Participation in worship is very significant for Christians and especially the Orthodox think that experiencing the transcendent can never be replaced by any study. The Eucharist or Holy Qurbana, the sacrament of sacraments, the redemptive remembrance and experience of Jesus Christ is the centre point of their worship life. The Church from antiquity has deposited treasures of its faith, hope and teachings at this centre point. A rediscovery of sacraments and especially that of the Holy Eucharist is essential for the rejuvenation of the Church in every age. This theological reflection on the Holy Qurbana may serve as a key to open at least a few rooms of this rich treasure house so that we could be resourceful and refreshed for the renewal of our world.
WORSHIP IN A FLATLAND
The adjective ‘flat’ refers to one dimensional approach of modernity to reality. The rational emphasis of modernity helped the world to differentiate religion, science, art etc facilitating their independent growth. It helped mankind to see and understand the world in a better way. Slowly scientism, the world view which reduce everything to physical world and consider objective and empirical approach as the only valid approach to reality started dominating the scene. Romanticism, Idealism and Post Modernism which developed primarily in Modern Europe were attempts to sort out the reductionism of modernity. When a vehicle is flat it is so attached to the road that it could not move forward smoothly. Scientific materialism and Globalization which promote a consumerist culture tell the story of a flat world where life is also flat. It is noticeable that Friedman’s book on the globalized world is titled The World is Flat. There is no doubt that authentic worship contributes a lot to the rejuvenation of life in this flat world. By being free from the hypocrisy of worshiping a hypothetical God, and from the temptation of worshipping just for material achievements and using worship as an opportunity just for socialization and ethnic integration, it is still relevant and necessary to have a genuine contemplation and communion with God, the Source, savior and perfecter of life. Orthodox worship which retains the pattern of worship of the ancient Christian community proclaims the fact that this world is not only flat.
THE SACRAMENT OF SACRAMENTS
In a sacrament, human nature and God are united for the fulfillment of the creation. Imparting God’s life through visible means and signs is the gist of sacraments. The spring board of all sacraments is the incarnate Son of God, the highest sacrament for the life of the world. Ultimate aim of all sacraments is the purification and deification of humans and their world.
Ancient Christians never limited the number of sacraments to seven. Protestant movement in the sixteenth century AD confined the number to two- Baptism and Eucharist. As a response to this, the Roman Catholic Church in seventeenth century declared seven sacraments as the authentic ones. But the Orthodox Christian Churches follow the ancient tradition of the flexibility regarding the number of sacraments. There are Orthodox teachers who think of monastic Profession, the blessing of waters at Epiphany, the funeral service, the consecration of a Church, the Icon, which is not only an image of the divine world but also its ‘real’ presence on earth, the life and relics of saints, the minor sanctifications of water, bread, oil, fruits, homes, fields, vehicles etc. as sacraments. Since there are many occasions when matter is used to mediate or visible sign is employed to mediate Divine life, it is not easy to limit the number of sacraments. However Baptism, Chrismation, The Eucharist(Qurbana), Confession, Holy Orders, Holy Matrimony, The Anointing of the Sick have a special and very significant place in the list of sacraments. But Eucharist is of supreme importance and is considered as the sacrament of sacraments.
It must be noted that sacraments like Baptism, Marriage and Ordination are still conducted in connection with Eucharistic celebration. Most of the sacraments are considered as getting fulfilled in the Eucharist, the Sacrament of sacraments.
DIFFERENT TERMS AND NAMES
Qurbana is the popular word to indicate the central sacrament for the Malankara Orthodox Church and for many others who cherish the Syrian Orthodox tradition. This come from two Syriac terms qurbono which means offering and koorobo which means sacrifice. Qurbana is the east syriac form of the west syriac term Qurbono. Korban(Mark 7:11) the Hebrew equivalent of Qurbana is used in the Bible many times to describe the offerings and sacrifices of the Jewish community.
The English word Eucharist originates from the Greek word eucharistia which means thanksgiving. The Byzantine Orthodox churches prefer to use this word to refer to their Qurbana.
The term used mainly in the Roman Catholic Church for the Eucharist is Mass. The word ‘Mass’ is derived from the Latin mission which means ‘dismiss’ referring originally to the dismissal of catechumens before the main part of the Eucharist and later on to the dismissal of the believers at the end.
Certain protestant churches use the expressions Lord’s Supper and Holy Communion for the Eucharist.
