Source: HELLENIC Communication Service
Someone once asked why we Orthodox chant our Divine Liturgy. The answer was a bit surprising to the person: “When you sing, you pray twice!” Really? Singing the Liturgy is that important?
Well, actually that answer just allows us to reveal some deeper truths about worship that will both challenge us and comfort us. The fact is we were created to be worshipers. Fr. Alexander Schmemann once wrote that we humans are homo adoramus – the worshipping man. It is in worship that we are most like who we really are. In a constant attitude of worshipping God, keeping the memory of God and His love always before us, our souls are opened to the healing influence of the Holy Spirit. In other words, worship works wonders!
Worship certainly binds a community and aids harmony. The old saying that the “family who prays together, stays together” is truer today than it has ever been. There is no one more “manly” and countercultural than the father who leads his wife and children into the House of God to pray and adore the Savior of our souls.
But if God is so great, why is worshipping Him so important? Is He so insecure that He has to require His creation to “praise” Him?
Nothing could be further from the truth. God does not NEED our worship. He is complete within Himself. In eternity past, before He created anything, He abided with Himself in the beauty, perfection and unconditional love of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. No, He calls us to worship for the same reason He commands anything from us – for our ultimate benefit. We need our worship of God.
Here are only three of the many benefits of worship that can make your Sunday attendance at Divine Liturgy a transforming event.
First, Worship Enlightens. There is something “holistic” about the Orthodox Divine Liturgy. What I mean is that the Divine Liturgy has been supervised and shaped by the Holy Spirit for centuries to the point where today we are invited to experience a worship time that is filled with Light. This ineffable Light emanates from the Person of Jesus Christ, Who is the Truth Himself. Confronted with Christ, I am challenged with a reality much bigger than my own life. And when a human being is connected to something bigger than himself, his whole life is transformed. The Light of the Wisdom of the rhythm of worship helps me to see myself as I am and Christ as He is.
Second, Worship Enlivens. When we pray at the Liturgy, we do not just pray for ourselves. When we worship, we do not worship by ourselves. When we praise God, we do not praise God only for ourselves. No, Orthodox worship is “for the life of the world.” This vision of worship reinforces the cosmic truth that when we Orthodox do our Divine Liturgy, we are acting as the “royal priesthood” for the whole of creation. But we also pray for our fellow worshippers. During the Liturgy we offer up “ourselves, one another, and our whole life to Christ our God.” The whole point of the Divine Liturgy is the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ so we can be made truly “alive unto God” by His eternal life!
Finally, Worship Enriches. No one leaves the Liturgy hungry unless they choose to harden their hearts and reject the benefits that flow from this encounter with the Living God. The Liturgy is filled with theology and scripture all meant to teach, encourage, challenge, and change us by bringing us into the very Presence of the Holy Trinity. Every opportunity to worship is another opportunity to know God and be changed by that very knowing. Worship is meant to acclimate you to the environment of eternity. Worship is meant to train your whole person to the rhythm of heaven. Worship strengthens persons, families, and communities. Worship is what we were made for!
But all of these benefits of worship are only available to you when you are purposefully engaged in the Divine Liturgy. The same river water can wash over a sponge and a rock, but only the sponge is saturated by the water. So also the soul that comes expecting to meet with God Himself at the appointed time of worship, to act as the “royal priesthood” for all creation, and to commune with God Himself at His “table,” will always receive the beauties and the blessings of worship. As the old Ray Stevens song says, “There is none so blind as he who will not see.” This weekend you and your family will walk hand in hand into the “House of God.” Will you be able to “see” the opportunity before you in the timeless beauty of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy? I pray you will.