the meaning of Sacrifice

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The meaning of sacrifice as the core of the social life.
by fr Jonah Mourtos
0916541401
[email protected]
(a) the Eucharist perspective
(i) the misinterpretations
The meaning of the Eucharist from the orthodox perspective is not so familiar with many
christian denominations, and misunderstood by non christians. Because of the heavy ritual-
ization , the songs , the church environment , there are misinterpretations even between tra-
ditional orthodox, and so the most beautiful and most important concept of the church life is
sadly ignored.
For most people, Eucharist it is a MEMORIAL of the death of Jesus, the last supper
etc.. , so sad events. I see this in most taiwanese christians. It is like a memorial service , this
why is more sad than happy event, although by this sadness it is supposed to proclaim faith to
Jesus. This is probably one reason that most christian denominations (except catholics) cele-
brate the Eucharist every 2-3 months or weeks, and it is not the center of their religious life.
(ii) The meaning
But for the first church , till today the Eucharist is the most happy event of the life.
Acts 2:46 ¶ So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from
house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, (!" #$%&&'()*' +%,
#-*&./0/' +%123%4) . This is why the center of the church is the altar, and everything during
the liturgy must be bright, lights on, candles, etc.. the priest dressed with beautiful, colorful
clothes.
This “gladness” is very needed today, in the everyday life, in the stressful business
environment.
(iii) the new use of memory
The eucharist is not just to remember the death of Jesus. 1Cor. 11:25 In the same
manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood.
This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” Luke 22:19 ¶ And He took bread,
gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for
you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
But what “remembrance” means? Do we remember the sad dead of a common per-
son? No!! We remember Jesus who , is alive, is at the right head of the Father, and who is
coming continuously
1
and is going to come to renew everything.
Although in 1Cor. 11:26 ¶ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you
proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes, the proclamation is in waiting and cannot be separat-
ed from “till he comes” . It is proclamation of Jesus life giving death, it is the happiness of
life which springs from the empty tomb.
The prayer of the orthodox priest gives the way to understand this remembrance:
“Priest (in a low voice): 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
1. rev 1:4, 1:8 , “5 6" +%, 5 7" +%, 5 !18.µ*"94 = coming”
- 1 -
into heaven, the enthronement at the right hand of the Father, and the second, glorious
coming
23
.”
So in the liturgy ,we remember the future
4
. under this perspective , in he light of the
glory all the past takes meaning , the cross is connected with the resurrection etc..
(1) the healing memory
The memory which is rooted in the future and not in the past, but looks the past is the
really healing the forgiving memory. Because real forgiveness is not that i do not punish you,
or i do not ask revenge ,for the evil that the other caused to me, but really erasing the past, the
even from the memory. Is this possible? from a common human point of view is very diffi-
cult. But living the life of the liturgy, learning to live the “remembering the future” , we in-
clude in this memory the fellow brothers and sisters coworkers as they will be (in paradise
[probably] , as we all wish and pray) in the light of Jesus, without evil.
Is this important for the public theology? i think it is , a new way to give the people
the new perspective: to gaze the life from the perspective of the future, (which we know
what it is, the fulfillment) and not only from the past, the unbearable burden of failures,
wounds, which cannot be taken away by common acts. Fo example in Buddhism the past is
always guiding the present and the future, demanding acts to “compensate” the mistakes.
(2) the collective healing memory
We remember Jesus , but Jesus is never alone. Already from the preparation of the
liturgy, around the “lamb” are the small pieces of bread who represent the angels, the saints,
but also our living people and our departed ones (who are not saints) .
And after the consecration , we continue to remember first the departed ones, the
saints and our relatives also.
2. prayer of anaphora in the liturgy, http://www.goarch.org/chapel/liturgical_texts/
liturgy_hchc
3. !"##$%& ()*(+, -./% (0*(+, 12$3 0)*4, 56#7 0*00, 0 8$%77"923:"37 )*0;<0+, 8:#.7 (*04, =%>%9"#:23 0*+?
