Posts tagged ‘audio’

Towards the Other (Colossians 3:12-16)

AUDIO HERE

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

Whether I’m watching TV, or listening to the radio, reading news online, or especially on any social media outlet like Facebook – it seems to me that the predominate way that many people interact with one another is aggressive and adversarial and hateful. People are not discussing issues in a calm, rational, or certainly not loving way, rather people attack and yell and are filled with pride and self-righteousness. We are determined to be right, and no matter how we go about it, we are often determined that others accept our vision as the correct one. This mentality seems to affect people across every spectrum, including those of us in the Church. It’s certainly true that we proclaim the Gospel, the Good News, and that we believe this Gospel to be true and necessary for everyone. But the way we go about sharing this Gospel will have a significant impact on how people receive it. And the same goes for any other point of view as well.

Today’s Epistle reading tells us how we’re to act in our relationships with other people, and the list of words St. Paul leaves us with is the polar opposite of how we often behave. Mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another, forgiving one another, and above all else, loving one another. Instead of just having a nice list of words that remind us of the traits of the Christian, I’d like us to at least have a small definition for each of these words…to help us think about the implications of what St. Paul is calling us to…maybe a bit more food for thought as we prepare ourselves receive the Holy Eucharist for the healing of our soul and body. The more aware we are of what needs to be healed, the more we’re able to receive the grace of God and allow it to work in our lives. So, to St. Paul’s list of Christian traits:

Merciful – mercy is essentially extending to someone a benevolence that they don’t deserve. We ask God to be merciful to us constantly, to show us mercy even though we don’t deserve it. We are to treat others not as they deserve to be treated, we treat them as the image of God. This would preclude our being harsh or judgmental towards anyone.
Kind – this is the exact opposite of being mean to people. We treat people with kindness, pleasantly, with a genuine concern for them. If we’re concerned for others, then kindness flows very naturally from that. There’s another trait of kindness, which is we do for others not expecting anything in return.
Humble – we’re not supposed to be puffed up and proud, as St. Paul says in other places. But neither are we to be falsely humble. Humility is really seeing things as they are, and behaving accordingly.
Meek – meekness is often seen in today’s culture as weak. The meek person doesn’t press for his own way, but neither is he simply without backbone. The meek man is the God-fearing man, according to the Saints. Our Lord was meek, but He also rebuked the Pharisees and ran the money changers out of the Temple with a whip.
Longsuffering – this means that we patiently endure the wrongs that people do against us, and we also endure the difficulties that come upon us in the course of our earthly life. Some people will use this virtue to say that Christians are gluttons for punishment – we don’t go looking for hardship, but we do take the hardship that comes and we patiently endure and offer our sufferings to Christ. He says that anyone who follows Him will endure trials, and we’re called to be longsuffering and to go through those things with grace and trust in Him.
Bearing with one another – we all fall, we all fail each other. The Scriptures constantly call on us to bear with one another, and not just to grudgingly do it, but to even to help our brother bear his burden. We can’t just get upset and snap or walk away, but out of our concern for each other we bear each other’s burdens and help each other along the path to salvation.
Forgiving one another – this is huge, because so many of the other things we’ve already mentioned require that we forgive people. We get a lot of opportunity to practice this, and we give each other a lot of chances to practice it as well. To forgive does not mean to forget, but rather that we let go of all of our ill will and hurt and anger. We may still remember that someone sinned against us, but we no longer hold that failure against them. Growing in Christ requires that we forgive each other, and not only our brothers, but even our enemies.
Love – everything comes down to love. “God is love” (1 John 4:8). And we are called to nurture love, to strive to love the other as purely and unselfishly as God loves us.

St. Paul ends out reading by telling us to love, and to live with the peace of God in our hearts. We aren’t perfect, we’re fallen human beings struggling to do our best. So in that spirit, I’d like to end with a quote from St. Isaac the Syrian: “If you cannot be merciful, at least speak as though you are a sinner. If you are not a peacemaker, at least do not be a troublemaker. If you cannot be assiduous, at least in your thought be unlike a sluggard. If you are not victorious, do not exalt yourself over the vanquished. If you cannot close the mouth of a man who disparages his companion, at least refrain from joining him in this.”

