Partakers of the Divine Nature : An Orthodox Christian Theological Consideration of Holy Communion

Bishop Seraphim : Talk
Partakers of the Divine Nature :
An Orthodox Christian Theological Consideration
of Holy Communion
16-17 February, 1995
[Given at Saint Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan]


I am beginning this Orthodox theological consideration of Holy Communion with theological considerations. This background is necessary in order that we may hope to understand how Orthodox Christians behave (a mystery in itself), and how the Orthodox properly approach Holy Communion. In the course of my reflections, I am going to refer to some of the sayings of the Fathers of the Church. These Fathers are persons whose sayings, whose sermons, whose answers to questions, whose treatises help to frame our understanding of Holy Communion and all other aspects of our Orthodox life. Some of the Fathers are early, the ones we generally recognise as the greater authorities such as Saint Basil the Great, Saint John Chrysostom and Saint John of Damascus. Other early ones are desert types ; others are more recent. Here I will add that although we may almost automatically assume that the term “Fathers” applies to the period of the Cappadocians, for instance, and that it is limited to persons of that historical period, in fact the term applies to significant persons in all ages, even the present. In the same way that the age of miracles is not past, so the time of the Fathers not past. Just to keep us on our toes, amongst the Orthodox, the term “Fathers of the Church” includes Mothers as well.

Another important basic fact to note is that when one is looking in indices of patristic writings for references on Holy Communion or the Eucharist, one finds that they are surprisingly limited. This is for a good reason. Never in the history of the Orthodox Church has this matter been considered in isolation from the totality of Orthodox Christian life in experience. Holy Communion is part of a completely interdependent and interrelated whole, which is not able to be precipitated out of context for independent study and isolated analysis. A concrete example of what I mean can be found in the introduction to a book which I have read, Holy Women of Russia by Brenda Meehan, published in 1993 by Harper, San Francisco. She says :

I have had great difficulty in writing this book. I am convinced now that it is because the women I am writing about – vibrant, spiritually intense women – didn’t like the way I was originally telling their story, making it part of a dry, scholarly analysis of the rise of women’s religious communities in nineteenth-century Russia. It had been my intention to analyze in tidy chapters various aspects of these communities, including their origins, statistical profiles of their founders, the economic resources and institutional structures of the communities, the socioeconomic characteristics of the members, and their cultural significance in pre-revolutionary Russia. But these women jumped up from the pages, refusing to be neatly contained within my chapters and within a framework that stressed the sociohistorical at the expense of the spiritual.

In this context, I would hasten to add to her words “and at the expense of the personal”. The word “spiritual” can be taken nowadays in a distanced, isolated and even detached way. However, the word “personal” both demands and implies relationship. Relationship on the level of being itself is what is involved in our perception of the meaning of Holy Communion.

When I was thinking about how to speak about Holy Communion, I found myself in the same position as Brenda Meehan. As a last introductory comment, I will reminisce a little, as is commensurate with my advancing age. It was about thirty years ago that I first came to Saskatoon on a mid-winter trip with the University of Alberta mixed chorus. I must say that that visit was a truly chilling experience (it was in February). However, it was compensated for by Saskatoon hospitality. In those days, following the ordinary course of student life, in between the lengthy reflections on the meaning of life in various coffee shops, I was taking some courses in philosophy, and studying (amongst other things) metaphysics. We followed the course of Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, and we reviewed the proofs for the existence of God. Although the whole experience was very taxing, I have been happy for the experience. These arguments have proved to be quite helpful in many discussions with searching hearts since then. However, there is the catch that Saint Thomas himself understood, and that was pointed out by a very patient professor : the leap of faith. Through the blessing of Irish humour, we were taught that although one may rationally achieve a logical acceptance of the existence of God, that in itself is not enough. This leap of faith has to occur before what is called “belief” can be achieved. Belief is illustrated as being something like “confidence” or “trust”, such as that confidence or trust in a chair or table to hold up one’s weight when sitting upon it. However, we had better not let ourselves get caught sitting on a table in Orthodox circles (because there is a special respect for tables). It is the leap of faith that enables the confidence or the trust in God’s existence, and beyond that there is relationship.

