The unity of heaven and earth in worship

In Lifted by Angels I mention the Cherubikon, or “Cherubic Hymn,” which is sung during the Orthodox liturgy as the priests and deacons process with the Eucharistic gifts. I found this version here particularly beautiful and thought I would share it:

The frescoes in the video are from two 13th- and 14th-century Serbian monasteries. My friend Borko sent me the link.

The hymn itself is very ancient and reflects realities captured in passages like Revelation 4 and Hebrews 12.22, the latter of which speaks of our worship as coming to “the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering.”

Worship underscores the overlap between heaven and earth. Maybe in a sense it brings these two worlds together. “[O]ur things are in Heaven,” commented John Chrysostom, and heavenly things are ours, even though they be accomplished on earth . . .” (Homilies on the Epistle to the Hebrews 16.6).

A more modern saint, John of Kronstadt, elaborated the point:

The Divine Liturgy is truly a heavenly service upon earth, during which God Himself, in a particular, immediate, and most close manner, is present and dwells in men, being Himself the invisible Celebrant of the service, offering and being offered. There is nothing upon earth holier, higher, grander, more solemn, more life-giving than the Liturgy. The temple, at this particular time, becomes an earthly heaven; those who officiate represent Christ Himself, the Angels, the Cherubim, Seraphim and Apostles. The Liturgy is the continually repeated solemnisation of God’s love to mankind, and His all powerful mediation for the salvation of the whole world. . . . (My Life in Christ, 390)

When we say that we represent the cherubim, it’s because we believe that they are present with us. In the Old Testament, there were statues of the cherubim in the temple to remind participants of the same fact. Then, as now, we have come to the festal gathering. Earth is joined with heaven.

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  • Susan_G1

    Beautiful. Reminds me of medieval europe, in a dark cathedral…

    • Joel J. Miller

      Cool. I’d love to see some of those cathedrals some day.

      • Susan_G1

        It really feels like you’re in the presence of God. That people spent lifetimes to build them means something. The art is sacred. I hope you do go.