How is the liturgy the “source and the summit”?
Man’s soul struggles onward towards that it loves so that it might rest upon reaching it. When the soul finds its delight in God, there she finds true, certain, eternal rest, for which it has vainly sought in other objects.
from St. Augustine Answers 101 Questions on Prayer by Fr. Ermatinger.
The end of man is the praise and glory of God. This is where he shall find his rest, his peace, his fulfillment, his eternal delight in God. Man, as a species, is called to the praise of God within the hierarchical order of creation. This action of individuals in harmony with other individuals of the species, within the greater orders of creation, is the liturgical action; harmony building upon harmony, concentric wheels within wheels. This faint sketch is all that can be gleaned from the point of man’s reason and yearning for God and His good things. Man’s end, his union with God, is expressed liturgically, and he can find no rest until he rests in God and receives His good things. Yet, due to the distance sin and disobedience has wrought, he knows not how he must praise his God, just that he must.
Only through Faith in Jesus Christ can one understand why the liturgy is the “source and summit”: It is so because Jesus is the Son, the Logos of the Father, and by becoming incarnate, He has opened the path by which man, individual and as a species, obtains that eternal end of man. This is obtained through making man a participant in His very own life, a life that is the eternal praise of the Father. The Divine Liturgy is the external oikonomia; creation’s participation in the internal oikonomia of the Holy Trinity via God’s grace and election according to the nature of the individual creation. This is the end of creation, the rest of creation, where it finds its fulfillment in praising God. It is the summit of all things.
We have discussed so far how through prayer God gives man a new heart, a new spirit, a new life, the ability to see Him, and charity as Himself. These are the good things of God, the chief of which is Himself. If a man receives God, a man begins to have a share and a true participation in the very life of God. What is this life? It is the participation in the internal oikonomia which is revealed to creation through Jesus the Incarnation of the Son of the Father, who possesses the Holy Spirit received from the Father and returns the Holy Spirit to the Father in praise and glory. This internal dance is manifested externally as the Divine Liturgy; divine because it is the action of the Son done through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit directed in praise and glorification of the Father; liturgy because it is the public work done according to the highest of the hierarchy of the good – creation’s glorification of God. Here we can see the summit of man’s receiving of the good things of God – receiving God Himself totally in Mystical Marriage where the action of the individual, both internally within his soul and externally in the Divine Liturgical action, is so united to the oikonomia of God that there is nothing else to receive for one will have received the fullness of God, and in the receiving, find rests in the fullness of the response of praise. Charity will be all in all.
If the Divine Liturgy is the summit, how is it the source? It is the source because the internal oikonomia of the Trinity is the source of all things. There is no other source than God, all created things have their ground and spring in Him. This is by reason. By Faith, it is known that within time, Jesus, the Incarnate Son of the Father, opened up a new living spring in an old rock; a source of life-giving water – His life shared and shed that those who partake of it might have the distance between them and the Father sundered and have the eternal life of the Trinity; praising and glorifying the Father with the Son in the Holy Spirit for all eternity.
This is a quandary and a stumbling block for those who do not turn in prayer asking to receive God’s good things, but it is a mystery for those that do and who are caught up into the ineffable charity of the oikonomia of the Trinity that which no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived.