Orthodox Observer - October 20, 1998



By His Eminence, Archbishop Spyridon

My beloved spiritual children,

Many centuries before Christ, the prophet Zechariah foresaw in a vision a glorious day when the words "Holy to the Lord" would be inscribed on everything, even on the most commonplace items of human existence. He foresaw a day when the holiness of God would extend to the whole created world, to all creatures great and small.

Beloved children, this vision of the prophet is being fulfilled in the Church of Jesus Christ. By His Incarnation our Lord consecrated our human nature to God, and by His Baptism He blessed the waters of the Jordan. In consecrating temples of worship, we continue the task of sanctifying all of creation in the name of Jesus Christ for the glory of God.

As I have traveled throughout our Holy Archdiocese to perform such consecration services, I have marveled how the faithful dedicate to Him the marble of the Holy Table, the gold and silver of the vessels of the Holy Altar, the wood and canvas and paint of the Holy Icons, the paper and ink of the Holy Gospel book, the brick and stone and mortar of our churches. From these consecrated buildings, you, the faithful clergy and laity, continue the work of consecrating bread and wine for the Holy Gifts. You bless the waters of Epiphany, and you sanctify the oil of Anointing. You bless the palms of Palm Sunday, the flowers of the Epitaphios, the bay leaves of Holy Saturday, and so on.

The work of consecration is consummated by sealing the Relics of Holy Martyrs in the Holy Table, where they are sealed unto eternity, never to be removed. They are not sealed in the pulpit. They are not sealed in the baptismal font. They are not sealed in the icon screen. They are not sealed in the episcopal throne.

The relics are sealed in the Holy Table, where the faithful can never again see them, never again venerate them, never again carry them in solemn procession.

Why do we do this? Of all the places that the relics could be placed, why do we bury them deep inside the Altar? The Church seals the relics in the Holy Table, in order to declare that it is from the Holy Table that the whole Church is consecrated unto God the Father. It is from the Holy Table that the holiness of Christ is bestowed upon us. It is from the Holy Table that the Holy Spirit begins the work of redemption in the whole world. We seal the relics in the Holy Table as a statement of this fundamental Orthodox truth -- that the Church is first of all a eucharistic community. The Church becomes the Church -- becomes the Body of Christ -- by receiving the Body and Blood of Christ.

The Church is not merely a place for programs and focus groups; it is not merely a society for the preservation of our culture and heritage; it is not merely a network for business and social contacts. The Church is first and last a eucharistic community, a family of fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, gathered around the Table of Jesus Christ, receiving the Bread of Life and the Cup of Immortality.

Beloved Christians, your fellowship, your faith, your consecration, your salvation -- all these are gifts of grace, gifts received from Him who offers you His Body and His Blood, for remission of sins and life everlasting.

Let us labor in love and unity to draw from this Holy Table the holiness of Christ, and bring this holiness into our homes, our families, our workplaces, and into the whole world.

[ Orthodox Observer - October 20, 1998 - p. 8 ]