“It is meet and right to worship the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit: the Trinity, one in essence and undivided” (Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom). Any discussion of the Stewardship of the Gift of our Time would be completely unfulfilled and empty, if we omitted that which blesses and sanctifies the Time we are given: our worship of God! This week, we will examine the relationship of the Gift of Worship in our lives and how we care for, cherish and give thanks to God for it.
The Gift of Worship is central and integral to the life of an Orthodox Christian. All revolves around and flows from the heart of this gift: the Divine Liturgy. When confronted with the busy-ness, the hatred, the violence and the bloodshed of this world—it is precisely the participation in the Life of All—our Lord Jesus Christ which renews and redeems us. He resurrects our perspective from that which is immersed in the falleness of this world to that which sees the Glory of God and His Kingdom in the very world around us. As Fr. Schmemman, of blessed memory, reminds us, it is “…precisely here, in this holy of holies of the Church, in this ascent to the table of the Lord in His Kingdom[which] is the source of that renewal for which we hope” (The Eucharist: Crestwood, 1983).
This paradigm shift occurs every time we partake of our Lord’s Body and Blood with fear, faith and love. This is what we all are called to participate in at every Divine Liturgy. This is the culmination and the Gracious Gift given in response to the common action of the people of God. Not a part of the people of God—but all of them as manifested in every community. To put it simply, the Gift of Worship, and specifically the Divine Liturgy, is offered “on behalf of all and for all.”
And yet, how often do we say to ourselves, “eh…do I really want to get up for Church this morning?” Or, “Does it really matter if I am on time for Liturgy?” Or, for those who come more often, “What is the point of going to Holy Communion today?” We feel that our presence is somehow unnecessary. But, as Fr. Thomas Hopko reminds us, “the Divine Liturgy exists for no other reason than to be the official all-inclusive act of prayer, worship, teaching, and communion of the entire Church in heaven and on earth… It is the one sacramental manifestation of the essence of the Church as the Community of God in heaven and on earth” (The Orthodox Faith: V. II Worship). Do we include ourselves in the Church? Then our participation is necessary.
If we truly cherish this Gift of Worship, and exercise good Christian Stewardship of it, then every time that the Eucharist is offered, we will be prepared and receive it. We are fooling ourselves to think that abstaining from the Eucharist is anything but a rejection of God; and rejection of God is a sin.
More importantly, when we approach the Chalice in fear, and with faith and love, we enter into Communion with God. We allow Christ to shift our perspective and to prepare us for the weight of Glory that is to come. We enter into the Joy of the Kingdom; made possible through our participation in Christ. We participate in and are changed by “the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God the Father and the Communion of the Holy Spirit.”
Lest we think that we have time in order to “re-prioritize”, we have only to look at last week’s Gospel reading to be reminded that God can call us back at anytime. This Gift of Time is not our own. So, now is the time to give thanks for the Gift of Worship. Now is the time to manifest that thanksgiving in our punctual attendance to the Divine Services. Now is the time to prepare for receiving the Holy Body and Precious Blood of our Lord. Now is the time to allow Christ to shift our paradigm. Now is the time to participate in Christ-centered and Eucharistic Life, so that we might enter into Communion with God in everything and through everyone we encounter in this world.
May our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, transfigure our lives through our participation in His Life. May the Comfort of the Holy Spirit guide us to seeing the Kingdom of God on a daily basis. And may the Love of God the Father heal our hearts always, now and every and unto ages of ages!