by V. Rev. Fr. Barouyr Shernezian
After the Procession, the celebrant returns to the Holy Altar and recites the following: “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and always and unto the ages of ages. Amen.”
When the celebrant returns to the Holy Altar and gives blessings, he uses the term “kingdom.” This blessing is very rare during the liturgy. It has a specific meaning and spiritual significance.
The Gospel of Mark is considered the first Gospel written. It begins by recounting the life of St. John the Baptist. The very first words of Jesus that are recorded in the Gospel of Mark are the following:
“The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
We learn that St. John the Baptist declared, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Luke 3:2)
Human sin and our fallen nature alienated us from the Kingdom of God. Our Lord Jesus Christ was incarnated to bring that kingdom back to earth. He restored the kingdom on earth by His crucifixion, death, and resurrection.
God created man in His image and likeness. He gave man dominion over creation, with the command to be a good steward over it. Creation became the Kingdom of God, under the dominion of man. Unfortunately, humans disobeyed God’s commandment not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Accordingly, we lost the kingdom. We allowed sin to take root in our life, falling from our true and holy nature. It took centuries to prepare humanity for salvation from our fallen nature, in the person of God Himself, Jesus Christ. Jesus may only have lived on earth for 33 years, but the journey to salvation started at the beginning.
Accordingly, the celebrant’s first words upon returning to the Holy Altar, convey the following truths and spiritual meanings to us:
1) It echoes Christ’s first words recorded in the Gospel of Mark. It declares the good news of our salvation. It calls us to accept Christ’s salvation and partake in the Kingdom of God. It reminds us that we are about to participate in Jesus’s life and ministry. Imagine that you damage your computer, which is full of years of work and data. Afraid of losing all of your data, you take it to a technician. The technician tells you, “your data is safe. I can fix it.” How would you feel? You would take a deep breath, relieved that years of your work and energy are safe. The same applies when we come to celebrate the Badarak. You come to church broken hearted, heart heavy with sin, and burdened with worries. Then you hear the celebrant, saying that the Kingdom of God is blessed, and it is right here. It encourages and empowers us, because Christ is right there, and has the power to overcome our sins, our fears, our worries, our challenges, and our brokenness. The celebrant’s words remind us that Christ tells us, “don’t worry; have patience; walk with me.”
2) For many centuries, evil and death dictated the terms of our lives. They made us believe that we were worth nothing. We believed that if death came, we became ashes, and that nothing that we did during life mattered. Everyone can build a castle, but in the end, the dust and the grave will be our homes. This reality is deeply disheartening. However, Jesus tells each of us, you are the inheritor of God’s Kingdom. You belong to the infinite heavenly kingdom. You need not fear death. You are my children no matter what kind of life you live. You belong to my kingdom. You are citizens of heaven. (Philippians 3:20). God honors us with His grace.
3) We are given a sense of belonging and unity. Under the name of Christ, through His Holy Cross, we are adopted as children of God, members of the same family. God makes no distinction based on color, race, culture, or history. Jesus Christ unites us under His name, as members of His holy Church. The Church is our home, our kingdom on earth. The sign of the Cross is the sign of the Kingdom. Jesus is our Lord and King. What significance do a sense of belonging and unity have? A feeling of belonging helps us to feel safe and confident. We feel protected and supported. Further, the church unites us with God’s Kingdom in heaven. All of creation, heaven and earth, unite with Christ under the sign of His Holy Cross. This gives us an expansive perspective on life. It helps us see our problems as small, because we view them through a universal lens. We are reminded that we belong to a heavenly royalty. It restores our inner spirituality. Jesus gives us the opportunity to live in the hope of resurrection.
Kingdom seems like only a word in a sentence, but it is full of meaning and spirituality. It reminds us who we really are and where we belong. Jesus teaches us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come.” We are charged to work for the Kingdom of God and to reflect its glory on earth. We are the inheritors of the kingdom. Therefore, when we hear the priest blessing the Kingdom of God, we make the sign of the Holy Cross. We declare victory over our weaknesses and sins, because the Kingdom of God is at hand!