Before His glorious Ascension to Heaven, which is celebrated in these days, our Lord Jesus Christ made an important promise to His disciples: “lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). The Kontakion of the feast also refers to these words of the Lord: “O Christ our God… You ascended in Glory, uniting the earthly with the heavenly… and cried out to those who love You, ´I am with you and no one is against you´". How is it possible for Jesus to always be with the disciples, when they saw Him disappear into heaven and “leave”? This defies human reason!
For those who see Christ as only a human being, these questions are understandable. But for those who affirm the humanity and divinity of Christ as God, the reality of the God-man sweeps away such doubts. As God, He is “everywhere present and fills all things” (The prayer “Heavenly King”), and the Psalmist writes: “Our God who is in heaven and on earth” (Psalms 113:11). In addition to His omnipresence, the Lord told us that there will be a special relationship between Him and those who believe in Him: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). So every time there is a gathering of the faithful for common worship, Christ is present. He hears the people, and as Almighty God, lovingly comes to each person in different ways. It is at the Last Supper, where Jesus established the ultimate way to make His presence miraculously felt among those who are living---the Sacred Mystery of the Eucharist.
We all know the words of Christ to his disciples after changing the bread and wine into his body and blood: “do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). The Holy Apostles did exactly that, and it has continued to be done all through time by their successors: the bishops and priests at every Divine Liturgy. We bring to the Holy Altar the gifts that have been reverently prepared by the faithful, invoking the Holy Spirit to descend in order to transform the bread and wine into the Holy Body and Blood of Christ. From then on, Christ Himself is truly among us. The Divine Liturgy reveals Christ to be alive, just as when He revealed Himself to His disciples.
The mind cannot fully comprehend this wondrous event and revelation! The way that God honors the faithful is immeasurable! St. John Chrysostom, who also is overwhelmed by what takes place on the Holy Table during the Divine Liturgy, declares: “For when you see the Lord sacrificed, and laid upon the altar, and the priest standing and praying over the victim, and all the worshippers empurpled with that precious blood, can you then think that you are still among men, and standing upon the earth? Are you not, on the contrary, straightway translated to Heaven, and casting out every carnal thought from the soul, do you not with disembodied spirit and pure reason contemplate the things which are in Heaven? Oh! What a marvel! What love of God to man! He who sits on high with the Father is at that hour held in the hands of all, and gives Himself to those who are willing to embrace and grasp Him” (See Book III, on the priesthood, St. John Chrysostom).
The presence of the God-man, our Lord Jesus Christ in the Divine Liturgy (and in the life of every believer) is a reality. Even though a Christian might not totally understand this, they can still feel the living presence of Christ through faith and a heart full of love. This is why an Orthodox Christian cannot live without the Divine Liturgy. As much as we desire to be with Christ, remember that our Lord Jesus Christ desires to be with us more. Jesus made this yearning known in His archpriestly prayer: “Father, I will that they also, whom you gave me, be with me where I am” (John 17:24).
Why does our Savior Christ want to be near us? Because he loves us! Let us again hear St. John Chrysostom, who makes clear what Christ says to each of us: ”I am to you a father, a mother, a brother, a sister, a friend. I am near you not for you to serve me, but for me to serve you in whatever you wish, in whatever need that might arise. I became poor for you; for you I went up to the cross; for you I intercede before the Father; you only need to desire to stay with me and I will serve you and help you. You are my friend, my brother and the heir to my Kingdom. What more do you want from me?”
My brothers and sisters, may we desire to live in communion with Christ, so that we may enjoy His presence in our lives, alone with His infinite blessings. Amen.
When you see on the Holy Altar the Lord who was crucified and ressurrected, you think that you reside within human beings or have ascended to heaven and with your pure soul and pure mind you observe what takes place in heaven. Oh, what a miracle! How great is the love of God! The same Jesus Christ, who sits in heaven with the Father at the same time is held in the hands of the one who serves the liturgy and who then is transmitten by him to all those who desire to receive it and partake of it with faith and love.”