Philosophy is a useful tool but it is not theology, and I am supposed to be speaking about a theological understanding of Holy Communion. However, I do not think I can do that quite yet. If we are treating the word “theology” as if it were some sort of philosophy, then there will be trouble in understanding the Orthodox perspective. It is necessary to take another moment to recall what theology is. The word “theology” means words about God, speaking about God. However, it does not mean that we simply take any set of propositions about God and then begin to debate them, or even to adjust them according to our personal liking. True theology is the result of the experience of God. It is not only the result of my experience of God ; it is also the result of our experience of God. It is not only the result of the experience of God here and now of this small group here in Saskatoon, but it is also the common experience of those who have encountered God, who have experienced God, and most pointedly who have experienced God as Orthodox Christians for the last 2,000 years and more. A theologian is not someone who knows a considerable amount about God, about history, councils, debates, arguments, ecclesiology, soteriology, Biblical tradition, translations, hermeneutics and so forth. A theologian is not a person who has written papers and theses, attended many a lecture, and received a Ph.D. in theology. Most of all, a theologian is not someone who is original. A theologian is a person who has had experience of God and who, following the exhortation of 1 Peter 3:15, is prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls him or her to account for the hope that is in him or her. The theologian attempts to find words that are adequate not only to convey the experience of God, but also words that are the most adequate to speak about what is ineffable. Indeed, as we say in the prayer for blessing water at Theophany, there are no words sufficient to describe God’s wonders. The authentication of this experience and this defence is found in its conformity to the common experience of Orthodox Christians at all times, in all places, and by all. In his The Commonitorium (4:3), Saint Vincent of Lérins elaborates on this. The Apostle helps us to comprehend this in his words : “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Even this understanding of the stability of the Godhead is not something new, since we see it as God reveals Himself to Moses at Mount Sinai in 2 Moses [Exodus] 3:6 : “‘I am the God of your father – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’”. This self-revelation is at the foundation of God’s promised salvation. One of the most striking differences between East and West in Christian experience can be seen in the fact that while the Orthodox in the so-called East have always given Holy Communion to infants (in fact, from the moment of baptism), in the West for many hundreds of years this has been withdrawn until the variously-timed “age of discretion”. The long-held requirement in the West is that the person must know and understand what is being received. On the other hand, for the Orthodox, there has never been such a requirement. There is no judgement made amongst us about the ability to reason, to perceive just what is happening ; for we have, we do, and we will give Holy Communion not only to infants, but also to those older persons who are incapable for various reasons of having any intellectual ability to comprehend anything : to those who are in comas, and similar conditions. On the other hand, amongst these very Orthodox, there are still many who do not and have not frequently received Holy Communion. This non-reception came into being mainly because of the very acute awareness of the poisonous effects of sin in our lives. It is very important, however, to look first at the foundation of our Orthodox perception before paying too close attention to the results of sin, and to the mysterious, negative effects that sin has on people’s lives.

Every day, near the beginning of Matins, we sing the refrain : “The Lord is God and has revealed Himself to us ; blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord” (see Psalm 117:26, 27). In this phrase is found the foundation of the Orthodox theological approach, and the fundamentals of our understanding of Holy Communion. While we are at this place, I might as well say that it is here that we find our true roots in our Semitic, Judaic, Middle-Eastern foundation interpreted through Hellenism. From the very beginning, the Creator reveals Himself to the created. We see this at the beginning of 1 Moses [Genesis]. However we may choose to interpret the details of 1 Moses, the foundation of all 1 Moses can be found in God’s revealing Himself to mankind, His creation. He walks and talks with mankind before the Fall (and even after the Fall). However, there is an interesting detail for us to notice in the Creation-narrative, a detail that is not there for nothing. In chapter 1:26 we read : “‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’”. This is repeated again in chapter 11:7 as God interrupts the handiwork of our pride, Babel : “‘Come, let Us go down there and confuse their language’”. A little farther along in chapter 18 we have the well-known appearance of God at the Oak of Mamre. Here we have the Lord repeatedly speaking in the singular but visibly represented in the form of three men or angels during the encounter with Abraham (and then in the form of two angels in the encounter with Lot in chapter 19). God reveals Himself to us as Community-of-Being : not only in language, but also in visible form, both in the Old Testament and then in the New Testament. In the New Testament, this is most particularly so at the moment of the Baptism of our Lord :

And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, ‘You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’ (Mark 1:10, 11).

More than this, God reveals Himself not as a mere abstract community of being, but as the Community-of-Persons amongst whom there is an active interaction and an inter-relationship rooted in Love. Thus, when we are speaking about the Holy Trinity, we must always try hard to avoid using the word “it”.

This interaction and inter-relationship (which all the Holy Fathers admit is founded in love) is not self-enclosed. It reaches out ; it creates life and invites a relationship with what is created. The life of the Holy Trinity begets life in love, then maintains a similarly loving and personal relationship with the created. The Lord God reveals Himself to us. The Lord intends that this revelation, this reaching out to us, should bring about a living relationship between us and Him, and that this relationship is, in fact, communion with Him. This communion is the communion of love. It is the communion of love, because, as we well know, “God is Love” (1 John 4:8). This fact is evident also from the time of the Creation. It is a communion of the life-giving love which invites imitation. Human beings will imitate the selfless, life-giving love of God in obedience motivated by this very love.

It is for that reason that we rehearse the great elements of this revelation at important liturgical moments. In the Anaphora of the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great, we participate in this repetition of the historical revelation, and also in the Mystery of Baptism, and in the Great Blessing of Waters at Theophany. God is revealing Himself to us : in the Creation ; at Mamre ; at the Red Sea ; at Sinai ; in the Judges and Prophets, in holy persons of all ages ; and then in culmination, in the Incarnation of our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Word of God who takes flesh, and in the Descent of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, in celebrating the Divine Liturgy, we bring into the present moment all the past saving acts of the Holy Trinity (and even the future ones). We even commemorate the Second Coming. We are celebrating all these past, present and future events because we participate in them and we have a personal relationship with them.

This personal relationship with the Holy Trinity is not concerned with something extra to what we do. It is not merely a part of or a mere facet of who and what we are. It is not a mere factor in our existence, nor is it anything extra. This personal relationship constitutes our very existence and purpose. This relationship unites us with all the saving acts of history. This personal relationship is enacted on the level of our very being. It is the substance, the foundation of who we are. Who we really are as persons can only be discovered in the perfection of the relationship with God who created us. The more deeply we are identified with God, with the living out of His love and the imitation of Him, the more we truly are ourselves. This is so, because then we are more approximately what God created us to be in the first place. The more we insist on a life of our own choosing, and neglecting our communion with God in living our life, the more we become instead a parody of ourselves (or even a distortion of ourselves).

While we are reflecting upon these matters, it must also be said that if one is going to try to understand the Orthodox theology of Holy Communion, one must take continually into consideration the mystery of the Body of Christ as described by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12, and to some extent in the following chapter. At the same time, the very nature and purpose of the Eucharistic Assembly must be recalled, as Father Alexander Schmemann strongly points out at the beginning of his book, The Eucharist (published in 1987 by Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press) :

‘When you assemble as a church …’ writes the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians [1 Corinthians 11:18]. For him, as for all of early Christianity, these words refer not to a temple, but to the nature and purpose of the gathering. As is well known, the very word “church" means “a gathering” or “an assembly,” and to ‘assemble as a church’ meant, in the minds of the early Christians, to constitute a gathering whose purpose is to reveal, to realize the Church.

This gathering is eucharistic—its end and fulfilment lies in its being the setting wherein the “Lord’s Supper” is accomplished, wherein the eucharistic “breaking of bread” takes place. […] Thus, from the very beginning we can see an obvious, undoubted triunity of the assembly, the eucharist, and the Church, to which the whole early tradition of the Church, following St Paul, unanimously testifies.

Once again, I am trying to cram everything into too small a box. For those who have the background to understand it, I want to recommend reading the book by Metropolitan John of Pergamos (whose family name is Zizioulas), Being as Communion (published by Saint Vladimir’s Press in 1985). This book was written before he became a bishop. As a related resource, the book by Aristides Papadakis, The Christian East and the Rise of the Papacy, was also published by Saint Vladimir’s Press in 1994.

