Let us intercede before God for the entire creation

Archimandrite Zacharias from Essex

The highest work for man is to remain in peace and keep his mind to God, as the Old Testament commands it: `Be still, and know that I am God`(Psalm 45:10)

But this peace is so intense that you have to learn to get into it slowly. I remember when I came for the first time to the monastery, elder Sphrony adviced me to try this no more than 10 minutes daily. Gradually you learn more how to stay in it, how to saty with your mind in your heart and before God, as saint Theophanus the Recluse says it in his writings. In his chapter about monks, saint Silouan says that those who have indeed the gift of repentance should not do any other work; they should not be exhausted by other works but rather protected to use with this rare gift. This gift of repentance will surely guide them towards the fulfillment of their call, to become intercessors for the entire world.

If someone truly repents then he shall find grace and that grace will reveal two things: first the bottom of his heart then in the bottom of his heart he shall discover God and his brother.

This was the revelation made by Theotokos in the church while being in the Holy of Holies, according to saint Gregory Palamas. By prayer she discovered the bottom of her heart and there she discovered her connection with the whole world and thus she began to intercess for the whole world even from that early age.

This call is not only for monks.

Thus the first move is towards God with repentance. After we have found God, we return towards the world bringing it before God and intercessing before God for the whole world. This call is not only for monks; it is for any man created after the image and likeness of God. In the Old Testament we see how Moses stands before God and intercesses even argues with Him when he asks God to grant salvation to all the Jews or erase him from the book of life (Exodus 32:32) Saint Paul preferred rather to be cursed himself only for being saved all the Israeliti (Romans 9:3) and all the saints from all ages intercess in a similar way before God.

If someone truly repents he shall not be able to avoid this path of intercession. We the priests must do this due to the nature of our ministry. I discovered something: many times I feel that my prayer is useless for myself at least– but when I pray for the others I feel that sometimes it brings a benefit not cause of me but cause God wants to help the others.

And He helps them by the grace of the ministry given to us. The priest is called to intercess for his people like the Lord who when He climbed on Golgotha had in His heart the whole world and when He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, He prayed for the whole world. When He died on the cross, He died having the whole world in His heart. When He descended into the tomb without knowing decay, as it is written in the book of Acts (Acts 2, 27) because He was sinless and when God resurrected Him from the dead (I Peter 1:21) with the same content of His heart, the whole mankind (the whole Adam) found his salvation, because the whole Adam was in Christ’s heart.

The Holy of Holies

The same happens during the Holy Liturgy with everything we bring, with everything we embrace in our prayer when we stand before God when we stand beofe the altar of the Lord, with everything our conscience embraces: the moment of consecration will bring grace upon the content of our prayer. In other words, if during the Holy Liturgy we embrace the whole world in our prayer, we shall pour blessings over the whole world because we must not forget that it is not us who serve the Holy Liturgy but Christ Himself. In the Liturgy we are just some poor instruments of the Lord, `Who brings and brings Himself.`

Thus when we say to God: `Your own of Your own, we offer to You in all and for all`  we do not bring Him only a small chalice with wine and a crumb of bread but in that bread and that wine we put all our love, all our faith, all our intercession for those we love, for the people who suffer, for the whole world. We put our whole life in that bread and that one and say to God: `Your own of Your own, we offer to You in all and for all` And He does the same because He is a God of Love and He descends because He gave us the commandment: Do this in remembrance of me. (Luke 22, 19) So He does the same, He receives those gifts and He puts His whole life in them, His Holy Spirit and tells us: `Holy to the holies.`

In the Holy Liturgy takes place an exchange of lives : the man offers his life to God and God offers His life to the man – and who can compare or measure this exchange of lives ?

Our life is fleeting, corruptible and changeable and His is incorruptible, eternal, heavenly, that is why this exchange of lives which takes place within the Holy Liturgy is unequal.

Thus if our coming before God in prayer, in repentance or in the Holy Liturgy is fruitful, sooner or later we shall feel this need: to pour the same grace over the whole creation, to intercess for the others – and the greatest exercise for this is the priesthood God has given to us and I think there is no other greater gift given by God on earth than priesthood. We cannot thank Him enough, properly, as saint Basil says in his Liturgy, before the Holy Eucharist: And teach us to thank You properly…

From archimandrite Zacharias, Widen your hearts, translated by the nun Mariam (Vicol), Reîntregirea Publishing, 2009.