We are all very aware that we live in “this world”, the world of labor, illness, fear, depression, etc. We seem to be very far from the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of God. We tend to think of heaven only in terms of the future. In other words, the Kingdom of Heaven is where we go after we die if we’ve led good lives. Or if we watch television programs about the end of the world we will hear about a great cosmic battle between Christ and the antichrist with all sorts of disasters, etc. But in either case, the Kingdom of Heaven is something in the future, either our own personal future or the future of the whole cosmos. But neither of these views represents the fullness of Christ’s message.
When we read about Christ’s ministry we read that the Kingdom of Heaven is being inaugurated by Him. The first words of his public ministry are “the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand…” (Mark 1:15) Or in today’s Gospel, our Lord says to the apostles “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
Today’s Gospel refers, in the first case, to the Transfiguration, but Christ’s teaching is that the Kingdom of Heaven is present in His earthly ministry. He inaugurates the Kingdom. The Kingdom begins with Christ’s healing, His preaching, His miracles. Of course, we do not live in the fullness of the Kingdom, which will come at the end of time, but the Kingdom has “broken into” our world in the person of Jesus Christ.
Of course, Christ has ascended into Heaven, but He does not leave us alone. We encounter Christ and have a taste of the Kingdom of Heaven in the Divine Liturgy, in the Gospels, in icons. So while we, at times, are very aware that we live in a fallen world, the Kingdom of Heaven has indeed drawn near.
Tone 1 Troparion of the Cross
O Lord, save Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance!
Grant victories to the Orthodox Christians over their adversaries;
and by virtue of Thy Cross, preserve Thy habitation!
Tone 7 Kontakion of the Cross
Now the flaming sword no longer guards the gates of Eden;
it has been mysteriously quenched by the wood of the Cross.
The sting of death and the victory of hell have been vanquished;
for Thou, O my Savior, hast come and cried to those in hell:
Enter again into Paradise!