4. basic point in the theology of John Zizioulas
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The priest says
5
: “So that they may be to those who partake of them for vigilance of soul,
forgiveness of sins, communion of Your Holy Spirit, fulfillment of the kingdom of heaven,
confidence before You, and not in judgment or condemnation. Again, we offer this spiritual
worship for those who repose in the faith, forefathers, fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles,
preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, ascetics, and for every righteous spirit made per-
fect in faith.” And he continues with the living . At the same time the parishioners should also
bring to their minds their beloved ones . So the liturgy is the best training of the memory for
healing. Moreover, theologically speaking, is the kingdom “here and now” but it is important
for the public theology, for the businessmen, to come back, after the liturgy, to their work
place and conditions, with this new way of thinking. Even they cannot keep it completely,
but something remains, which gradually becomes better and better.
(iv) bringing the universe
The orthodox liturgy gives a new meaning to the social life. It starts theoretically be-
fore the certain time of the ritual. Because people must bring their offerings , which is the
bread and the wine. The fact that the previous day the husband or wife will prepare the bread
or the wine , and the product of her hands will be the Body of Jesus , is the highest honor and
joy.
Till now in villages, but also religious families will search for the best wine for God.
And the woman will have her own ritual, to make the bread which will be the body of Jesus.
So much honor, so much care, so much prayer for the preparation. The small details, the care
for the bread to be perfect (needs many hours ) till to bring to the church in a good towel.
I think the cooking -as traditional work of the house wife- is elevated in great
meaning, it explains practically , visually the meaning of the Matt. 6:11 /:" ;1/9" <µ="
/:" !>'9?)'9"
6
2:4 <µ@" )Aµ*19".
So the universe, beautified by our hands , our work, is offered to god as food. This
not only opens a bridge to a dialogue and understanding of Chinese folk religion, but to
something deeper:
(1) The theology of food.
Ludwig Feuerbach's well-known phrase "Man is what he eats
7
" ("Der Mensch ist was
er isst") would have a deep meaning. We give what it keeps us alive and this is the food.
The orthodox points of view seem from outside very “spiritual” , “pious” “monastic” etc...
but in reality are very pragmatic, and if i would be allowed to say , “materialistic” .
Food we offer to God, and God becomes food: “John 6:51 I am the living bread which
came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that
I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
Although it is beyond this paper, we can see the connections and relationships, the
eating of the bread from one person, but also for the life of the world. So the food has the real
universal beep meaning, as connecting all the universe.
5. http://www.goarch.org/chapel/liturgical_texts/liturgy_hchc
6. i have videos for the meaning “daily bread”
7. http://www.jstor.org/discover/
10.2307/2708215?uid=3739216&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&sid=21103847610901
- 3 -
I eat food, when i will die, my ashes will be part of the earth, will be bread , which
will be the body of Christ, the life of the world.
(2) the memory of the others
The orthodox, will bring not only the bread and wine but also a paper with the names
of his beloved living and dead . The priest will take small pieces of the bread for each name,
and during the liturgy , he will deep on the blood of Jesus, so totally the small pieces of bread
they become full of Jesus. This is the best visual definition of the church as body of Christ.
So the orthodox goes to the eucharist bringing all the universe:
! as bread and wine,
! His living people
! his departed people
! his enemies (i am very moved when i read the commemoration papers of the people i see ,
written at the end “for the people who hate us”)
What more would ask a public theology from a person? is this giving a high social
and healing impact to the people?
(v) gathering into one
doing to the Eucharist, you meet with the others who do by similar ways the same
preparation. in the orthodox church the priest cannot celebrate the Eucharist alone, must be al
least one christian present to answer and complete his prayers.
So the eucharist unites, creates community , gives a new meaning of the public life, as
! meeting
! offering
! transforming
! new life (public)
(vi) the general priesthood
it is interesting for public theology that the “believer” does not go to attend an event ,
like in a theater, He goes to proactive , to activate his “ priesthood”. So we see a new identity
for public life which is not practically realized, the “priesthood” Which means “offering” .
i would say “sacrifice” but for the public opinion, etc... may have a negative meaning,
since implies some death. But in the eucharist, not only is not death but indeed the abundance
of life. Priesthood means to offer. To offer because of love and gratitude.
the meaning of sacrifice is not to “bribe” god , for some benefits. And it is not a sad
event after Jesus birth, cross, resurrection.
priesthood is to offer first the things that cannot go to god by themselves, the bread
and the wine, who represent all the universe. And in the liturgy they are deified, transformed
to the body and blood of Jesus.
from this point of view, the eucharist is the theoretical foundation of ecology. We do
not just care for the universe because it is for our benefit, we sanctify the universe. This is a
good point for he public theology to explain ecology.
