FATHER JOHN BEHR
After this I looked and there in heaven a door stood open. And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this." After this I was in the Spirit , and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne....The Apocalypse, like much Jewish literature, has several levels of meaning so that this interpretation of the text does not exclude others. . It is obvious that John the Seer is being invited through the open door between heaven and earth into the Presence of God the Father on his throne. It is also clear from reading the Apocalypse that its description of heaven is modelled on the temple of Jerusalem. Where in the Jerusalem temple was the throne of God, where he was present so that they could be his people and he could be their God? In the Holy of Holies there was the tip of Mount Sion. In the first temple there were on either side a large golden statue of a cherubim and, in front was the Ark of the Covenant. God's throne was between the two statues, and the Ark was his footstool. In the second temple, statues and Ark had vanished and there was just an empty space. Nevertheless, every year on the Day of the Atonement, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies with great trepidation, to pour out the blood of a bull and ram onto the tip of Mount Sion, while the rest of the blood was sprinkled over the temple. This ensured the Presence of God in the temple for another year. Hence there was a link in the Jewish mind between atonement sacrifice and divine presence
You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.The heavenly Jerusalem and temple were not a Christian fantasy. Nor were they invented for the convenience of the prophets and writers of apocalyptic. The temple was built according to a plan revealed by God to Moses. From this was deduced that it reflected heavenly reality. It came to be believed that it was a projection on earth of God's dwelling place in heaven which was the "real" temple in a "real" Jerusalem. I have even seen it argued that Jewish beliefs about the temple were behind Plato's notion that heavenly "ideas" are the reality behind the things of earth. The idea was adopted and emphasised by Jew and Christian alike after the destruction of Jerusalem with its temple in 70AD. It meant that, whatever took the place of the destroyed temple would retain its identity with the temple that had existed before because both had received the identity from heaven. Here, in the Letter to the Hebrews, we see the Christian life in language taken from the temple and the idea that we are not the only ones gathered before the living God, and that our assembly is part of a far greater assembly spanning heaven and earth.
THE ENTRANCE OF THE BISHOP
You are indeed holy, O Lord, and all you have created rightly gives you praise, for through your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, by the power and working of the Holy Spirit, you give life to all things and make them holy, and you never cease to gather a people to yourself, so that from the rising of the sun to its setting a pure sacrifice may be offered to your name.
As therefore the Lord did nothing without the Father, being united to Him, neither by Himself nor by the apostles, so neither do anything without the bishop and presbyters. Neither endeavour that anything appear reasonable and proper to yourselves apart; but being come together into the same place, let there be one prayer, one supplication, one mind, one hope, in love and in joy undefiled. There is one Jesus Christ, than whom nothing is more excellent. Therefore run together as into one temple of God, as to one altar, as to one Jesus Christ, who came forth from one Father, and is with and has gone to one.
See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.Thus, the arrival of the bishop completes the Christian community, uniting it because, as St Cyprian of Carthage said, "The Church is in the bishop and the bishop in the Church." It is now gathered together in Christ's name. It is now "Church" in the full sense of the word. Christ is present among us, and in Christ we are in the presence of the Father before the throne. The Church, while remaining an earthly reality has become full of heaven so that we are one with the heavenly host. In the words of the Apocalypse, we have passed through the open door and are now before the throne; and this, as we shall see, is the basis for our understanding of the Christian altar..
"Blessed is the kingdom of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever, and unto ages of ages.."People:
.Blessed are You on the throne of glory of Your kingdom, seated upon the Cherubim, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.Here is a passage from "The Eucharist" by Fr A. Schmemann on the significance of the altar in Byzantine Liturgy.
According to the witness of all tradition, the altar is a symbol of Christ and Christ.s kingdom. It si the table at which Christ gathers us, and it is the sacrificial table that unites the high priest and the sacrifice. It is the throne of the King and Lord. It is heaven, that kingdom in which "God is all in all". And it is precisely from this experience of the altar as the focus of the eucharistic mystery of the Church that all the "mystique" of the altar developed - as heaven, as the eschatological pole of the liturgy, as that sacramental presence that converts the whole temple into "heaven on earth." And therefore the entrance, the drawing near to the altar, is always an ascent. In it the Church ascends to the place where her genuine "life is hid with Christ in God." She ascends to heaven when the Eucharist is celebrated.
THE ENTRANCE RITE IN THE ASSYRIAN LITURGY
Priest: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, for ever.
Glory to God in the highest (three times) and on earth peace and good hope to men of all times for ever. Amen.
