For the Life of the World 10

Posted: November 3rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: For the Life of the World | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on For the Life of the World 10

And now I’ll finish with sections 15-16 of the second chapter of For the Life of the World. Also, if you haven’t listened to it yet, here is the link to Deacon Michael Hyatt’s  podcast over sections 9-16.

The next act in the liturgy is the intercession. I like the emphasis Fr. Schmemann gives it.

The Church is not a society for escape — corporately or individually — from this world to taste of the mystical bliss of eternity. Communion is not a “mystical experience”: we drink of the chalice of Christ, and He gave Himself for the life of the world. The bread on the paten and the wine in the chalice are to remind us of the incarnation of the Son of God, of the cross and death. And thus it is the very joy of the Kingdom that makes us remember the world and pray for it. It is the very communion with the Holy Spirit that enables us to love the world with the love of Christ. The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity and the moment of truth: here we see the world in Christ, as it really is, and not from our particular and therefore limited and partial points of view.

The Church is not a society for escape. Indeed. Yet how often do we try to turn it into exactly that?

Life comes again to us as Gift, a free and divine gift. This is why in the Orthodox Church we call the eucharistic elements Holy Gifts. Adam is again introduced into Paradise, taken out of nothingness and crowned king of creation. Everything is free, nothing is due and yet all is given. And, therefore, the greatest humility and obedience is to accept the gift, to say yes — in joy and gratitude. There is nothing we can do, yet we become all that God wanted us to be from eternity, when we are eucharistic.

The central gift of the Eucharist is Life itself. Christ is the food of true life. It was Jesus who said that unless we ate his flesh and drank his blood we had no life in us. And life, of course, is what we so desperately need. Jesus came to give us life and to give it more abundantly. He came to give us himself, the only true source of life. There is nothing more startling or amazing when you consider it.

And now the time has come for us to return into the world. “Let us depart in peace,” says the celebrant as he leaves the altar, and this is the last commandment of the liturgy. We must not stay on Mount Tabor, although we know that it is good for us to be there. We are sent back. But now “we have seen the true Light, we have received the heavenly Spirit.” And it is as witnesses of this Light, as witnesses of the Spirit, that we must “go forth” and begin the never-ending mission of the Church. Eucharist was the end of the journey, the end of time. And now it is again the beginning, and things that were impossible are again revealed to us as possible. … This is the meaning of the Eucharist; this is why the mission of the Church begins in the liturgy of ascension, for it alone makes possible the liturgy of mission.

I’ve heard much the same thought from N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham in the Anglican Communion. We receive Life in order to then take life into the world.


Comments are closed.