is shed for you, and for many For the remission of sins. Remembering this commandment of salvation, And all those things which for our sakes were brought to pass, The Cross, the Grave, the Resurrection on the third day, The Ascension into Heaven, the Sitting on the right hand, The Second and glorious Advent -- Thine own of thine own we offer unto Thee, In behalf of all and for all. We praise thee, We bless thee, We give thanks unto thee, O Lord, And we pray unto thee, O our God.
Amen and amen.