All pray: Our Father in heaven,hallowed be Thy name,Thy kingdom come.
Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, our Father in heaven. Heaven and earth are full of the greatness of Thy glory; angels and men cry out to Thee:Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed by Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, as in heaven so on earth. Give us the bread of our need this day, and forgive us our offences, as we have forgiven those who haveoffended us. And bring us not into trial but deliver us from the evil one. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Priest: Strengthen, our Lord and our God, our weakness by Thy grace that we may administer the holy mysteries which were given for the renewal and redemption of our nature, through the mercies of Thy beloved Son, Lord of all, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for ever. Amen.
Priest: Before the glorious throne of Thy majesty, my Lord, and the high and exalted seat of Thy honour and the awesome judgement seat of the power of Thy love, and the absolving altar which Thy will has established and the place where Thy honour dwells, we, Thy people and the sheep of Thy pasture, with thousands of Cherubim which sing halleluiahs to Thee, ten thousand Seraphim and Archangels which hallow Thee, do kneel and worship and confess and glorify Thee at all times, O Lord of all, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for ever. AmenThe Assyrian entrance rite is divided into two, each ending in a prayer by the priest. The first is an extended declaration of the presence of the kingdom where the will of God is done on earth as in heaven. It is, at one and the same time, kingdom of God, where God reigns, carrying out his own will on earth as in heaven by his Word, and the kingdom of heaven, where the heavenly hosts join with the Church on earth to sing God's praises. "Glory to God in the highest..." are the words of the angels at the birth of Christ, and "Holy, holy, holy.." is sung by angels at various theophanies. Thus, right at the beginning are the themes of the kingdom, the Blessed Trinity, heaven and earth joined in praise and the Our Father, are all joined together. After the priests prays a prayer pleading strength to fulfill his ministry, two choirs sing the Introit, each choir singing an alternate verse and adding Alleluia. Afterwards, the priest prays to God present on his glorious throne, his judgement seat and absolving altar etc, and reference is made to the large number of angels etc In going into God's presence, the altar becomes a full-blown theophany.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.This indicates that we are not only called together in Christ's name as Church, we also share in the life of the Trinity, God's own life.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.However, we can use the simplest greeting of all
The Lord be with youWe shall say more about thus greeting when we meet it again before the reading of the Gospel. Here it is enough to bring to your attention the fact that, as far as meaning goes, to bless "In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit", means the same as "The Lord be with you", because whatever Christ does is also done by the Father and the Holy Spirit, even if each divine Person has a different relationship to what is being done according to his position in the Blessed Trinity.
And with your spirit.This reply is only given to bishops, priests and deacons because it means, "And may the Lord be with what you received at ordination." If the Lord is not present empowering what he has given at ordination, then the ordination won't work. If the Lord is not with us who receive, thenwe will be incapable of benefiting from the ministry. Within the Church, the power to give and to receive comes from God.
Brethren (brothers and sisters), let us acknowledge our sins, and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries..Then follows the act of contrition, a version of the old Confiteor, a short petition with a response or a penitential act integrated with the Kyrie. The priest responds:
May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life. To which the people respond, AMENThe Roman Rite is the only one to have a penitential rite at this point. All the other rites assume that the Christian life is a penitential one, but are pre-occupied with being brought into God's presence here and are busy praising him or pleading his mercy. The act of penitence began as part of the priest's prayers before the celebration. Then it was said in a low voice at the foot of the altar in the private Mass. Pope Pius Vth's Mass was really the private Mass with additions for public Masses - which was why it needed reform - so that the practice entered the public celebration. In the changes, it is said, it became part of the modern Mass by liturgical mistake. However, if it was a mistake, it was a providential one, because people are losing their sense of sin because they are losing their sense of God; and it must be emphasised that we can only worthily offer sacrifice with a pure heart. This was said in the Didache, which has an order of Mass for the turn of the first century and begins with an act of penitence.
Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will.
It then goes on to elaborate:We praise you,we bless you, we adore you,we glorify you,we give you thanks for your great glory,Lord God, heavenly King, O God almighty Father.
,"Glory" means that by which a person's talent, beauty, rank or deeds are recognised. Thus, according to the fashion of St Paul's time, the "glory" of a woman was her hair. The scrambled egg on a general's cap and sleeve is his "glory" because it is the army's way of showing he is a general. In St JOhn's Gospel, the Father and Jesus are "glorified" by the Cross because it reveals that God is self-giving Love.