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#1 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 19 November 2009 - 06:32 AM

Dear all,

I've been wondering about the prayer at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy, which says

Yper [...] tis ton panton enoseos, or more fully in English: "For peace in the whole world, for the stability of the holy churches of God, and for the unity of all, let us pray to the Lord ".

Does this prayer refer exclusively to unity in the church, i.e. among believers, or can its meaning be extended to include unity in the entire cosmos? If this latter meaning can be sustained, how would this notion of unity differ from the unity found in say, Hinduism or hermetic philosophy? E.g. the Tabula Smaragdina states that

3) And since all things exist in and eminate from the ONE Who is the ultimate Cause, so all things are born after their kind from this ONE. (Fulcanelli translation)?


I have the impression that 'all things' in Orthodox theology have their logoi, which in turn have their origin in the Divine Logos. Yet in Orthodox theology there is also a distinction between created and Uncreated. Hence the question can be extended: what might an Orthodox notion of cosmic unity include? What would the universe look like, how would created things behave or interact when in harmony with one another? Does this relate to the idea of the consummation of the ages (synteleia) as found in e.g. Hebrews 9:26?

I look forward to your comments.

In Christ,
Byron

#2 Paul Cowan

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Posted 20 November 2009 - 04:07 AM

I think you are using your brain too much.

For peace in the whole world


There is alot of anger out there

for the stability of the holy churches of God


We need stability in our clergy and layity (sp) so we are all on the same page

and for the unity of all


Combine the first two statements

let us pray to the Lord


Lord have mercy

what might an Orthodox notion of cosmic unity include?


Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind and all your soul and all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself.

What would the universe look like, how would created things behave or interact when in harmony with one another?


Love would reign supreme. John Lennon said it best. Imagine a place with no war...

Does this relate to the idea of the consummation of the ages (synteleia) as found in e.g. Hebrews 9:26?


I probably don't understand this statement, but Revelation does not speak of a cosmic peace. It speaks of Armageddan. No love, no peace; war. Look, Christ did not say " I want you guys to come up with as a difficult theological scenarios as you possibly can and then try to come up with formulas to validate them.". No. He said come to me as little children and I will give you rest. Don't over think the message.

Paul

#3 Dimitris

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Posted 21 November 2009 - 06:41 PM

I think, Byron's question is quite interesting. Does the "unity of all" refer to the "holy churches of God", thus meaning "for the holy churches of God and the unity of all these churches" or is "unity of all" a new item not referring to the previous one, thus really meaning "everthing", "all", not just the holy churches of God? From a linguistic point of view there is no answer to the question. So it would be interesting, what the author of the Liturgy was intending to express.

#4 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 23 November 2009 - 07:54 AM

Dear Paul,

You are probably right that I am using my brain too much, although I think the saying "I want you guys to come up with as a difficult theological scenarios as you possibly can and then try to come up with formulas to validate them", is in fact in one of the gnostic gospels! :-)

BTW, John Lennon also sang "...and no religion, too" in that song. It never inspired me to peace.

You write that an Orthodox concept of cosmic unity amounts to

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind and all your soul and all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself.

In a sense, this begs my initial question Paul, because if I understand correctly, what you are suggesting here is that 'cosmic unity' for us Orthodox actually means our own individual and collective unity with God and among men. This would mean that one of Orthodoxy's main concerns is with the condition of the human heart, and that somehow the unity of the whole cosmos is related to this condition. I think one example is the way in which wild beasts have become tame and human-like in the presence of saints such as St Gerasim of Jordan. But also the physcal environment, the very matter of the cosmos can surely be transfigured and healed through man's heart. And this may be, too, what the consummation of the ages (synteleia) is about, by which "a new heaven and a new earth" (Rev. 21:1) will come about. You are of course entirely correct in suggesting that war, Armaggedon and some sort of cataclysm are also involved in that process, but then my question would be: what is the nature of the relation of these apocalyptic events to our own theosis?

While I do agree Paul that living the faith is what matters, I don't think that excludes intellectual query, though you are right to point out the one should not take place at the expense of the other.

Dimitris, you are I feel correct in pointing to the language of the Divine Liturgy as the source of my query, since in Greek the phrase "tis ton panton enoseos" certainly connotes more than unity among believers, at least to the Modern Greek mind. Perhaps some linguists on the forum may have some comments here?

In Christ,
Byron

#5 Alexander Zhdanov

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Posted 23 November 2009 - 09:14 AM

As it seems to me the character of a liturgy consists in a prayer about the whole world because the sun shines to malicious and kind. And about a unification of the whole world because our Lord unites people, restores the destroyed cosmos.

#6 Nina

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Posted 23 November 2009 - 03:50 PM

As it seems to me the character of a liturgy consists in a prayer about the whole world because the sun shines to malicious and kind. And about a unification of the whole world because our Lord unites people, restores the destroyed cosmos.


Yes! Of course we must pray for unity, since unity and harmony are traits of our God. Division and chaos are traits of Satan.

Always keeping in mind though, that by praying for unity of all, we must not understand the New Age spirit, or betrayal of our Faith.

#7 Brian Mickelsen

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Posted 23 November 2009 - 10:30 PM

Hi Byron -

I've been wondering about the prayer at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy, which says Does this prayer refer exclusively to unity in the church, i.e. among believers,


I feel that your initial assertion/comment is the correct one in this instance. Given biblical narratives and existing scriptural boundries, it has to be the only conclusion. Any other conclusion would violate scriptural admonitions.

The reverse would be that the unity of the "cosmos" would include the unbelievers. Obviously false to my thinking. The Lord did not come to bring peace but a sword.

One of my pet pieves is the misuse of the biblical admonition to "make them one as we are one". Suggesting that the oneness is to be between men. The obvious topic in question is the unity between the Father and Son. The desired unity then would be the transfer of the Son's unity with the Father to believers.

"Make the believers one with the Father (through the Holy Spirit) just as Jesus is one with the Father (through the Holy Spirit)".

Excellent topic Byron!

Brian

#8 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 24 November 2009 - 12:09 PM

Dear Brian,

Thank you for the feedback. I do think this is an interesting topic, and I'm a little disappointed it hasn't provoked more responses, because it's the cosmos I'm talking about! Nina is correct that there is a risk of confusing the oneness meant here with the New Age 'no boundaries' kind of oneness, whereas what I'd like to learn is precisely whether any other kind of unity, a Christian unity, is possible, and what that might mean in terms of the universe at large. There is so much concern over the natural environment today, that the sense of social unity among believers seems hardly enough to talk about, however desirable and difficult it may be. What about the whole cosmos? Isn't there a plan for its unity, isn't it groaning in travail towards some new birth? What could the offspring of these pains be? Won't the cosmos be saved whenever we finally might be? How will that happen?

I know Orthodoxy doesn't offer point-by-point answers to such questions, but I was hoping there may be some thoughts to share.

In Christ
Byron

#9 Brian Mickelsen

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Posted 24 November 2009 - 08:44 PM

For a argument/discussion there has to be a mystery. There is no mystery if the wording is clearly spoken of in the scripture.

The Christian unity is a little morphos because we are all united in Christ but at the same time we are all at various stages in our Christian journey. Sometimes the tangent doctrinal stances stop growth into unity. That apparant disunity is only a disunity as far as we/men are concerned. The unity that is all pervasive and not of man's generation cannot be made into disunity. I am speaking of the unity of believers in Christ. We are in Christ because God has given birth to us. We/mankind did not know we were unsaved before conversion and are not capable of converting ourselves.

All Christians are united in Christ because they are not in Christ of their own accord.

Who knows if the "cosmos" will be unified? Not me. I know creation groneth etc. other that that I don't know.

The kingdom coming down in Revealtion is in my opinion the descent onto/into the heart of mankind and not a universal one -- of course I could be wrong.

Brian

#10 Michael Stickles

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Posted 24 November 2009 - 09:34 PM

Does this prayer refer exclusively to unity in the church, i.e. among believers, or can its meaning be extended to include unity in the entire cosmos?