We believe that for the sake of love, for the sake of enabling us to be restored to the personal communion with God (which we, ourselves, have rejected and broken), the Word of God took flesh, lived, died at our hands, rose again, destroying the power of Hades, and ascended into Heaven. He left us the Divine Liturgy of His Body and Blood in order to feed us, to maintain and increase the unity and identity between ourselves and Himself. In the light of this and all that has been said above, here is what is said by some Fathers :

[…] O blessed Paul […] do you give the title “cup of blessing” to that fearful and most tremendous cup? ‘Yes,’ he says, ‘and the expression is no mean title. For when I call it “blessing”, I mean thanksgiving, and when I call it thanksgiving, I unfurl all the treasures of God’s goodness, and call to mind those mighty gifts’. […] We are giving Him thanks that He has delivered the whole race of mankind from error ; that being far off, He made them near ; that when they had no hope, and were without God in the world, He constituted them His own brethren and fellow-heirs. For these and all such things, giving thanks, thus we approach, giving thanks for these and all such things. […] We communicate not only by participating and partaking, but also by being united […].

[I will add here parenthetically that Saint John, when he uses the word “blending” is not suggesting a sort of wadding together of us in indistinction nor a blending of us into some sort of indistinct life. He is saying that while being united to the Source of life that is God, we are remaining still the unique creation that we are as particular persons.]

Look, I entreat [you] : a royal table is set before you ; angels are ministering at the table ; the King Himself is there, and do you stand gaping ? Are your garments defiled, and yet you make no account of it ? or are they clean ? Then fall down and partake. […] You have sung the Hymn with the rest ; you have declared yourself to be of the number of those who are worthy by not departing with those who are unworthy. Why stay and yet not partake of the table ? ‘I am unworthy,’ you will say. Then are you also unworthy of that communion you have had in prayers ? For it is not by means of the offering only, but also by means of those canticles, that the Spirit descends all around. […] So that I may not then be the means of increasing your condemnation, I entreat you not to forbear coming, but to render yourselves worthy both of being present, and of approaching. […] What then is our hope of salvation ? We cannot lay the blame on our weakness ; we cannot lay it on our nature. It is indolence and nothing else that renders us unworthy (Saint John Chrysostom, “Homily 3 on Ephesians 1”).

[Saint John Chrysostom was dealing with people not significantly different from ourselves.]

We are the temple of Christ ; we kiss the porch and entrance of the temple when we kiss each other. […] And through these gates and doors Christ has both entered into us and does enter, whensoever we communicate. You who partake of the mysteries, understand what I say : for it is in no common manner that our lips are honoured when they receive the Lord’s Body. It is chiefly for this reason that we, here, kiss (Saint John Chrysostom in “Homily 30 on 2 Corinthians 13”).

[Now you know why we Orthodox kiss each other very often.]

‘Give us this day our daily bread’. These words may be taken either spiritually or literally, because in the divine plan, both readings are helpful for your salvation. The bread of life is Christ ; now this is not everyone’s bread, but it is ours. […] We call this ‘our bread’ because Christ is the bread of those who are in union with His body. We ask that this bread be given to us daily, lest we, who are in Christ and receive the Eucharist every day as the food of salvation, be separated from His Body by some grave sin that keeps us from communicating, from partaking of the heavenly bread (Saint Cyprian of Carthage, "Treatise 4 on the Lord’s Prayer").

[…] With fullest assurance, let us partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, for in the figure of the Bread is given to you His Body, and in the figure of wine His Blood, that you, by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, might be made of the same body and blood with Him. For thus we become Christ-bearers. […] Thus it is, according to blessed Peter, that we become ‘partakers of the divine nature’ (2 Peter 1:4).

Christ, on a certain occasion, conversing with the Jews said : ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you’ (John 6:53). […] Contemplate therefore, the bread and the wine not as bare elements, for they are, according to the Lord’s declaration, the Body and Blood of Christ. […] Let faith establish you (Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, "Catechetical Lectures" : 'On the Mysteries, 4').

