суббота, 16 октября 2010 г.

THE KINGDOM OF GOD. +

Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh
                     THE KINGDOM OF GOD
                           1972
                           ----

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

I  should  like  to  begin  with  a  short  reading  from  the book of
Revelation, chapters 21 and 22: «I heard a great voice from the throne
saying,  'Behold,  the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with
them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them;
He  will  wipe  away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no
more,  neither  shall there be mourning nor crying, nor pain any more,
for  the  former  things  have  passed  away.' And He who sat upon the
throne  said,  'Behold,  I  make all things new.' Also He said, 'Write
this,  for  these  words  are  truthworthy and true... He who conquers
shall  have  this  heritage,  and I will be his God and he shall be my
son...'  'I,  Jesus, have sent my angel to you with this testimony for
the  churches.  I  am  the root and the offspring of David, the bright
morning  star.'  The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come'. And let him who
hears say 'Come'. And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires
take  the  water  of life without price. ... He who testifies to these
things  says,  'Surely, I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The
grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen».

This  is  the great expectation, but this is not only expectation. The
Kingdom  of God which is to come has also come with power. He has come
in  many  places,  into  many hearts, into many families, in an almost
unnoticeable  way, surreptitiously, like a thief at the dead of night.
The  Kingdom  has come into human relationships with a new recognition
of  men,  with  a  new  dimension of love, the sacrificial love of the
living  God.  So  the  Kingdom is within us, and the Kingdom is in our
midst.  All  things  are on their way into our hearts, into our minds,
into  our  lives,  into  our  will,  conquering  everything  in us. So
embodied God is at work. He conquers, and He shall conquer.

But  if  we  are  His  own people, if we are the people of God, we are
called  not  only  to  be the objects of salvation, not only to be the
recipients  of  grace,  not  only  to  be  conquered,  but we have the
privilege  of  being the elect of God, the chosen of God who may serve
His  purpose.  We  are  the people of God whom He can trust because we
know  Him,
because we worship Him in reverence and in faithfulness, to
whom  He  can  say  «Go»  and  who shall go; «Die», and who shall die;
«Live», and who shall live.


And at the heart of this mission of ours there are words which we have
heard   twice   in   the  course  of  this  week  at  two  eucharistic
celebrations:  «Do  this  in remembrance of me». And doing this in the
context  of our Sacred Liturgies, in the dividedness of the historical
Christendom,  we have been painfully aware of separation while we were
amazingly aware of closeness. Is there a point where within these very
words,  «Do  this in remembrance of me», we can be even closer than we
imagine, even if we do not break the bread together nor share the same
cup?  May  I  venture to say that I believe we are a great deal closer
than we imagine.

When  we  apply these words to the bread broken and to the cup shared,
we  think  in  liturgical terms; and we forget that at the Last Supper
these words and this gesture stood for more than an act of fellowship,
more  than  for a ritual. The bread broken was an image of the Body of
Christ  broken  for  the salvation of the world. The cup shared was an
image  of  the  Blood  of Christ spent for the life of the world. Both
stood   for  divine  love  that  has  become  incarnate  in  order  to
participate  in  all  the  tragedy of mankind in an act of perfect and
crucifying  solidarity  that  mankind may be saved. And this means all
men, beginning with the faithful, as St. Paul says.

Beyond   the   boundaries  of  the  liturgical  action  there  is  the
existential  doing, all the things for which the breaking of bread and
the sharing of the cup stand. They stand for the act of Incarnation in
which  God  unites  Himself  to  man,  and indeed to the whole cosmos,
taking  upon  Himself  all the destiny of mankind, identifying Himself
not  only  with His creature but with His fallen creature, and all the
conditions  of  man,  not  only to the point of life and preaching and
ministering,  not only to the point of physical death but to the point
of sharing with men the only basic tragedy of mankind: the loss of God
-  «My  God,  my  God,  why hast Thou forsaken me?» - that loss of God
which  is  the beginning of mortality, that loss of God that kills and
that  killed.  The  Son  of God became the Son of Man in His humanity.
They  stand  for  that solidarity of God with us which is expressed in
the anguish of the Garden of Gethsemane when Christ was facing death -
a  death which had nothing to do with Him because He was life, a death
which  could  not be inflicted on Him because He says Himself that the
prince  of  this world will find nothing in Him that belongs to him, a
death  which  was  a free gift of His life, a death which is all death
accepted  and  shared  by  Him  who  could not die. They stand for the
Crucifixion, the physical experience of the immortal sharing the death
of  His  creature,  of  Him  who  was  the  Son  of  God, in an act of
incredible solidarity, losing the sense of His oneness with the Father
and  dying  of  it.  That  is what this breaking of the bread and this
sharing of the cup stand for.

This,  indeed,  we  can do in remembrance of Him together, without any
separateness, in the historical Christian body. This we can do; we can
be  incarnate,  take  on  the  flesh of this tragic world upon us, and
carry  its sin as a cross. We can identify with the death of the dying
and  the  suffering  of the sufferer, as Christ on the Mount of Olives
facing  an alien death in His own flesh in an act of compassion in the
strongest  sense  of the word, of solidarity that goes to the point of
identification and substitution. We can face together living and dying
- dying physically, dying in health but also dying in that act of love
which  is a final, total, ultimate renunciation to all that is for the
sake of the other.

And  we hear the word addressed to us: «Do this in remembrance of me.»
Even  if  we  cannot share liturgically the bread and the wine, we can
share  fully  and  completely what it stands for and be inseparable in
the mystery of faith. The Lamb of God is broken and distributed, which
though  ever broken, never is divided, says the Orthodox liturgy. This
we can achieve beyond all separations through such union, oneness with
Christ, in one body broken, in one blood shed for the salvation of the
world.

How wonderful it is to discover this! And this is truly and actually a
liturgical  action  because  the  priest is defined by the offering he
brings,  and  all  universal  priesthood is defined by the offering we
bring  of  our  souls  and  our bodies, of ourselves and our lives, of
those whom we love - to be an act comparable and identifiable, indeed,
with  this  act  of  divine  incarnation,  of  divine  life, of divine
sacrifice.  Sacrifice means both shedding of blood and becoming wholly
God's  own,  sharing His life because we will have shared His death in
our hearts, in our bodies.

So  let  us both grieve at the fact that our unity cannot be expressed
to  the  full because we are not yet mature in love, we are not mature
in  understanding.  But let us rejoice and thank God that we cannot be
separated  either from Him or from one another in the mystery which is
defined  by  these  wholly tragic and victorious conquering liturgical
words, «Do this in remembrance of me».

Let us pray.

Oh  Christ,  who  didst bind Thy Apostles in a union of love, unite us
likewise,  Thy  sinful  but  trusting servants, and bind us forever to
thee  and  to  one another. Give us bearing and strength to fulfil Thy
commandments  and  truly  to  love  one  another.  Oh Christ, our God,
through  the  Father and the Holy Spirit, who livest and reignest, one
God, world without end. Amen.

                          ----

 * All texts are copyright: Estate of Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

           Metropolitan Anthony of  Sourozh Library
                   http://www.mitras.ru/eng/

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