The Liturgical Centre of Life

8 June, 2007

I was just reflecting on some comments by Photios Jones on Energetic Procession about Tradition and Liturgy with other thoughts about theology based on Liturgy and I wondered why this is so. The following thoughts came to mind.

Christ is our Life. He is the centre of it and all of it. We live in Him and He in us. The Liturgy is the ultimate manifestation of the Life of Christ. It is the Mystery of His life in which we participate and at the pinnacle is the very participation in this life of our whole life, in body and soul. The rest of life a continuation of this Mystery. That is why we feel most alive and natural in the Liturgy because we are living the fullness of our life.

Holy Tradition is the body of faith and practice that manifest the life of Christ. It was taught to Apostles by Christ and transmitted orally and in writing. These teachings provide a rule of life in all its aspects so that we may live the life of Christ in its fullness. Because the Liturgy is the centre of this life the Liturgy is also the centre of Tradition. The Liturgy encompasses the fullness of the Tradition and is its fullest manifestation. Thus to understand the Tradition, to understand the Scripture one must see it in context of the Liturgy. When one interprets Scripture they must do so in context of the Liturgy, which is the life of Christ to which the Scriptures bear witness. When one walks away from the teaching or practice of the Church, it is the Liturgy from which they are excluded, from the centre of the Tradition.

Because the Liturgy is the centre of our life in Christ, its whole way must manifest the life in Christ. It is not merely the breaking of bread but encompasses the whole process, including its setting. Architecture, icons, music and rites as well as words all reflect the life of Christ, they are all Holy and Divine. Although there are exceptions due to circumstance that do not affect the heart of the Liturgy, nevertheless, the wrong architecture, the wrong music, the wrong icons, and especially the wrong rites and words can all distort the full manifestation of the life of Christ. Tradition, although transcending material limits, also incorporates material detail and makes it part of the process. Yes, there is a variety of detail in the Liturgy but there is also a uniformity of detail. Although not bound by detail the Liturgy is not divorced from detail.

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Some thoughts on time

7 June, 2007

These thoughts were made some time ago before I was Orthodox. They don’t necessarily represent the Fathers or the Tradition of the Church but they are a take on the issue that I think may be within the Tradition. Any thoughts or critiques?

I will begin by defining time as a measure of change. Things that change have a past, present and future. Things that do not change are said to be timeless because the past, present and future are indistinct and also there is no change to measure. Also, I understand that the future does not exist, expect as a potential, the present is an instant and lacks any permanence and the past also does not exist except as a memory. (Only timeless things truly exist in permanence.)

God is unchanging hence He exists without time. Creation has time because it is changing. Time began with Creation and will continue until Creation ceases to change; before Creation there was no time. We cannot think of what happened before because there was no change and we cannot say why did not God create earlier because there is no earlier. The first moment of Creation is the earliest time.

Time does not, therefore, have an eternal existence. It came into being with Creation. Like the rest of Creation it only existed in potential before the beginning of Creation. God’s existence cannot be referenced to Time; He lives beyond time and is unaffected by it. Time only has consequence to His creatures.

God being immutable cannot change with the events of time. Hence, He must know all future potentialities as if they were actual before Creation. When those potentials become present for the creature, this cannot affect God and they also do not make a change for God when they become past memories. His knowledge of things does not know any such difference.

Being omniscient God knows the future because the future potentials are knowable when they become present to the creature. If a creature knows something then so must God. Being Immutable the knowledge cannot come to God over time; He must know all things eternally.

God has given mankind free will. This means that man is free to make his own decision about things. Therefore, man is able to freely change some aspect or action of his. Because the future exists only in potential and not in actuality then the free choice of a man can make one potential actual for the man while others remain not so. Another choice will make a different potential actual for the man. This does not affect God because His knowledge is unchanged by potentials becoming actual for a man and His knowledge of potentials as actuals. Man’s free will is therefore consistent with God’s immutability and omniscience.

What about predicting the future? God is omnipotent so he can affect all things as He wills. If He determines that such an event should take place then He can make it happen; He is free. This is God’s providence in Creation. Note: all determinations of God were made before time and He does not change His mind. An apparent change of mind can occur because free choices actions of an individual can “trigger” a predetermined decision of God. Hence, a man prays for God’s mercy and then God “changes His mind” and relents from the threatened punishment. God had already determined to do so before time when the man actualised the future potential for prayer for himself and meet the “requirements” for God’s relenting. God can predict the future trials of a man because these things are brought to a man through God’s providence. However, God cannot necessarily predict a man’s salvation because the man’s free will actualises for himself salvation or damnation. It does not affect God whether a man is saved or not because He knows all future potentials including salvation of the man. The choices of men only affect themselves and those of limited knowledge. If Saints are to share the energies of God, including omniscience then they also will know the future potential of everyone being saved as if they were actually saved and they also will not be affected by the loss of sinners.

Because God’s decisions are all predetermined before time then all things He does are predetermined including the call, justification and glorification of man. He foreknows the potential salvation of all men and He has willed that all be saved. He has also determined the means for all to be saved. However, man must choose the triggers for these predetermined actions of God. If man chooses not to then God cannot and will not force them upon a man because God has given us free will.