Oct 28, 2010

Keep Looking Up!

The Royal Doors open and the priest appears in the sanctuary...

Why, though, doesn't he look at us, but looks instead to the sanctuary? When the priest stands in front of the altar, he is praying, and imploring, and calling upon Christ as our intercessor. And, afterwards, when the priest makes the Entry, he will again pass through our midst without so much as glancing in our direction. It is he who goes ahead of us, who ascends, who leads us on the road to heaven.

What is the significance of this behavior? Why does the priest always go in front of us without looking at us? Pay attention to this in order to understand.

Have you ever been up to the monasteries of Meteora? Have you gone, for instance, to the Monastery of the Great Meteoron? In the old days, people had to be pulled up there in a net. The gate-keepers would put them in it, close [the visitor's] eyes so they wouldn't get dizzy, and the monks would haul them up with a winch. Later on, they built a little path, extremely narrow, and wedged tightly up against the rock, which ran in the direction of the Metamorphosis mountain. So when a visitor came, how did he manage to climb up this very narrow pathway? If he looked down, over the edge of the precipice, he would surely have collapsed and been lost. But in those days a monk used to come down, and he would offer the visitor his cassock to hold and say to him: "As I climb up and look upwards, you hold on to me. We'll go up together. But don't look down. If you look down you'll fall, and you'll pull me down as well". And so the monk would take him up the narrow, little path, with the visitor's heart pounding, because he knew that below was the abyss. [The monk] took [the visitor] up, circling round and round, and when they arrived at the summit, [the monk] would say: "Ah! Here is Christ!"

This is precisely what the priest does. He takes us up the narrowest pathway. Be careful. Don't look down, lest something earthly should lead you astray. Keep your heart on high, your mind like an eagle, so that it can cut through the clouds and fly up into the heavens! Land animals can't fly, so be an eagle! Look up!

- Archimandrite Aimilianos (Vafeidis) of Simonopetra, "The Divine Liturgy: The Window of Heaven", a sermon delivered in the church of St. Nicholas, Trikala, Greece, 31 January 1971 in The Church at Prayer: The Mystical Liturgy of the Heart, ed. The Holy Convent of the Annunciation, Ormylia, Greece (Athens: Indiktos, 2005), pp. 76-77.