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#94 Why Church Matters

Summary:

We all know we're invited to pray and fast more during Great Lent, but what about attending more Church services? We often ignore that because we see the services as boring obligations. So let's look at them with the eyes of a bee and see why the Church services are so amazing, uplifting, and transformative.

Questions:

1) Why are all these different services so important?

2) How can a community be the Body of Christ?

 

Links:

Orthodox Prayer, Paschal Hours

Orthodox Way of Life, Taking Lent Seriously

Mystagogy, What is the Presanctified Divine Liturgy?

Bible Gateway, Psalm 115 (116)

 

Script:

Hey everybody this is Steve and during Great Lent, we're invited to attend a lot of Church services. We're invited to pray more, fast more, give more alms as we all seem to know but it sometimes seems like we forget about the invitation to attend these Lenten services. The Presanctified Liturgies, the Salutations, the Vespers, the Complines, all the beautiful and moving services we celebrate. And I wonder if that's because we don't really look at church services with the eyes of a bee.

We often see them as responsibilities, as long ceremonies we need to patiently sit through, if not endure as we talked about before. There's something we have to do rather than get to do, something we desire to participate in. And sometimes we make the mistake of seeing church as simply a place we go rather than what and who we are. So let's take a closer look at why church services can be so amazing and why they matter so much.

I'm going to simplify things a bit and say that there are two basic kinds of church services that we'll talk about right now, Divine Liturgy and everything else. Those other services include Matins, Vespers, Compline, Supplications services, Salutation services, Hours, an incredible variety. Each of these services has a particular character and a particular placement in the day. For instance, Matins is usually served in the morning, often right before Sunday morning Liturgy. It's a beautiful service of praise to God our Lord who reveals Himself to us just as the sun rises to overtake the darkness of night.

In the evening, we celebrate Vespers, another incredible service that takes place as the sun sets and is a chance to reflect on the true Sun, Christ, the Son of God and the Son of righteousness whose love for us will never set. Matins and Vespers and the rest of these other church services are incredible opportunities to allow ourselves to be amerced in the life of the Church, to learn the language of the Church, as we hear the hymns chanted and the prayers read, to allow our hearts to be shaped by the Love of God and the beauty of His Kingdom.

When we start to think about attending services in this way, we can begin to see why there's something special about gathering as a community, something very different than simply praying by ourselves at home which we'll talk about more next week. And in a sense, we can think of every trip to a church service as being a little pilgrimage, as being a little journey we make, sacrificing a little of our time and attention to be in the Presence of God in the midst of His Saints.

To offer thanksgiving for all that He's done for us, to more fully commit ourselves to truly becoming His Church. It's like we read in Psalm 115 and sometimes sing as a Pre-Communion hymn, "What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits to me? I will take up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord... I will pay my vows to the Lord, now in the presence of all His people, in the courts of the Lord's House, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem."

Every time we attend a church service is an opportunity to encounter God, to sing His praises, to declare our love and loyalty for Him. And this is why we have so many extra chances during Lent to come into the House of the Lord, to sacrifice our time and attention, to make that little pilgrimage and refocus our lives. And the incredible thing about the Divine Liturgy, above and beyond what happens in these other church services is that we're not simply inspired, we're shaped, we're transformed.

In the Anafora, the part of the Liturgy where the priest consecrates the Gifts, the bread and the wine, we don't simply lift up bread and wine, we lift up everything, including us to be Christ's Body and Blood. We assemble to become who we are, the Church, the very Body of Christ. This is why the Church uses the word Εκκλησία to describe Herself. In Greek, the word means those who are called from or out of, and in Ancient Greece, the word usually referred to the gathering of the citizens of a particular city state, like Athens.

Yet, it was more than just a gathering. It was an assembly, a calling forth of those who shared a common identity and loyalty. And God is calling each and everyone of us out of sin and death and into Life. So for all of us, going to church is actually becoming the Church, becoming the Εκκλησία, the Body of Christ, citizens of the Kingdom of God. We don't just go to church, we become the Church. When we assemble for Divine Liturgy, we assemble as the Body of Christ so we can be transformed into the Body of Christ so we can move together, transformed towards the experience and celebration of His glorious Resurrection.

So this year, during Great Lent, I'm going to make the most of the many services that are offered and I hope you will too. I'm going to work hard to open my heart to be shaped by our common prayer, to open my whole life to be lifted up into eternity in the Divine Liturgy. And I pray that attending and really being present for each and every one of these services is a habit I'll continue to build on, even after Lent is over.

So let's Be the Bee and work to become the Church. Be the Bee and Live Orthodoxy Remember to like and subscribe and share. I'll see you all next week. Thanks to our supporters on Patreon who helped make this episode possible. To support the creation of more Orthodox Christian content, please visit Patreon.com/Y2AM.

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