Participating with God and Creation


 

Participating with God and with Creation

 

                                                                                    Metropolitan Mor Meletius Yuhanon

 

Text: 1 Cor. 10:16; Eph. 2:13.  ‘The cup we drink from is a participation in the blood and the bread that we share is a participation in the body of Christ’.

 

Koinonia, a Greek word, which is pregnant in meaning is translated here for common understanding as ‘participation’.  The primary question is, participation on the basis of what or what is the foundation of this participation?

 

Church essentially is a community called out for life in fellowship and participation.  The two words ‘fellowship’ and ‘participation’ are quite significant and they make the church a community.  This community is formed out of individuals.  However, these individuals have no separate existence without the community.  Each member in the community find his/her/its own identity only in the community.

 

Fellowship and participation are made concrete in two levels; one with God and the second with the creation.  Paul said, Christ is the head of the community.  We experience God through Christ.  Our fellowship with God is through Christ and in the Holy Spirit.  Our participation with the Holy Trinity is experienced and made concrete in our daily life through our participation with the creation.  Our participation with God and creation can be understood in several foundation.

 

1.  Participation due to createdness.  Our unity with God and between creation is due to the fact that God created us and we are his creation.  As for humans, we are created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26, 27).  Thus the whole humanity is united between one another through the sharing of the image and likeness of God.  This is a special kind of relationship, that is of  fellowship and responsiveness.  It makes participation meaningful and concrete.

 

There is a second dimension to this unity.  ‘We’ are his creation.  This ‘we’ makes us one among ourselves.  This includes the whole of creation (Isa. 11) and it is primarily a question of our faith.  Everything that is included in the created world is to live in harmony and mutual respect.  In our Eucharistic Liturgy we say, We humans join “the sun, moon, stars, the earth, the sees … in proclaiming the glory of God.  The fact that all inclusive ‘we’ are God’s creation becomes the foundation of our participation with God and between one another. 

 

2.  Our participation with God and with one another is again on the basis of the salvific work of God in fact is in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The body and blood which we partake becomes a concrete means through which this participation is made possible.  By our blessing of the cup and bread, we enter into a sacramental relationship with God.  Thus at every single place where the body and blood of Christ are shared, we find church.  There fore, church is primarily local.  Hence participation is also to be basically local.  The church has no mission if it does not being it at the local level.

 

Here we have a basis to transcend the differences too, differences like man and woman; like rich and poor; like human and other creation etc. (Gal. 3. 28).  Of course differences are there.  As a matter of fact, differences are necessary as they are the ones that make creation unique and beautiful.  By this we learn that creation as such in its totality is not completely at our disposal (Adam never saw the creation of his partner as he is said to have been in deep sleep).  Diversity is not to create conflict or confusion, but it should make unity richer.  It helps all seek for better understanding of one another and always keeps us in exploration and dialogue.  It constantly reminds us that our understanding of God and His ways are not exhaustive.  It also proclaims the magnanimity of God.

 

Of course, our goal is to transcend the differences and to find complete meaning of the fundamental truth (Isa. 11).  We know the truth to the extent that Christ is the Son of God and is our Savior, but we do not know yet all the implications of this fundamental faith affirmation.  If we claim that we know all of it, then certainly we are blaspheming.

 

The foundation of our lives lie with God.  He is a God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.  He is not a God of a single person, rather he is a God of Israel too; that is God of one community.  Keeping the relationship with each individual, he transcends personal cult possibility to enter in to relationship with the whole.  Here Israel is not a person, but a community called in to existence to invite all creation to God’s presence.  Diversity provides individuality, but it also points to the need for cooperation and participation, not independence and absolutism.

 

3.  The word participation implies that it is not static but dynamic.  It is in an ongoing progressive momentum.  This makes participation richer and more meaningful.  Our dynamic participation with the salvific work of God is in our sacramental life.

 

In baptism and Eucharist and other sacraments we experience being united with God the Father.  The word mystery is quite apt in this context.  We are invited by God to enjoy the mystery and slowly it ceases to be a mystery, but the ultimate mystery, which is God Himself remains as such (Lk. 24:30,31:  “their eyes were opened and knew that it was Jesus”).

 

Our dynamic participation with one another is actualized through the sharing of joy, suffering and struggles of our fellow beings (Rom. 15.26-27; 1 Cor. 1.6-7; Heb. 10:33).  What you have done to one of these little ones,  you have done for me (Mtt. 10:42; 18:6).  Jesus’ sharing the grief of the people at the tomb of Lazarus (Jn. 11.35), helping Zachaus find his identity as the son of Abraham (Lk. 19:9), participating in the joy of the people at the marriage feast at Canaa and making it perfect joy (Jn. 2), sharing the struggle of Peter while trying to make his living by fishing (Lk. 5.4-7) all are models of this sharing and participating in the life of others.  Jesus asks the Zebedee sons whether they could share the baptism and the cross of the Son of Man (Mk. 10:38).  It is a challenge for participation in the life and work of the whole creation, not to mention humanity.

 

‘Koinonia’ in faith of the creator -savior God is for the healing of the broken bones of the humanity, (or rather of the whole creation ).  Note the expression “I pray for the liberation of the whole creation” (St. James’ Liturgy, Syrian Orthodox Church).  The church through this prayer is helping the whole creating in its struggle for a life with dignity and freedom, its growth and search for meaning (Doublin Document, Faith and Order Commission, WCC).

 

This includes self understanding too.  Knowing oneself can only happen by dealing with his own problems and the problems of others.  We solve our problems always with the help of others (James 4:23 ff.).  We are enriched and benefited by the fellowship and participation of others.  Jacob realized who he was and who he should become (that he was ‘cunning’ until them, and should rather be ‘Israel’ in future) in his struggle with God and in relation to his brother Esav whom Jacob considered to be a threat to his life, (though he later fund out that he came in peace).

 

4.  Sacramental life is a life sent out (Mtt. 28: 19; Lk. 24: 48; Act. 1: 6-8, a life in unity with God).  A life in participation is a life proclaiming.  Unity alone can make effective witness.  Jesus becomes a witness to the love of his Father through his unity with Him.  He said I and my Father are one and it itself becomes a testimony to what Jesus did and also provides authenticity to it (Jn. 13: 35; 15: 14).  Witnessing is discipleship (Jn. 17).  There is no discipleship without unity (Jn. 13:35).  Unity itself becomes a witness.

 

Witness is witness to a new world.  The preaching of the disciples were full of testimonies of the even of resurrection (Acts. 3:15; 4:10; Rom. 4:24; 8:11).  Resurrection talks about the possibility of transcendence, transcending barriers.  Thus it is proving hope for a better future to the whole world (Mtt. 12: 31; Acts. 2:26).  the birth of Jesus was a matter of greater joy to the world (Lk.2:10).  It thus helps the creation to transcend all limitations that limits the urge for unity.  It takes away the meaning in life and hope for future (1 Cor. 15.26).  The last enemy that is to be destroyed is death.  Death is something that hinders the smooth transition in to an growth in unity.  Jesus, “let them be one even as we are one” (Jn. 17:21).  It is towards this goal of unity with God the Father in H. Spirit through Christ, we hope live and work.  The participation in the body and blood of Christ is the participation in the life and work of Christ and in the struggle of creation in its meaningful existence with dignity and freedom.

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