"The people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. In vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines". You abandon the commandments of God and hold to human tradition (Mc c7)
I hope that this accusation cannot be levelled at us. After all, we are Christians and are at Mass. We offer Christ, and in offering him, we offer ourselves in union with him. Like the High Priest of old, we enter into the Presence of the Father through the veil of Christ's flesh. Entering into God's Presence, we receive Christ's body and blood and become one body with him. We live in him and he lives in us.
When we receive Christ at Communion, where does he take up his abode? He comes to dwell in that deep centre of the person that we call the heart. Our heart becomes a tabernacle, a holy of holies which can only be approached with awe. This is what becomes of our heart when we receive Jesus in Holy Communion.
We Christians have a stark choice. We can cast Christ out from his central place in our heart, so that what Jesus says of the unconverted heart becomes true in us,
It is from within, from the human heart that evil intentions come, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these things come from within, and they defile a person.
On the other hand, by our every-increasing cooperation with the Holy Spirit, we can gradually become adequate vessels to receive all that God is offering us in holy communion, and our love, which will become an instrument of God's Love, can extend to the whole of reality. We choose the second alternative when we receive Christ in holy communion.
Catholicism is a religion of the heart, first the heart of Jesus in which the battle between God and the forces of evil was won and which embraces in its love, both divine and human, the whole divinity of the Father and the whole of humanity. Then there are the hearts of those who receive the body and blood of Christ, Christ in his wholeness, hearts that are striving to beat in harmony with Christ's heart. Today is the time to make your choice. What kind of heart do you want?
If only that were the end of the story! We receive Our Lord, and no one can say that our hearts are far from him because he dwells within our hearts. But, what about our minds? We can have Christian hearts but pagan minds. All of us, until we become saints, are spiritual schizophrenics!! In our hearts we have Christ himself, attended by Our Lady, the angels and saints, because, by communion, our heart has become a very gate of heaven. Our minds are another story. How many of you would like to publish every one of your thoughts for the last twenty four hours for the benefit of this congregation? I think it would probably be a most embarrassing experience for all of us.
What is progress in sanctity for a Christian? It is bringing our minds in which Christ is largely absent into tune with our hearts where Christ is reigning and loving. Until this happens through a life of prayer, the mind will fight against the heart, and will try to push Christ from his central position and empty our hearts of grace.
If our Christianity is theological, our very theological thoughts will replace our love, rather than inform and enrich it, and we will become coldly orthodox, superior to those around us. "Orthodoxy without charity is the religion of the devil," said one of the fathers.
If our Christianity is liturgical, then liturgical participation will become if we are "progressive" merely a matter of twanging guitars and induced feelings of togetherness; or, if we are conservative, merely a matter of birettas, lace and incense; or, if we are scrupulous, merely a matter of validity; but never a meeting with the living God..
If our Christianity is moral, then we shall become pharisees, condemning rather than loving others.
If we are engaged in charitable works, then we shall do them for self-aggrandisement or to control those we are trying to help.
No! We must make that journey into the heart where Christ dwells, using constant prayer and the sharp weapon of obedience to Divine Providence, seeking God's will rather than our own to break the barrier between mind and heart. Then the mind will become full of the love of the Holy Spirit. Then our hearts will beat in harmony with the heart of Jesus, and we shall take on the very likeness of God, sharing in his life and becoming centres of his saving activity. We shall become indeed what Christ wants to make us every time he offers himself to us in Holy Communion.
Our theology will fill us with the knowledge of the Lord; our liturgy will bring us into communion with the angels and saints, and Christ will introduce us into the Presence of the Father; our practice of the moral law will fill us with the humility of the publican; and, when we practise charitable works, people will meet Christ, and his love in our love. Today, the Gospel is inviting you to receive Christ in very deed, so that he can transform you into his body.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SAINT SILOUAN AND OF ELDER SOPHRONY
THE IMPORTANCE OF SAINT SILOUAN AND OF ELDER SOPHRONY
By Elder Sophrony of Essexsource: Mystagogy
We Orthodox live Christ within the Divine Liturgy, or rather Christ lives within us during the Divine Liturgy. The Divine Liturgy is a work of God. We say: "Time is a creation of the Lord". Among other things it means now is the time for God to act. Christ liturgizes, we live with Christ.
The Divine Liturgy is the way we know God and the way God becomes known to us.
Christ celebrated the Divine Liturgy once and this passed into eternity. His divinized human nature came to the Divine Liturgy. We know Christ specifically in the Divine Liturgy. The Divine Liturgy we celebrate is the same Divine Liturgy which was done by Christ on Great Thursday in the Mystical Supper.
The 14th through the 16th chapters of the Gospel according to John is one Divine Liturgy. So in the Divine Liturgy we understand Holy Scripture.
The early Church lived without a New Testament, but not without the Divine Liturgy. The first records, the written hymns, exist in the Divine Liturgy.
In the Divine Liturgy we live Christ and understand His word.
As Christ cleansed His Disciples with his word and said to them: "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3) and He washed the feet of His Disciples with water, during the Sacred Washing, so also in the first section of the Divine Liturgy He cleanses us that we might attend later His Table of love. The purpose of the Divine Liturgy is to convey Christ to us.
The Divine Liturgy teaches us an ethos, the ethos of humility. As Christ sacrificed Himself, so also should we sacrifice ourselves. The type of the Divine Liturgy is the type of impoverishment for us. In the Divine Liturgy we try to be humbled, because we have the sense that there is the humble God.
Every Divine Liturgy is a Theophany. The Body of Christ appears. Every member of the Church is an icon of the Kingdom of God.
After the Divine Liturgy we must continue to iconify the Kingdom of God, keeping His commandments. The glory of Christ is to bear fruit in every member His fruit. This explains His word: "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit" (John 15:8).
COMPLINE IN LATIN (with English subtitles)