Thursday, September 10, 2015

Not paying attention during the Divine Liturgy ...

One of the things that folks often mention when they’re making their confession is inattention during the divine services. So, I thought I would use this month’s column to talk about that important subject.
If we want to be focused during the services, one thing we can do is prepare adequately. And even if we can’t do all the prayers that the Church encourages us to do leading up to the Divine Liturgy, we can at least avoid over-stimulation from media. For example, if we stay up late Saturday night to watch an exciting movie and then read the paper or check out our favorite web-sites before we leave for Church—and then listen to music or text our friends right up to the very moment that we get out of the car and walk into the nave, then we’ll probably spend most of the Liturgy processing all those experiences and all that information instead of attending to what the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are trying to say to us. Another thing we can do is spend more time in the Divine Services. In fact, one of the main reasons why our services are so long is because the Church understands that it takes most of us a good while just to relax and calm down before we can ever get around to actually praying. A good rule of thumb that works for most people is one hour in the Divine Services equals about two minutes of genuine interaction with the Most Holy Trinity. Of course, that two minutes can be life changing and world-changing. However, if we never actually spend a full hour in the Divine Services, then we’ll never experience that two minutes of authentic prayer. So, the more time we invest in the services, the more focused we will be.
But what if you have an infant or a small child, and you’re constantly in and out during the Divine Liturgy? What if you are an usher or a chanter or you sing in the choir? Does that mean that you’re never going to be able to really communicate with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Of course not, because there is a special grace that accompanies each of those roles. Folks who are raising young children or helping with the service are performing important tasks, and the Most Holy Trinity is going to make sure that they get what they need while they are doing their jobs. But we’re not going to receive any special grace if we just wander in and out of the nave because we’re bored or because we don’t like to be still.

Still another thing we can do to stay focused during the services is to be honest about who we are. For example, if we are concerned about our health or stressed about our job or anxious about a family situation, it’s not going to do any good at all to pretend like we’re not thinking about those issues. But rather than just obsess over those things, we should turn them into prayers. And there are lots of ways to do that: we can light a candle for each of those problems when we first go into the nave; we can make the sign of the cross or make a metanioa every time one of those subjects pops up in our mind; we can touch the priest’s vestments during the Great Entrance and attach all those topics to his intercessions; we can raise all of those issues up to the Most Holy Trinity when the deacon elevates the Holy Gifts over the altar. It may take quite a while and a lot of effort, but, eventually, we will clear all that stuff out of our hearts, and then we will be able to hear what the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are saying to us.
Worship is hard work—there’s no doubt about it. But it is the most important work that we do all week long, because it’s how we are getting closer to the Most Holy Trinity, it’s how the people we love are going to get closer to the Most Holy Trinity, and it’s how this world is being transformed through the love of the Most Holy Trinity. And the more attentive we are during at that work, the more those incredibly important goals will be realized.

Source: The Voice in the Wilderness: The Parish Newsletter of St. John the Forerunner Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church

We should appreciate everything we have and say thank you ...

I saw in my dream, that I visited Paradise and an angel assumed my hospitality. We walked beside each other in a great hall full of angels. My angel guide stopped in front of the first work station and said. "Here is the receiving department. Here we receive all the requests that reach God in the form of prayers". I glanced around the place. It was busy with activity, with so many angels receiving and classifying huge stacks of notes from people around the world. We then proceeded through a long corridor till we reached the second station. My angel told me: "This is the packaging and delivery department. Here the graces and blessings that are requested are brought forward and delivered to those who requested them".

I noticed again how active it was here. Innumerable angels were going back and forth to earth. Finally in the end of a long corridor, we stopped at the door of a very small station. To my great surprise only one angel was sitting there, doing basically nothing. "This is the department of the thank you's" whispered my angel, feeling a bit ashamed. "How is it possible? Is there no work here?" I asked. "It is sad" sighed the angel. "After people receive their gifts, very few send their thank you's". "How can one thank God for the blessings received" I asked again. "Simply" he replied, "you only need to say, thank you my God". "And why exactly do we need to thank Him?"

"If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world.

If you have money in the Bank, in your wallet and some coins on a plate, you are one of the 8% of the people who prosper.

If you wake up in the morning feeling healthier than others with sickness, you are more blessed than those who will not survive this day.

If you have not lived to experience the fear of war, the loneliness of prison, the struggle of torture and the piercing pangs of famine, you are ahead of 700 million people of this world.

If you can pray in a temple without fear of attack, of arrest and execution, some 3 billion people of this world will envy you.

If your parents are still alive and are still married, you are unique.

If you can hold your head high and smile, you are not the rule but the exception, for all those who live with doubt and exasperation.

And if you can read now this text, you received a double blessing because it was given by someone who loves you and because you are luckier than two billion people who do not know and cannot even read".

"I understand. And now what should I do? How can I start?" "Say good morning" my angel smiled, "and count your blessings and pass this message to other people to remind them how blessed they are".

"And don't forget to send your thank you".

Magazine "Tolmi" by Archimandrite Daniel Sapika, Doctor.