Whenever we unworthy ones are thought to be worthy to be admitted, with fear and dread, to the Divine and undefiled Mysteries of Christ, our God and King, then let us all the more show forth sobriety, watchfulness of mind and strict attention, so that our sins and our small and great uncleanness may be destroyed by the Divine Fire, that is, by the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For when it enters into us, it straightaway drives from our hearts the spirits of wickedness, and it does away with our sins of the past, and the mind is left empty of the restless importunities of evil thoughts. If, after this we guard our mind strictly, and stand in the gate of our heart, then each time we are again counted worthy, the holy, sacred Divine Body will more and more brighten the mind and make it shine like a star […] (Saint Hesychius of Jerusalem, "Sobriety and Prayer").

Just as Eve was taken from the flesh and bones of Adam so the two formed one flesh, so Christ, in giving Himself to us in communion, gives us His own flesh and bones. This is indeed what He gives us to eat. Through Communion, He makes us one with Himself.

All those who believe in Christ become akin to Him in the Spirit of God, and form a single body. […] United to Him spiritually in this manner, each of us will form a single spirit with Him, and likewise one body, since we corporally eat His Body and drink His Blood ; […] one, I say, not according to the person, but [according] to the nature of the Deity and the Humanity : according to the divine nature, since we become god through adoption […].

Before all the ages, [God] has predetermined that those who believe in Him and are baptised in His Name (the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit), and eat the sinless flesh of His Son, and drink His precious Blood, would be justified by this, that is, glorified, and would become partakers of life eternal […].

If you want to know whether I am speaking the truth, become a saint by practicing the commandments of God, and then partake of the Holy Mysteries. Then you will understand the full import of this statement (Saint Symeon the New Theologian, "Ethical Chapters")

But when Christ dwells in us, what else is needed, or what benefit escapes us? When we dwell in Christ, what else will we desire? […] What good thing is lacking for those who are in such a state? What have they to do with wickedness who have entered such brightness? What evil can withstand so great an abundance of good? What evil thing can continue to be present or enter from without when Christ is so evidently with us, and completely penetrates and surrounds us?

The Eucharist, alone of the sacred rites, supplies perfection to the other Mysteries. […] So perfect is this Mystery, so far does it excel every other sacred rite, that it leads to the very summit of good things. Here also is the final goal of every human endeavour. For in it we obtain God Himself, and God is united with us in the most perfect union; for what attachment can be more complete than to become one spirit with God? (Saint Nicholas (Cabasilas), "The Life in Christ".)

[My soul], repent of your yearnings for this world and all that is in this world. For the world is the graveyard of your ancestors, which is gaping and waiting for you. Just a little longer, and you will be ancestors, and will yearn to hear the word “repentance,” but will not hear it (Saint Nikolai (Velimirovic), "Prayers by the Lake").

In the Gospel the Lord says : ‘I AM the Truth’ (see John 14:6). He said not ‘I am the custom’. Therefore, the truth being manifest, let custom yield to truth (Bishop Lavosas of Vaga, at the Council of Carthage in 256).

When Pontius Pilate asked our Lord, “‘What is truth ?’” (John 18:38), he asked the wrong question ; for truth is not a “what” but a “Who”, as we have just heard. Very often, in trying to understand the mysteries of God, we get caught in the same sort of bind by asking the wrong question. If we ever dare to think that we can fully understand the mysteries of God (and most particularly the mystery of the Eucharist), we will do nothing but ask the wrong questions. To ask anything at all is difficult because in the Orthodox understanding, in approaching the mystery of Holy Communion, we see that everything is inter-related. Everything and everyone is connected to, and influencing, and influenced by everyone and everything else. So much is this so, that if we are asked how many sacraments there are, our answer will be : “God knows”. It is in fact, one, or numberless. The total of what we commonly distinguish as separate sacraments are, in fact, all linked tightly together, all knit together so as to be almost inseparable, albeit that they are distinct acts. Every time God confers Grace upon us, we perceive this event to be a “sacrament”, including the holy kissing that we heard Saint John Chrysostom describe. The sacraments are multitudinous. They are all a reflection of the life of the Holy Trinity.

