|Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes - Spiritual Nourishment for the Soul - May 2004||Last Modified May 4th, 2004|
Love To Go To Church And To Pray
We all know that there are good habits and bad habits, and the consistent teaching of Holy Scripture and the Church is that we should cultivate the good ones, and root out the bad ones. This is a lifelong task, like that of being a gardener, and there is no better way by which we may obtain all the help and practical advice we need than in the simple act of going to Church to pray. We should love to do this, because when we go to Church we find ourselves in the presence of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, the Mother of God - the holy Theotokos - and His apostles, saints, angels, and martyrs.
The problem is that some of us go to Church only when we feel like it! We find so many excuses as to why we canít go to Church - whether itís the evening Vesper service, or the early morning Matins, and Divine Liturgy. ďI canít go to Church today because I have to clean my house and go shopping!Ē or ďI canít go to Church today because Iím so tired after my week at work, I really must rest.Ē These are only two of the reasons we stay away from the liturgical services offered for us to give our Lord God due honor and worship, and for us to prepare to receive Holy Communion. Or we may think that once a month is all right to attend Church; and sadly there are those who only go to Church when it is the feast of our Lordís Holy Nativity, and the Glorious feast of His Resurrection. We do not see these so-called ďfaithfulĒ until the following year!
Are we really faithful to our Lord God when we choose to go to Church only on certain occasions, or at our convenience? When we act in this way, separating ourselves from the precious presence of God, all kinds of problems occur: we begin to wonder how are we going to deal with the stresses of everyday life. We do not turn to Him, and consequently do not hear His answer. How can we expect to grow spiritually?
We complain about the breakdowns that occur in so many families: the relationship between husband and wife comes to a standstill. We can no longer communicate with our children, so seem to speak a different language. We become over-dependent on easy credit, the latest gadgets, and the belief that ďmore of everythingĒ is going to make us happy. When a family begins to stop going to Church regularly then we are heading for the breakdown of that family. Going to Church as a family brings strength and spiritual nourishment back into their lives.
Let us take the Divine Liturgy for example: we must realize that this service is of enormous significance. It is celebrated in thanksgiving to our Lord God, and served openly and visibly before the eyes of the world, and yet remains full of mystery. As the faithful worshipper follows every action reverently and diligently, in prayer, the soul attains a high state, the commandments of Christ become possible for us. Christís yoke becomes easy and His burden light as He draws us in to the love feast He has prepared for us. Our vision is renewed, and after leaving Church; we begin to look upon all of our Lordís creation as brothers and sisters.
The love of God is brought to us when we pray in Church and the grace of the Holy Spirit dwells with us. We are spiritually fed by the constant prayers and petitions, and by the readings from the Holy Gospels and Epistles. Then as the Divine Liturgy continues onward we begin to realize we are mystically in the loving presence of our Lord, as the gifts of Holy Communion are brought forward for us to receive with love and with faith, to nourish us, and to cleanse us with joy!
The divine services offered to us in our Holy Orthodox Church provide many great rewards: we begin to grow spiritually, we learn to become merciful and loving towards one another as true brothers and sisters in Christ our Lord. We begin to care about others, and assist those who are in need. The poor are helped even with our smallest gift, and we become great benefactors to so many causes that bring hope and joy to others. When we become attentive to the divine services we become gentler, more kindly in our relations with others, friendlier, quieter in all our actions. Therefore is imperative for us to attend the Divine Liturgy as often as possible and follow it attentively.
The Divine Liturgy can enable us to become better persons, and if life around us seems to be going to pieces, with people hating each other, being unforgiving and jealous, then we know that in the Divine Liturgy, is the constant reminder that by the grace of our Lord we can cherish holy, heavenly love towards our brothers. If we want to strengthen ourselves in love, we should go as often as possible with fear, faith and humility to the holy table of love. And if we should feel unworthy to receive God Himself, Who is love, into our mouth, at least we can be a witness when others communicate, so that imperceptibly and without feeling it, we may become gradually more perfect each time.
Not only is the Divine Liturgy spiritually rewarding for us all, but also the evening Vespers, and the morning Matins (according the Greek tradition of services). In these acts of worship we can grow and mature in our faith as we participate in the hymns and prayers. When our beloved Holy Orthodox Church calls us to prayer, let us go with love, taking our children with us and together giving our Lord God glory, honor, and worship, as well as offering to Him heartfelt thanksgiving for all the blessings He pours upon us.
May we not let Sunday morning become a day off from God! He loves us when we pray as a mystical loving community with the Mother of God, His saints, apostles, angels, and martyrs. Rest after the services and be at peace.
Glory to God for all things!
In Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ,
+Very Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
Glory Be To God For All Things!
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(c)Reverend Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes