CELESTIAL PARTICIPATION AND CONCELEBRATION

My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

CELESTIAL PARTICIPATION AND
CONCELEBRATION

There may be only two or three faithful gathered together in the Lord’s Name, but they ARE NOT ALONE: He IS PRESENT IN THE MIDST OF THEM (cf. Matthew 18:20), and SO ARE His HOLY ANGELS and His Saints. The Divine Liturgy takes place IN THE PRESENCE AND WITH THE PARTICIPATION OF THE SPIRITUAL WORLD. Celebrant clergy and concelebrant people have the distinct awareness THAT THEY ARE NOT ALONE, BUT ARE SURROUNDED BY "A CLOUD OF WITNESSES" (Hebrews 12:1), by THE SPIRITUAL POWERS and the SAINTS. Their holy icons, which cover walls, columns, and ceiling of the church, ARE A CONSTANT REMINDER OF THEIR ACTUAL PRESENCE, BY THE GRACE OF GOD, whenever the Awesome Mysteries (Sacraments) are celebrated.

CELESTIAL and earthly members of the Church ARE UNITED IN THEIR THANKSGIVING AND PRAISE OF THE Triune God. As sojourners on earth we pray for one another and all together we pray to the Saints, asking FOR THEIR INTERCESSIONS, so that with the PAHRRESIA (BOLDNESS) which they have, THEY MAY BRING OUR PRAYERS BEFORE THE FEARFUL THRONE OF GOD. Likewise, we ask them to intercede FOR THE SOULS OF OUR DEPARTED BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST. The BLOODLESS SACRIFICE is offered FOR THE LIVING AND THE DEAD. The Saints, the GLORIFIED MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH, are offered to God the Father together with us and with the head of the Body, Jesus Christ, and are "REMEMBERED" (MADE PRESENT) THROUGHOUT THE DIVINE LITURGY.

COMMUNION with the heavenly Church is what distinguishes the Orthodox Christian Faith from all the Christian confessions: "THIS IS OUR PREEMINENCE, OR PRIMOGENITURE, OUR GLORY: THE CONSTANT REMEMBRANCE OF THE HEAVENLY CHURCH." For the Orthodox Christians, our life on this earth is IN UNITY WITH THE HEAVENLY CHURCH. Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, Prophets, and Righteous departed this life before us, the VENERABLE "ASSEMBLY OF THE FIRST-BORN WHO ARE ENROLLED IN HEAVEN" (cf. Hebrews 12:23) "TOGETHER WITH "INNUMERABLE ANGELS IN FESTAL GATHERING" (cf. Hebrews 12:22), LEAD US TO WORSHIP OF THE "GOD OF ALL" and to His INCESSANT DOXOLOGY.

Every time we offer ourselves and one another, we do it commemorating the Most Holy Theotokos and Eve-Virgin Mary and all the Saints WHO PLEASED GOD. In so doing we call upon them TO BE PARTICIPANTS and CONCELEBRANTS with us. We are fully aware and cognizant OF THEIR PRESENCE, and we offer the Holy Oblation IN UNITY WITH THEM. Heaven and earth praise and glorify God together.

The Divine Eucharist brings THE MEMBERS of the Church together, and by bringing them together She realizes what She is: AN Ecclesia, the gathering OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD (see 1 Corinthians 11:18). As "MEMBERS OF His Body" (Ephesians 5:30), the faithful come together and become ONE with Christ. The Didache admirably captures THIS RELATIONSHIP IN THE BEAUTIFUL IMAGE OF THE BROKEN BREAD WHICH WAS SCATTERED OVER THE HILLS AND WA THEN GATHERED TOGETHER TO BECOME ONE. The Lord gathers us TO FEED US His Body, that is Himself, and TO MAKE US ALL ONE BODY. He makes us His body and thus He becomes ONE BODY, as a bridegroom becomes "one flesh" (Ephesians 5:31) with the beloved bride. We must point out that THE BONDING ELEMENT OF THE UNION IS LOVE (AGAPE).

The Divine Eucharist is an expression of the Church as the people (LAOS) and household (OIKOS) of God, as the Body of Christ MYSTICALLY UNITED WITH Her Head (see Ephesians 1:22-23) and AS A MANIFESTATION OF THE Kingdom to come. It is rather an expression OF THE COMMUNION OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD and a reflection OF THE COMMUNION THAT EXISTS BETWEEN THE Persons of the Holy Trinity. The Divine Eucharist constitutes the chief manifestation of the Church’s identity and the characteristic act of the Christian Community… It is therefore the Mystery OF UNITY, the Mystery which realizes and MANIFESTS THE UNITY OF THE Church.

There is a deeper connection between the Divine Eucharist and the Ecclesia. When we receive the Divine Eucharist (Holy Communion) WE ARE IN FULL COMMUNION WITH THE Body of Christ. We have a near tautology here: the Divine Body WE COMMUNE UNITES US WITH His Ecclesial Body, the Holy Church. "Body of Christ" is a double reality: IT MEANS THE EUCHARISTIC BODY AND THE ECCLESIAL BODY. The two are nearly identical. The one reality makes possible the other. Without the one, the other reality does not have any hypostasis. The Church makes OUR UNION WITH (the Eucharistic) Christ possible, precisely because THE MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH WE ARE MEMBERS OF His Body, the Holy Church. Being members of the Church ENABLES US TO BE UNITED WITH CHRIST. Unless ONE IS A MEMBER OF THE CHURCH ONE CANNOT HAVE ACCESS TO THE DIVINE EUCHARIST.

From the above comments, it should be clear that the Divine Eucharist is a communal act, an act OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD gathered together, NOT A PRIVATE SACRAMENT (NO SACRAMENTS IS). So much so that the very name by which this act is known is "THE ACT OF THE PEOPLE" — LEITOURGIA. We need to emphasize the ecclesial dimension of the Divine Eucharist AS A COMMUNAL EVENT versus an expression of individual piety ALL THE MYSTERIES (SACRAMENTS) of the Church ARE COMMUNAL IN CHARACTER, but the Divine Eucharist IS THE PAR EXCELLENCE COMMUNAL EVENT. It CANNOT be otherwise, since the Mysteries (Sacraments) RE THE ACTS OF THE COMMUNITY OF GOD. the Holy Church, the Ecclesia OF THE CALLED. THEREFORE THE MYSTERIES (SACRAMENTS) OF THE CHURCH CAN NEVER BE ACTS OF INDIVIDUALISTIC DEVOTION AND PIETY.

The Divine Eucharist "SEALS" the New Covenant of God with His NEW PEOPLE. The New Covenant, prophesied by Prophet Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 31:31), is NOT entered into with such individual, BUT WITH THE NEW PEOPLE OF GOD, the Ecclesia, FOUNDED BY Christ (Matthew 16:18). (Source: The Heavenly Banquet. Understanding the Divine Liturgy by Father Emmanuel Hatzidakis)

__________________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

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