Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Divine Liturgy

(Icon: "The Divine Liturgy," by Michael Damaskinos, 16th cent.)

I have a copy of this icon in my church office. The basics of the image are clear: this is the Trinity--Father, Son and Holy Spirit, enthroned in glory, and all around them, worshiping, are various classes of the heavenly beings. They carry with them books of worship and incense and candles and a chalice and a literalized image of "the body of Christ." Below are two saints, looking down at the globe of the earth in prayerful contemplation. This is a vision of "the divine liturgy," the worship service of the Christian church, as it goes on in the heavenly courts.

This image serves as theological reminder to me of a very important fact, one rooted in Scriptures (such as the worship scenes in Revelation) and in the ancient traditions of Christianity: when we worship, we are actually taking part in the timeless, eternal worship of God in the heavenly places. The Body of Christ is not limited to the four walls of my church in Calais, Maine--it is a trans-historical, international community that is mystically interconnected throughout time and space. As the Orthodox traditions of the church teach, the Christian service of worship is an event that actually occurs beyond the limits of time and space, connected with all the churches from all time that have worshiped in this way, and connected with the timeless courts of the Trinitarian God, where such worship is the very nature of reality itself. When we worship in our church every Sunday, we do it in the presence of all the angels and the saints. That is something worth remembering.