Dear Fr Dcn Matthew,
Thank you for pointing out the way the phrase 'for the union of all' takes on different shades of meaning depending on its place within the Divine Liturgy. While I instinctively feel that the intuition of the 'union of all' referring to the whole cosmos is true, I am interested in and can also to some extent empathize with Brian's and Paul's suggestion that the reference is to Christians alone. If this more confined meaning was the only permissible one, however, then what would become of man's role as the priest of creation? It seems to me that it is not necessarily pelagianism - if that's what Brian is hinting at where he writes
The idea of mankind fighting for posession of the cosmos/reality is lofty indeed. Given the fact that a person cannot save themselves or even really change by themselves, I find this assertion dubious.
- nor is it mystification or hermeticism to believe that we, each of us as unique persons, are called to behave in such a way that the Uncreated can come to reside within our created nature. I do agree that the mechanism, the way things will come about and the timing of events has not been disclosed to man; but interestingly, St Symeon the New Theologian argued that, far from Christ's second coming being for his elect, it is an event that will mostly concern sinners. The Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, Hierotheos Vlachos, writes:
In the works of Saint Symeon the New Theologian, we can trace one more truth regarding the Second Coming of Christ, and especially with the judgment of mankind. Saint Symeon extensively analyzes how the Second Coming and the future Tribunal will be taking place chiefly for the sinners who have been living in vices and sins, and not for the saints, who are already living in the Presence of Christ. All those who are children of that Light, and all those who become the sons of the future Day, “the day of the Lord shall never arrive”; Christ will of course come to judge mankind, however, they have already been judged from this lifetime and no Tribunal will be awaiting to try them. The presence of Christ is a matter of joy and jubilation. When a Christian observes with due reverence and fear the commandments of Christ and lives in repentance, he becomes related to that Light, and thus, in reality, he has passed judgment from this lifetime. A theumen is baptized by the divine fire and the Holy Spirit “and all of him becomes fully pure, fully untainted, a son of the light and of the day, and no longer of a mortal human”. I will quote a remarkable passage by Saint Symeon the New Theologian, because I cannot overlook it and not bring it to your attention, and also it is impossible for it to be presented in my own words. “Such a person shall also not be judged in the future Tribunal, for he has been judged beforehand; nor shall he be checked by that Light, for he has received the light beforehand; nor shall he upon entering the fire be tested or burned, for he has been tested beforehand; nor shall he then perceive the day of the Lord, for on account of his conversing and his union with God, he shall himself have already become a bright and glorious day.” The statement of Saint Symeon is amazing. I would like to comment on the fact that judgment essentially takes place from this lifetime; the person who sees the light is baptized in the Holy Spirit and he does not need to think about the day of the Lord, because with his union to God, he is already a bright and glorious day. We need to note the word “union”, which is indicative of man’s communion with God. It is a fact, that if man becomes a bright and glorious day himself, he will not be able to discern the arrival of that Day. That Day is his own personal existential event; thus, the Second Coming will be apparent mainly to the sinners, who have lived during the present lifetime with their vices and did not keep God’s commandments.
What could the 'new heaven' and 'new earth' (Rev. 21:1) be, if not a transfiguration of the visible and invisible cosmos, as well as of the saints? St Irenaeus writes
Isaiah also declares the very same: For there shall be a new heaven and a new earth; and there shall be no remembrance of the former, neither shall the heart think about them, but they shall find in it joy and exultation. Isaiah 65:17-18 Now this is what has been said by the apostle: For the fashion of this world passes away. 1 Corinthians 7:31 To the same purpose did the Lord also declare, Heaven and earth shall pass away. Matthew 26:35 When these things, therefore, pass away above the earth, John, the Lord's disciple, says that the new Jerusalem above shall [then] descend, as a bride adorned for her husband; and that this is the tabernacle of God, in which God will dwell with men. Of this Jerusalem the former one is an image— that Jerusalem of the former earth in which the righteous are disciplined beforehand for incorruption and prepared for salvation. And of this tabernacle Moses received the pattern in the mount; Exodus 25:40 and nothing is capable of being allegorized, but all things are steadfast, and true, and substantial, having been made by God for righteous men's enjoyment. For as it is God truly who raises up man, so also does man truly rise from the dead, and not allegorically, as I have shown repeatedly. And as he rises actually, so also shall he be actually disciplined beforehand for incorruption, and shall go forwards and flourish in the times of the kingdom, in order that he may be capable of receiving the glory of the Father. Then, when all things are made new, he shall truly dwell in the city of God. For it is said, He that sits on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And the Lord says, Write all this; for these words are faithful and true. And He said to me, They are done. Revelation 21:5-6 And this is the truth of the matter.
So I also do not know, Brian, how any of these things are to come about, but I still feel that 'the union of all' means literally, all. I observe a tension between the quiet, gentle and humble manner in which saints are called to steward the Lord's creation, and the apparently cataclysmic nature of apocalyptic events, but again, the one seems more appropriate to man's end of the covenant, and the other to the Lord's share.