Monday, September 23, 2013

Welcoming the Arrival of Fall

In pagan Ireland, the celebration of Samhain from sunset of 31 October to sunset of 1 November marked the night ‘when the "door" to the Otherworld opened enough for the souls of the dead, and other beings, to come into our world. Feasts were had, at which the souls of dead kin were beckoned to attend and a place set at the table for them’ ( 

Similar customs in China (Ghost Festival), Latin American countries (Day of the Dead, etc.), the united States (Hallowe’en) and elsewhere in the world in the latter half of the year ( give one strong reason to believe that a ‘thinning’ between the world of the living and the world of the departed does indeed occur as autumn approaches. 

Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘Dream-Land’ (see below) captures well this mood of the season, when death creeps in upon the world.

But we must go a step further.  For in many of these things death and evil is foremost, and not God.  We must go where there is life, to the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church, where the ‘thinning’ between the worlds of living and departed becomes full of light and love, as Heaven and Earth are united in the ultimate act of the worship of God - the bloodless sacrifice of Christ our God and the reception of His Most Pure Body and Most Precious Blood by the faithful.

From ‘Liturgy and Spirituality’ by Hieromonk Athanasije Jevtić:

The Liturgy is found at the very center of life, experience and understanding of the Orthodox Catholic Church of God and consequently at the center of Orthodox Theology. For the being and life itself of the Orthodox Church consists of the Liturgy, because the very being of the Church of Christ is liturgical and Her very life eucharistic.

The whole creation of God, the whole world is conceived and created by God in such a way So as to become one great oikonomia (οκονομία- οκος-νέμω) of God in Christ, «the oikonomia of grace», according to the words of the Apostle Paul, which means to become one community" (κοινωνία) of everything created with God, to become the Church: the Body of Christ and the House of the Father in the Spirit (Eph. 1:22-23; 2:21-22), to become one «blessed kingdom,) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, the kingdom of «the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit».

The life and the proper functioning of this world and of such a world having such a purpose as that of God' s created world, and especially man as the crown of the entire creation, should have been one continuous liturgy (λειτουργία), i.e. one permanent communion with God, the eucharistic way of living, acting, and participating with God and in God: everything is received from God as a gift of his Goodness and Love and everything is returned with gratitude (thanksgiving — εχαριστία, ε-χαριστέω) and offered as liturgy (anaphora), so that again everything would be returned by Him as divine grace for life and immortality. «Thine own of Thine own we offer unto Thee, in behalf of all and for all».

However, through the fall of man, this communion with God was broken, and liturgical and eucharistic living, offering and functioning of the world and man was distorted, ruined, and cut off. For that reason, man and with him all creation fell under the law of captivity and corruption, under «the law of death», since there is no and can be no life free of incorruption without the eucharistic life in God and with God?, without the serving of the Eucharistic liturgy. Instead of the natural life in God and the attaining his own fullness and authenticity in Him, man slid into an unnatural and sick state of «living in death». He experienced this because, as it was nicely stated, he experienced «a non-eucharistic life in a non-eucharistic world» (Fr. A. Schmemann, For the Life of the World). Instead of freely and thankfully serving — performing the liturgy (λειτουργε) — the Good God in the Holy Spirit, and in that (act) finding hid spiritual service (πνευματικ λατρεία) and his spiritual life (πνευματικ ζωή), man came into captivity and chains of «bodily desires and passions» and therefore could no longer serve (λειτουργεν), no longer offer (προσφέρειν) his being and all creation, himself, and his life to God, and through these things commune (participate) in His life and holiness (I Peter 1,15-16; II Peter 1,3-4; Hebr. 12,10). Because «No one who is bound with the desires and pleasures of the flash is worthy to approach or draw near or to serve Thee, _ King of Glory» (Liturgy of St. Basil the Great), the only Holy One, for the holy things are given only to the holy.

However, even if man forsook God and communion with Him, God did not forsake man, but rather through His Son established a second communion δευτέραν καινωνίαν – St. Gregory Theol.) of God and roan. Christ's oikonomia of salvation: Through the incarnation, voluntary suffering, the giving of Himself «for the life of the world» at the Last Supper, through offering Himself to death on the Cross, and by His glorious Resurrection and Ascension, and finally, through the granting and pouring forth of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost on everybody and all creation, —re-established and furthermore, exceeded abundantly that eucharistic liturgy in the world and among man. A new communion, between God and man was created, the New Testament in the Blood of the God-Man, a new covenant between God and men — and that is the Church as the assembly (συναγωγσύναξις σύνοδος), communion of the «first-born among many brothers» (Horn. 8, 29), as the «communion (κοινωνία) of the Body and Blood of Christ» (I Cor. 10, 16-17). The realization of this is, in fact, first of all the Holy liturgy of the Church - the Divine Eucharist as a God-assembled synaxis and gathering (σύνοδος) of the people of God, assembled and united in one Body - the Body of Christ — through the participation and unification of one Bread and one Spirit. Therefore, St. John of Damascus rightly says that the performing of the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist (Liturgy) in the Church «fulfills in itself the entire spiritual (πνευματικν) and supernatural economy of Christ's incarnation» (P.G. 95, 408C). This is most clear and every Orthodox theologian will agree with it: the Liturgy of Christ's Church is identified with the whole of Christ's economy of incarnation and salvation.


By Edgar Allen Poe

By a route obscure and lonely,   
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,   
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have reached these lands but newly   
From an ultimate dim Thule
From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime,
       Out of SPACE—Out of TIME.

Bottomless vales and boundless floods,   
And chasms, and caves, and Titan woods,   
With forms that no man can discover   
For the tears that drip all over;   
Mountains toppling evermore   
Into seas without a shore;   
Seas that restlessly aspire,   
Surging, unto skies of fire;   
Lakes that endlessly outspread   
Their lone waters—lone and dead,—   
Their still waters—still and chilly   
With the snows of the lolling lily.

By the lakes that thus outspread
Their lone waters, lone and dead,—
Their sad waters, sad and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily,—
By the mountains—near the river   
Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever,—   
By the grey woods,—by the swamp   
Where the toad and the newt encamp,—   
By the dismal tarns and pools
   Where dwell the Ghouls,—   
By each spot the most unholy—   
In each nook most melancholy,—   
There the traveller meets, aghast,   
Sheeted Memories of the Past—   
Shrouded forms that start and sigh   
As they pass the wanderer by—   
White-robed forms of friends long given,   
In agony, to the Earth—and Heaven.

For the heart whose woes are legion   
’T is a peaceful, soothing region—   
For the spirit that walks in shadow   
’T is—oh, ’t is an Eldorado!
But the traveller, travelling through it,   
May not—dare not openly view it;   
Never its mysteries are exposed   
To the weak human eye unclosed;   
So wills its King, who hath forbid   
The uplifting of the fring'd lid;   
And thus the sad Soul that here passes   
Beholds it but through darkened glasses.

By a route obscure and lonely,   
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright,   
I have wandered home but newly   
From this ultimate dim Thule.

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