We can’t always live up to the call of the Gospel, but as St. Isaac reminds us, there’s always something we can do to be more like Christ.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Author Matthew Jackson

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The Meeting of the Lord in the Temple (Luke 2:22-40)

presentAUDIO HERE

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

Today we celebrate as a great feast one of the many events from the life of our Lord. We heard in the Gospel reading this morning about the event – when He was 40 days old, the parents of Jesus took Him to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice according to the Law. As He does throughout His life, the Lord is fulfilling and completing the law in Himself, today through the actions of Mary and Joseph. Neither He nor His Holy Mother had any need for purification, yet they obeyed the Law nonetheless. In the course of the Gospel reading we are introduced to two very interesting figures, those of Symeon the God-Receiver and the Prophetess Anna. I’d like us to hear a bit more about these two people, who are very central today, when you look at how much of the Gospel reading is dedicated to them.

St. Symeon is called the God-Receiver because he received the Christ in his arms as the Lord came to the Temple. The Tradition tells us that Symeon was one of the translators of the Septuagint, which was the translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek. He translated the book of Isaiah, and when he read that a Virgin would conceive and have a son, he wanted to change it to read “a woman…” At that moment, an angel appeared, telling him that the word should remain “Virgin,” and prophesying that he would live to see the time when a virgin would bear the Christ. And so God made this promise to Symeon that he would not die until he saw the coming of the Messiah. This promise was fulfilled today, and at the end of his earthly life, St. Symeon gives us the beautiful hymn that we end each day with at Vespers: “Lord, now lettest Thou thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel” (Luke 2:34-35). St. Symeon also made one of the most well known prophesies about Jesus: “this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will piece through your own soul also [he says to the Theotokos]), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).

The Holy Prophetess Anna was an 84 year old widow, of whom very little is actually known. She had been married, but her husband had died only 7 years into their marriage. The description of her in the Gospel today was quite beautiful – she “did not leave the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers day and night” (Luke 2: 37). She saw the Messiah as He entered the Temple, and giving thanks, she then went to speak “of Him to all those who were looking for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). She was the first evangelist, the first bearer of the Good News that the Messiah had been born.

Symeon and Anna, together with John the Baptist, represent the last vestiges of the Old Covenant, the last of the Righteous ones before the coming of the Promised One. And today, the elderly Symeon and Anna have their lives fulfilled in seeing the coming of the Promised Messiah, the Holy One of Israel. So today, let’s celebrate this Feast of the Meeting of the Lord in the Temple, and also the lives of these two holy people of God, the Saints Symeon and Anna.

Happy Feast! Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Author Matthew Jackson

Regrets and Resolutions

mayan imageAUDIO HERE

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

I was all ready to preach this homily for the Nativity of our Lord, but of course, my family ended up ill and we were unable to be here for the Feast. But then I started thinking again about the content of the homily, and I think for us, in our American culture, perhaps the 1st of January is a better day to preach this message anyway. And this is because I’d like us to reflect a bit this morning about new beginnings, and even more specifically, about our regrets, and new beginnings stemming from those regrets. This fits nicely for us today, since we Americans are all thinking about New Year’s resolutions – and for us as Orthodox, we’re continuing to celebrate our Lord’s Incarnation, remembering today the Circumcision of our Lord.

Mayan Calendar
The thing that really set my mind to thinking about this topic was actually all of the silly end of the world talk surrounding the Mayan calendar. I really didn’t pay much attention to all of it, like most people. But one day, on the way to work, I heard a discussion on the radio about a poll that was done where the people were asked about their greatest regrets. If the world was to end on 12-21-12, what would be their greatest regret. So, of course, people talked about their regrets, some silly and some very serious. And then near the end of the piece, one of the people who was interviewed made a comment that all this thinking about regrets actually had her thinking about how to deal with those things that she would regret. In other words, not to just keep going on with holes in her life, but how to actually do something about it. How to live a life that is constantly looking and evaluating those things that are most important, and making adjustments when needed. I was thinking about my homily for the Lord’s Nativity at the same time as I heard this radio interview, and it really brought into my mind these questions of regrets and new beginnings, beginnings that address those things we really need to be doing.

