My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True Lord, God, and Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
“In Peace Let us Pray to the Lord” [The Great Litany]
“PEACE I LEAVE WITH YOU, MY PEACE I GIVE YOU” [John 14:27].
God’s peace, proclaimed by the Prophets of the Old Testament (see Isaiah 52:7), revealed as A FRUIT OF THE Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22), is to this day given to the people the Word of Christ, “Peace be to all, spoken by His priests in the Divine Liturgy. “Peace” was the customary Jewish word of both greeting and farewell. Perfect peace is brought by the Messiah, Who carries out the work of salvation and reconciles humanity with the Almighty and Merciful God. Together with “grace,” peace is part of the traditional greeting of Christians to each other (see Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3). Today it remains as “Peace be to all” in every Divine Liturgy.
“Grace to you and PEACE FROM GOD our Father and
the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7).
The Great Litany following the exclamation of the officiating priest: “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen,” is referred to as the “Litany of Peace.” Throughout the Divine Liturgy the priest blessed the faithful by saying, “Peace be to all.” Also, the priest Petions our God, “That the whole day may be perfect, holy, PEACEFUL, and sinless.”, “And Angel of PEACE, a faithful guide, a guardian of our souls and bodies…”. Just before the reading of the Holy Gospel the priest once again blesses, “Peace be unto all.” The message given with the blessing of the priest is that the faithful must be at peace to hear the Gospel of Peace. Even following the reading of the appointed Gospel lesson by the deacon, if one is serving, the priest blesses him, “Peace be unto you, who have proclaimed the Gospel.”
“Therefore, be eager for many frequent gatherings for thanksgiving to God and for His glory. For when you meet frequently, the forces of Satan are annulled, and his destructive power is cancelled in the concord of our faith. There is nothing better THAN PEACE, IN WHICH HOSTILITY IS ABOLISHED WHETHER IT COMES FROM THE POWERS OF HEAVEN OR THE POWERS OF EARTH” (Saint Ignatius the God-bearer). The Orthodox Christian worship is one of peace! Not only outward peace but inner peace. No one is able to worship if he/she experiences inner or outward turmoil and anxiety. This includes the priest conducting the Divine Liturgy or other divine services of the Church. The priest must be emersed, mind, body, and soul, in the Liturgy. and nothing but nothing must interfere or distract him from it. There is absolutely no reason for unnecessary movement and a cacophony of voices during worship. Especially, during the Descent of the Holy Spirit and the consecration of the holy Gifts. During the Anaphora the priest or Deacon says, “Let us stand aright! Let us stand with fear! Let us attend, THAT WE MAY OFFER THE Holy Oblation IN PEACE.”
With the opening words of the Divine Liturgy, we already enter God’s Kingdom, the Kingdom of love and peace. Although we are on earth we already participate in the heavenly worship. By saying, “Blessed is the Kingdom… we praise and glorify the Kingdom of God. All the faithful Orthodox Christians, the people of God, gather to bless His Kingdom, an Everlasting Kingdom prepared for them by Christ. We gather to seek His Kingdom–a Kingdom He promised He would give to us, a Kingdom which is “at hand” (Mark 1:15), and already within us (Luke 17:21), In a way, the One Who reveals God’s Kingdom to us is Himself the Kingdom: “For God’s Kingdom is Christ Himself” (Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki). But why is the Orthodox Christian at the Divine Liturgy? Is it because of the priest’s melodic voice, his beautiful vestments, his good looks, his humor, or his inspiring sermon? No! of course not! The priest reveals the true purpose of why the Orthodox believer is at the Divine Liturgy. He says, “That they may be to those who partake of the PURIFICATION OF SOUL, FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS, FOR THE COMMUNION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, FOR THE FULFILLMENT OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, FOR BOLDNESS TOWARDS THEE, AND NOT FOR JUDGMENT OR CONDEMNATION.” But most important of all, the reception of the Precious and Most Holy Body and Precious and Most Holy Blood of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ for the REMISSION OF SINS AND UNTO LIFE EVERLASTING. What more could one ask for? When the Orthodox Christian leaves the divine worship, he or she should feel TRANSFORMED AND SAVED.
Many non-Orthodox, erroneously interpreting the Sacred Scripture, believe in the reestablishment of a temporal kingdom by Christ on earth, although the Lord Himself clearly said, “My Kingdom is NOT of this world” (John 18:36). The Kingdom of God is the manifestation of God’s glory to those who are prepared to receive it. “The entire Divine Liturgy is AN EPIPHANY or MANIFESTATION OF GOD’S KINGDOM ON EARTH.” It starts from this life and it ends in heaven. “The Liturgy is a journey, and the words “Blessed is the Kingdom…” are the announcement of our destination.
God’s Kingdom is our ultimate destination! We, as faithful Orthodox Christians, must be on board the Ark of Salvation, the Church. Somehow, there are still some who are totally confused or uninformed why they are at the Divine Liturgy. They are convinced that they are spectators of some theatrical performance, or some unique and ancient religious ritual. Their understanding is shallow and superficial. There is no substance or depth to what they know or understand. Perhaps this is the reason why they arrive late for the divine service. Every effort must be made to be in church on time, when the Divine Liturgy commences with the awesome words: “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…
Let us proclaim that we live the Kingdom of the Triune God in our hearts and let us demonstrate with our life that we are people of the Kingdom, citizens not of this world, but of the Kingdom of God, “Living in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life” (Luke 1:75).
The Litany of Peace indicates to the faithful that when we pray that we pray in peace. We cannot pray sincerely to God unless we are in peace. In fact, praying is impossible when we are NOT at peace. Saint Nicholas Cavasilas states: “For because of the very nature of agitation the troubled mind is quite powerless to approach God…therefore he who is NOT at peace cannot pray aright.” This is why the first petition of the Divine Liturgy is for peace. Thus, we direct our petitions to the Lord our God with peace of mind and soul, being at peace with God, with ourselves and with others.
I pray that all of you understand now why the church environment must always be peaceful, cerine, and reverent. It takes all the faithful to cooperate with each other to accomplish this. Our Orthodox Christian understanding of the divine worship is that everything that occurs in it is real and that indeed it is the Mystical Supper of Christ our God. There is nothing fake or symbolic! What we witness at the Divine Liturgy is a great miracle. Only the faithful remain, and they remain for one purpose only to offer the Eucharistic Offering and partake of the Holy Mysteries of Christ. Only those who can and intend to participate in the bloodless Sacrifice may remain. Our Savior Christ s the Sacrificial Victim, the One offered Who Himself on the Cross is the same One Who is offered in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Should we not all be on our knees shedding tears of repentance and asking forgiveness?
How sad it is that some people walk inside the church empty-handed and due to their lack of faith, leave the church empty-handed. And this, because they disbelieve and are there only out of curiosity and nothing more. There is no understanding, there is no faith, there is no conviction, and there is no commitment. There are those who look for “instant gratification” and for the so called “feel good gospel.” There is lack of discernment of knowing what is genuine and true, and what is fake and fraudulent. Tragically there are many who simply wonder from one church to another not knowing where they belong and what they believe. If they only understood that the Holy Orthodox Church is the authentic Church of Christ and what was taught by our Savior and His Holy Apostles two thousand years ago is exactly what is taught and lived by the Orthodox Christians today. I pray that by the grace of God those who chose to enter the True Church of Christ will be accounted worthy among the holy people of God.
“Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Divine and Glorious Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God