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(vii) the life as gift
We offer to god not only the universe but ourselves and one another
8
.
this is the point of sacrifice. it is not a terrible death, but the miracle of love: the self enclosed
life is the hell. Life which is not shared, is a wasted life. we offer to god only because of love
and gratitude.
from this point of view, we offer only from love and gratitude, not to manipulate god. Offer-
ing , sacrifice is gift and privilege. What is the real love? an opening to the other, a death of
my individuality, and acceptance of the other. And this is not a self closed, like mirror rela-
tionship, but an openness, we offer “all, for all”.
The Father accepts our poor offering , not because he needs but because he loves. And
not just for mercy, not as some lower gifts , but the real offerer is Christ, the real priest, to his
priesthood the priest and the orthodox participate by a special way.
And he offers another gift to us. Not for social obligation, but from pure love. Derida
wrote about the philosophy of gifts but in the liturgy it is the hiest concept. It is a free gift of
love of the Father to us. Sending the holy Spirit :
! to unite us, to make us one,
! to “change” the bread and wine to the body and blood of Christ
! to feed us with the food of life.
(viii) to be one
by the holy spirit, and by taking the holy communion we become real brothers and sisters. It
is a new reality, overcoming any division of time space , social etc...
is this interesting for the public theology? i thing so. no-matter people believe or not ,
the demand of unity is very important.
(ix) the misunderstanding of sacrifice in the OT .
It is true that in the OT (old testament) we have sacrifices of animals . From this sad
event, the blood etc... the concept of sacrifice is considered to be sad and painful. And of
course it is. But if we see it existentially is different
9
.
From the NT we can reconsider why god wanted the ritualistic sacrifice:
(i will sent you the bibliography later)
If we see the ritual, the Jew who sinned, but offer an animal. He goes in front of the
altar :
1) by touching the animal, which means he and the animal become one, he identifies
himself as living being with the animal.
2) at the same time he confesses his sin, so the sin is his sin and the identified animal.
3) he kills the animal in front of the altar. This s not to bribe god, but to say that the
sin is existential disease. It is not that he broke the law. It is that by his acts he broke the rela-
8. Priest: Remembering our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and
ever virgin Mary, with all the saints, let us commit ourselves and one another and our whole
life to Christ our God. http://www.goarch.org/chapel/liturgical_texts/liturgy_hchc
9. prof. Chris Karakolis, “sin,baptism, grace romans 6:1-14” THESSALONIKH 2004, based
on Sühne als Heilsgeschehen [Sondereinband] (Cilliers Breytenbach , Bernd Janowski ,
Reinhard G. Kratz , Verlag 2000
- 5 -
tionship with god. So his existence is separated. this is disease, an existential death. This re-
minds us the existential and not legalistic meaning of the law: John 14:23 ¶ Jesus answered
and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him,
and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
John 14:21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he
who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
John 15:10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept
My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
It is like killing the separation , the only way to end the separation, a ritualistic suicide
to the “Rom. 6:6 .... the body of sin .....
4) The blood of the animal flows in the basement of the altar. But the blood for the
Jews is life, his life , amorphous, under the altar, where is the presence of god. Then the priest
takes the blood of the animal (his blood actually) and pus on the 4 corners of the altar , INIT-
ING HIM WITH GOD. We see here a so beautiful , gentle ritual. It s not god who demands
satisfaction. It is that need need cure.
is this interesting for the public theology? To refute our concepts of life?
This was a depiction of Jesus sacrifice.
I think analyzing this concept we offer new insides for the public theology and very
interesting meanings to the everyday life.
(x) the life as sacrifice
In the eucharist we do not repeat Jesus sacrifice, we do not re-crucify Jesus. but the
grace of god changes the time, the the sacrifice we offer miraculously, is related to the unique
sacrifice of Jesus at golgotha.
Because our subject is not dogmatic theology, but public i will stress on some impor-
tant aspects of life as sacrifice. Because the main point of liturgy is this sacrifice, is the life as
offering. Life which starts from sacrificing the individuality and taking a new life, as gift
from god in the eucharistic community .