Nativity and the Life of our Lord
This theme melds very nicely with a look at the earthly life of our Lord. Every event in the life of our Lord is, in a sense, part of the new beginning for mankind. God is incarnate to address man’s failure to be what we are called to be. God becoming flesh, taking our human nature on Himself at the Annunciation, offers us the chance for true redemption and salvation, to be what we were created to be. God’s birth in the flesh just a few days ago continues this new beginning for mankind. Today, with His circumcision in the Temple, He fulfills the Old Testament law – He not only obeys the law but also completes and fulfills it – another first for mankind. In His earthly life and ministry, Christ brings to mankind the new beginning of the Messiah – He is the one come to set man free, to offer us a different and better life. He then demonstrates a love unimaginable in dying on the cross, and in His resurrection He is the first-born from the dead, as we sing in the Resurrectional Troparion and many many other places. In Christ we are offered salvation, we are offered a chance to begin our lives anew every single day, every moment of every day. We are offered a new relationship with God in Christ, a relationship only possible because of the birth and life and death and resurrection of the Godman Jesus Christ. Christ offers us the chance to overcome all of our regrets and failings and to be what we are created to be – to be joined to God by His grace (theosis – being by God’s grace all that God is by nature…the Orthodox doctrine of salvation, that God will share His life with us, and that was His purpose from the beginning).

New Year
So as we enter this new calendar year, and as we continue to celebrate the theophany (or revelation) of God in the flesh, I encourage us all to do one of those things that the Church is always calling us to do – to take an inventory of our lives. And when we see those places that are empty, those places that hold deep regret for us, whether they are spiritual or in our relationships or even just within ourselves – instead of just seeing it and having this “oh well” attitude that often plagues us, I challenge us all to do something about it. Firstly, be honest with ourselves about our lives; secondly, bring our faults and failings and sins and omissions and regrets to God, especially in confession and prayer; thirdly, make a new beginning. Make decisions to actually address the things in our life that are problematic. Figure out ways to bring healing, fullness, relationship, sanctity – whatever we find lacking, spend some real time discerning how to address that lack and how to begin to decrease it.

Even scarier than the question I heard on the radio – what regrets would you have if the world were to end on such and such a date, even scarier is the real question – what regrets will you have when you stand for judgement before the dread throne of the Lord of Glory? We’ll certainly still have regrets and sins at then end of our lives, but I want to stand before that throne and to be able to say in all honesty that I was constantly striving to fulfill the injunction of the Apostle Paul to the Philippians (2:12), working out my salvation in fear and trembling before the Lord, always striving to orient my life to Him.

May we all have a blessed New Year full of growth and healing and salvation.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever  

Author Matthew Jackson

St. James, the brother of the Lord

Audio for homily HERE

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

We really have a couple of rough readings for the homilist this morning, especially with the joy of the Nativity season. We have St. Paul talking about his own apostleship in Christ, and we have the continuing story of our Lord’s flight to Egypt and return to Nazareth. I thought about looking at some of the Orthodox traditions regarding our Lord’s time in Egypt, but I’ve decided instead to look at one of the saints we remember today, James the brother of the Lord. The life and ministry of St. James meld very nicely with the celebration of his brother’s birth in the flesh as Lord and King and God.

The holy Apostle James is called the brother of the Lord, and was the son of St. Joseph by his first wife. There are multiple discussions about exactly what the relationship was – we know that St. Joseph was not a child of Mary (ever-Virgin & scene with St. John at the Cross) – in ancient times some of the Western Father’s of the Church had a few differing ideas on the relationship between James and our Lord, but early on in the Orthodox East it was known that James was the son of Joseph. So in our modern terminology he was really the step-brother of the Lord. From his earliest years, St. James dedicated himself to God as a Nazarene. The Nazarenes vowed to remain in virginity, to abstain from wine and meat, and they didn’t cut their hair. They were about the closest thing to monastics in the Jewish tradition. Their vows symbolized a life of purity, a life totally dedicated to God. So from his earliest years, St. James’ desire was to serve God.

When our Lord’s ministry was revealed and He began to preach and to work the miracles of the Messiah, St. James believed in his brother and became one of His Apostles. He is remembered at one of the Apostles of the Seventy (he is not, of course, James the son of Zebedee who was one of the twelve). After our Lord’s death and resurrection and ascension, St. James was chosen as the first bishop of the Holy City of Jerusalem. He presided over the Apostolic Council (recorded in Acts 15), which became the model for all of our Orthodox Councils. He pronounced the final decision of the Council with the famous phrase, “for it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us” – forever a reminder that the Holy Spirit should be our guide, that Christ is present leading and steering His Holy Body, the Church. Our task as the Church and as individual Christians, a very difficult task at times, is to hear Him.

