The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts will be served three final times this year: on Great and Holy Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Ручьёв has posted his translation of a marvelous sermon by St Innocent of Kherson, originally delivered on Friday of the third week of Great Lent. Here is how it begins:
The light of Christ enlightens all!Photograph: His Eminence, Archbishop Job of Chicago and the Midwest celebrating the Presanctified Liturgy at Holy Ascension Church in Albion, MI, on April 9, 2008. Courtesy of Eighth Day Photography.
One of the most significant liturgical actions of the Great Fast takes place when, between the Old Testament readings, the Royal Doors are suddenly opened, the serving clergyman appears with a candle and censer and, making the sign of the cross with them over those present, exclaims: The light of Christ enlightens all! It is not surprising that all those present bow their head to the ground at this moment, for the opening of the Royal Doors represents the opening of the very heavens; the candle and censer signify the fullness of the Holy Spirit; and the appearance of the serving clergyman is like the appearance of an Angel from heaven. Who could be so arrogant as not to bow down before these signs of the grace of God?
The Holy Church, however, seeks from us at this instance not simply a bow of the head or a prostration before the light of Christ. No, in the spiritual sense, it wants the opposite: the bowing of our head before that light, the opening before it of our entire essence, so that in this way we might be illumined with that divine light from head to foot, be completely filled with it, and made light-bearing, just as were the first Christians, about whom the Apostle Paul writes that they shine as lights in the world (Phil. 2:15).
In order better to enter the Holy Church’s intention, let us look at the power and significance of the words pronounced by the serving clergyman.
The light of Christ enlightens all!
These words suggest, firstly, the insufficiency in us all of the true light. For, if we were light-filled in and of ourselves, we would have no need for enlightenment. Truly, a person not illumined by the Gospel is darkness, deep darkness, as St. Paul teaches. Those who are illumined by the light of science and are called “enlightened” by people would not immediately agree with this. This is because these people who have studied the sciences, due to their hope in the scintillation that the sciences pour upon them, rarely and insufficiently turn their attention to the inner state of their spirit and heart, not seeing in what darkness their soul and conscience are. If, however, they were to look deeply into the quality of their knowledge and, on the other hand, would attentively delve into the true needs of their soul, then they would soon begin to see that the light borrowed from the sciences, no matter how great it might be, is hardly enough to satisfy them; and that, in relation to some of the most important things, the ignorance of which, one might say, makes one less than human, they are as ignorant as the lowest commoner; therefore, exactly like the commoner, they need to be enlightened from above.