Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Angels and the Liturgy

With all the talk of the poor at the moment, I was thinking how poor we all are in terms of the liturgy not actually belonging to us. I have been looking at an amazing book 'The liturgy and the Angels' by Erik Peterson which helps put things in their proper perspective. Here are some quotes:

'The church is exactly described in a Coptic homily as'the place of consolation and of the assembling of angels. The Church is the place where cherubim and seraphim congregate'.

When St John Chrysostom says that the holy angels are present with Christ during the celebration of the Eucharist, as soldiers accompany their king, he makes clear why they appear at holy Mass. They help to make the public character of the Eucharist obvious. As the emperor, appearing in the company of his bodyguard, manifests publicly his political authority, so Christ, accompanied by his bodyguard of angels, manifests publicly his politico-religious authority. If the angels are present at the singing of the psalter, at the solemnisation of a marriage, or at the election of a bishop, at the renunciation of the Devil during baptism or at the reception of asoul into the heavenly city, this shows every time that the singing of the psalter, contracting of marriage, election of a bishop, baptism or consummation of life, are all public acts-acts of the Church- and not private transactions. This is not a 'publicity' which has been lent in some manner by the state to the Church; but something which has belonged to the Church from the beginning because she acknowledges a Lord who, being a heavenly King, ssesses also a heavenly 'publicity'. And so....the relationship of the ecclesia to the heavenly polis is also a political relationship, and it is for this reason that the angels must continually appear in the liturgical acts of the Church ....The prayer of the earthly as of the heavenly Church is public, the prayer of a polis which subsists as a civic community, not really upon earth, but in heaven.'

'...the mystical life of the Church can only develop in close connection with the liturgy of the Church'

'...the Church is no purely human religious society. The angels and saints in heaven belong to her as well. Seen in this light, the Church's worship is no merely human occasion. The angels and the entire universe take part in it. The songs of the Church are the counterparts of heavenly songs, and, corresponding to the manner of participation in the heavenly song, the spiritual life of the Church is incorporated in that of heaven.'

I don't want to copy out the whole book, and I haven't read it all yet anyway, just to give  an idea.  Jesus said that the poor would always be with us and it is true and very sad that even in the Church we have such an impoverished understanding of the Holy Catholic  Church.

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