From the Parish Priest – Fr. Romey Rosco
In July, Pope Francis attended the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was a huge celebration of the commitment by the world’s young Roman Catholics to their Church and Faith. Following this event, the Pope held the usual news conference, and in response to a Russian journalist’s question, he said:
“In the Orthodox Churches they have kept that pristine (not corrupted, unchanged) liturgy, so beautiful. We have lost a bit of the sense of adoration. They kept it, they praise God, they adore, they sing, time doesn’t count. God is the center, and this is a richness.
“When we read Dostoevsky….one perceives what the Russian spirit is, the Eastern spirit. It’s something that will do us so much good. We are in need of this (liturgical) renewal, of this fresh air of the East, of this light of the East. John Paul II wrote it in his letter. But so many times the “luxus” (wealthy and comfortable surroundings) of the West makes us lose the horizon.” [What is in parentheses are my additions for clarification.]
As I read his remarks for the first time, I remembered the words of Prince Vladimir‘s emissaries sent out into the 11th century world to find the right religion for Russia (which was shaking off its pagan past). They went to the centers of Islam, Judaism, western (or Roman) Christianity, but they said they “found no glory there.” It was the report given by the emissaries returning from Constantinople that most impressed Vladimir. After attending worship services at the Saint Sophia (or Holy Wisdom) Cathedral, and witnessing in awe the grandeur of adoration that is due only to God, they went home to Kiev and told the Prince “Never have we seen such glory! We did not know whether we were in heaven or on earth.”
Over the years, many visitors to our church have felt that same awe. But too many parishioners take it for granted, and soon find the services “long, boring, uncomfortable, unnecessary, etc.” Maybe, it’s the “luxus” of western living. Know it or not, we’ve been pampered, even spoiled, both as children and as adults.
And I, your priest, am guilty of contributing to your pampering. I worry that the service will be too long for you to endure, or that my sermon is ten minutes long instead of eight. I worry that if you stand so long in church you might not return next week (although I often tell people to sit down when they are unable to stand). I worry that the bills have to be paid. “But, Father, priests aren’t supposed to beg for money.” (Who’s begging? I’m just reminding you of your responsibilities to your church.) Well anyway, I’m guilty of all this and more.
And yet, when we come to church the one thing needful is our acceptance of God’s love and power and majesty, for which we should all be grateful. The glory of our Orthodox services is for God alone. But those services also need OUR effort to make them glorious.
Beautiful worship requires God-inspired words expressed in the ancient chants and hymns, as well as in the Holy Scripture readings. This requires cantors and singers (in choir and in the pews).
Beautiful worship requires commitment to worship, as we accept the unity of the service from beginning to end, and so foster promptness in our attendance.
Beautiful worship should inspire the receiving of Holy Communion by believers who are prepared through prayer, fasting and confession. It is a great sin to receive the Precious Body and Blood of Christ unworthily.
Beautiful worship requires a loving church family, one that works together, helps one another, loves one another and reaches out to the stranger.
Try to recapture that moment when you first realized in church that you were in God’s presence and HE was the center of your worship. Let’s keep Him there. As Orthodox Christians, we can experience what others can only dream about: heaven on earth as we adore God with us.
Orthodoxy is that “Light of the East” Pope Francis seems to be yearning for. Commit yourself to what Christ gives you: He gives you Himself! The Church is the Body of Christ, and Christ is the Light of the world!
From The Weekly Bulletin, Vol. XL No. 33, 18 August 2013
Sts. Peter & Paul Romanian Orthodox Church, Dearborn Heights MI