Tuesday, October 9, 2007

"Orthodox People Time"

"In my opinion, being in Church for that first Amen is a sign, an indication of one's humility. And where humility is, its opposite is sin. The sin is not disturbing other people. The other people in Church are not the object of our worship. It is rude, to disturb other people. But it is sinful to be so presumptuous and prideful that one can jump in and sing with thousands of Archangels and ten thousands of Angels at one's own whim. We stand before the throne of God, and when we realize that, every other consideration, all our personal likes and dislikes, become secondary."
-- Bishop BASIL, Diocese of Wichita & Mid-America

Bishop BASIL, through this statement, gave me pause. He caused me to stop and think.

He put into words something that has been at the back of my mind for a long time.

What Bishop BASIL said caused me to say “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, the sinner.”

“Orthodox People Time” as Fr. Joseph Huneycutt titled this quote, is an interesting phenomena, especially to those lately come, like me. People come in at all times during services. On the one hand, the informality is delightful, in its own way. Because Orthros starts the morning at a set time, 8:30 on Sundays for instance, Divine Liturgy starts at a little different time depending on Orthros. Understandable, then, that some might come in a various points during Orthros – or even during the very beginning of the Divine Liturgy.

It is a good thing, too, that those who might be detained for good reason, will come for as much of the service or Divine Liturgy as they can.

On the other hand, we are often all too ready to make the exception the rule. Soon even the attempt to arrive “on time” has vanished in the wind, and we let all sorts of things delay us. It is a distraction to be sure, and it makes the visitor wonder when people habitually arrive late, even appearing in the pew just prior to the distribution of our Lord’s most precious Body and Blood.

As “one lately come,” as a parent, godfather, and now a grandfather, I also want to humbly point out that such behaviors teach and model to our precious children that these holy things aren’t really that important at all, since we can do all kinds of “other things” on say, Sunday morning, popping in for the last half hour of the Divine Liturgy.

All of these things are easily used of Satan to deceive us into an easy happy-go-lucky view of the most Holy Faith – and are used of that old wily foe to lull us into thinking that everything centers on “me” and “my comfort” and “what I want.” And it denies Christ, and in all reality acts as though we really only need Him as a buddy or friend when we want Him around.

All of this is not to point fingers, either. Lord be merciful to me, the sinner. For I’ve wandered in late, become distracted, too. So, dear reader, this isn’t just about “you,” – it is about us.

We are often so wrapped up in our little worlds that we don’t see the larger picture, and we don’t think all that much beyond our own little comfort zone. So, I come in late, but I don’t think of those who are already present. But even more than that, it is sinful to be so presumptuous and prideful that one can jump in and sing with thousands of Archangels and ten thousands of Angels at one’s own whim!

And when we do these things, we become idolaters, putting ourselves at the center of the universe, thinking that everything and everyone, including the Blessed and Holy Trinity, should give way to “me.”

So we stop and think: we certainly do not want to be rude to those around – but the bigger problem is in the sin of pridefully attempting to stand before God on our own terms. That cannot be done.

St. Paul writes, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” And Holy Mother Church through the ages has called her sons and daughters to live in the communion of the Holy Trinity as she calls them to worship. The Master sends His servants saying, “Come, for all things are ready.” He provides the garments. How dare we despise Him by our rude and sinful actions?

“Orthodox time” is on the one hand delightful – it is a joy to see those who have been detained for good reason come, albeit a bit late! On the other hand, we must repent of our sinful and slothful attitudes when we make it a matter of habit to “drop in” at our own convenience – or merely put in an appearance.

It is such a joy to be wrapped up in the Divine Liturgy and in the other services! It is a blessing of the Holy Spirit to be able to pray in the privacy of our homes those words handed down from the apostles! To be Orthodox, to live in Christ, to submit to His will, is to experience “heaven on earth!”

Thank you, Bishop BASIL, for your fatherly Word of the Lord!



Cha said...

I'm not sure what to make of "Orthodox time." I suspect that the reason my family normally gets to church before the liturgy begins is from a pre-established pattern of behavior from ours days as Lutherans! Every convert brings a little baggage with them to Orthodoxy, and this is one piece of baggage that's OK, I guess.

How sad it would be to miss even a minute of the liturgy!

Dixie said...

I don't claim to understand Orthodox time either.

One funny...before I even left the Lutheran church I was attending whatever midweek services were offered at the Orthodox Church. One Friday night I arrived horribly late for Salutations...about 10 minutes...and I was just so upset with myself...only to find I beat the priest there!

I do think coming from hardy and punctual German stock does make one less prone understanding Orthodox time.