Let us commend ourselves and one another, and our whole life to Christ our God.
Several times during the course of the Divine Liturgy we hear the words, “Let us commend ourselves and one another, and our whole life to Christ our God.” What do these words mean? How are we to understand them in the context of our daily life? How do we commend others to Christ? What does this particular petition mean in regards to our parish and all those who are a part of it? I raise these questions at a time when the Orthodox Church prepares herself to embark on yet another Ecclesiastical New Year, which always begins on the first day of September. The reason I raise these questions now is that each time we begin something new we look at that time as an opportunity to start fresh, to improve upon and build on what had been previously accomplished. This petition, therefore, coincides very well with a new beginning.
The first thing we need to examine in this petition is the action to which we are being called to do, to “commend”. In some translations we find the word “commit” instead. A word that I like best though is “entrust”, to put into someone’s care or protection. In this way the petition would read, “Let us place ourselves and one another and our whole life into Christ our God’s care.” Saying it this way places the responsibility on us to trust in God, to put all our faith in Him that He will care for us and protect us at all times and under all circumstances in life. It also reminds us that to put our trust in anyone or anything else is foolish.
The idea of being able to put all our trust in God without care or worry of anything is both wonderful and very freeing as it releases all our anxiety and pressure. The implementation of this on an ongoing basis, however, is another story. The image that immediately comes to my mind is that of Peter stepping out of the boat and onto the water to meet his Lord who was standing on the water a short distance away. The idea of putting all his trust in God was wonderful, and he accomplished it for a brief moment, only to fall back into placing trust in himself, which was the precise moment that he began to sink.
Hieromonk Gregorios, author of the recently published The Divine Liturgy, commenting on this petition tells us, “the saints know from their own experience that the soul which in faith has surrendered itself to God, once and for all time, and has liberally tasted of His help, will not take thought for itself again but falls silent in awe-struck wonder. Entrusting our lives totally to God, however, is not something that is achieved easily. It becomes a reality when our hearts do not censure us, when we disdain our own concerns so as to concern ourselves with the things of Christ.” When a person gives their heart to God fully, the cares of this world are laid aside. Their heart will not question God’s providence. The happenings of this life will not be censured as to their purpose and validity, they will trust that all things are under God’s care and nothing will take place without God’s knowing and permission. The person who entrusts their life to God will also entrust others to God, and will have great peace in life. This is what our Lord meant when He said, “My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (Jn. 14: 27). `
Bishop Augoustinos Kantiotes reminds us that a troubled heart that is fearful has not put its trust in God but in man. “Sinful man has lived in anxiety, agitation and insecurity because he has separated himself form his Heavenly Father. And man because of his anxiety, tries to find his own way and build his own sheltering castles in order to feel secure.” There is nothing in this world that can protect us and/or give us true security, whether it’s money, science, political systems, or international organizations. Entrusting our life to such things is falling into the same delusion of the foolish rich man who one year had a great harvest and decided to tear down his barns in order to build bigger one’s to secure his crop and his life. We pray that we commend ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God because we know that it is only in Him that we have life, security and hope. A perfect example of this whole-hearted trust is given to us through the Mother of God who said, “be it done to me according to Thy will”. Our request to commend our life to God is “analogous to her own dedication to God”. She entrusted her whole life and those around her to her Son and thereby set the example for all of us to follow. But how are we to understand this petition, the implementation of it and its impact on our parish of St. John the Baptist and the greater community of which we are a part? When we entrust our whole life to God we emit the following fragrances:
- We become a parish founded on deep gratitude.
- We live free of anxiety and fear.
- We love more deeply.
- We are willing to lay down our life for others.
- We give sacrificially and generously.
- We are emboldened to spread the gospel with conviction and joy.
- We share the desire of our Lord, that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth.
- We will work diligently and prayerfully to make the Apostolic Church a noticeable presence through a Christ-like way of life and through a dynamic physical presence of a church which reflects of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth as the saints have done for centuries before us.
A New Beginning of the Ecclesiastical Year offers us the opportunity to embrace this beautiful petition in a concrete way and to accomplish the above through faith in Jesus Christ. The years are passing by quickly and with it our time in this life draws closer and closer to the end. When we have finished our course here, what will we say about the time that God has given us? With whom will we stand? The rich young man who wanted to build bigger barns for himself and his earthly security? The five foolish virgins who were unprepared with what they needed to meet the Bridegroom? Or the man who buried his talent in the ground and did not invest what he was given?
To commend our whole life means to leave nothing behind. We are called to give our all to God and hold nothing back. As Hieromonk Gregorios said, “the soul which in faith has surrendered itself to God, once and for all time, and has liberally tasted of His help, will not take thought for itself again.” How could it? May the words of King David strengthen you and inspire you to fulfill this petition. “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber” (Psalm 121:1-3). May we forever entrust ourselves and each other and our whole life to Christ our God and do all things for the glory of His Name and for the building up of His Body on earth where our work lies. Amen.