Learning About the Practices of Our Religion – 20140112

To the third century, if not earlier, may be traced the roots of that symbolic interpretation of the Liturgy which was to become an integral part of the Byzantine tradition. The third-century Alexandrian theologian Origen, building upon an earlier tradition, developed a theology of the Christian mystery which profoundly influenced subsequent Eastern theology. The mystery is the reality of salvation, made present in a visible sign which both reveals and conceals it. Origen applies this sacramental principal to the whole of the Christian economy. Christ himself is the fundamental Christian mystery in whom God and man are united, so that the divinity is both concealed by the humanity, yet revealed by it to those who have eyes to see. Those who have faith see humanity, but believe in the God who indwells it.
The mystery who is Christ is presented to us in the Scriptures, the Church, and the mysteries/sacraments. In all three the literal, outward and apparent reality conceals an inner spiritual reality. We must learn to see in the letter of Scripture the spirit, in the Christian community the incarnate Word, and in her visible rites and ceremonies the saving activity of God.
I believe this is a very important point. In the Scriptures, if we truly take to heart what is written, we find the way to live, the spirit we must attempt to interject into all of our interactions with others. In the community we must come to see Christ. It is the second school (the first being the family) that we have to learn how to live like Jesus lived. The Christian community should teach us how to treat others so that when we go out into the world we can treat others like Jesus treated the people He encountered.
The eucharistic banquet is a symbol of the union of the soul with the divine Word of God, and prefigures the perfect union to which we look forward at the end of time. But the different aspects of the rite also have symbolic value, as well as the whole. The altar, for instance, is the symbol of our interior worship; the smoke of the incense represents the prayers offered by a pure conscience; the priest is a symbol of the apostles and the kiss of peace expresses genuine love. For Origen the Christian rite fulfills its prefigurations in the Old Testament, expresses the spiritual worship we are meant to offer now, and is the image and anticipation of the worship of heaven. But all this requires that those taking part in the rite be initiated into its true significance, which does not lie on the surface

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