The Divine Eucharist as a Journey

Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian


Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian

My beloved spiritual children in Our Risen Lord, Redeemer, God and Our Only True Savior,

CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!

RESURRECTION ODE

Let us who have beheld the Resurrection of Christ, worship our Holy Lord Jesus, Who is alone without sin. We worship Thy Cross, O Christ, and praise and glorify Thy Holy Resurrection. For Thou art our God, and we know none other beside Thee, and we call upon Thy Name. Come, all ye faithful, let us worship Christ's Holy Resurrection, for behold, through the Cross, joy has come to the whole world. We praise His Resurrection, and forever glorify the Lord. He endured the Cross for us, and by death destroyed Death. Jesus, having risen from the grave, as He foretold, has given to us Eternal Life and the Great Mercy. Amen.

+++

SYNAXARION FOR MAY 8TH (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):

On May 8th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers of every righteous soul made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian; Saint Arsenius the Great of Egypt; St. Emelia, mother of Saint Basil the Great; Saint Macarius of Ghent; Saint Iduberga, foundress of Nijvel; Translation (Anakomide) of the holy relics of St. Arsenius of Novgorod; Soldier Martyrs slain by the sword; Miracle wrought by the holy icon of the Mother of God of Cassiope.

SYNAXARION FOR MAY 9TH:

Saiah the Holy Prophet; Saint Christopher of Lycia, and with him Holy Martyrs Callinica and Aquilina; St. Shio of Mgvime, Georgia; St. Epimachus and Gordian of Rome; St. Nicholas of Larissa in Thessaly.

THE HOLY MARTYR CHRISTOPHER. A great wonderworker, he is especially venerated in Spain. His help is invoked particularly against infections, illnesses, and great pestilence. He was martyred for Christ and glorified in 249 AD.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Ascetics, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Evangelists,  Holy Soldiers, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us.

HOLY APOSTLE AND EVANGELIST JOHN THE THEOLOGIAN. The main commemoration of Saint John the Holy Apostle, Evangelist, and Theologian is on September 26th, but on May 8th is commemorated a wonderful revelation about his grave. When Saint John was more than a hundred years old, he took seven of his disciples, went outside the city of Ephesus and told the disciples to dig a grave in the form of a cross. Then the old man went down alive into the grave and was buried. When the faithful later opened St. John's grave, they did not find the body in it. And on May 8th each year a dust arose from the grave from which those suffering from many diseases were healed. (Source: The Prologue from Ochrid).

When Saint John was on his way to preach in Asia, the ship was destroyed by a storm. For two weeks, he was assumed dead. Suddenly, the waves cast him ashore alive at the feet of his disciple Prochoros. When Saint John denounced idol-worship as demon-worship in a temple of Artemis, the people stoned him. However, the rocks returned and hit the throwers. He prayed in the temple, and fire from heaven killed two hundred men. When the remaining group begged for mercy, he raised the two hundred from the dead, and they were all converted and baptized. He drove off the demon that had lived there for 249 years. He was then exiled to the Greek island of Patmos. Aboard ship, he purified vessels of seawater for drinking. A magician named Ceonops pretended to make three dead people come to life. Instead, they were demons who took on the appearance of these men. Through prayer, Saint John caused the magician to be drowned and the demons to vanish. Finally, in Patmos, on a mountain, after three days of prayer, Saint John dictated his Gospel to his disciple Prochoros. Later, also on the island of Patmos, after twenty days of fasting, he also dictated the Book of Apocalypse (Revelation). Saint John fell asleep in the Lord when he was one hundred years old.

OUR HOLY FATHER ARSENIUS THE GREAT. Saint Arsenius was born of a patrician family in Rome, and was well-educated both in secular learning and philosophy and in spiritual wisdom. Abandoning all secular studies, he gave himself to the service of the Church and was deacon in a large church in Rome. Unmarried, retiring, silent and prayerful, St. Arsenius thought that he would spend his whole life in that way. But, by the Providence of God, his life was directed in a different way. The Emperor Theodosius summoned him to bring up and educated his two sons, Arcadius and Honorius, and made him a senator, surrounding him with wealth, honor and luxury. But his was a greater burden than pleasure to the heart of Arsenius. It happened at one time that Arcadius was at fault, and St. Arsenius punished him for it. The insulted Arcadius thought up a harsh revenge on his teacher, and, when St. Arsenius discovered this, he dressed himself in simple clothing, went to the coast, got into a boat and sailed to Egypt. When he arrived at the famous Scetis, he became a disciple of John the Dwarf and gave himself to asceticism. He considered himself as one dead, and, when he was informed that a rich kinsman had died and left him all his goods, he replied: "I died before he did. How, then, can I be his heir?' He retired to a cell in the desert as into a grave, and there he spent his days weaving baskets from palm leaves and his nights in prayer. He fled from men and from every conversation with men. Only on feast-days did he leave his cell and come to the church for Holy Communion. In order not to become idle, he often put this question to himself: 'Arsenius, why did you come into the desert?' He spent thirty-five years as a hermit, and all that time he was an example to the monks and the glory of monasticism. In all, he lived a hundred years and departed this life peacefully in 448 AD, after long labors and trials voluntarily taken on himself. He went to the Kingdom of Christ the Lord, Whom he had loved with all his heart and soul.

______________________________________________

TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:

Holy Epistle Lesson: 1 John 1:1-7
Holy Gospel Lesson: 19:25-28, 21:24-25

INSPIRING SAYINGS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY FATHERS AND HOLY MOTHERS OF THE CHURCH:

"Rejoice when you perform the virtues, but do not become exalted, lest, arriving at the pier, you suffer a shipwreck." (Saint Nilus of Sinai)

______________________________________________________________

THE DIVINE EUCHARIST AS A JOURNEY
By His Eminence Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos (Source: Hesychia and Theology: The Context for Man's Healing in the Orthodox Church.)

