Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The blood, and the joy, of freedom

It is meet and right to sing of Thee, to bless Thee, to praise Thee, to give thanks to Thee, to worship Thee. For Thou art God ineffable, incomprehensible, invisible, inconceivable;
Thou art from everlasting, and art ever the same.

Prayer at the Anáphora

This is a hymn of apophatic theology, an apophatic exclamation.
In other words, it is a hymn born from the life of the Cross and Resurrection, from the inalienable joy and life which come through the Cross into all the world. It is meet and right for God to be everywhere hymned, blessed, praised, thanked and worshipped by man because He is ineffable, incomprehensible, inconceivable, and from everlasting and ever the same. If He were not invisible and incomprehensible, He would not be God and it would not be worth the trouble of singing of Him; indeed it would be wrong for us to do anything of the sort. As it is, He keeps us watchful and sober, and gives us life through incorruption.

What reassurance this gift from the Liturgy brings!
What an opening into life, what a victory this is!

We give thanks, we hymn, we bless God for the difficulties we have, for what we cannot approach or attain. For it is these things alone, as realities and trials and not artificial verbal constructions, that pour into the veins of our existence the blood of freedom and life which the living God has given us and gives us still.

We are nothing and less than nothing, and He who is all and more than all draws near, and becomes permanently one with us: one soul, one body. He gives His soul and body, the whole of His divinity and His humanity to us.

If He were not invisible and incomprehensible, He would not be God. He would not have led us up to heaven. He would not now be able to bestow upon us the Kingdom which is to come; and we should not be able to give thanks for benefactions “known and unknown.” In the “unknown,” in ignorance, in the area we cannot approach, we should never be able to find and see the most marvellous and endless of His benefactions towards us. “Now all things have been filled with light, heaven and earth and what is under the earth.”

Only He who is true God, in His true worship, can create true men.
Thus the statement “For Thou art God ineffable, incomprehensible, invisible, inconceivable…” rises before us “like a very mountain, steep and hard to approach,” from which the uncreated breeze descends and swells the lungs of man, bringing life to his innermost parts with the joy of freedom, of something unqualified, dangerous, and wholly alive.

How often we want to make God conceivable, expressible, visible, perceptible with worldly senses. How much we want to worship idols—to be shut into the prison of the non-essential, of error and heresy. The Divine Liturgy, however, does not allow us to do anything of the sort. It destroys our idols of God and raises up before us His saving Image, the Word “who is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), the archetype of our true, hidden, God-made being.

Hymn of Entry, pp. 63-64, by Archimandrite Vasileios

Today's post, purposely presented on this anniversary of the 9/11 events, is in an oblique way the answer, as I see it, to every deformation of the human spirit that propagates terrorism and all hateful passions. Without trying to analyse the problems we face from a human perspective, I simply want to again remind us that the solution to our problems from small to great is not religion, not politics, not social engineering, not economics, and certainly not calculated acts of violence.

God, God in Christ, God made Man who elevates (not evolves) Man to God, not doctrinally, not ecclesiastically, but liturgically, mystically, actually and, in the final analysis, factually—God who cannot be escaped, who cannot be evaded or tricked by any number of our subtle subterfuges, again, be they religious, moral or political—God, God in Christ, God in us, holy, wholly, unearthly Triad—this is not just a solution that we can handle, but the Solution that handles us—that will and can transfigure us ‘lock, stock and barrel,’ turning all our
swords and spears into ploughshares and pruning hooks—and anything else we need to tend the Garden.

Never again must happen what happened on 9/11, not just for America but for all people, all faiths. America is still trying to be the icon of what humanity looks like when it is truly free—with the kind of freedom
that comes from Christ—and though it fails much of the time, it simply does not give up, and people know instinctively when America swerves to left or right, and sooner or later, it does get back on course. This is my hope, and my prayer, for my country, and for every nation, because there is only one race, the human race, and what makes us one and human is the Word of God that enlightens everyone who comes into the world.

And on those who fell this day, of every faith and of no faith, may the Lord have mercy: Aiónia i mními, memory eternal.

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