During his 30 years as Bishop of Jerusalem, St. James converted many of his fellow Jews to Christ. Of course, this greatly angered the Pharisees and the Scribes and the leaders of the Temple, and they began to plot together to put St. James to death. They lead him up to the top of the Temple in Jerusalem and they began to ask him what he thought of Jesus. The holy bishop began to preach and to expound the Scriptures and to show that Jesus was the Christ, the expected Messiah of Israel. Filled with fury, the leaders of the Temple threw him off the roof of the Temple. The fall did not immediately kill the Saint, and as he was being stoned to death, he lifted his eyes to the heavens and prayed for the forgiveness of his enemies. The martyrdom of St. James took place in the year 63 AD.

I like looking at the Saints any time of year, and St. James’ life is so powerful at this time of year firstly because he is the brother of the Lord and his life ties us directly into the earthly life of Christ, which we’re continuing to celebrate in this festal Nativity period. Also, and particularly because he gave everything he had, even to his very life, for the Christ he had come to believe in. He spent his life for the glory of God, and his death glorified God again.

Two additional notes we’ll end with:
The Holy Apostle James also composed a Liturgy which bears his name – a Liturgy still used around the world in various churches, though typically only served in the Orthodox Church on his name day. And finally, as we all well know, one of his Epistles has been preserved at part of the New Testament canon used by all Christians even until today. We continue to be inspired not only by the life of this great man of God, but also by his words, which continue to be read by Christians everywhere.

Holy brother of the Lord, James, pray to God for us!

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Author Matthew Jackson

The Great Litany, part 2 (Liturgy 5)


Audio may be found HERE

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

Tonight, we will continue our look at the Great Litany of the Divine Liturgy. And I’ll remind us, as we hear and discuss the petitions, that this Litany, and the whole of the Liturgy, is our prayer for the whole world. We come to the Church and we lift up not only ourselves, but all those we love, all those we struggle with, our sins and our faults and our dreams, and we lift up the whole of the world to God in prayer.

Tonight, we begin with the petition: “For this God-protected land, its President, all civil authorities, and for those who serve in the armed forces, let us pray to the Lord.” I think this is an important petition for us in America; we struggle sometimes to know how to take patriotism and what our country may be doing locally and throughout the world and balance that with our faith. This petition gives us what we might call “Patristic patriotism” – we pray for our country, even referring to it as “God-protected” – the Fathers tell us that not only do people and Churches have guardian angels, but our countries do as well. We pray for our President and all civil authorities – the Scriptures plainly tell us that the leaders of nations are placed in power by the will of God. So no matter how we might feel, we pray for our nation and our leaders. We also pray for those who serve in the armed forces – again, whether we like situations or not, we pray for God’s protection over those men and women who serve our nation in the armed forces. We have many Saints who were warriors and soldiers, and they witnessed to Christ while at the same time serving in the army – this has always been seen as a noble things in the Church.

“For this city, for every city and country, and for those who in faith dwell therein, let us pray to the Lord.” We pray for our city, we play for the place that we live. It’s incredible the detail that we go into during these petitions. In addition to our city, we expand and pray for every city and country, and for those who in faith dwell in them. We’re praying again for the world. And we’re praying pretty specifically.

“For favorable weather, for an abundance of the fruits of the earth, and for peaceful times, let us pray to the Lord.” We recognize clearly that our Lord is in control of everything, so we pray that our weather will be good, and we pray for abundant crops. When Adam was expelled from Paradise, he was condemned to till the earth for his food. We continue to do that same thing, and we ask that God bless our efforts with a good harvest so that everyone will have enough to eat. We also pray again, as we did in the first 3 petitions, for peaceful times. We pray that the world can be at peace. This particular phrase placed in this petition also recognizes that many conflicts are over land and food – so the blessing of a fruitful harvest should help the world continue in peace.