Before we identify specific hesychastic elements observable in the texts of the Divine Eucharist, we ought first to consider its universal perspective as a spiritual journey leading upwards but also downwards. This is not our journey from home to the church building, but out progress from corruption and mortality to reborn life, from created to the uncreated temple, from created to uncreated worship, from rational prayer to noetic prayer, and from biological life to eternal life.

a) The Divine Eucharist is actually an ascent of Mount Sinai, as foreshadowed by the people of Israel and Moses. Just as the Israelites stayed at the foot of Mount Sinai, so during the Divine Liturgy, by analogy, the laity either leave the church building as catechumens and penitents, or stay inside, praying and taking communion in repentance and contrition. As Moses entered the darkness and beheld the glory of God, so, by analogy, the clergy ascend the chancel steps, enter the Holy Sanctuary and see God's Glory. The obvious difference is that under the Old Testament participation in the glory of the Triune God was through the Unincarnate Logos (Word), whereas under the New Testament we experience participation in His glory in the Incarnate Logos (Word).

b) The Divine Eucharist is an ascent to the upper room in Jerusalem where Christ first celebrated the Mystical (Last) Supper, passing on to us the revered Sacraments. This ascent is much emphasized by the Holy Fathers of the Church. The Divine Eucharist itself is called, and is the Mystical Supper. It is not simply a recollection of the event of the Last Supper, but a participation in it, and also in the supper at the end of time, the supper in the Kingdom of God. All Christ's Parables referring to the supper and the wedding point to this.

The Words of Institution of the Divine Eucharist are Christ's words: "Take, eat; this is My Body which is broken for you for the remission of sins", and "Drink ye all of it; this is My Blood of the new testament, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins." When they are pronounced out loud this show that the Christians have ascended to the upper room and are taking part in the Last Supper. The Priest's prayer before the changing of the Precious Gifts, when he repeats Christ's words, "Do this in remembrance of Me; for as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show My death and confess by resurrection", also makes this fact clear. In accordance with the liturgical phrase, "remembering therefore this commandment of salvation", this is not simply a matter of commemoration but of obedience to God's Commandment and participation in the Mystical Supper.

c) The Divine Eucharist also means going up to Gethsemane and Golgotha, as well as going down into hell. It is a journey with Christ to His Sacrifice and Tomb. "Remembering therefore this commandment of salvation, and all those things which came to pass for our sakes: the Cross, the tomb..." and, "wherefore we also, O Master, having in remembrance His redeeming Passion and Life-Giving Cross, the three days He was in the tomb…"

d) The Divine Eucharist is also an ascent to the upper room of Pentecost, where ten days after His Ascension Christ's Disciples received the Holy Spirit and through the Holy Spirit became members of the Body of Christ. It was then, on the day of Pentecost, that they experienced the grace of the Triune God "in the person of Christ Jesus" proceeding from within, for they themselves had become members of the Body of Christ. Before Pentecost the Body of Christ was outside the Disciples, but at Pentecost the Disciples become members of His Body.

The Divine Eucharist points Christians towards this same path. After the Words of Institution of the Divine Eucharist have been pronounced, the Father is entreated to send the Holy Spirit to change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. The Celebrant Priest, at the central point of the Divine Eucharist, beseeches the Father: and make this bread the precious Body of Thy Christ. And that which is this cup the precious Blood of Thy Christ. Transmaking them by Thy Holy Spirit" and, "We pray Thee and beseech Thee, O Holy of Holies, of the good pleasure of Thy goodness let Thy Holy Spirit come upon us and upon these gifts here set forth"

After the consecration of the precious gifts the priest beseeches God the Father to make partaking of them effective "unto the communion of Thy Holy Spirit." And also to unite all the partakers "in the communion of the Holy Spirit."

e) As we have seen already, the Divine Eucharist is an experience of the Mystery of Christ's Cross and Resurrection. In the Eucharistic Prayers we not only see the unity between the Cross and Resurrection of Christ but also His invitation to Christians to share in the Mystery of His Cross and Resurrection. "Remembering therefore...the Cross, the Tomb, the Resurrection on the third day."

Experiencing the mystery of Christ's Cross, His Tomb, His Descent into Hell and His Resurrection is obviously not merely an intellectual, liturgical commemoration, but is linked with man's whole hesychastic and ascetic life.

The Divine Eucharist lifts man up to experience the mystery of God's love and increases the Christian's love for God. As stated in Christ's Parables, the Divine Eucharist is the mystery of the spiritual wedding, because it represents man's communion with God.

This love, however, is not something sentimental or an anthropocentric state. It is man's communion with God as a result of the Resurrection and presupposes that he has passed through Golgotha. To experience love in the theological sense, self-love must be transformed into love for God and our fellow human being…

Christ conquered death through His voluntary Crucifixion, His descent into Hell and His Resurrection. United with Christ, the Christian too can be victorious over death within his own life, and experienced the mystery of the Resurrection. In the Orthodox Christian Tradition this is referred to as living the mystery of Christ's Cross and Resurrection.

Living the mystery of the Cross comes through voluntary struggle in Christ to purify the passions, and living Christ's Resurrection comes through the illumination of the nous (the eye of the soul) according to Christ and through deification (theosis). This is how godly love is acquired.

______________________________________________________________________

CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!

+

Glory Be To GOD For All Things!

+

With sincere agape in His Holy Resurrection,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George