Another word used primarily in the Orthodox tradition is the Greek word Anaphero which means to ‘lift up’. Anaphero “signifies our holding up our minds, thoughts, and hearts and everything we have along with the lifting of the consecrated bread and wine, to the exalted heights of the Triune God, on whose right is seated Jesus Christ.”
AN ACTIVE PARTICIPATION IN THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST
Jesus Christ is the core figure of Christianity and Christian life is supposed to be centered on Jesus Christ, the perfect Image of God and human being. Incarnation of the Son of God, His life and Teaching, His death, resurrection and ascension were and are means of sanctification, renewal and fulfillment of life. Jesus Christ taught not merely about the Kingdom of God, but also highlighted the importance of prayer and worship through his words and deeds. He instituted Holy Eucharist in the context of a Passover meal of Jews where the Jews had a dynamic remembrance of the Divine intervention in history to liberate them from the slavery in Egypt. Their history vindicates the sacrifice of lamb to commemorate their liberation and exodus. Sacrifice of animals was integral part of worship in many ancient traditions including Jewish Religious tradition. These sacrifices done on behalf of sinners were meant to restore the lost relationship with God. Jesus’ sacrifice especially his death on the Cross on behalf of the corrupted life and distorted world was a life giving sacrifice to end all other sacrifices. An active participation in this living sacrifice done once for all and re- presented in each Eucharistic service is very decisive. So the Holy Qurbana is a living sacrifice and a deep participation in it.
After Last Supper Jesus told his followers, ‘do this in remembrance of Me’. Qurbana is an anamnesis or remembrance of Christ’s life as a whole including his teaching because His life is the supreme model as well as the source of power for fullness of life. Forgetting God, the source of love, is a disastrous trend in the hectic rush in the modern life. So Eucharist is an active remembrance of Lord Jesus Christ and through Him the whole Holy Trinity. This remembrance is much more than just bringing to the surface of mind a memory of a past event. In Qurbana we recapture the experience of the first Christians two thousand years back or in other words we participate in the life and teaching of Christ and particularly in his Sacrifice. The Syriac word Sawtopuzo used repeatedly in Syriac liturgy indicates a deep participation and communion in the mystery of Christ. For example, In St. James Liturgy after the blessing of bread and wine the chief celebrant draws the attention of the congregation to the need of this remembrance through participation: “And, He commanded them, beforehand, saying whenever you participate in this Holy Mystery, you are recalling my death and my resurrection, until my coming again.”
SIGNIFICANCE OF COMMUNITY EXPERIENCE AND WORSHIP
Church building where the Eucharist is celebrated is a symbol of the Church, a community of the followers of Christ. Church which is also called a Eucharistic assembly is the context of Eucharistic service. Ecclesia, the Greek equivalent of the Church, implies a community called by God for a purpose, to be the body of Christ to continue His mission and thus to be His presence in this world. So the first act of worship is to constitute the Church literally. Individuals initiated into Christ come from different places and gather together in one place to constitute Church for the corporate worship. By getting separated from the world, they come to meet Christ to fulfill the Church so that they could transform the world when they go back.
Since the church as a whole is celebrating Eucharist, there is no private Qurbana of one celebrant priest alone. Orthodox tradition insists that there should be minimum three persons in a Qurbana: an ordained priest, an altar assistant and at least a representative of the faithful members of the Church. Ultimately worship is for self denial and regaining the original beauty of the web of life or community experience. Personal and secret prayers have an important place in the Orthodox Christian tradition of which corporate worship is also a very significant and integral part. It must be noted that Jesus established Holy Qurbana with the community of His disciples after His personal prayer in Gethsemane.
According to the Orthodox Christian understanding, not only the living members of the Church, but the departed ones are also part of the Eucharistic worship. The hectic life of modernity encouraged by selfishness make many to even forget their own parents. But in Holy Qurbana, we have been trained to remember with gratitude the spiritual Gurus and saints of many previous generations who have contributed to our growth in faith and life in Christ.
Humans, who are integral part of the whole creation, worship God the Creator by being the representative of the whole universe and by being in fellowship with everything. After saying “It is truly just and right to thank and worship and praise the Maker of all creations” in silence in St. James Liturgy the chief celebrant says, “We also glorify whom the heavenly hosts, corporeal and incorporeal, praise: the sun, the moon and all the stars; the earth, the oceans and the first-born whose names are recorded in the heavenly Jerusalem; angels and archangels, principalities, powers, thrones, dominions, celestial virtues, the many eyed cherubim, and the six-winged seraphim, who, covering their faces and feet and flying to one another, cry aloud and say and sing “Holy , Holy, Holy” to.” It is as a response to this the congregation says, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, by whose glory the heaven and earth are filled, Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who has come, and is to come in the name of the Lord God, Glory to Him in the highest.” Church, the worshipping community is part of a bigger community which is the whole creation. The Eucharistic assembly gives us the vision of the unity and interconnectedness of the web of life, the whole creation and also its connection to the ultimate Loving Source. Along with the privilege of representing the whole world in worship, the Church has the responsibility to be an ideal community which reflects the fellowship of the Trinitarian Community whom it worships.
