聖禮儀 (二)：進入天堂的國度 講道 ：李亮神父 英文紀錄：貝克教授 翻譯：張奉書
2015.05.10 Sunday of the Samaritan Woman
Liturgy II : Entering into the Kingdom of Heaven
Sermon: Fr. Jonah
Transcript: Prof. Baker
Today I will talk more about the Liturgy because you must understand that here is our real activity. The Chinese people want to participate in activities, and this is not bad, and I was happily surprised that some people brought their names [of living and dead persons close to them to commemorate during the Liturgy]. You can take these lists back and give them to me next time. This way, you can know that you do not come here alone; you bring all your world and all your family, all your friends. And you understand that the Liturgy is what unites us, even after death because there is no Death in the Liturgy with our beloved people. The living and the dead are all here, together.
As I told you, the Liturgy starts on the previous day, when you prepare what you brought, a little bit of wine or a little bit of bread. And this is caring; something that you do with your own hands is bringing and offering the universe to God. As you know and as you see in the Bible, Jesus appears to His disciples when they are together, and so we come here together to make the body of Jesus Christ. And this is why I can wear these robes. It is because of you; without you I could not do the Liturgy.
Now I will explain a little more about the Liturgy to you. Because we are here as one, to make the body of Jesus Christ., the priest starts the Liturgy by saying, “Blessed is the kingdom of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Some people try to understand the Liturgy in a very wrong way, with symbols, like “this is the symbol that we enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. This is very wrong. This is a Platonic way, and here we do not speak about symbols. The bread and the wine that the people receive are not a symbol of Jesus Christ; they are the real body of Jesus Christ. So, to understand the Liturgy you must read, and you should take it as your assignment from me, such a bad person and such a bad priest, to study the 5th and 6th chapters of the Revelation, because this is the way to understand the Liturgy. John saw the heavens open and he saw the Liturgy of Heaven, which is happening now. And part of that Liturgy is what we are doing today, with such a poor place and such a bad priest.
So, when we say, “the Kingdom of Heaven,” we enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, and the Kingdom of Heaven is here. It is not a symbol, but it is real. If you read in John, it is the Liturgy of Heaven that is going on. It is real. You will say, but I don’t see it. We also have the bread and the wine and some people, maybe kids or people who are very innocent or pure, they see these as the Body and Blood. My spiritual father, Saint Porphyrios saw this way and many others also do. It is very common in the Orthodox Church for people to see this way. I don’t see that way; I am very bad. But just because we don’t see it this way does not mean that it is not real.
So, we enter, or we bring the Kingdom of Heaven here. Let’s say, if I’m allowed to use modern terms, to transform our space and time to the space and time of God: the Kingdom of Heaven. So when we start the Liturgy we are in Paradise, though from one point of view we are still in this poor place. And then the Kingdom of Heaven is not a Platonic place, where people are philosophers and they speak about the Bible or praying and so on. It’s not like that. But we bring all the world to the Kingdom of Heaven. This is why we start with prayers for the peace of the world, for good air, for the fruits of the earth: everything. So we bring all of our everyday life to the Kingdom of Heaven. So, we don’t’ pretend that the Kingdom is a place of prayer and nothing else; that would be a fake. This is why we offer the bread and the wine, the fruits of the earth, so we bring our anxieties, our cares. So this is why you see the priest starting to pray for everything in the beginning of the Liturgy. So now I will say to you very quickly and in the abstract, and then after the Liturgy next week I will say to you in more detail.
And reading all those things, in the Revelations it says that from the altar comes the Lamb with His Word, so the priest takes the Gospel and walks around the church. This is not a symbol, but it is as in the Revelations, the Word of God comes out. And you can see the dialogue that is [happening here]. We bring to God what we have. What is it that we care about? It is having food to eat and having a job. And the Word of God comes out and enters into dialogue with us.
And as I say, you see in the Revelations, that the Lamb comes in the middle of the Altar. So the priest comes and then the Small Entrance happens. Because if there is a bishop, he does not start the Liturgy. If the bishop comes here, or when he came, as you saw, he is there, in the center of the church, without doing anything, just saying prayers silently to himself. So when the Lamb comes in (the Book of Revelations), because it is not a symbol of Jesus Christ, it is a picture, an icon of Jesus Christ, the bishop now comes to the altar to start the offering. Really, the Liturgy is this entrance of the bishop and all the others to the Kingdom of Heaven.
And then, as we see in the Revelations, everybody is saying “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us,” is the hymn of the angels, the hymn of the saints to the Holy Trinity. And so we unite our voices to these voices in the Kingdom of Heaven. And then it is the Word of God that speaks, which is why we read the Gospel at this point. First He speaks, and theoretically I should give the sermon at this time, not now, but many people have not arrived by this time.
After this, we take out the Gospel and we open this cloth that enables the priest to do the Liturgy in any house or anywhere, and then we have the Great Entrance. You see the Great Entrance in this picture here [pointing to the icon over the altar showing the three angels]; Jesus is the high priest and it is He who is offered and he who offers. Now we sing the hymn that we represent the angels, we are with the angels who enter to offer to the Lamb, which is slaughtered in the Revelations, to offer the due worship and prayer together.
I say this because some people don’t understand and they say, “Oh, this is a symbol of the funeral of Jesus Christ,” or other things that are theologically wrong. It is, as you see in the Revelations, going from glory to stronger glory, and going to the real offering now. This is why the prayers of the priest, and of course of the people, say to forget about anything else; now we go to God. But going to God again, now we come with a changed mind for everything before God. And being united, we must pray; but how to pray with the same faith? And this is why we say the Creed. Everybody can come to the Church, but to be a real Orthodox, he must know all these things that I say. It is not enough just to say, “I pray to God.” Everybody can pray to God. But to do this [Liturgy] it must be done with the proper faith, which is why we say the Creed all together.
And then it is very important that the priest says peace to everybody, and then to glorify God. And this is why the people at this point say, “It is proper and right.” And these words are from the Bible. They are the voice of the souls of the people who are under the altar in Heaven, who say, “It is proper and right to offer to you both glory and worship.” How? Together. You must remember: you cannot go to God alone; you cannot. You cannot go to God, who is coexistence, who is the Trinity, just to bring your individuality there; that would be Hell. That is why it is very bad when some people say they “have icons and can pray at home, so why should they come to the church? I don’t need you.” That is Hell.
So, in this context we start the real offering. We unite our prayers with those who are under the altar. And we believe that our beloved departed people are also there.
I will stop here because I don’t want to make a long lesson, but just to explain to you what is going on in one part of the Liturgy and next Sunday I will say more to you. And I would like you to see those videos that we put on YouTube.
Once more I say to you that I expect you to again bring me some bread. I don’t ask for very much, just a little bit. And bring your list of beloved people since I will not keep these lists, so that I can commemorate these people. You can bring a small piece of bread or a little wine. I don’t want a bottle. You should not think that you have given a whole bottle and then your duty is done. It is not a duty. You must understand that when you to a football stadium you are not playing, you are just watching. But you do not come here to watch me give a performance. And you also do not come to calm down your metaphysical worries, thinking, “In case there is a God, then I’m covered because I’ve come to church.” It’s not that. It’s better to be atheist; it’s more honest. So you come to participate by giving your list of names and some small thing that will be with the Body and the Blood of Jesus Christ, as you saw today. And as you saw, even this bread that you could buy in any 7-11 [picking up a loaf of store-bought bread], from it I can cut a little piece. Although I’m a very bad priest, but I can make the bread or somebody else can make the bread in the traditional way, with a stamp. But I can also take a little piece [from an ordinary loaf like this] and put it in for the your beloved, both living and dead, and put it in the holy chalice.
I hope that gradually the Liturgy could be really the center of your life. May the Holy Trinity protect all of us.