While I've not seen any Patristic commentary on this, it seems reasonable to me that we pray "for the unity of all", and not "for the unity of all believers" or "for the unity of the church", because we are being explicit in not excluding from our prayer those who are not currently in the Church. We are not a "closed club" in the sense that no one "outside" can "enter". However, for them to become a part of the unity we are praying for, would entail them becoming part of the Church.

So I think, as Brian said, that the unity is among believers, but the prayer wishes for all to come and participate in that unity.

In Christ,
Michael

#11 Dimitris

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Posted 24 November 2009 - 10:26 PM

Hm, I have to admit until Byron's post it did not even come into my mind that anything else than the "unity of the holy churches of God" could be meant. Also, I do not see, if we regard the prayer in the above sense, how this would exclude non-believers. To me, rather the opposite is true, if there is unity among the churches of God, then this helps all people, also those not yet inside the church.

Trying to see the question from a linguistic point of view the following - maybe of interst - came into my mind: At the Cherubic Hymn we sing "Let us set aside all the cares of life that we may receive the King of all . . .", "all" meaning "cosmos", "universe". The Greek wording is "os ton Vasilea ton olon...". So we see, "ton olon" is used at one occasion, "ton panton" at the other. I don't actually know if there is a difference between those two expressions. We really need someone who knows Greek ;-)

#12 Father David Moser

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Posted 24 November 2009 - 11:31 PM

Bishop Augoustinos (Kantiotes) of Florina, Greece (many collections of his sermons are published as books) speaks specifically of this litany and suggests that we are praying for the unity of all men before Christ - ideally the unity of all men within the Church. We were created to be united, but have been ever more divided against one another by the evil one. In Christ our unity can be restored, but even in the Church we are often divided against one another. In this litany we pray that such division, whether it be in the world at large or in the Church be done away with and we all stand in unity before Christ. (that was a very free rendering of his homily on my part, btw).

It seems to me in the context of the litany, grammatically, the antecedent of the implied pronoun referred to by "all" encompasses both "the whole world" and "the Holy Churches..." referred to in the previous phrases.

Fr David Moser

#13 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 25 November 2009 - 09:21 AM

Thank you Byron for the interesting question, and to all for the interesting comments thus far.

I do think there is something theological about this 'peace for all' petition - i.e., that it is a direct confession of unity in Christ. The first petition of the great litany is 'In peace, let us pray to the Lord'; the second, 'For the peace from above, and for the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord.' Then this third: 'For the peace of the whole world, for the stability of the holy Churches of God, and for the unity of all...'.

The 'peace' of these petitions is Christ, who is the salvation of humanity and the cosmos, who brings stability to His Body, and who draws all creation unto Himself - as its Creator. This is not to say that creation becomes indistinct, that everything is simply 'merged together' in some hermetic way; for Christ creates every nature distinctly, and what it means for each nature to be in union with Him is different. Perfect unity of 'all' in Christ is perfect distinction, echoing the genuine contours of creation unfractured by sin.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#14 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 25 November 2009 - 02:56 PM

Dear all,

Thank you for your responses so far. I have pasted below some quotations from an article by Metropolitan Paul Yazigi which seems relevant, and can be found here:

The theological teaching of St Maximus about God, man and the world is summarized in his use of the image of the church. The church, in fact, is the “image of God”, because it is performing the same work as He does, and God works through it. God is drawing creation to Himself, and the church is the net with which He is doing
so. (p.5)

Realizing this [cosmic] unity, and the process of reaching it, is aborted because of sin, since Adam’s fall. Man beholds God’s image, but seeking God (in the likeness of Whom he should be) was delayed and ceased for a while. Since then, division reigns over humanity and the universe, at all levels: with God, with the universe, with the angels, with his fellow man, and within himself. It is evident, then, that the process of reaching unity with God should begin by gathering what is scattered. Unity is achieved only when what is broken and divided is restored. (p.6)

