This past Sunday we celebrated the day of the holy apostle Philip, which marks the beginning of Pylipivka, the pre-Christmas fast—a preparation for the celebration of Our Lord’s Nativity. It is a wonderful time of reflection and preparation. Reflection upon the great mystery of God’s love for us and preparing ourselves for His presence among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
During this period, specifically, for this month during our Sunday homilies, we will be focussing on deepening our awareness of God’s love and presence in and through our Divine Liturgy.
The liturgical life of the church is not just another set of rituals or rules, like the norms we have established for organizations or public ceremonies. Our liturgical life is an attempt for us to enter into divine life, to see ourselves and our world as God sees. It is for this reason that the church has a different cycle during the year than our social calendar. The church’s calendar is not built around a “new year” but rather structured around an event which goes beyond time and includes all time: Easter—the day of Resurrection, the Feast of Feasts. This is our starting point and our end point. It is the day which gives meaning to all else. It is the day that we re-live every Sunday and that we are invited to re-celebrate at every Divine Liturgy.
So what is the Divine Liturgy? We will focus on this for the next few weeks in our Sunday homilies. We will hear about our call to enter into the Kingdom, not as weak and lost people, but as those who are called to a higher dignity: children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ. We become this, not of our own action, but because this is what God’s love does to us. As children of God we come to know our Lord through the actions of God in human history: so we hear what God has done in the singing of the psalm excerpts in the antiphons, and the readings from the New Testament (epistle and gospel). But then we are invited into an even more intimate experience: God is with us. We enter the Eucharistic portion of the Liturgy, recalling the Incarnation, the Passion, and ultimately the Resurrection of Christ. In spite of our inadequacies we are invited to “taste and see how good the Lord is”: to receive the Eucharist. Finally, we are to proclaim this truth and celebrate with joy this reality of being united to Christ as we go into the world. We are meant to take our experience of the Kingdom into the world, so that “the name of the Lord is blessed, now and forever” and not just in our churches, but throughout the world!