Entering God’s Presence

It is at just this point, then, that my earlier note about the distinctive spatial imagery attaching to the two orders of sacramentality reenters our discussion—the difference between “being in” and “entering.” In the first place, the formulation “to enter God’s presence” can only bespeak human action, human intention. God occupies no particular space, or better, I suppose, God fills all space and time. It is we who live in defined times and spaces. So that to encounter God’s presence in or through these consolidated symbols means, ipso facto, coming to them wherever they are (or into them if we are talking about sacramental space or time) and at a specified time. “Coming into” God’s presence, then, is the marker of human limitations, not of God’s (ubiquitous) presence.

Gerard R. Hughes, ed. Steffan Losel Reformed Sacramentality (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2017), 23.

Worship Before Intimacy

One of the oft-heard comments about an inability to have every and any church building remain open, regardless of the ability to celebrate the Church’s liturgy in that building, is an appeal to ‘what about the community?’. It is, in my estimation at least, false and faulty thinking from the perspective of Catholic liturgical theology and ecclesiology, finding more foundation in non-Catholic thinking.

And, finally, I have found a Protestant theologian who seems to support my position!

Many mainline Protestant churches have developed a culture of intimacy for its own sake, so much so that intimacy has become “a primary liturgical value.” As Hughes points out,

Intimacy, or even community, however, is not the point and purpose of an assembly ostensibly gathered for the worship of God. By all means it may be a hoped-for byproduct of corporate worship, but when the priorities are reversed, the one becomes the other’s sublimate.

Steffan Losel, “Introduction”, in Gerard R. Hughes, ed. Steffan Losel, Reformed Sacramentality (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2017), xxvii, quoting Gerard R. Hughes, Worship as Meaning: A Liturgical Theology for Late Modernity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 251.

The Power of the Incarnation

The Jesus Prayer is this an affirmation of faith in Jesus Christ as alike truly divine and fully human. He is the Theanthropos or “God-man”, who save us from our sins precisely because he is God and man at once. Man could not come to God, so God has come to man – by making himself human. In his outgoing or “ecstatic” love, God unites himself to his creation in the closest of all possible unions, by himself become that which he has created. God, as man, fulfills the mediatorial task which man rejected at the fall. Jesus our Saviour bridges the abyss between God and man because he is both at once. As we say in one of the Orthodox hymns for Christmas Eve, “Heaven and earth are united today, for Christ is born. Today has God come down to earth, and man gone up to heaven”.

Bishop Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, new rev. ed. (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995), 81.

Losing Touch With Our Humanity

The culture and educational system of the contemporary West are based almost exclusively upon the training of the reasoning brain and, to a lesser degree, of the aesthetic emotions. Most of us have forgotten that we are not only brain and will, senses and feelings; we are also spirit. Modern man has for the most part lost touch with the truest and highest aspect of himself; and the result of this inward alienation can be seen all too plainly in his restlessness, his lack of identity and his loss of hope.

KALLISTOS WARE, THE ORTHODOX WAY, REV. ED. (YONKERS, NY: ST VLADIMIR’S SEMINARY PRESS, 1995), 55.

Encountering the Divine in the Other

For each of us—perhaps once or twice only in the whole course of our life—there have been sudden moments of discovery when we have seen disclosed the deepest being and truth of another, and we have experienced his or her inner life as if it were our own. And this encounter with the true personhood of another is, once more, a contact with the transcendent and timeless, with something stronger than death. To say to another, with all our heart, “I love you”, is to say, “You will never die.” At such moments of personal sharing we know, not through arguments but by immediate conviction, that there is life beyond death. So it is that in our relations with others, as in our experience of ourselves, we have moments of transcendence, pointing to something that lies beyond.

Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, rev. ed. (Yonkers, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995), 15.

Just Keep Walking!

Some concelebrants greet the lay people they recognize from present or former ministry. Before Mass begins or after its conclusion, such salutations can beautifully build up the Body of Christ. But once the liturgy has begun, and until it is completely over, a concelebrant’s attention best focuses on the words and actions of the Mass. Some priests wave at someone they recognize while they are walking in procession, as if they were celebrities on parade before an admiring crowd. They need the reminder, “This is not about you.” It is about Christ. At all times, the liturgy is about Christ, and he deserves a priest’s rapt attention.

PAUL TURNER, ARS CELEBRANDI: CELEBRATING AND CONCELEBRATING MASS (COLLEGEVILLE, MN: THE LITURGICAL PRESS, 2021), 124.