SIGN, SYMBOL AND SACRAMENT
Wherever we travel we see sign boards and red light or green light which communicate to us in short certain guidance for a safe journey. Sometimes high fever or pain in body may be sign of hidden health problems. Signs draw our attention for an interpretation and action. Those who fail to interpret the signs and take appropriate responsible action may miss safety, destination and health. Human mind is bombarded with numerous advertisements daily in today’s world. These ads also serve as powerful signs to force viewers to go beyond those ads to have the original. Eucharist/ Qurbana as a sign draws our attention to see the invisible mysteries beyond them for our safe journey and fulfillment. But the reductionist approach of the protestant scholars like Swinlgy limited the Eucharist to be just a sign.
Even if sign is part of a symbol, symbol is much more than a sign. Greeting card which symbolizes the love and concern of the one who sends it is a good example of a symbol. Gifts and awards are symbols and they are cherished and preserved by the receivers. Symbols can continue more in our experience than the signs which have a momentary utilitarian implication. Being a gift from God, the world as a whole and everything in it is a symbol. Human being is also supposed to be a special symbol of the Divine presence. Holy Qurbana is also a symbol of the Kingdom of God, and particularly that of the incarnate Son of God. But considering Qurbana just as a symbol is also not acceptable in the light of Orthodox Christian tradition. Like a molecule which contains atoms which contain electrons, Eucharist is a sacrament which contains symbol and sign.
Sacrament is much beyond the understating of sign and symbol. Sign and the reality it represents are merged in the Eucharist. The Giver and the gift are merged in the Qurbana. That is why the Orthodox Christians, though not subscribe to the western concept of transubstantiation, receive the “body and blood of Christ” towards the end of the Qurbana. The Bread and wine offered are symbols of this creation and especially life itself. They are the source of sustenance of natural life. Bread and wine we offer are our own body and blood. As St. Mary offered her body and blood for facilitating the Incarnation of the Lord, our offerings are received by the Lord and make them His own body and blood and give them back to divinize us. Matter is getting fulfilled in this transformation and by receiving Christ we are also deified. By receiving sacrament Humans are also becoming sacrament and the Church is also fulfilled. Their presence in this world must shape this world as a just and peaceful world.
MYSTERY OF THE TRANSFORMATION
When do the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ in Holy Qurbana? Whether the bread and wine really become body and blood? Is there a substantial change in the elements offered in Qurbana? Is the change only an imagination or just a feeling of the believers? Usually the Orthodox faith considers this glorious transformation as a mystery. What happened in the Incarnation is also a mystery. No one has seen one’s own conception in a womb and even the parents do not see it. In normal case, nobody wants to analyze one’s own physical beginning by embarrassing the parents about it. Incarnation as well as the bread and wine becoming body and blood of Christ are comparatively more glorious and mysterious events which can be accepted and appreciated by faith only.
Isolating one act in Holy Qurbana and pinpointing it as the time of the change of the bread and wine to be body and blood of Christ is also not desirable because all sacramental acts in Holy Qurbana are interconnected. “And He blessed, and sanctified and broke and gave it to His holy apostles and said: “Take, eat of it, this is My Body, which is broken for you and for many, and is given for the remission of sins and for life eternal”. Occasions of these words of Institution, and later on Invocation of the Holy Spirit and the coming of the Spirit and also the Fraction, the Elevation etc. are all very important in the Holy Qurbana. However we do not attempt to identify the exact moment of the change of the elements which are offered as a symbol of our life and labor to God.
