In the Divine Liturgy, after the congregation receives Holy Communion, the priest blesses the faithful with the words: “0 Lord, save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance.” The congregation sings in response: “We have seen the True Light! We have received the Heavenly Spirit! We have found the True Faith! Worshiping the Undivided Trinity, Who has saved us.”
What is this “True Light” – this “Heavenly Spirit” – this “True Faith”? It is God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the God “Who has saved us.” It is Jesus Christ – the Word made flesh (cf. Jn. 1:14) – who is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.” (Heb. 1:3)
Christianity is an intimate personal relationship between man and God – the wounded and the healer, the sinner and the savior, the bride and the bridegroom (cf. Eph. 5:32; Rev. 19:7), the disciple and the divine spiritual elder. And it is within the interior kingdom, church and monastery of our souls where God the Holy Trinity seeks to reside (cf. Jn 14:23) and to establish his rule of truth and love. “For behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Lk. 17:21)
Jesus did not leave us as orphans (cf. Jn. 14:18) but through his divine power has given to us everything we need for life and godliness, so that we may share in his divine likeness (cf. 2 Pt. 1:4) – “to become by grace what God is by nature” (St. Athanasius) – he who is full of grace and truth, Spirit and life, holiness, mercy and love.
By receiving the medicine of God’s mercy, grace heals the wounds of sin and gives us power to conquer passion through dispassion and to love others as God loves us. (Cf. Jn. 13:34) We cannot out give God. For where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. (Cf. Rom. 5:20) As St. Chrysostom proclaims, “Even if we reach the summit of virtue, it is by mercy we shall be saved.”
In short, Christianity is Jesus Christ as the gift of God to man, and man’s giving of himself as a gift to God in a spirit of thanksgiving. This is the Good News! – the Gospel we are to share with others – that “God created man in his own image” (Gen. 1:27) and “made the world to be lived in,” (Is. 45:18) that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” (1 Tim. 2:4) and “that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16)
However, Christianity is not merely a theological creed or a moral law for the believer to proof-text through intellectual peacocking or toeing the party line, much less by turning Urban-Amish or “living well” as “the best revenge.” For even the devils believe! (Cf. Jas. 2:19) Even the Scribes and Pharisees professed the true faith and achieved external holiness! Yet Jesus called them “hypocrites” (Mt. 22:15), “whitewashed tombs” (Mt. 22:27) and children of the devil. (Cf. Jn. 8:44)
Sadly, what is lacking in the fallen angels as well as these religious experts and watchdogs of the Old Covenant is often lacking in us who have inherited a better covenant “enacted on better promises” (Heb. 8:7) – a pure heart, an enlightened nous (the “mind of Christ”) and a communion of our being with God’s energies, all of which is the cause and effect of a peaceful and joyful humility, perseverance and dispassion, and most of all, merciful love.
“Why is the truth, it would seem, revealed to some and not to others? Is there a special organ for receiving revelation from God? Yes, though usually we close it and do not let it open up: God’s revelation is given to something called a loving heart.” (Hieromonk Seraphim Rose, God’s Revelation to the Human Heart)
Jesus said it was the publican who prayed, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” – a plea for salvation that developed into what we call “the Jesus Prayer” – that returned home justified before God, and not the Pharisee who prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people.” (Cf. Lk. 18:9-14) When we enter the house of God – where heaven and earth are mystically united – to worship the Undivided Trinity in communion with the angels and saints, are we more like the publican or the Pharisee?
Do we stand in reverential fear and awe of our Creator – who is Life and Love itself – knowing ourselves to be unworthy to adore the God who seeks to give us the fullness of life (Cf. Jn. 10:10) and who loves us more than we could ever comprehend? Do we bow with humility and contrition, offering ourselves as a holy oblation (cf. Rom. 12:1) in the Spirit to God the Father through Christ his Son, uniting our hearts as well as our lives to the countless times we make the Sign of the Cross and sing, “Lord, have mercy!”
Or do we worship God – treating him like an academic colleague or team mascot – with a sense of entitlement, in carelessness or super-correctness, boasting of our religious accomplishments and how we are spiritually and morally superior to others? Or, just as sinful, do we worship in a spirit of chronic insecurity, scrupulosity and boredom, needing to be ever affirmed, consoled and entertained? Or, even worse, do we stay at home, the pub or the coffeehouse, rebuilding a church and God in our own self-righteous and self-loathing image and likeness?
Dear brothers and sisters, if we have seen the True Light, if we have received the Heavenly Spirit, if we have found the True Faith, let us worship “in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:24) “the Undivided Trinity Who has saved us”! And let us do so in peace and humility, courage and longsuffering, mercy and love, throwing off the old man (cf. 4:22) and clothing ourselves in the habit of Christ (cf. Gal. 3:27), in fraternity with our fellow believers and in communion with the Church of the apostles, martyrs, monks and saints.
“Let us flee from the pride of the Pharisee! And learn humility from the Publican’s tears! Let us cry to our Savior, Have mercy on us, Only merciful One!” (Triodion Prayers, Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican)
Editor’s note: This article originially appeared on MONKROCK and is reprinted with kind permission. Find them online and at their Facebook page.