At All Times and In All Places … Let Us Be Grateful

Celebrant    Let us stand well. Let us stand in awe. Let us be attentive, that we may present the holy offering in peace.
People          A mercy of peace, a sacrifice of praise.
Celebrant    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.
People          And with your spirit.
Celebrant    Let us lift up our hearts.
People          We lift them up to the Lord.
Celebrant    Let us give thanks to the Lord.
People          It is proper and right to worship the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit: the Trinity, one in essence and undivided.

Celebrant   It is proper and right to sing to You, bless You, praise You, thank You and worship You in all places of Your dominion; for You are God ineffable, beyond comprehension, invisible, beyond understanding, existing forever and always the same; You and Your only begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit. You brought us into being out of nothing, and when we fell, You raised us up again. You did not cease doing everything until You led us to heaven and granted us Your kingdom to come. For all these things we thank You and Your only begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit; for all things that we know and do not know, for blessings seen and unseen that have been bestowed upon us… (The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom)

From “The Homilies on Matthew,” by St. John Chrysostom
Let us give thanks to God throughout our lives. For how wrong it would be, if every day we enjoyed his blessings in deed, and yet in word gave him no return, and that too when an offering of gratitude would but increase our advantage. For God needs noth­ing from us, but we need everything from him. So our thanks are of no profit to him, but they make us more worthy of him. For if the memory of their kindness towards us deepens our love for our fellow men, how much more will the perpetual memory of the Lord’s goodness to us make us more eager to keep his commands.

For the best safeguard of a kindness is to remember it with everlasting gratitude. That is why that awe-inspiring and life-giv­ing sacrament which we celebrate at every gathering is called the Eucharist. It is the commemoration of many blessings and the culmination of divine providence, and teaches us to give thanks always.

For if to be born of a Virgin was a great miracle, and the amazed evangelist wrote of it: All this happened, what can we say of the Lord’s sacrifice? For if the Lord’s birth was called all this, what should we call his crucifixion, the shedding of his blood, and his giving himself to us as a spiritual feast? Therefore we must give thanks to him continuously, and let thanksgiving be the motive of all we do and say. And let us give thanks not only for our own blessings, but for those of our neighbours too. Thus we shall be able to rid ourselves of envy, and increase our love and make it more sincere. For to continue to envy those on whose behalf we give thanks to the Lord will be impossible.

Therefore the priest too, when that sacrifice is set before him, bids us give thanks for the whole world, for the old dispensation and the new, for all that was done for us before and all that awaits us hereafter. For this sets us free from earth and turns us towards heaven, and makes angels out of men. Even the very angels, in heavenly choirs, give thanks to God for his goodness to us, as they sing: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men in whom he is well pleased.

But what is this to us who are not on earth and are not men? It means a great deal, for it teaches us so to love our fellow-servants that we rejoice in their good fortune as if it were our own. It is for that reason that St Paul in all his letters gives thanks for the blessings of the whole world. So let us too give everlasting thanks for all the gifts, large or small, that are given both to ourselves and to others.

 

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Life is Eucharistic – Worship is the Practical Way of Living Life “at all times and in all places…”

Beautiful and precise writing is, for me, one of the signals that you and I are created in the image of God. As I have written recently, even though language falls short of fully expressing many things, it is, nonetheless, both essential for communication and an exercise in Divine/human union. Thus, the term “inspired” – in Spirited. The Divine Liturgy in many of its manifestations over the centuries has articulated the faith in ways that are both stunning and practical. The first Book of Common Prayer (1549) makes a statement that, while not new, is essential for all believers to remember and endeavour to live out in their everyday life. Here is the “Sursum Corda” from the BCP 1549:

Priest.The Lorde be with you.
Aunswere. And with thy spirite.
Priest. Lift up your heartes.
Aunswere. We lift them up unto the Lorde.
Priest. Let us geve thankes to our Lorde God.
Aunswere. It is mete and right so to do.
The Priest. It is very mete, righte, and our bounden dutie, that wee shoulde at all tymes, and in all places, geve thankes to thee, O Lorde holy father, almightie everlastyng God.

Note the underlined phrase. It states that every person participating in this Liturgy is to believe and be dedicated to the fact that ALL LIFE is Eucharistic. All humans are to live Eucharistically. What is done in the specific context of the Divine Liturgy is, in no way, essentially different from any other context. What is said and done here is to be said and done everywhere. The Church is a Eucharistic community not just inside the walls of the Church or just in the setting of the formal Holy Eucharist but in the marketplace, home, neighbourhood, school, and halls of government.

I offer, for your further rumination along these lines some Scriptures and a reflection by St. Dorotheus of Gaza (505-565?).

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Romans 12.1-2
[1] I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
[2] Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 13.14
[14] But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Galatians 5.16-25
[16] But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.
[17] For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would.
[18] But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law.
[19] Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness,
[20] idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit,
[21] envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
[22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
[23] gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.
[24] And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
[25] If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

FROM A COMMENTARY ON AN EASTER HYMN OF ST GREGORY NAZIANZEN BY ST. DOROTHEUS OF GAZA

The Apostle urges us to worship God in a way worthy of rational creatures, by offering him our bodies as a living sac­rifice that is holy and pleasing to him. How are we to offer our bodies to God as a living sacrifice? By no longer obeying the promptings of body and mind, but being guided by the Spirit, and not gratifying the desires of our fallen nature. For that is how we put to death what is earthly in us. Such a sacrifice is said to be living, holy, and pleasing to God.

But why is it called a living sacrifice? Because while an ani­mal victim is sacrificed and dies at the same time, Christians who offer themselves to God sacrifice themselves daily but remain alive. As David says: For your sake we are put to death all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.

‘Let us offer ourselves,’ says St Gregory; that is, let us sacrifice ourselves, let us die to ourselves all day long, like all the Saints, for the sake of Christ our God, for the sake of him who died for us.

But how did the Saints die to themselves? By not loving the world or anything in the world, as the Catholic Epistles say, but renouncing everything that panders to the appetites, or entices the eyes, and all pride in possessions, that is, pleasure-seeking, covet­ousness, and vainglory, and taking up the Cross to follow Christ, crucifying the world to themselves and themselves to the world. About this the Apostle says: Those who belong to Christ have crucified the body, with its passions and desires. That is how the Saints died to themselves.

But how did they offer themselves? By not living for themselves, but according to God’s commandments, giving up their own desires in order to obey God, and to love him and their neighbours. As St Peter said: We have given up everything to follow you.  What did he give up? He had no money or property, no silver or gold. All he had was his fishing net, and that was old, as St John Chrysostom remarked. But he gave up, as he said, all his own desires, all worldly attachments, so that it is clear that if he had possessed wealth and property he would have despised these as well. Then he took up his Cross and followed Christ, according to the words: It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. That is how the Saints offered themselves: dying, as we said, to all disordered inclinations and self-will, and living only for Christ and his commandments. St. Dorotheus of Gaza, Discourse 16,167-169 (SC 92:462-464); Word in Season III, 2nd ed.

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To live Eucharistically is to live. I believe it to be an unceasing state of adorational awareness toward which we journey and in which we participate on a daily basis via purification and illumination.

Fr. Thomas