“Let us lay aside all earthly cares” – from the Hymn of the Great Entrance
Three decades ago, a film came out that codified the way in which North Americans looked at Saturday nights.
Since the 1960s, the concept of a quiet and prayerful Saturday night, preparing for the Lord’s Day, has been on the decline. Perhaps this is due to the disappearance in the Protestant West of the concept of keeping vigil before a Church Feast – or to be more to the point, even observing Church Feasts. Perhaps it is due to the Roman Catholic concept of multiple services – the sort of drive-through 30 minute Masses that allow a pick-your-own approach in the spiritual life of faithful people.
This is of course nothing like having to actually be together to spoil the rampant individualism we so often pursue with vigor. Spending Saturday evening – or more specifically, one part of Saturday evening – at a Vespers or Vigil Service, prepares Orthodox Christians for the central Holy Mystery of our lives: Holy Communion. It therefore makes sense that we should lay aside our own plans, our own entertainment and self-indulgence, to prepare to partake of the Holy Mystery that makes us one: one with Christ, and one with each other.
It may be fair to place the blame for the decline in the observance of Saturday Vespers by Orthodox Christians on the bat habits of the heterodox, or the fast pace of our materialistic western world.
But like all things in the spiritual life, the biggest part of the blame can only be placed on us as Orthodox Christians – each of us – who in the struggle to lay aside all earthly cares, more often than not decide that the earthly cares are the very thing we prefer to the Body and Blood of Christ, ahead of communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Let us prayerfully resolve to take up this essential part of our life, for the transformation of our souls, and the renewing of our lives. Let us, with God’s help, resolve to make this preparation integral to our week, every week, and take up willingly the cross of laying aside our Saturday night earthly cares, whatever they may be.