The previous post, a substantial quote from the work of Archimandrite Zacharias, a disciple of the Elder Sophrony, carries the reader back to the “Big Bang” or something to which it is compared. Beginnings are always interesting things – with even greater significance if seen in a proper theological light.
The Christian understanding of beginnings differs little if at all from its understanding of endings. Christ Himself is said to be the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. This can be taken simply to mean that “He is everything,” to which we could add an appropriate ‘gush’, but it is theologically far more than saying “He is everything.”
It is to say that everything that exists finds its beginning and foundation in Him – and thus also has its purpose in Him. When each of us comes into existence, there is a biological purpose written into our DNA. With that purpose what may seem an amorphous single-cell is, in fact, a human being and not a fish, for instance. It is there from the beginning, not added later. Even so the universe from the moment of its existence had its purpose within it.
For He has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of His will, according to the purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth (Eph. 1:9-10).
So from the very beginning of creation everything made has been made for the purpose of being united together with Christ. St. Maximus writes of this and speaks of the union of the created and uncreated – that is – the union of creation with Christ.
When we are Baptized into Christ, as St. Paul teaches, we are Baptized into His death and resurrection – we are Baptized into union with Christ. Our eternal purpose takes a giant step forward towards the fulness of its realization. With every reception of Holy Communion we are united with Christ yet more fully. With every prayer, every act of obedience to His commandments we are united with Christ.
Pascha (Easter) reveals this great mystery to us. There we see Christ, united to our death, raised from the dead, and thus raising us with Him. Created and Uncreated are united in Him. In His glorious ascension we see creation together with the Uncreated Divinity, raised to the heights and seated at the right hand of the Father. The Marriage Feast has begun.
Meditating on this reminds me of the old English phrase from the BCP: “As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”
“IT IS NO TEMPORAL FEAST that we come to, but an eternal, heavenly feast. We do not display it in shadows; we approach it in reality. The Jews had their fill of the flesh of a dumb lamb, and when their feast was finished they anointed their door-posts with the blood to beg for aid against the destroyer. But the Food that we partake of is the Father’s Word. We have the lintels of our heart sealed with the Blood of the new covenant; and we acknowledge the grace bestowed upon us by our Saviour.”
Saint Athanasius the Great of Alexandria, + 373 A.D.
“….In summary, God is the Highest Spiritual Being, from Whom is everything and without Whom nothing is conceivable. He has no beginning and will never have an end, being above any time and space. He is everywhere at once, penetrating everything, but nothing can penetrate Him. He is the beginning, the continuation, and life of everything existing. He is infinitely kind and, at the same time, infinitely just. Not needing anything, He in His goodness concerns Himself with the entire visible and invisible world and directs the life of each person toward salvation. The path to knowing God and eternal bliss is revealed to persons through the Only-Begotten Son of God.
Contemporary man, with his tremendous baggage of all sorts of knowledge, knows little and thinks little about God. Everything is directed as if on purpose towards distracting his thoughts from the most important — from God and from eternity, denying the person active association with the Creator. From this comes total lightlessness of bustle, continual disappointment and spiritual gloom. It is imperative to make a willful effort, to shift the bustle to secondary status, turn full front to God and to see His light. Then, through association with Him, we will feel His nearness and goodness, will see His directing right hand in our life, and will learn to revere His will. Thus God will gradually become the most important in life to us — the source of our strength, peace and happiness, the goal of our existence. He will become our Father, and we — His children.”
By Bishop Alexander Mileant – One God worshipped in Trinity
Prayer to God
O Lord! Your Name is Light: enlighten my soul, darkened by passions. Your Name is Mercy; do not stop being merciful to me. Your Name is Strength: strengthen me who is exhausted and falling. Your Name is Peace: bring peace to my restless soul. Your Name is Love: make me worthy of loving You.
HOW GLORIOUS IS GOD
Words by M.M Kheraskov (1733-1807).
English Translation by Alexander F. Beck
How great our Lord on high in Zion,
Our mortal tongue cannot convey;
Beneath His throne the stardust flying,
Is one with windswept grasses’ sway.
Throughout the Universe His glory
By day and night is bright and holy.
O Lord, Thy Lamb of golden haloes
Reflects Thy face for our eyes;
With psalter-sounds we send our prayers,
Like smoke from censers, to the skies.
Accept, Lord God, from Thy creation
Incense and songs of adoration.
Thy radiance to us revealing,
Thy love transcends a father’s care;
While feeding us, our ailments healing,
Thou showest us Thy Kingdom fair.
Sweet mercy Thou to sinners sendest —
Their hunger with Thy substance endest.
Katia needs her own blog…
…..or at least to come up for air
“Bless the Lord, O my soul! While I live I will praise the Lord; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.” Ps 146
As long as Fr Stephen does not mind, if i use his blog to glorify God i do not need my own, i can not deal with the hard work behind it, too week i am.
Please forgive me
What exactly is that picture of? It is beautiful.
P.S. Thank you Katia for your wonderful quotes. The Fathers certainly add to Fr. Stephen’s own thoughts and I appreciate what you bring to the conversation here. God grant you many years!
Anyone who starts by quoting old St. Ath is okay in my book. 😉
Photo: a monk on the ice at valaam. Valaam monastery has an amazing collection of photos on their site.
“… sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum” works pretty well, too.
Book of Common Prayer
“As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.” is a (slight) mistranslation of what in an Orthodox service is translated as “now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.” To be honest, attending Protestant services as a child, I found the “Glory Be” fairly confusing, since I didn’t understand how the clauses were supposed to be modifying each other and the imposition of “world” to refer to the ages of time was a bit baffling.