“For travelers by land, by sea, and by air, for the sick and the suffering, for captives, and for their salvation, let us pray to the Lord.” Here we pray for a rather wide range of people. In addition to particular prayers for travelers that the priest prays from the Book of Needs, we always pray for those who travel in every Great Litany. We also pray for those who are sick and suffering, and for those who are captives. It’s very important what we say in our prayer – we don’t pray for the healing of the sick and for the freedom of captives – we pray for their salvation. Many people will remember in their hearts the people they know who are sick or in prison during this Litany. But we pray for the salvation of their soul, for the healing and freedom of the soul, rather than the body. Even when the priest visits someone who is ill or in prison, the prayer looks like this – healing is mentioned, if it is God’s will, but the focus of the prayer is the soul’s salvation, union with God.

“For our deliverance from all tribulation, wrath, danger, and necessity, let us pray to the Lord.” On the heels of praying for the salvation of others, we pray for conditions which are amenable for our own salvation. We ask that God deliver us from tribulation (difficult times), wrath (anger, malice), danger, and necessity. Necessity is interesting – we have needs to live, but we asked to be delivered from necessity in the sense of the needs of life exercising control over us. Notice that we don’t ask God merely to keep these things away from us – we know that temptations will come our way, that is part of human life in a fallen world. We ask for deliverance, we ask for the grace to deal with the temptations that come to us, that by God’s grace we can overcome the evil one and be delivered from our temptations.

We’ll look at the last 2 petitions and the prayer and the exclamation next time. Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Author Matthew Jackson

The New Israel of God

We are bought with a great price

Matthew 21:33-42

AUDIO HERE

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

Sometimes, things work out in a way that seems a little ironic, funny, to me. This past week I had a very good discussion with a dear Orthodox friend of mine, and because of the topic of that discussion, the parable that we just heard from St. Matthew’s Gospel was one of the passages that we looked at. Near the end of this particular conversation, my friend commented that the teaching of the Orthodox Church on our topic was something he’d never heard before, and there was a desire that what we believe should be taught. Of course, there are so many potential questions and discussions that none of us could even exhaust the wealth of the Church. But I took this conversation happening this week coupled with today’s reading as a sign of sorts, an opportunity to discuss in some detail the purpose of this parable.

If you were to turn my conversation this week into a question it would be the same question that our Lord’s parable answers – what is the relationship of God with the people of Israel [by Israel, I mean throughout this homily ‘the people of the Old Covenant’]? What is the status of the promises made to those people? What is the place of the Old Covenant people in the plan of God for our salvation after the coming of the Messiah? This is an important enough question that our Lord offers an answer in several places, and it is addressed in multiple places in the New Testament Epistles as well. This is also a question that continues to cause confusion today – the relationship of the Church and Israel and God. You can easily see the confusion by looking at all of the various approaches taken in other Christian groups around us in society today.

Why is this question so important? As St Paul says in Galatians (ch 3), the promises of God will never pass away. God made promises to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, to bless their children and to make a great nation of their people. The Messiah was promised, God’s blessing and protection was promised. These promises of God are eternal, St. Paul says. So they either lie with the people of the Old Covenant, the heirs according to the flesh of Abraham, or perhaps they lie with the Church, or perhaps somehow the lie with both. Answering this question might not seem all that important to us at first glance, but the Scripture writers thought it important, and I think we will too after thinking on it a few more minutes. It is definitive for how we are to live in our relationship with God.

Now, finally, to our Lord’s parable. The parable is told to the chief priests and leaders of the Temple – and they understand exactly what our Lord is saying, because they try to “lay hands” on Him after He tells this parable. The landowner is God the Father. The vineyard is the world, the Promised Land, all of the promises of God to His people. The vineyard is given to the vinedressers, to the people of Israel. But when God comes to reap the spiritual fruits of the people, they have none. They ignore his messengers – the prophets and the priests, the judges and the kings – and they even abuse them and kill them. Finally the Son of the Father comes [Jesus Christ], and the vinedressers kill Him, and try to lay claim on the vineyard of their own. This is parallel to Adam and Eve in the garden, wanting the blessings by their own power. So the Father punishes the evil vinedressers, and He takes away the vineyard, and gives it to another. The Fathers, in keeping with the flow of the parable, certainly understand this to mean that the promises given to the people of the Old Covenant are taken away, and given now to the Church. And our Lord ends by quoting the Psalms, “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes” The Gentiles, rejected by the Jews and the Old Covenant, actually become the cornerstone of the New Covenant and the Church of Christ.