EUCHARIST MEANS THANKS GIVING
Holy Qurbana is basically a deep expression of human gratitude. The Eucharist, another word for Holy Qurbana, means literally thanksgiving. It is noticeable that most of the prayers in the Holy Qurbana end with the words “we give thanks to Thee and to Thine only begotten Son and to thy Holy Spirit now and forever and ever”, and most of the hymns are filled with praises and thanks to God. On behalf of the whole world and along with everything in this universe, we raise our hearts with full of gratitude to God for His wonderful creation, the salvation He prepared for us, the Divine providence for the ever growing life and the glorious inheritance prepared for us. Bread and wine, the products of human labor and also the means of sustenance and growth represent our very life itself and these are offered to God as our own life offering as an expression of thanks. Including our life everything we enjoy is a gift to us (I Corinthians 4.7). Personal experience of specific Divine interventions may further support and substantiate the thanksgiving in worship. When I was recovered from severe and long ordeal of Dengue fever and accompanied infections in 2013, gratitude to God was multiplied in my heart. After a few months’ gap when I attended the Holy Qurbana for the first time, the Biblical image which came to my mind was the thanks giving dinner given to Jesus by the family of Lazarus after he was raised from death by Jesus (St. John 12:1-5). While Mary and Martha were serving Jesus, Lazarus was having dining with Jesus. I felt that I was sitting like Lazarus beside Jesus having dining fellowship with Him.
After shaping God’s own gifts to us, we offer them as our gifts to the ultimate Giver. Thanksgiving in this manner is an acknowledgement of the ultimate ownership of everything by God which is essential for meaningful and moderate consumption without being addict to consumerist culture today. It is by giving we receive back. So we cannot use everything as per our selfish desires and greed but according to the wish and vision of God the creator and provider only.
Our worship is part of a cosmic thanksgiving. Humans created in God’s image worship God representing the whole created order. Since everything in the visible and invisible world acknowledge God as the ultimate ground, redeemer and perfecter in their own way, we humans join them all in our thanksgiving worship.
DECLARATION OF FAITH
Holy Qurbana is the declaration of the faith of the church. Not only in the Nicene Creed but throughout the worship, the Church is declaring the foundational faith. The parishioners come together to confess their convictions about the things invisible. It is an alarming fact that today because of the too bright light of materialism, vision of the transcendent source of life seems to be dim to many. According to the secularized mind, the only reality is that which can be experienced. Based on revelation, the Church is fully convinced about the fact that there is a spiritual world behind this visible and tangible universe. The worship is a declaration of our faith in the triune God who fashioned this world out of nothing, who took initiative for its salvation, who leads us to perfection. Worship is also the community’s strong declaration that Jesus Christ is our Lord and God. In history great personalities like Gandhiji, Mother Theresa and Sachin Tendulkar who shine like stars appear occasionally. While appreciating their achievements and unique contributions and glorifying them, we are not ready to give worship to them. In spite of the severe persecution, the early Christians in the Roman Empire refused to give worship to the emperors and idols and they worshipped Jesus Christ as their Lord and God because they experienced the fullness of life in Him. Orthodox Christian community in twenty first century is also in continuity with the faith and tradition of the Christians of antiquity. It is by being steadfast to these foundations of faith that we try to be open to the people belonging to other religions and ideologies.
By exalting the Chalice and Paten and holding them crosswise the chief celebrant says, “With us is the Holy Father, who by his grace fashioned the world,” “with us is the Holy Son, who by the precious suffering of his body redeemed it” and “With us is the One Holy and Living Spirit, who completes and perfects of all that is and all that is to be.” As a response to each of these saying which summarize the creed, people say “With us indeed, Amen”. Eucharistic worship gives an assurance that we are not orphans in this planet. Faith confirms the fact that our being in this universe is not an accidental coincidence. The declaration of faith in the Eucharist is not mere proclamation of a few statements about God but an expression of a strong trust in an eternal Divine Triune community who created everything, redeemed his creation, and who perfects everything and a participation in His loving and life-giving presence. In the midst of drastic changes and rapid fluctuations in morals and lifestyles, it is this faith which ensures a solid and stable foundation to life.
A BROAD UNDERSTATING OF COMMUNION
Holy Qurbana is specifically our communion with the Lord Jesus Christ. There are four steps in our union with the Lord in the Holy Qurbana: By listening to the celebrative reading of the Gospel, the Evengelion which contains the life and teaching of Jesus, by experiencing the whole life of Jesus including the second coming as reenacted in the Holy Qurbana, by raising our hearts and minds to Him through prayers, and by receiving the body and blood of Christ. So communion at the end of the Holy Qurbana is the culmination of our union with Christ, the source of our liberation and deification. In fact we come to the worship to meet and experience Jesus as Jesus was experienced two thousand years back in Palestine by his disciples and many others. When Christ’s life is re-enacted He who has promised to be present to those who gather in His name is present in the Holy Worship. The chief celebrant during the service exhorts us to raise our hearts to up above where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. This spiritual and mental union becomes easier for those who practice daily such communion through ejaculatory prayers like Jesus prayer. All attempts to be united with Christ are to become like Christ in thinking, desiring and acting.