God created man at the end of his work of creation, in order that man, having spiritual potentials, would unify the creation in his person, so all the worlds would come into the one and same unity, harmonious and comprehensive. But sin by itself alone showed that man is so weak that he is unable to realize such a project. Unfortunately, man, this free being, misused his potentials leading these worlds into a bigger differentiation instead of narrowing the difference and bringing them into unity. Sin increasingly separated the different levels of creation and led them to wage war […] between one another. Human nature with its spiritual potentials is able to bring out this unity, a work that is the divine goal of creating the world and man. When Adam failed first to achieve this goal, Jesus Christ succeeded, not only as an event, but also as a way that man can follow and realize as much as he can. […] Man’s role in the work of creation is to bring the differentiations into unity. This is the role of the gifts he has been given. This could be realized only through God, when he lifts them all to God, in Whom and with Whom they shall meet. God created man in order that the life of the latter should dwell around the former. God also created the world for man to become a matter of the work of his life. Unfortunately, man behaved in an unnatural and ignorant way in that his life became centered not on its Creator, but on the creation made for him. He began therefore to lose his life’s source until God intervened in men’s life and became incarnated in Christ, and saved the work of His hands. By centering his life on the world, man loosed his ability to lift it up to the Creator, the world that was donated to man by God. Therefore, man faced the tragic consequence that he will never achieve the binding together of the world’s differentiations that came out of its varieties. (p.7)

When the human mind seeks and loves virtue, then man’s earthly life is restored to its unity, and those terrible contradictions will be removed. This way, the chasm between what is material and what is spiritual in life will vanish and will be brought together. Unfortunately, many people have a platonic and not a Christian view of life matters. For them, Flesh is opposite to the spirit; wealth contrary to love and charity; science on the antipode of faith; sacrifice opposite to being; eating against fasting or pleasure against religion, etc. There is a huge gap between what is ‘above’ and what is ‘below’, what is ‘here’, and what is ‘there’. But the Christian vision is quite different from that approach: because heaven is the earth in its true image, or as it should be; wealth is the tool of love and charity; real pleasure is in the spirit; money is a great spiritual tool; through fasting is the dignity of food. Spirituality is not thought to be the absence of materiality, but the presence of God in it. Materiality is not identified with the matters of the world, but is the absence of God when using the world. One must look at the earth as heaven, and place a goal for history, and a spiritual vision for the world, which can be summarized as sanctification of time and place. Sanctity is not exterior to materiality or superior to it, rather it is the way of using matter and the goal towards which we use it. Matter will lose its value outside sanctity. If the earth does not become heaven, then it will be stolen from man and it will be lost because of him. This virtue is called “mindful understanding”. (p.11)

Divine Love will pour its divinity upon human wisdom. When pain and human conflicts are banished by spiritual virility, when humanity becomes a one human family in holiness, when the human mind leads humanity with ‘intelligence’ to Wisdom and knowledge of God, then life becomes ‘love’. God’s love embraces one’s love for one another. Love is happiness, and happiness is life. Jesus came to build this one world with this unique love, which is not generated by worldly desires but by God’s grace that transforms man into a humble, praying, working creature, opening his heart to the breath of the Holy Spirit, looking at the world in its universality and unity, trampling down sin that divides the world from within. Man becomes the free “son of God” who perceives the church as a companionship of God and man, and not the narrowness of confessions. The church is not a confessional community, a religion or an organization. It is a ‘cosmic liturgy’, within which God works by his Holy Spirit and deals with the free man, whoever he is, and calls him to divine love. The human being is lifted up to such a sphere, bleeding from divine eros, and his life dwells around its divine and true origin. This is the spiritual man in whose likeness the Scriptures call every man to be. In such a man, all divisions come to unity, even the created with the uncreated, but only by grace. (p.15)

What I'm getting from the discussion so far, is that Christian unity does refer to unity of the entire cosmos, but particularly Fr Dcn Matthew's comment on distinctiveness not being eliminated in an act of fusion or merger, is I feel a good way of viewing the meaning of "tis ton panton enoseos" in the Liturgy, whether this refers to persons or other, non-personal beings. But I think this is a big question, and will certainly appreciate more feedback on it.

