The Liturgy in the World: A perpetual longing

The Liturgy in the World: A perpetual longing

The Liturgy has ended.  The Eucharist has been celebrated at the thousands of altars throughout the world — wherever possible, believers have gathered to receive the “Bread of Heaven” and to drink of the “Cup of Life.”

On the same final evening on which Jesus celebrated a secret Communion with His disciples, He made a farewell speech to them and prayed to His Father for them and for those who, through their words, believed in Him.  He spoke of the believers and of the world, in which they would “have trouble.”

In our own post-Christian time, the concept of “world” in the sense in which Christ used it can be felt very clearly.  Lands which were originally Christian are now either officially atheist or are neutral towards religion.  Faith is considered as a private affair for the citizens.

A recent Divine Liturgy at the Entrance of the Gospel

Centuries have passed since nations’ leaders, in their speeches, openly stated that they believed in God, appealed for His help, or did something to glorify His Name.

Man has now officially and publicly forgotten God.  Turning his back on God, he now looks after the affairs of the world by the power of his own genius.

The Creator, from His own essential nature, endowed man with self-awareness, creativity, and a free will.

And what do we see in practice?  Separated from the will of God and indifferent to it, man’s free will is transformed, as the result of pride, suspicion and hatred, into a world-destroying power which causes both man and nature to groan.

Is there no place from which we might expect something decisively new, which could alter the direction of this development?

What if we are looking for solutions in the wrong direction?

Perhaps it is to be found in what has been left behind!

It came as good news “to all the nations” — as the Gospel.

Its influence can still be felt in all that is really beautiful, good, and right.

The Gospel has not come to nothing.  The Eucharist — whether celebrated secretly in the barracks of a concentration camp or in a gilded cathedral — contains the timeless presence of the new message.  There indeed time loses its meaning in an intersection of past, present and future, in the way in which Christ is at the same time both the Lamb of God who has taken away the sins of the world and the King of Glory raised to the glory of the Father.

Just as the Christians at the time of the martyrs met their crucified but risen Lord in Communion, so Christians in our time, who are “in the world but not of the world,” experience the Eucharist as the source of the power of their faith.

Again and again, this power is given to the weary traveler along God’s way.

Thus the “new” is continuously new and fresh in this age “till He comes.”

And until then, the Christian’s walking in newness of life (Rom 6:4) is from “Liturgy to Liturgy,” a perpetual longing for the Love Feast of the Kingdom of God.

From Archbishop Paul of Finland, The Feast of Faith (SVS Press).