It was dark. From the Beautiful Gate, which he had forgetfully left open (he had not drawn the curtain), he saw a dazzling Angel with a fiery sword in his hand, standing there beside the holy table!
He was so frightened, that he turned to run. He was terrified! Reaching the Narthex (the church was large) he heard a voice: “Stand still!” He stood still, in fact, he was rigid, turned to stone.
“Don’t be afraid” a sweet voice said to him. “I am the Angel guardian of this church. When a table is consecrated and becomes holy, the Lord, the Maker of All Things, the King of kings and Lord of lords, appoints a sleepless Angel guardian beside the holy table.”
During all the time the Angel was saying these things to the priest, he was motionless in the Narthex, and listened with alarm with his back to the sanctuary.
The angel continued with a yet sweeter voice. “Come, turn around, and please close the Beautiful Gate, which you forgot and left open.” (The angel said “Please” to the priest. How many of us say “please” to our fellow men? How many?)
The priest turned (the fear had left him, and calm reigned within him) but he did not see the Angel any longer. He proceeded reluctantly, but now without fear, rather in reverence. He told hold of the curtain of the Beautiful Gate with awe, and closed it slowly.
In the middle of doing this, though, he began to wonder, “Was a fancy of my own? Perhaps I was dreaming? Perhaps I was hallucinating?”
By way of answer, however, he heard a host of angel voices singing the It Is Truly Right (Άξιον εστί, see below). He could not bear to listen to the sweetness of the angelic chanting, and fainted. He fell down!
When he came round a little later, and went home and told no one. Fifteen years later, he described what happened, a little before he passed on.
So in every church, beside the holy table, there is an angel, whom we do not see, but watches over us silently.
From Αγιορειτικό Βήμα
IT IS truly right to bless thee, O Theotokos,
ever blessed, and most pure, and the Mother of our God.
More honorable than the cherubim,
and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim.
Without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word.
True Theotokos, we magnify thee.
Άξιον εστίν ως αληθώς μακαρίζειν σε την Θεοτόκον,
την αειμακάριστον και παναμώμητον και μητέρα του Θεού ημών.
Την τιμιωτέραν των Χερουβείμ
και ενδοξοτέραν ασυγκρίτως των Σεραφείμ.
Την αδιαφθόρως Θεόν Λόγον τεκούσαν.
Την όντως Θεοτόκον, Σε μεγαλύνομεν.
WHEN you commune and leave church, the angel bows before you! You stand before the angels, because you are bearers of Christ!
If you do not understand this, I am not saying that you come to church in vain, but that you are not truly penetrated by the significance of coming to church, of the fact that you have to be saved, of the fact that you did not come into the world to perish like any other animal.
You did not come to live a life which terminates in death, but you came into the world with a mission.
This mission possesses a social aspect, but at the same time it is a sacred mission: to spread the word of God, to be an example to all, to exhort others through that which you do, to do good, because this saves you too.
~Father George Calciu, “The Great Supper,” Adrian and Mihaela Ulmer (trs), Father George Calciu: Interviews, Homilies, and Talks, Saint Herman of Alaska Brotherhood (ed), p. 334. H/T Christ Is In Our Midst!.