In Christ,
Byron

#15 Brian Mickelsen

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Posted 25 November 2009 - 04:06 PM

Joh 17:9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.

The following comment is an allusiion (I feel) by by Metropolitan Paul Yazigi on Christ's prayer of John 17:9 pasted above --

It is evident, then, that the process of reaching unity with God should begin by gathering what is scattered. Unity is achieved only when what is broken and divided is restored. (p.6)

Metropolitan Paul Yazigi also states that --

"If the earth does not become heaven, then it will be stolen from man and it will be lost because of him. This virtue is called “mindful understanding”. (p.11)

This is close to the thoughts expressed by several disperate groups which state that Heaven will eventually be on earth. The earth will endure forever granted, but the transformation is often veiled in symbolic language. I can see how people can assume that the earth will change however even more pronounced than that, I see individual's changing.

When mentioned in scripture, this individual change is not veiled in mysterious language but is clearly stated.

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.

When this concept of the transformation of the cosmos is addressed it is generally in veiled and mysterious language. This fact only strengthens my viewpoint, because the veiling itself suggests a true meaning that is not obvious. More likely (in my opinion) is the fact that the transformation referred to, weather in a mystery or in plain language, is the transformation of the human heart.

If the true nature of the cosmos is to be transformed it is not (in my opinion) something that mankind should be concerned with given that the prayer of Christ (our example) in John 17 did not include, but specifically excluded the prayer for the world.

Is it not possible that the earth will remain as it is, and continue to be a maternity/maturation avenue for the people of God.

Brian

#16 Brian Mickelsen

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Posted 25 November 2009 - 05:14 PM

I would like to try and respond to Byron and Pauls referance to Heb 9:26, and in particular the phrase "consumation" of the ages" in Hebrews 9:26. I consider this to refer to the "goal" of the Ages. I say that because the ages did not end at that time of Jesus first appearance.

I am not that familiar with Greek and thus I have to refer to dictionaries etc. however, this use/translation of the word "goal" in this instance does not suggest a wrapping up or finality to the cosmos/world, from what I understand. I have at some point found that this word "consummation" can be referred to as "a point aimed at" but I can't remember where I read this.

To me this suggests that the goal of "all" ages, both the age before and the age after the crucifixion, was the appearance of Christ Jesus.

If the appearance of Christ is the goal of the Ages both before and after the crucifixion then a continuing number of ages can occur after the crucifixion.

If the consummation/goal occured at the first appearance of Christ, then the people of future ages must - so to speak - aim backwards to that appearance, or expect another appearance.

There will be a another appearance of course, but it will still be the same consummation. Which is to ssay we will still look for the appearance of Christ.

The appearance/consummation in future ages is to those people that "wait" for Christ. He will not appear to everyone in future ages as He did in His first appearance according to Heb 9:28.

Heb 9:28 so also the Christ, once having been offered to bear the sins of many, a second time, apart from a sin-offering, shall appear, to those waiting for him--to salvation! (YLT)

This does not suggest a universal appearance or consummation/goal but a selective one.

Brian

Edited by Brian Mickelsen, 25 November 2009 - 05:19 PM.
add punctuation and remove uneccessary wording


#17 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 25 November 2009 - 09:18 PM

Dear Brian,

I'm not at all sure I follow how your comments relate to the point of the 'unity of all' of the third petition in the great litany, save for the basic affirmation that Christ is the source of unity. But of course this does not mean that any one aims 'back' at Christ; Christ is always present, always expected, always the 'Coming One' (ho erchomenos). He is never 'past'.

