Fr. Michael Oleksa on the Relationship between the Sacraments and Creation

Mystical Supper

The Mystical Supper

Orthodox dogmatics defines the new trinitarian relationship which the faithful, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit, enter with God as Father. Orthodox ethics delineates the new relationship which believers, united in the sacramental and liturgical fellowship of the Church, share with one another and all humankind. By combining the divine and human with the cosmic, the eternal and historical with the natural, and thus by uniting the world, the Church and the Kingdom of God, Orthodox worship actualizes the reality of the Kingdom which is to come, makes it accessible and actively present, so that for the believer the Word of God is revealed and communicated to His Mystical Body, the Church, on all three levels.

The mysteries of baptism and the eucharist demonstrate this. In both rites, the natural (water, bread, wine) is juxtaposed with the singing of biblical texts, liturgical poetry and the charismatic preaching of the Word in such a way that the cosmic and historical are imbued with an eternal significance. This is true in the writing of every icon, the building of every Orthodox church, the celebration of every sacrament. By taking natural elements of this world and linking them with the historical and eternally significant biblical words and deeds, proclaimed and accomplished once and for all by Christ, the Church manifests and actualizes eternity in the midst of time. In baptism, water is seen as the source of life, the primal element from which all creation was made, and also a sign of chaos and death. It is then revealed to be the manifestation of God’s love and power, of Christ’s saving action, and of the Holy Spirit’s sanctification. At the eucharist, wheat and grapes which require the light and warmth of the sun, the nourishment of the earth, the moisture of the elements and the care of gardenersin short, contributions from both the whole creation and from human beingsare offered “on behalf of all and for all,” in remembrance of Christ. Through the invocation of the Holy Spirit, both the community and the gifts become the Body and Blood of the Word. Here and now, the Faithful eat and drink at His table in His Kingdom. The life of the Church is realized eschatology.

* This excerpt is from “Orthodox Alaska” by Fr. Michael Oleksa

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