Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Met. Ephrem (Kyriakos) on the Divine Liturgy

Arabic original here.

The Divine Liturgy: The Sacrament of Thanksgiving

The most important prayer that we give to God is prayer of thanksgiving. The Divine Liturgy is the prayer of thanksgiving par excellence. Why? Because the best thing we can thank God for is His divine sacrifice on the cross for the salvation of our souls. "It is meet and right to praise Thee, to bless Thee and to worship Thee in every place of Thy dominion... Thou brought us out of nothing into being... For all of these things we give thanks to Thee... for all things of which we know and of which we know not, whether manifest or unseen..."

We do not give thanks to God only for money. We do not thank Him only for health. Health is not always useful and it does not always bring us closer to God. We also say in Liturgy, "We thank Thee for this divine sacrifice which Thou hast found worthy to accept at our hands..." The most important thing that happened in history was the divine sacrifice on the cross.

The divine liturgy is a wedding, wherein we are united to Christ by means of the Gospel and of partaking. It is a spiritual wedding where we pray that we may feel that we are poor before God. This is the most important grace that God gives us.

In Greek we call it the Eucharist, that is the giver of every grace.

The reason for coming to the liturgy is faith, thanksgiving, and giving praise and glory. We might not understand everything that is said and everything that happens at the liturgy. The encounter with the Lord amidst the assembly of the faithful, this is what is most important. There we share in the Lord's table.

We do not remain isolated in our homes. In Greek we also call partaking "koinonia", which means "society" or "communion". There is no private liturgy for a particular family. We are always together.

When someone says that "the liturgy is private", this does not mean anything in the Church's understanding. The sacrament of baptism, the sacrament of marriage, all the sacraments were performed with the community at the divine liturgy, as was priestly ordination. The priest does not perform the divine sacrifice alone. The priest stands as a representative in the presence of God, bearing with him the community and the world because the liturgy is the lifting up of the entire universe. Here is the entrance into the eternal kingdom of the Trinity.

"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...." This is how we would like our days to be, filled with God's presence. The believer is always reaching upwards, from earth to heaven, from bodily things to spiritual things. This is his ongoing struggle. It is the constant motion as long as we are in the body, estranged from God, until God reigns over our hearts in the kingdom of His love. When the believers taste the Gospel and the body of the Lord, they place themselves between the first coming and the second coming.

In sum, beloved, let all come to the divine liturgy and taste how good the Lord is!

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