Church Attendance, Respect for the Clergy

Iubiti credincioşi,

Am găsit de cuviinţă să vă trimit două articole legate de viaţa de creştin ortodox, articole pe care sper să găsiţi timp să le citiţi.  Am cosiderat că toţi putem să mai învăţăm ceva, că niciodată nu este prea târziu să ne schimbăm, şi mai ales acum, în postul Sfânt al Crăciunului, să ne schimbăm în bine, să vizităm mai des Sfânta Biserică, să ne implicăm şi să fim parte din Trupul ei tainic.


Church Attendance

Every Sunday the Orthodox Family observes the day of the Lord commemorating His Resurrection and triumph over death. The usual preparation takes place Saturday night when social affairs are avoided, so that parents and children may go to church together in the morning and worship the Lord in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. They arrive on time, not just at any moment of the Divine Liturgy, Doxology and the opening words of the Liturgy, "Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and forever and unto the ages of ages". Upon entering the church, they bow their heads in reverence before God and cross themselves as a sign that they are followers of the Crucified Lord, Jesus Christ. They light candles, venerate the icons of the Saints, and take their seats quietly.

In church, no one talks, for church is the place where God speaks to His children and they listen carefully. God speaks through the service, the readings of the Scriptures, the sermon, the icons, and the Sacrament itself, through which the gift of God is given to all faithful Orthodox Christians who are in attendance. This gift is the saving grace of the Holy Spirit which overshadows all present, united in prayer, in faith, love, and hope.

Those who neglect to attend commit a sin in that they neglect the commitment to Christ implied in being an Orthodox Christian, and hinder the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Only in church is the Gift imparted. Only in togetherness of prayer is the Body of the Church formed mystically and Christ the Head of the Body enlivens the faithful, the members of His body, by the grace of the Holy Spirit. He feeds them with the Sacrament of Holy Communion and strengthens the bond of their unity so that they may be inheritors of His Kingdom. For this reason the Fathers of the Church emphasize the importance of church attendance, and the frequent reception of Holy Communion. "The Divine Liturgy is truly a heavenly service on earth, in which God Himself, in a particular, immediate and most close manner is present and dwells with men, for He Himself is the invisible celebrant of the service; He is both the Offerer and the Offering. There is on earth nothing higher, greater, more holy, than the liturgy; nothing more solemn, nothing more life-giving" (Father John of Kronstadt).

Private prayers and devotions are prayers of enlightenment and guidance and must culminate in common prayer with the other faithful in church at the Divine Liturgy. Therefore, it is a sacred duty and responsibility of the Orthodox family to attend the Divine Liturgy every Sunday avoiding all other engagements and work. Private prayer is necessary, but incomplete without corporate prayer. Those who truly pray regularly in private feel very deeply the need of praying in church with others.



Respect for the Clergy

The Orthodox Christian respects and loves the clergy. Knowing that the clergy are servants of God and man, devoting their life for the salvation of their flock, the Orthodox Christian expresses his gratitude and respect to them on every occasion.

First, the Priest is addressed as "Father" by all, for he is the spiritual father of his flock; he is their teacher, confessor, sanctifier, and healer. There are people that belong to Christian denominations that do not call their clergy, "Father". But let us consider the words of St. Paul, "For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel" (1 Corinthians 4:15). When we also read the gospel according to St. Luke, we find the rich man calling up to Abraham in heaven with Lazarus in his bosom and addressing him as "Father Abraham" (See Luke 16:20-31). Abraham's response was not, "Do you not realize that only God the Father is to be called Father?" Rather, he replied, "Son, remember".

Second, when people greet their Priest they kiss his hand as an expression of respect, as recognition of his Priesthood, and as a veneration to the holiness of his sacred office and duties.

The fact that the Priest handles the Holy of Holies, that is, the Body and Blood of Christ, when he offers the Divine Liturgy, is recognized by Orthodox people, at all time throughout the world, as a great and awesome privilege.

The hands that touch and offer the Bloodless Sacrifice on the Holy Altar; the hands that give to us the Body and Blood of Christ; the hands that baptize and anoint us with Holy Chrism; the hands that absolve us in the Sacrament of Penance; the hands that bless our wedlock in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and anoint our bodies with the healing oil of the Sacrament of Holy Unction; the hands that sprinkle upon us the Holy Water of Sanctification; the hands that bless us, alive and dead, these hands are the instruments of salvation. For this reason Orthodox Christians through the centuries have kissed the hand of our Priest when we greet him either in church when he distributes the "Antidoron" at the end of the Divine Liturgy or outside the church whenever we meet him.

We close these remarks with the words of St. Paul: "Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life and imitate their faith; Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings. Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give an account. Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that would be of no advantage to you" (Hebrews 13:7-9, 13, 17).