One choir

Daily Reading for November 4 • The Sunday after All Saints

This is the depth of the liturgy. It is the presence of angels, archangels, the kingdom of heaven, earth and its people, the whole of creation, and the Creator, too. It is an all-embracing drama, a meeting-place of the earthly and the heavenly. This truth is made plain during the Small Entrance, when the following prayer is recited: ‘Make with our entry an entry of your holy angels, celebrating the liturgy with us.’ ‘In this mystery,’ the liturgy continues in the Great Entrance, ‘we are icons of the cherubim.’ Indeed, as John Chrysostom elsewhere affirms: ‘Those in heaven and those on earth form a single festival, a shared thanksgiving, one choir.’

Everything is always sung in the liturgy of the Orthodox. It might be said that Orthodox Christians do not come to church simply to pray. Nor do they go to church to be in silence. Something is happening there, in liturgy, and Orthodox Christians are invited to participate. Before each liturgy, Sunday by Sunday, Orthodox Christians pray: ‘God, our God, who sent your heavenly bread, the food of the whole world, to bless us, bless also the offering.’ Orthodox Christians assemble in liturgy to eat and to enjoy together; and not just to see and hear and feel the Word of God.

Together, heaven and earth offer one hymn, one prayer, one feast and one doxology. Everything sings and exclaims, ‘crying aloud and saying: holy, holy, holy.’ Everything aspires to divine holiness and symbolizes an overture to paradise. The created world does not escape to heaven; indeed, the whole world becomes an organic part of the mystery of heaven. Within that context, one diminishes in humility and offers thanksgiving and glorification for all.

From Light Through Darkness: The Orthodox Tradition by John Chryssavgis (Orbis, 2004).

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