Sunday, August 16, 2009

Stomen kalos! Da Lifneh Mi Atah Omed!

We stand for the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance, heads bare, hearts covered. Our assembled elders may well correct us if we do not. Being older myself and in many ways old-fashioned, I was taught to stand in the presence of a lady – and all women were assumed to be such – and in the presence of my elders, and to remain standing until they were seated. I’m not certain my generation has effectively passed on this sign of respect to its children. How you stand and before whom you stand says a lot about a person and about a culture.

In the Syriac Divine Liturgy of Saint James the deacon repeatedly exhorts the church, “Stomen kalos:” stand well, stand aright. Likewise, in the Byzantine Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great, the deacon proclaims: “Let us stand well. Let us stand in awe. Let us be attentive, that we may present the holy offering in peace.” Standing is important, how we stand perhaps more so.

In many Orthodox Jewish synagogues, carved above the ark in which rests the Torah scroll are the words Da Lifne Mi Atah Omed: Know before whom you stand. Standing is important, how we stand perhaps more so, knowing before whom we stand most important of all.

When the church gathers we stand before the

one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We stand before the Holy One who spoke worlds into being, who created man from the dust of one of these worlds, and who breathed into man His own life-giving Spirit. We stand before the Compassionate One who turned not his back, neither destroyed us, when we rebelled and fell into sin, but who rather called to us again and again in the Law and through the Prophets – called us to return and be healed.

We stand before the

one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of Being with the Father.

We stand before the very Word of God who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven and by the power of the Holy Spirit became incarnate of the Virgin Mary and was made man. We stand before the Lamb of God who for our sake – to take away the sin of the world – was crucified under Pontius Pilate, suffered death, and was buried. We stand before the firstborn of all creation who on the third day rose again, in accordance with the Scriptures, trampling down death by death and on those in the tombs bestowing life. We stand before the Triumphant One who ascended into heaven, who is seated at the right hand of the Father, who will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. We stand together with all the faithful of all time before and in the presence of Him who promised that, whenever even two or three are gathered in his name, he is present with them unto the ages of ages.

We stand before the

Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father

who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified. We stand before the one who seals us as a guarantor of the future glory to come and who indwells us to make us present partakers of the divine nature, changing us from glory to glory. We stand before the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, who is everywhere present filling all things, Treasury of good things and giver of life.

Stomen kalos! Stand aright. Stand in awe. Da Lifne Mi Atah Omed! Know before Whom you stand.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit before whom we stand now and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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