“Lord, our God, save Your people and bless Your inheritance. Protect the fullness of Your Church. Sanctify those who love the beauty of Your house. Glorify them in return by Your divine power, and forsake us not who have set our hope in You.“ (Prayer of the Second Antiphon, Byzantine Divine Liturgy)
This prayer speaks to our basic human needs for identity and belonging, which find true fulfilment in our being God’s and of God; in belonging to “the fullness (pleroma) of the Church (ekklesia).“ We might also foster our sense of identity and belonging elsewhere, in associations online or offline; cultural, political, sports-related, and so on. But none of these offer us unity with, and belonging to, “all.“ And by “all“ I mean, Creator and all of creation, visible and invisible. The Church is the one, ultimate Mystery of Unity, bringing together the human and the divine, the visible and invisible, the physical and the spiritual, in the Person of the God-Man Jesus Christ. This unity is always perfect in Him, regardless of the human brokenness and divisions in our church-life. As a church-member I am “called out“ (“ekklesia“ comes from the verb “ekkaleo,“ to call out) to be part of a story that extends back to God’s creation of all things, and looks forward in the great hope of fulfilment in God, “unto the ages of ages.“
My identity as a Church-member also informs and forms my loves and tastes in the here and now, including my love for “the beauty of“ God’s “house,“ that is the church in which we have gathered for Liturgy. In the Prayer of the Second Antiphon we profess this love for the aesthetic side of our Tradition, which expresses visibly, in icons and symbols, the faith we have in “things invisible“ (Hebr 11: 1). Today let me identify with the great “inheritance“ that belongs to me, as I belong to it.