Byron, I think there is - as you and others have said - room to see both the whole of the cosmos, as well as more particularly the faithful of the Church, referred to in these important opening petitions. Indeed, there is something telling about the fact that they are repeated just prior to the Great Entrance, at the second 'Litany of the Faithful' - in modern practice only when a deacon serves. It is interesting that we have here moved from the 'whole cosmos' of the opening of the Liturgy (with its psalms on the creation, governments, rule, etc.), to the faithful proper; and in this movement the petition occurs in both places -- as if emphasising that its calls for union in the Lord can and do apply to both.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#18 Brian Mickelsen

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Posted 25 November 2009 - 11:27 PM

Byron Asked in post #1--

Hence the question can be extended: what might an Orthodox notion of cosmic unity include? What would the universe look like, how would created things behave or interact when in harmony with one another? Does this relate to the idea of the consummation of the ages (synteleia) as found in e.g. Hebrews 9:26?



And in His response Paul commented on each line of the liturgy in post #2. If I understand his post correctly Paul was saying that He probably did not understand Heb 9:26, but did not think that it, or the book of revelation related to Cosmic peace.

I agree with Paul in this regard.

Paul stated that He did not think that the book of revelation spoke of cosmic peace with the following statement --

I probably don't understand this statement (Heb 9:26), but Revelation does not speak of a cosmic peace


I responded by illustrating that (in my opinion) Heb 9:26 does not refer to cosmic unity. I tried to show that the phrase "consummation of the ages" was not making referance to a notion of Cosmic unity/peace but to the appearance of Christ.


The appearance of Christ being the consummation of the Ages.

Thus -- Heb 9:26 does not relate to the notion of Cosmic unity.

Which was Byrons question in post #1.


Brian

#19 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 26 November 2009 - 08:37 AM

Dear Byron and others,

Following from my brief note in a post above (#17), I thought I'd offer the liturgical setting of this twofold appearance of the petition for unity. It occurs first in the great litany at the beginning of the Liturgy; and then it re-appears at the second litany of the faithful (when a deacon serves), just prior to the Cherubic Hymn and great entrance.

As part of the great litany, the petition occurs in the series of petitions which encompass all of creation and lead from 'the world' into the meeting of earth and heaven that is the Liturgy itself. When the deacon has completed this litany, the priest offers the following benediction:

O Lord our God, whose might is incomparable and whose glory is beyond all understanding, whose mercy is without measure and whose love for mankind is beyond all telling, look down on us and on this holy house, O Master, in thy loving kindness, and bestow on us and on those who pray with us the riches of thy mercy and compassion. For to Thee...

And the people (in normal Russian Orthodox parish practice) then sing the first antiphonal psalm ('Bless the Lord, O my soul...'), which lauds God's mercy and love, and His mastery over all.

Later in the service, at the second litany of the faithful, the priest concludes the deacon's petitions (which have again repeated the 'for the union of all') with the following prayer:

Again and many times we fall down before thee and beseech thee, who art good and lovest mankind; look upon our prayer and cleanse our souls and bodies from every defilement of flesh and spirit; and grant us to stand without guilt or condemnation before thy holy altar. Bestow also on those who pray with us, O God, progress in life and faith and spiritual understanding. Grant that, always worshipping thee with fear and love, they may partake of thy holy mysteries without guilt or condemnation, and be counted worthy of thy heavenly kingdom. That being always guarded by Thy might...

And this is immediately followed by the people singing the hymn of the cherubim - about laying aside earthly cares and being drawn into communion with the King of all.

So we have a pattern that repeats, but in its second instance has moved from the vast scope of creation and all mankind, deliberately into the assembly of gathered faithful, about to partake of the Eucharist (further emphasised by the fact that at this stage, traditionally, the catechumens would already have left the temple):

At the first:
  • Litany, with 'for the union of all'
  • Priest blesses, with words of cosmic scope
  • People laud God's mastery over all creation
At the second:
  • Litany, with 'for the union of all'
  • Priest blesses, with words preparing the communing faithful for reception
  • People sing for a receipt of the divine Lord
I always find this a beautiful example of how words may have differing meanings as the Church employs them in different places. Here the same phrase is called upon to invoke union in different senses (both important, both significant), given its meaning entirely by where it fits in the greater motion and movement of the Liturgy.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#20 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 26 November 2009 - 09:51 AM

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.

In Christ,
Byron




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