My hubby and I, together with some friends, are reading a book I read a couple years ago, Everywhere Present by Stephen Freeman. As I’ve been reading through it a 2nd time I remembered how much I loved chapter 3, We Live in an Altar. It is so rich and full.
The premise of the book is to understand that we don’t live in a 2-story universe but rather 1-story. “God is everywhere present, and fillest all things” as the prayer says. We have developed the mentality that anything “real” is in the first story, “while the second floor is only found in ‘the understanding’ of some”.
The oldest traditions of the church have taught us that the mysteries of the church in the sacraments are so much more. Christ became man so that we may become like God. We are united with Him.
These great mysteries of the Church unite us with God, but do not unite us in a manner that ignores the creation through which this union occurs. Creation is not made to be other than creation. The truth of creation and its relationship to man and God are revealed to be what they truly are: the communion of heaven and earth.Everywhere Present (emphasis mine)
The material world is declared by the life of the Church to be a holy place,
a place whose true character is revealed only in reference to God.
“The whole earth is full of His glory, ” is the testimony sung before God by the angels (Isaiah 6:3).
We do not live in a world of mere matter.
We live in a world filled with holy matter.
We live in an altar.Last paragrah in chapter 3 of Everywhere Present by Fr. Stephen Freeman
We are surrounded by the holy. God fills all things. We can meet Him anywhere because the earth is filled with Him. I simply love these last words of the chapter.
We live in an altar.
One of the things that drew me to Orthodoxy was the reverence I saw, or even felt, during each service. The Holiness of God was palpable in how the members of the body behaved towards that holy altar. As a little girl I knew that if God was real He was truly awesome and we were to be awestruck. We were to revere Him in every way. I longed to see that, to feel that. And I found it in how the Orthodox approach the chalice of the Holy Eucharist. The culmination of every single Sunday is the Holy Eucharist. It is why we are there! And we approach “with fear and trembling”.
I found my awestruck wonder.
But learning to see the whole world in this manner? To revere the whole world as holy matter? Words escape me as I try to wrap my mind around this absolutely thrilling idea. To know, without doubt, that God fills all things, all matter, and I need not wait for Sundays to be awestruck by His presence. I simply need to open my eyes where I am, breathe, listen, and be filled with awe.
Joy! Pure joy!
That’s what I feel.
Thank you, Lord, for your presence in my life. May I learn to see it daily and proclaim it as the angels have.
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.”