The personal encounter of the faithful with their Living Lord, as participants at His 'Mystical Supper' is central to the Eucharist. While Jesus was moving in the midst of a community of His followers, a lady who had been struggling with hemorrhage, with deep faith touched the fringe of His garments and all of a sudden, power flowed from Him giving healing to her. This personal encounter of believers with Christ is the very core of Orthodox devotional life. Even if Holy Qurbana is primarily a corporate worship, this quest for an intimate union with Jesus Christ is an essential requirement for making it a dynamic experience. From Mental and spiritual communion with Christ we move to receive the body and blood of Christ and thus the whole person enjoys a deep union with Christ.
Through our communion with Christ, the faithful get into a communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit because of their mutual indwelling and relationship. Jesus Christ has no completely isolated existence from the Father and the Holy Spirit. We have received the Holy Spirit through Christ to enter boldly into the presence of the Heavenly Father.
Holy Qurbana is a meeting point of Heaven and Earth. Through worship the visible world come to have a communion with the invisible world. The Church, especially the Holy of Holies symbolizes the heavenly world. Through the worshiping community our tangible universe transcends and the invisible eternal world descends to have a communion. Various icons, candles, colorful thronos and vestments, incense and smoke, bells and censor, repeated halleluiahs and hymns etc. of Holy Qurbana together symbolically present the mystery and wonder of the transcendent spiritual world to the senses of the earthly beings. Thus through this communion we get a glimpse and also an experience of a world which is beyond time and space. In fact this communion gives rejuvenation and enthusiasm to the mortal beings in this world which is perishing.
SACRAMENT OF JOY AND JOYOUS FOOD
Orthodox Christian Tradition understands Holy Qurbana as a sacrament of joy. Holy Qurbana helps us to experience Jesus Christ, the source and means of Joy and celebrate that experience. Alexander Schememann opines that “The Eucharist is the entrance of the Church into the joy of its Lord.”(For the Life of the World, p 26) Colorful and enchanting advertisements of various advanced products of the market world invite us to purchase them to enjoy life. After following those commandments with high price, frustrations continue. From the beginning till the end Gospels portray Jesus Christ as the source of real and great joy and the Spirit reminds us about the secret of real happiness. In the beginning of Luke’s Gospel we come across the good news about the birth of Jesus by the angel: “I bring to you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people.”(Lk 2:10) Towards the end of the Gospel also there is a reference to the joy of the disciples who had an experience of the Risen and ascended Lord: “They returned to Jerusalem with great joy.”(Lk. 24:52) It is also noticeable that food was integral part of the joyous banquet prepared at the return of the prodigal son who repented as described in the famous parable in St. Luke chapter fifteen. Holy Qurbana rejuvenates human relation with the Ultimate source of Life and renews the quality of the relationship with the rest of the world. So deepening of love facilitated by Jesus is the secret of this experience of joy.
It was the craze for food that led man to loss of paradise which was deeply frustrating. But Holy Qurbana is a food which gives a taste of heavenly joy. Gospels depict the ultimate joyous destiny in terms of banquets.
Manna, the daily food the Israelites used to get from God, gladdened and strengthened them during their sojourn in desert on their way to the Promised Land. Jesus introduces himself as the life giving bread which serves as Manna in our transient journey towards the eternal abode: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”(Jn. 6:51) Jesus Christ makes himself available as a living bread to keep us free from destructive evil and to give momentum to our onward journey. Towards the end of the Holy Qurbana the chief celebrant uses the word “provisions” in his words of dismissal: “depart you in peace …..with the provisions and blessings, which you have received from the atoning altar of the Lord.” Provisions indicate the food for our journey. The angel of the Lord came to the frustrated and tired prophet Elijah and exhorted him: “Arise and eat, else the journey will be too great for you.” (I Kings 19:7) The very next verse says that with the strength of the food, the prophet could travel for forty days to Horeb. This event can also be interpreted as a pre-figuration of the Holy Qurbana.
