With the Holy Angels

July 3, 2016

 

As the Priest (and Deacon, if there is one) and servers come out of the Holy Altar with the Gospel Book during the Divine Liturgy (called the Little Entrance) the Priest quietly prays this prayer. It is a prayer asking that as the clergy and servers enter the Altar they would not do so alone. As a prayer, it is a request. But it is also a recognition of something that is fundamental to all of Orthodox prayer and worship generally, and to the Divine Liturgy especially. This is the recognition that the worship of God is not done by humans alone, but by all of creation, and especially by the angelic hosts of heaven (Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4 come to mind).

 

It is no surprise, then, that Orthodox patterns of prayer and worship are in conformity with this heavenly, angelic worship. We do this not because we think human worship should merely be like angelic worship, but because human worship and angelic worship are, in fact, actually done in unison. Our visible worship is joined by the invisible angels; heaven itself descends to earth, and we are raised up to heaven. When we recount the saving activity of God in the world and sing His praises, their voices join ours. When we sing Holy, Holy, Holy we are taking on our lips their words of praise.

 

When we stand in church it is always crowded. We simply do not see with our physical eyes the entire company with whom we are worshiping. Of course, this is one of the reasons Orthodox churches bear the images of saints and angels on their walls; these images present to us the reality of Christian worship. When the clergy make an entrance into the Holy Altar it is not made alone. When we go in procession around the church or into the Altar, when we read the Holy Gospel, when we bear the Gifts to be offered at the Eucharist we are accompanied by the heavenly, angelic hosts.

 

And so it is no accident that just as the company of saints and angels are presented in the icons around us, there are special icons of angels that customarily accompany processions, entrances, Gospel readings, and the offering of the holy Gifts. These icons are depicted on round panels fixed to poles and are called fans. With the advent of screens and closed buildings the ancient need to keep bugs away is now almost forgotten. But the Church has kept these fans because their movement and presence communicate the truth of Orthodox Christian worship: Our worship is truly with the angels, and theirs is truly with ours. Together all of creation stands in awe at the God of heaven Who has united himself with humanity, and together we all cry out: Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal; have mercy on us!

In Christ,

Dn Basil Ferguson

 

 

“Give me a word!”

 

We Orthodox live Christ in the Divine Liturgy, or rather Christ lives within us during the duration of the Divine Liturgy. The Divine Liturgy is the work of God. We say: "It is time for the Lord to act." Among other things, this means that now is the time for the Lord to act. Christ liturgizes, and we live with Christ….

 

Every Divine Liturgy is a Theophany. The Body of Christ appears. Every member of the Church is an icon of the Kingdom of God.

 

After the Divine Liturgy we must continue to iconify the Kingdom of God, keeping His commandments. The glory of Christ is for Him to bear His fruit in every member. This explains His word: "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit" (John 15:8).

 

The Divine Liturgy took place once and forever. It has eternality. Every time the Divine Liturgy is performed, we ascend to its height. If we experience some aspects of the Divine Liturgy, then we will understand its grandeur, as happened with Saint Seraphim of Sarov who saw angels entering the church during the Small Entrance.

 

We follow the Divine Liturgy because we do not experience it, or until we do experience it.

 

When one observes the commandments of Christ, they are not just doing obedience, but they become united with Christ and acquire the mind of Christ.

~Archim. Sophrony (Sakharov)

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