A preview of Saturday's presentation in St. Louis.
The goal and ultimate purpose of all human life is communion in God. It is toward this end (telos), then, we were created: so that we might live in God, and participate fully in the love which He bestows from His inmost being. In other words, we were designed by God for relationship with God—a relationship which, like all love, is never satiated but forever grows and deepens and matures. Redemption is necessary chiefly because the death of all, brought by the sin of one, ruined the “forever” quality of true love, and thereby ruined eternal communion in God. So redemption in Christ and by Him is necessary not in itself; that is, not simply to redeem us. Rather, redemption in Christ is necessary in order to restore in us our final cause, our true purpose. It is this realization that allows St Maximos the Confessor to suggest that God becomes human in Christ not ultimately to redeem us; redemption is only a step along the way. Rather, God becomes human in Christ in order grant us fuller access to communion in God. Or, to be blunt, if man had not fallen, Christ Jesus would still have assumed human flesh. For our death did not necessitate or compel the Son of God to become one of us; neither did God’s pity for us or His desire to right what we had wronged. Instead, we were made in God’s image—that is, in the likeness of the incarnate Son of God—so that we might become one in God.
That we were made to be in communion in God, that communion in God is the aim before sin and after death, that redemption is a step toward restoring communion in God, that (from Christ and Mary to you and me) communion in God is what all human life is all about—that one profound truth governs the Orthodox understanding of worship. So worship is not chiefly an expression of gratitude for the reversal of death, but primarily gratitude for our creation, our life (which our subsequent mortality destroyed, thereby requiring redemption). And worship is not chiefly the reception of forgiveness for sin or sins, but primarily the reception of the love of God in Christ Jesus, which deepens and grows true love in God. Again, to be blunt: we worship God because that is how we live in God; that is what communion in God looks like, how it acts. So worship is moving within the “forever” quality of true love—a “forever” quality which we must never forget was revived, resuscitated, resurrection, reconstituted and restored when Christ sacrificed Himself for us men and for our salvation.