Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Viewing the Heavenly Liturgy

Today’s second reading allows us to particiheavenly jerusalempate in a prophetic tradition that links us through our own baptism[1] to the prophets of old. Through Sacred Scripture, we participate in the visions of all the prophets that were privileged to pierce the veil and look into the glory of heaven.

Each time a prophet viewed into heaven, did you ever considered what they viewed? They viewed the Divine Liturgy. When we consider Isaiah or Ezekiel in Sacred Scripture, who gazed upon this liturgy, we know it is the liturgy they see because of the rich liturgical symbols: temple sanctuaries (Is 6:1 / Ez 42:1, 43:4), liturgical responses (Is 6:2), forgiveness (Is. 6:7/ Ez 43:26), altar (Is 6:6/Ez 43:16), incense (Is 6:4, 6), priestly garments (Ez 42: 14), etc.

At Jesus’ baptism in the Jordon, he too sees a vision of the heavenly liturgy. However, this liturgy is a liturgy of divine filiation. The importance of this liturgy is seen in what immediately follows it – the temptation in the desert (cf. Mt 4:1-11). The enemy through his three temptations attempts to replicate and offer an alternative to divine filiation. But this is a different blog (Sorry, I know that this is a teaser).

So, with all this being said, what does the reading from Hebrews and in fact the entirety of chapter 12 allow us to view? We see the Divine Liturgy filled with the faithful intermixed with the angels and an invitation to our participation. It reveals a liturgy that is here and now and yet eternal. It portrays a festal gathering – a dance or perichoresis[2] before the eternal throne. Most importantly, he reveals the liturgy of reconciliation obtained for us by the blood of Christ whose sacrifice is “more eloquent than that of the blood of Abel” (Hb 12:24).

Why show this to us? Did the homilest use this vision to demonstrate a fulfillment of all prior covenants through the means of the prophetic tradition? Yes, but not that alone. After each prophet received their inaugural vision, they were commissioned to lay bare the hearts of Israel so they could inherit this vision which was rightfully theirs. What is our prophetic call? St. Paul said it best,

So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Cor 5:20)

Because through this extraordinary prophetic vision we now know and want to share that:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21)

Our call…nothing short of a call to be reconciled with God and to share, in Christ, that same divine filiation. How do we know that? Because baptism makes us sons in the Son:

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. (1 Jn 3:1a)

and thus his ambassadors of reconciliation.

May this vision inspire you to be like Joshua who lived for his call and brought his people to their land.

[1] All the baptized not only are baptized into Christ but share in his ministry. Thus the ritual anoints the child/adult as prophet, priest and king.

[2] The term perichoresis is the traditional term used for the circumincession (co-indwelling) of the Most Blessed Trinity. The Church Fathers also used it to describe the “dance” around the throne of God led by the angels in “festal gathering” (Hb 12:22). The angels, even in their praise, reflect albeit finitely, something of the eternal exchange of love between the members of the Trinity in their worship.

Leave a reply