, , ,

St. Hilary continues his interpretation of Revelations 22:1:

And all things whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. Never again shall His gift and His statutes be set at naught, as they were in the case of Adam, who by his sin in breaking the Law lost the happiness of an assured immortality; but now, thanks to the redemption wrought by the tree of Life, that is, by the Passion of the Lord, all that happens to us is eternal and eternally conscious of happiness in virtue of our future likeness to that tree of Life. For all their doings shall prosper, being wrought no longer amid shift and change nor in human weakness, for corruption will be swallowed up in incorruption, weakness in endless life, the form of earthly flesh in the form of God. This tree, then, planted and yielding its fruit in its own season, shall that happy man resemble, himself being planted in the Garden, that what God has planted may abide, never to be rooted up, in the Garden where all things done by God shall be guided to a prosperous issue, apart from the decay that belongs to human weakness and to time, and has to be uprooted.

Note the sense of liturgical time that St. Hilary expresses within this passage. There is both the reality of the eschaton (the end times) and the reality of the present (where we still experience time and the consequences of of the old Adam’s rejection of the Law). There is a tension that exists within every Christian’s life between these two realities — especially those of us who are familiar with the Orthodox Christian liturgical life.

When one is accustomed to the language of the Orthodox worship, everything that we do — whether it is celebrating The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, the Martyrdom of St. Katherine the Great, the hierarch par excellence St. Nicholas, The Conception of the Theotokos by St. Anne (all feasts we have celebrated over the course of this study) or The Nativity of our Lord, God and Jesus Christ the language is always in the present. We see this in the Kontakion of Christmas:

On this day the Virgin gives birth unto the Super-essential. To the Unapproachable, earth is providing the grotto. Angels sing and with the shepherds offer up glory. Following a star the Magi are still proceeding. He was born for our salvation, a newborn Child, the pre-eternal God.

All this is happening now. The Eighth Day which has no end has already arrived. The Second Coming is referred to in the past in the Anaphora of St. John Chrysostom:

Remembering, therefore, this command of the Savior, and all that came to pass for our sake, the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the enthronement at the right hand of the Father, and the second, glorious coming.

And yet, despite our ability to enter into this timeless reality every time we gather as the Church and celebrate the Divine Liturgy, we must return into time. We must face the consequences of the First Adam.

This tension becomes strained when these consequences become overwhelming — when we see the suffering and death of loved ones, when we witness disasters both natural and manmade that affect hundreds, thousands or millions of our fellow human being, or, most especially, when we ourselves are faced with the crippling effects of time, decay and ultimately death.

In other words, we all have a choice: we can stand facing (and therefore meditating upon) the world and place our hope in its riches, its power and its operation; or we can stand to face the Coming Kingdom, which we have already witnessed within the context of our worship, and meditate upon that which is yet to come and yet is already here.

Neither prevents trials and tribulations; however, while the first guarantees not only disappointment, but ultimate failure, the latter promises that all that happens to us within that liturgy is eternal. Thus, the man who meditates upon the Law day and night is and will be eternally conscious of happiness in virtue of our future likeness to that tree of Life.