For You have given us to know Your truth. Who is worthy to praise Your mighty acts? Or to make known all Your praises? Or tell of all Your wonderful deeds at all times?
Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in Him, “If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.
John 8:31-32
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by Me.
John 14:6
One of my favorite prayers of the year is the prayer of Patriarch Sophronios of Jerusalem, offered each year at the Great Blessing of the Waters on the feast of Theophany. One line in the prayer says, “Today those above celebrate with those below, and those below converse with those above.” This is the essence of worship, that we on earth converse with those in Heaven. The high point of worship, is of course, the receiving of Holy Communion, which is where the fallen human being is able to touch the Divine God. In the midst of the Divine Liturgy, we are surrounded by the “angelic hosts” who are invisibly escorting the King of All, as He is placed on the Holy Altar. (From the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, p. 14, 1985 translation). The Holy Spirit will come down upon us as well as on the gifts we have presented. We do all of this surrounded by icons of the saints that adorn the walls of our temple, as a reminder that the Divine Liturgy is offered not only by us, but with them.
Our churches are set up to represent the unity between Heaven and Earth. The pews are places on the lowest part of the sanctuary. This is where the people are, firmly planted on the earth. The highest part of the building is the dome, which contains the icon of Christ, the Pantocrator, the Almighty. Icons of the saints and angels are also painted near the dome, sometimes in it, and high on the walls of the church. This represents Heaven. The altar is below the ceiling and above the floor, representing that this is the place where Heaven and Earth come together. This is the place where the human meets the Divine, and the Divine descends to touch the human.
We cannot look into the sun for more than a few seconds. The essence of the sun is too powerful for us. We can enjoy the energy of the sun, the warmth of its rays. Yet, even those we have to be careful and approach them in an appropriate way, i.e. wearing sunscreen. It’s the same way that we are able to approach Christ. Christ gave Himself to us in a way that we can handle Him. We cannot handle His essence, at least not in this life. But we can handle Him in bread and wine that are consecrated to be His Body and Blood. Because as this portion of the prayer asks, “who is worthy?” and the answer is, no one is worthy. We partake of Christ, we touch Divine nature only through the blessings and mercies of the Lord.
Many of us have seen the movie “The Wizard of Oz” and remember that the wizard spoke in an imposing and intimidating way from behind a curtain. When he was finally revealed, the “Great Oz” had a loud voice enhanced by a microphone and was not powerful and imposing but rather was a small and diminutive man, who really was kind of a wimp. This is NOT what our experience of God is meant to be. First of all, God is Almighty. Second, He doesn’t speak to us in a voice of intimidation but a voice of love. Third, He doesn’t hide behind a curtain but eagerly comes to us through the Eucharist, and through the sending of the Holy Spirit which is a part of each Eucharistic celebration. Unlike the wizard, He is not all talk and no glory. He shares His glory with us as He allows and encourages us to converse with Him. The idea that we can converse with God is mind-blowing, humbling, and powerful, but it is also a source of hope and joy. We are always invited to Holy Communion with the words “With the fear of God, with faith and with love draw near.” (Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, 2015 translation, p. 77) We are called to approach with awe, but also with faith and with love.
The final comment concerns the word “truth.” The idea of speaking “my truth,” is very popular in today’s culture. We’ve heard the phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” in other words, beauty is whatever you think beauty is. The idea of speaking “my truth” is that is relegates truth to whatever is truth for a particular individual. Which, in fact, may not be truth at all. I can pretend to be a millionaire and live the high life for a little while (until the money runs out) and can say “my truth” is that I’m a millionaire, or at least am acting like one today. That is not truth at all, and living that truth will quickly bankrupt me.
Christ presents Himself to us in John 14:6 as “The way, the truth and the life.” Christ is no a way or a version of truth. He is the truth, He is the way. There is no other truth, there is no other way, there is no other eternal life but through Him. There is no way to the Father but through Him. This is truth. Jesus again says in John 8:32, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” True freedom is found in God’s truth. And the highest and truest expression of this freedom is found in worship of God, which we experience in the Divine Liturgy, and on every other occasion where we worship Him.
Indeed, He has given His truth, which is THE truth. And in spite of our sinfulness, and our unworthiness, we are able to praise Him, to make Him known and to speak of Him.