O God, my God, I rise early to be with You;
My soul thirsts for You.
How often my flesh thirsts for You
In a desolate, impassable, and waterless land.
So in the holy place I appear before You,
To see Your power and Your glory.
Because Your mercy is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.
Thus will I bless You in my life;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
May my soul be filled, as if with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth shall sing praise to You
with lips filled with rejoicing.
If I remembered You on my bed,
I meditated on You at daybreak;
For You are my helper,
And in the shelter of Your wings I will greatly rejoice….
Lighting candles before Vigil this evening, for the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. This commemoration marks the end of the Christmas season, when 40 days after birth Jesus was presented in the temple in Jerusalem to fulfill the law of Moses. The Prophet Simeon knew by the Spirit that the child was the Christ, the Messiah, and he took him in his arms and said,
“Lord, now let Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people: a Light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.”
In The Eucharist, Fr. Alexander Schmemann lays before us the glories of the faith, which “manifests and grants that to which it is directed: the presence among us of the approaching kingdom of God and its unfailing light.” The very Kingdom of God seems to shine directly from the pages of Fr. Alexander’s book into my heart; it feels that way because he brings to mind what I have experienced in our services.
Jesus himself referred to the kingdom as something present on earth when He was among his disciples; as something within us; as something for whose coming we ought to pray in The Lord’s Prayer. Truly the Divine Liturgy is where we both experience heaven and anticipate the fullness of the kingdom to come.
The Orthodox Divine Liturgy, the Eucharist, begins with the announcement, “Blessed is the kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.”
What does it mean to bless the kingdom? It means that we acknowledge and confess it to be our highest and ultimate value, the object of our desire, our love and our hope. It means that we proclaim it to be the goal of the sacrament — of pilgrimage, ascension, entrance — that now begins. It means that we must focus our attention, our mind, heart and soul, i.e., our whole life, upon that which is the “one thing needful.” Finally, it means that now, already in “this world,” we confirm the possibility of communion with the kingdom, of entrance into its radiance, truth and joy. Each time that Christians “assemble as the Church” they witness before the whole world that Christ is King and Lord, that his kingdom has already been revealed and given to man and that a new and immortal life has begun. This is why the liturgy begins with this solemn confession and doxology of the King who comes now but abides forever and shall reign unto ages of ages.
– Father Alexander Schmemann
The voice of the Lord cries over the waters, saying:
Come all ye, receive the Spirit of wisdom, the Spirit of understanding,
the Spirit of the fear of God, even Christ who is made manifest.
Today the nature of water is sanctified.
Jordan is divided in two, and turns back the stream of its waters,
beholding the Master being baptized.
As a man Thou didst come to that river, O Christ our King,
and dost hasten O Good One, to receive the baptism of a servant
at the hands of the Forerunner, because of our sins, O Lover of Man.
-Hymn of the Great Blessing of Waters