It is the bishop who is the chief celebrant of every Eucharistic Liturgy in his diocese. In his person he focusses the perpetuation of the Tradition of Christ, of the true belief in the Holy Trinity. At his ordination to the Holy Episcopate, he is asked by the presiding bishop : “How do you believe ?” The bishop-to-be answers with the Symbol of Faith, the Nicene Creed which we daily re-affirm and which we confess from our baptism :

I believe in one God, the Father almighty :
Maker of Heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible ;
and in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten,
begotten of the Father before all ages :
Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not made ;
of one essence with the Father ;
through whom all things were made ;
who for us Men, and for our salvation, came down from Heaven,
and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit, and the Virgin Mary, and became Man ;
and He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried ;
and the third day, He rose again, in accordance with the Scriptures ;
and ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father ;
and He shall come again with glory, to judge the living and the dead ;
whose Kingdom shall have no end ;
and in the Holy Spirit : the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father ;
who, with the Father and the Son together, is worshipped and glorified ;
who spoke by the prophets ;
in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church ;
I confess one baptism for the remission of sins ;
I wait for the resurrection of the dead ;
and the life of the age to come. Amen.

The presiding bishop blesses him, and invokes the Grace of the Holy Trinity ; and then, to clarify, the bishop-to-be is asked to speak in greater detail about his Trinitarian and Christological Faith. Thus, he responds with a second Confession of Faith :

I believe in one God, the Father almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible : who is without beginning, unbegotten, and without cause, but is Himself the natural beginning and cause of the Son, and of the Spirit.

I believe in His only-begotten Son : without change, and without time, begotten of the Father, being of one essence with Him ; through whom all things were made.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the same Father : who with Him is glorified as co-eternal, and co-enthroned, being of one essence with Him, of equal glory, and the Author of creation.

I believe that the only-begotten Word, one of that same super-essential, and life-giving Trinity, came down from Heaven for us Men, and for our salvation. He was incarnate of the Holy Spirit, and the Virgin Mary, and became Man ; that is, He became perfect Man, yet remained God. In no manner was His divine essence changed by His participation in the flesh, nor was He transmuted into anything else. Without change, He assumed Man’s nature, in which He suffered, and died, although in His divine nature He was free from all suffering. On the third day, He rose from the dead ; He ascended into Heaven, and He sits at the right hand of God the Father. Furthermore, I confess the one Person, the Word made flesh. I believe and proclaim that Christ is one and the same in two natures after His incarnation, preserving those things which were in them, and from them. Therefore, I also adore two wills, in that each nature retains its own will, and its own action.

I believe those traditions and teachings of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, which have been received from God, and from men-of-God.

I reverence, but not in the way of worship, the icons of Christ Himself, and of the all-pure Birthgiver-of-God, and of all the saints, holy, and worthy of reverence. The honour that I address to them, I direct to their originals. I reject and deny those who think and teach otherwise, as persons ill-advised.

I confess truly and sincerely our Lady, Mary, the Birth-giver-of-God, as having given birth in the flesh to one of the Trinity — Christ our God.

May the same Birth-giver-of-God be my helper, protector, and defender, all the days of my life. Amen.

This is the foundation of what all Orthodox Christians at all times and in all places believe. Further, it is this foundation that supports the whole of our life. It undergirds our appearing as the Body of Christ, our assembling as the Church. Our Confession of Faith penetrates our thanksgiving, and our offering of ourselves and the whole of our being. It mingles with our commemoration of the living, the dead, the saints, the saving acts of God, our participation in Holy Communion. It profoundly affects every aspect of our life as we step out to meet people and events that will put our relationship with Christ to the test. Our Confession of Faith is all concerned with our relationship with Christ, being in love with Christ, being one with Christ, being found in Christ, being alive in Christ. It is as these great phrases from the Divine Liturgy indicate : “Your own of Your own, we offer to You on behalf of all and for all”. This “for all” does not mean merely those of us who are standing here, but for all : everyone and everything. When, in the Anaphora, we come to the end of our commemoration of the departed and the living, we remember our bishop, asking that the Lord will protect him in all things and enable him rightly to divide the word of truth. The faithful respond, “And everyone and everything”. This reveals the interdependent unity of the faithful and the bishop, the assembly and all creation.