It is very important that the human life after the fall is based on the individuality. The
basic psychological fear, the fear of trauma
10
even the fear of success
11
in the eucharist are
totally revised. Christ, whom we “remember” whom we live and taste and becomes our real
life, is in his eschatological, -but tasted “here and now” -glory, is the Rev. 13:8 ... the Lamb
slain from the foundation of the world.
So the sacrifice is rooted on the future, depicted on the past and activated in history.
The concept of god who is self sacrificed not because he could not do otherwise, not because
he had to solve a failure in paradise (the fall of Adam) but because this is the way of the
correct human life: to break the individuality
12
1Cor. 12:27 Bµ*@4 2C !)/* )=µ% D1')/9E +%,
µC&0 !+ µC19F4..
To become members of the others needs and firstly of Jesus needs something in the
body of Jesus so this unity, the “pipes of life” (my example) John 20:20 When He had said
10. Maslow,
11. syndrome of Jonah
12. 1Cor. 12:27 ¶ Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. (not good
translation)
- 6 -
this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw
the Lord. John 20:27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My
hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but
believing.”
This new concept of sacrifice as joy, as the way of true life, as the shared life is very
important in the public life.
To move the object of libido, from ourselves to the others, in the Eucharistic commu-
nity , and to continue this, after the liturgy, to the everyday life. In that case, the everyday
life becomes the preparation of the next liturgy. a circle of life in which , from the part that
refers to humanity , we activate the unity , which is practically : Matt. 8:17 that it might be
fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:“He Himself took our infirmities
And bore our sicknesses.” only out of love. Rom. 15:1 We then who are strong ought to bear
with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2Cor. 11:29 Who is weak, and I
am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?
In the Trinitarian life we have the “perichoresis”, that the Father shares totally his
essence with the Son and the Spirit and vise versa . This is the fullness of life, the shared life.
In the human condition is the way of sacrifice as “sharing” our life by the eucharist, in Jesus
life, by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Because of the human condition, because of the restric-
tions of the human nature, this “sharing” is not exactly as the divine “perichoresis” , but is in
pain many times , the word sacrifice brings to our minds something painful, but the only way
of real life. John 10:10 ...... I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it
more abundantly.
(xi) Proprietors or priests of creation?

The eucharist activates our priesthood which is to offer -not to kill- but to offer the
universe, not only ourselves to god. the title “proprietors or priests of creation
13
” is from the
theology of John Zizioulas who explains the consequences of the orthodox Eucharist to the
world. Most of the western world, because has forgotten or misunderstood the eucharist,
stressed on the salvation only for the human beings. The result is the ecological catastrophe,
the pollution, etc... We must understand that the most strong motivation for ecology is not
utilitarianism, not that the pollution of the environment will kill us, but the universe is wait-
ing us to offer it to god, because cannot go to god by itself.
The universe that we offer to god by the eucharist, is sanctified, is and it is waiting to
be sanctified. The universe is in a dynamic state of waiting and going... This sanctification
has the highest level that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus. but also all
the things we offer to god, flowers , candles, oil, incense, the materials that the church is
build, etc... serve , are happily sacrificed-dedicated to god.
The eucharist becomes “cosmic liturgy
14
” as st Maximos the confessor teaches.It is
beyond this small paper to analyze the concept. but we see in the book of revelation how the
creation participates to the divine liturgy of heavens. Rev. 4:9 ¶ Whenever the living creatures
give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever,
13. http://marketplace.regent-college.edu/ideas-media/environment/proprietors-or-priests-of-
creation
14. Hans Urs von Balthasar , Cosmic Liturgy: the Universe According to Maximus the
Confessor, tr. Brian E. Daley, SJ (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2003).
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Rev. 19:4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped
God who sat on the throne, saying, “Amen! Alleluia!”
the eucharist is a copy of the liturgy of heavens, or better a participation to this liturgy.
(xii) conclusion
i tried to reformulate the concept of sacrifice based on the orthodox church main life
and theology. The sacrifice is the way of the true life, the life that Jesus gives us. Is the salva-
tion of the universe. it is the abundance of life.
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