ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN
Priest (usually, silently): “Master and Lord our God, You have established in heaven the orders and hosts of angels and archangels for liturgical service (εἰς λειτουργίαν) to Your glory. Make our entrance be the entrance of the holy angels, concelebrating with us (συλλειτουργούντων ἡμῖν) and co-glorifying Your goodness.” (Prayer of Small Entrance, Byzantine Divine Liturgy)
Liturgy is one of the ways that we, as Church, bridge the gap between heaven and earth. We are the ones who create that gap in the first place, whenever we go off on our own and “miss the point“ of our God-centered existence through “sin.“ But we are also given the opportunity, the gift, of participating in bridging that gap, through Liturgy. It is not a task we undertake on our own, but with the co-operation and “con-celebration“ of those in perfect harmony with God’s will – the angelic powers. We step into a conscious, intense collaboration with them during Liturgy, so their good company rubs off on us, so to say.
That is why one of the leitmotifs of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy is the unity of heaven and earth. We see it thematized already here, at the Small Entrance, which was originally the entrance of the clergy and people into the church at the very beginning of the Divine Liturgy. In this prayer we are asking to enter into co-operation with the heavenly powers, so that our way of “con-celebrating“ and “co-glorifying,“ – often “a cold and a broken Halleluia“ in the words of Leonard Cohen, – becomes more like theirs. We become a little more like the angels through this co-operation, also in our daily life after the liturgical celebration. How? For one thing, in Liturgy we concentrate on “glorifying“ rather than complaining, and on “serving“ in liturgical service, rather than seeking to be served by others.
So today let me carry with me two key expressions of this prayer: 1. “con-celebration“ and 2. “co-glorification,“ – specifically with the heavenly Church. Let me be quick to be of service, and quick to praise and thank, so I can participate fully in the harmony God intends among His creation, both visible and invisible. Glory be to Him.