As we see in our Lord’s parable, the question really comes down to – who are the chosen people of God? Or to put it another way – who truly are the followers of the way of God? God’s chosen people, those who follow Him and are His children, these are the heirs of the promises of God. And remember, the promises are not about exclusivity – God wants to pour out His grace on all mankind – but to receive that great grace, we must be followers of Him. St. Paul continues along the same teaching as Christ (obviously) in Galatians 3, where he even more clearly spells out the answer to this question that Christ addresses in the parable this morning. It’s a very dense chapter dealing with the law, grace, the promises, Israel, the Old Covenant, the New Covenant, Christ, and the Church – but we can pull out these two beautiful verses that spell things out very clearly. “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He [God] saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ [Christ is the seed of Abraham!]…and if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (16&29). Very clearly here St. Paul again tells us that the Christian Church is now the chosen Body of Christ, the heirs of the Kingdom of God.

Answering this question of “who are the people of God?” is important because we need to know what it is that God would have us doing. If the Old Covenant remains intact and those are the chosen people, then the Church as something separate is not doing what she should be doing. But we see clearly here from our Lord’s words, and from the words of St. Paul, that the Church of Christ is the New Israel, heirs to the promises, and the place where man comes to be saved. The people of the Old Covenant had as their major task the preparation of the world for the Messiah – He has come, and now is the time to follow Him.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Author Matthew Jackson

“Blessed is the Kingdom…” (Liturgy 3)

AUDIO HERE

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

Today we’ll continue our look at the Holy Liturgy of our Church, and we’ll consider only one short phrase. As we begin the Liturgy, the priest lifts up the Holy Gospel and prays, “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages, Amen.” This begins the Liturgy for us in this place. Yet the Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church tell us that the worship around the throne of God is never ceasing. The beginning of our Liturgy here in this place raises us up to join in that never-ending worship in the Heavenly Kingdom. The heavens don’t come down to worship with us – we are lifted up to the heavens to worship with the angels and the Saints and all of the people who are worshipping around the throne of Almighty God. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, as St. Paul says, because during the Liturgy we are present in the Kingdom of God. We enter the eternal now, where everything is present – we sing that Christ is born, or is Risen, or is come today (even the Second Coming is spoken of as present now). There is only one altar upon which worship to God is offered, and that is the altar in the Heavenly Kingdom. During the Holy Liturgy, the altar here in our Church becomes one with the Heavenly altar. We offer the same worship that every other parish and all of the angels and saints offer unto God. This is why the Liturgy is such a great work, such a great mystery, because we are joined with the heavens, we are present with God, and the grace of God is poured out abundantly on us as we’ve gathered together to worship.

As to the actual words the priest says, they set the tone for the remainder of our worship. “Blessed” – all of the Liturgy is about praise of God and thanksgiving to God. Worship is not centered on me and what I want and what I think I might need – worship is centered on God. We are here to bless and praise Him, to offer thanksgiving and to lift up our prayers. We give God the first place, we give Him all the space in our hearts and lives, and we worship Him. “Blessed is the Kingdom” – Christ is always preaching to people about the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom draws near, the Kingdom is within you, today you will be with me. The Kingdom not only refers to “heaven,” but the Kingdom truly is life in and with God. We as Christians are constantly trying to manifest the Kingdom in our lives. Our calling is to live in the Kingdom even here on this earth. And while we are offering the prayer of the Liturgy, we are living in the blessed Kingdom of God. Hopefully, when we depart from the service, we’ll carry that Kingdom within us and out into the world. The opening phrase ends with defining whose Kingdom we are blessing – the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We very clearly, proudly, and lovingly proclaim, for all of eternity to hear, that we worship the one true God. We worship the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. We worship the Holy Trinity, one God in three Persons, of whom the Incarnate Jesus Christ our Lord and God is the second Person. We worship the God of the Nicene Creed, the God of the angels and the Saints. We have no space for idols or distractions – and we truly live this as we worship and pray in the Divine Liturgy of our Holy Church.

As we hear this “Blessed is the Kingdom…” in each and every Liturgy, let us not grow used to hearing this as some normal phrase. May we always remember that these words lift us up to heaven – that we stand before the very throne of the dread Lord of Glory, and we offer Him our worship and our prayers along with the angels and the Saints. Truly, blessed is His Kingdom!

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Author Matthew Jackson