Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Holy Altar Today Becomes the Upper Room


By Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

Great Thursday. On such a shocking day with the help and guidance of the Holy Fathers of the Church "we approach within the worship of the Church the secret and fearsome table ... and we cleanse our souls by taking the bread."

A. This is not a formal repetition of the supper, but a mysterious extension of the event. What happened then in the upper room, is now taking place on the Holy Altar. Back then they had Christ, and now we have Christ.

As Saint John Chrysostom said: "Believe that there is no difference between that secret supper and this mystery. Because a man does not do this one and Christ that one, but He also offers this one. He who did what was done then, does what is done now."

Saint Maximus the Confessor will add: "Thus the Holy Altar is the upper room, the presence of Christ is the divine decor. He is the One offering and being offered, Who receives and is given."

By this supernatural mystery of the presence of God and His love for the human race, the Fathers of the Church felt shocked.

What fearsome mystery! What ineffable economy! What incomprehensible condescension of God! What unfathomable mercy! The Creator gives Himself to His creation for their enjoyment. His Life He gives to mortals to eat and drink.

B. Such shock was felt by my revered elder Agathonikos. From the time I met him in the sacred sanctuary in the Apostolic Church of Athens he would say that he was shocked by the day of Great Thursday.

I remember my priesthood and the presence of the Eucharistic mystery.

Christ delivered to us the most precious thing in the world, His Body and Blood. These shocks he recorded in an encyclical that he sent to the clergy of his Metropolis:

"Take, eat, this is My Body. Drink of this, all of you, this is My Blood. How is it possible for these wonderful words to not cause the heart to beat of every priest's life?

No matter how many times we repeat it, let us repeat it as if it was our first time. Never out of habit. Because our Priesthood is repaid by these God-delivered words.

Today is Great Thursday, and the entire Church is once again noetically in the upper room of Jerusalem. There where the Holy Apostles for the last time gathered with Christ at the Secret Supper.

I invite you to re-read the farewell words of the Lord in the Gospel of John: 'Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from My Father I have made known to you' (Jn. 15:13-15).

Christ calls His Apostles friends. He wants also to call us friends, who, thanks to the ordination we received, we partake in His Priesthood.

Let us listen to these words of His with great emotion, as well as with great humility. Because they express the truth about us as being shareholders of the Priesthood of Christ, as liturgists of the Divine Eucharist."

Today, on Great Thursday, we will participate in the supper of the Divine Eucharist. We will sit at the table of Divine Love with Christ as the host and fellow diners will be the Twelve and the entire Church.

These drops of the Holy Blood recreate the entire Church: "A few drops of blood renew the whole world, and do for all men what the rennet does for the milk: joining us and binding us together" (St. Gregory the Theologian, On Holy Pascha).

This is how Elder Agathonikos expressed himself. This is what our world needs today. The Body and Blood of our Lord.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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