Bartholomew I's Homily at Divine Liturgy
Bartholomew I's Homily at Divine Liturgy
"We Are Reminded of the Need to Reach Unity in Faith as Well as in Prayer"
ISTANBUL, Turkey, NOV. 30, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the homily
delivered today by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of
Constantinople, during the Divine Liturgy on the feast of the Apostle
Andrew, celebrated in the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George at the
Phanar, Istanbul, attended by Benedict XVI.
* * *
With the grace of God, Your Holiness, we have been blessed to enter
the joy of the Kingdom, to "see the true light and receive the
heavenly Spirit." Every celebration of the Divine Liturgy is a
powerful and inspiring con-celebration of heaven and of history.
Every Divine Liturgy is both an anamnesis of the past and an
anticipation of the Kingdom. We are convinced that during this Divine
Liturgy, we have once again been transferred spiritually in three
directions: toward the kingdom of heaven where the angels celebrate;
toward the celebration of the liturgy through the centuries; and
toward the heavenly kingdom to come.
This overwhelming continuity with heaven as well as with history
means that the Orthodox liturgy is the mystical experience and
profound conviction that "Christ is and ever shall be in our midst!"
For in Christ, there is a deep connection between past, present, and
future. In this way, the liturgy is more than merely the recollection
of Christ's words and acts. It is the realization of the very
presence of Christ Himself, who has promised to be wherever two or
three are gathered in His name.
At the same time, we recognize that the rule of prayer is the rule of
faith ("lex orandi lex credendi"), that the doctrines of the Person
of Christ and of the Holy Trinity have left an indelible mark on the
liturgy, which comprises one of the undefined doctrines, "revealed to
us in mystery," of which St. Basil the Great so eloquently spoke.
This is why, in liturgy, we are reminded of the need to reach unity
in faith as well as in prayer. Therefore, we kneel in humility and
repentance before the living God and our Lord Jesus Christ, whose
precious Name we bear and yet at the same time whose seamless garment
we have divided. We confess in sorrow that we are not yet able to
celebrate the holy sacraments in unity. And we pray that the day may
come when this sacramental unity will be realized in its fullness.
And yet, Your Holiness and beloved brother in Christ, this
con-celebration of heaven and earth, of history and time, brings us
closer to each other today through the blessing of the presence,
together with all the saints, of the predecessors of our Modesty,
namely St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom. We are
honored to venerate the relics of these two spiritual giants after
the solemn restoration of their sacred relics in this holy church two
years ago when they were graciously returned to us by the venerable
Pope John Paul II. Just as, at that time, during our Thronal Feast,
we welcomed and placed their saintly relics on the Patriarchal
Throne, chanting "Behold your throne!", so today we gather in their
living presence and eternal memory as we celebrate the Liturgy named
in honor of St. John Chrysostom.
Thus our worship coincides with the same joyous worship in heaven and
throughout history. Indeed, as St. John Chrysostom himself affirms:
"Those in heaven and those on earth form a single festival, a shared
thanksgiving, one choir" (PG 56.97). Heaven and earth offer one
prayer, one feast, one doxology. The Divine Liturgy is at once the
heavenly kingdom and our home, "a new heaven and a new earth" (Rev.
21.1), the ground and center where all things find their true
meaning. The Liturgy teaches us to broaden our horizon and vision, to
speak the language of love and communion, but also to learn that we
must be with one another in spite of our differences and even
divisions. In its spacious embrace, it includes the whole world, the
communion of saints, and all of God's creation. The entire universe
becomes "a cosmic liturgy", to recall the teaching of St. Maximus the
Confessor. This kind of Liturgy can never grow old or outdated.
The only appropriate response to this showering of divine benefits
and compassionate mercy is gratitude ("eucharistia"). Indeed,
thanksgiving and glory are the only fitting response of human beings
to their Creator. For to Him belong all glory, honor, and worship:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; now and always, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Truly, particular and wholehearted gratitude fills our hearts toward
the loving God, for today, on the festive commemoration of the
Apostle founder and protector of this Church, the Divine Liturgy is
attended by His Holiness our brother and bishop of the elder Rome,
Pope Benedict XVI, together with his honorable entourage. Once again,
we gratefully greet this presence as a blessing from God, as an
expression of brotherly love and honor toward our Church, and as
evidence of our common desire to continue -- in a spirit of love and
faithfulness to the Gospel Truth and the common tradition of our
Fathers -- the unwavering journey toward the restoration of full
communion among our Churches, which constitutes His divine will and
command. May it be so.
[Translation issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople]