January 2, 2014

Psalm 47: uniting earth to heaven

God has gone up with a shout,
the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
(Psalm 47:5)

The Ascension

Psalm 47 is used throughout the feast of our Lord’s Ascension. So we begin 2014 with a psalm that represents the end of Jesus’ ministry. In His Ascension Jesus does what was intended from His birth: He fully unites human life with divine life, making possible for all human beings what we Orthodox call theosis, or divinization. 

When Thou didst fulfill the dispensation for our sake, and didst unite earth to heaven, Thou didst ascend in glory, O Christ our God, not being parted from those who love Thee, but remaining with them and crying: I am with you and no one will be against you!
(Ascension Kontakion).

Whether anyone else believes it or not, we claim that this act of God entering human history, then dying, rising again and bringing His human body into divine life through His Ascension affects all human beings that ever lived or ever will live. This is a cosmic vision that embraces all time, the whole of creation and the whole universe, or indeed whatever multiple universes that may exist. 

Clap your hands, all you peoples;
 shout to God with loud songs of joy.
For the Lord, the Most High, is awesome,
a great king over all the earth.
Psalm 47:1-2

Excavated tower in Jericho, c. 8,000 BC
Clay pots
Clay pots, Ireland, c. 8,000 BC

I heard recently of a 10,000-year clock being developed. It’s hard to imagine that length of time and the changes it represents in human existence. That’s 8,000 BC to the present, almost the entire history of civilization. 8,000 BC was still the late Stone Age. Clay pots were a new item. Farming was just starting to spread and small cities like Jericho were only beginning. It would be 6,000 or so more years before Abraham heard God’s call (Genesis 12:1-4, c. 2000 BC). Not a word of the Bible had yet been written. Can we imagine 10,000 years into the future? What will the world look like, if it still exists? What will human beings be preoccupied with? Are living in the childhood of the Christian Church, or in its last days? And what will the Church and Christianity look like? More importantly, what would God want the Church to look like compared to today?

As the year begins, and before we get caught up again with the minutiae of our lives and churches, it’s salutary to remember that our God is a God of the very, very small—a God of the baby in a manger—but equally of the very, very big, of all human beings, all creation, unto ages of ages.

Chancery New Year

Prayers for the New Year
Cutting the Vasilopita

Father Basil Summer, 87, presided and preached at the Liturgy of Saint Basil for Saint Basil’s Day on New Year’s Day at Saint Sergius Chapel. He spoke about the humility of God who is born as a defenseless child and submits to circumcision and the norms of 1st century Jewish life. In the prayers for the New Year we asked for God’s blessing on all our faithful throughout the Orthodox Church in America, our bishops, clergy, monks and nuns, chaplains, seminaries, departments, volunteers and Stewards. Father Basil blessed the “Vasilopita,” the traditional Greek bread for the day, and when Metropolitan Tikhon cut it and distributed the pieces afterwards, the slice with the gold Saint Basil’s coin baked-in went to Father Basil.