The imagery of food is very meaningful in relation to Christ and thus to Holy Qurbana. Literally the food we consume helps us in many ways; sustains, satisfies our hunger, gives the joy of taste, and gives strength for work and movements. Likewise Jesus Christ made available through Holy Qurbana quenches our inner thirst and hunger, nourishes our inner life, gives a joyous and lasting experience and gives the necessary power to work for a better world of freedom, peace, justice and love. But as the food becomes part of life through consumption for experiencing its benefits, it is by having a meaningful communion with the Lord that we experience these divine benefits. The Orthodox faithful do not eat anything before receiving Holy Communion. In the story of Eden, it was ancestral parents’ longing for food that cuts off their life from the Source of life. So, the faithful approach Holy Qurbana in fasting and receive the life giving communion.
THUYOBO IN A BROADER PERSPECTIVE
Thuyobo is the word used to refer to the preparation done by the chief celebrant just before the public worship. But thuyobo is meant for the whole worshipping community and it has a wider significance.
Jesus Christ has prepared our salvation and we are Christ’s. Baptism which initiated us to Jesus Christ and made us part of the Church qualify us for Holy Qurbana. Alienation from this experience need to be rectified through repentance. Holy Qurbana is for the further fulfillment or deification of those who are initiated to Jesus Christ. All aspects of the life of a Christian which should be in Christ and in accordance with His guidance are to be understood as the thuyobo.
Holy Qurbana is the celebration of the fellowship of the Church. The Church is supposed to be a sign and sacrament of the kingdom of God of which fellowship is one of the greatest marks. Members of the Church gather together at the visible church of each locality to form the unity of the church which is foundational to the worship. According to the teaching of the Lord, reconciliation with the fellow humans is an essential pre-requirement for being united with God through worship (St. Mathew 5:23, 24). By going out of our egoistic comfort zones and reaching out to other members that we celebrate the joy of harmony and discipleship of our Lord who taught us to be the children of God by being peacemakers(Mt. 5:10) and to love one another as He has loved us(St. John 15:12). Early Christians used to think that participation of members with the feeling of hatred in mind would defile the Holy Qurbana. Peacemaking is an important aspect of Thuyobo.
If a Christian thinks that the spiritual preparations like silence, fasting and prayer make him or her worthy to receive Holy Communion, she or he may fall into pride. In fact such practices should help us to think of our deviations from the original baptismal calling to be Chris’s and Christ like. By understating and accepting our unworthiness we can approach Holy Qurbana which facilitates our participation in the deifying life of Christ. It must be noted that ancient Christian teachers never taught to abstain from regular Holy Communion based on the Pauline teaching in I Corinthians 11:29. St. John Cassian(AD 360-433) criticizing the tendency of some Christians to receive Holy Communion only once in an year with the reasoning of unworthiness says, “We must not avoid communion because we deem ourselves to be sinful. We must approach it more often for the healing of the soul and the purification of the spirit, but with humility and faith that considering ourselves unworthy….” He goes on to encourage us to receive Holy Mysteries every Sunday by knowing that we are never worthy of them rather than blinded by pride thinking that after a certain period of time we become worthy of receiving them.(Schememann, Great Lent, p. 116)
FROM VISION TO PARTICIPATION TO MISSION
In the vision of the Prophet Isaiah as depicted in chapter six, one of the angels singing Holy, Holy, Holy to the Lord, took a live coal and touched Isaiah’s mouth with it and said “your sins are cleansed”. This is often interpreted as an ideal vision of worship and Holy Communion. Immediately after this sanctifying experience, the Prophet hears a call from God for which he answers “Behold, here am I, send me” (Isaiah 6:3-8). Likewise after each experience of Holy Qurbana, the faithful are sent to witness the Lord through their words and life, through their service in compassion to the suffering and the victims of injustice. This movement from Liturgy to service and again to liturgy and again to Mission which is called Qurbana after Qurbana is the nature of the life of Christians. Worship is the motivation for the committed actions for a world of freedom, peace and justice.
As the famous Orthodox Liturgical theologian Alexander Schememann in his book The Eucharist says “In union with Christ we receive his love and can love with it and grow in it.” He goes on to say “We go to Church for love, for the new love of Christ himself, which is granted to us in our unity. We go to Church so that this divine love will again and again be ‘poured into our hearts’ so that again we may ‘put on love’.(Col. 3.14), so that , constituting the body of Christ , we can abide in Christ’s love and manifest it in the world.”3 If the participants in the Living Sacrifice are not becoming sacrificial love, an intensive diagnosis is required.
1) Fr. Dr. K. M. George, Light to the Nations, (Kottayam: Divyabodhanam Publications, 1989) p.88
2) Alexander Schememann, Great Lent, p. 116
3) Alexander Schememann, The Eucharist, (New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003)p. 13