Father Theodore's Messages of Faith
~May 11, 2020
Dear Sts. Constantine & Helen Family,
The Status Quo
As of this morning, we are still in status quo. His Eminence Metropolitan Savas in consultation with the other Hierarchs of our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese are preparing a coordinated plan of return for all of our parishes here in the U.S. but no decision has yet been made as to when we--here in Reading--will be able to return. The good news is that we can expect to slowly start coming back to church services and, as the shelter at home orders are lifted across the state and country, most of us will be returning to our work and peaceful pursuits. I find myself imagining what it will be like when we are altogether once again inside our church building. Will it feel (or still feel) like Pascha? Will there be a lot of us? Will some of us be tentative to come back even when we are allowed because of ongoing concerns about the virus. Relief, gratitude, emotion, joy, but also sadness and uncertainty are all responses that I anticipate.
Growing More Fond
They say, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder". Hopefully having been forced to stay away for awhile has helped us to appreciate more fully our worship experience. Certainly this is what I anticipate, as well. I have had a small inkling of what it will be like as a few of you have needed to come by the church building for one reason or another. Just watching the emotion on your face and hearing the gratitude in your voice when you light candles in the Narthex and look into the Nave has made a strong impression on me. You miss being here.
Understanding the Divine Liturgy
The Lord has given us this time of quarantine to actually appreciate more fully what it is we do when we are here in church all together. To appreciate more fully 'our time with Him'. This is what our worship is. Our sacred time in His Presence.
Archmandrite Zacharias Zacharou of Essex in a talk entitled Earthly Life for Infinite Life puts this beautifully:
Throughout the history of the Church, the Liturgy has been the 'place' where Christians have learned to dwell in the presence of God and thereby to receive the life of God Who is 'the Bread of Life which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.' (John 6:33) Created in God's image and likeness, man's deepest desire is for contact with his Creator: divine worship is therefore the main preoccupation of the spiritual person. It is in divine worship that man fulfills his true purpose, and in this he joins 'the spirits of just men made perfect" (Heb. 12:23) in the heavenly Jerusalem. He is sanctified and united to God in the Holy Eucharist through his partaking of the perfection of divine grace. Christ Himself is present in divine worship, according to His promise, especially in the Divine Liturgy. He dwells among His anointed and makes them His Church, His Body, of which He is the head Who imparts life and the gifts of His Spirit to His members...
...Every Liturgy is unique and performed by Christ Himself. It is an act of revelation surpassing description, embracing the whole creation: heaven and earth, Angels and men, the living and the departed. Christ offers Himself once and for all in the eternal power of the Holy Spirit and His Holy Sacrifice remains unto eternity to sanctify all who partake of it, for it is sealed in His divine blood which He shed for the life of the world. The Divine Liturgy is an eternal expression of Christ's greater love. (John 15:13) It is a workshop of love, a heart of love, man's union and communion with the Savior and the other members of the Body...
...For as long as the Liturgy is celebrated on earth and man continues to exchange his created life for the uncreated infinite life of God, there is hope. The Liturgy is an unfathomable gift to humanity. Indeed, whether the world knows it or not, the energy of its hypostatic prayer upholds the existence of the whole universe.
So this is what we are coming back to do... to uphold the existence of the whole universe! I wonder if any of us ever fully realize how important it was and is to celebrate the Divine Liturgy? To help us to appreciate more fully how important each and every one of us is and what we do 'at church' as The Church I am asking you read a short chapter from the book by Fr. Meletios Webber entitled, Bread, Water, Wine & Oil called Divine Liturgy & Holy Communion. It is one of the best things that I have ever read on the Divine Liturgy, written for the everyday Christian.
In the next Message of Faith we will reflect a bit about the mystery of Holy Forgiveness (Confession) and our reconciliation with God.
Please continue to check out our Sts. Constantine and Helen Facebook page and web page as we are updating our information and sharing resources on a daily basis. I especially want to give a shout out to the PART team that put together the 'Thank You to Our Front Liners During This Pandemic Video. Even His Eminence Metropolitan Savas commented and re-posted our clip saying he is proud as can be of the good people of Sts. Constantine & Helen Church in Reading PA for this communal expression of love to the women and men ministering to those in need of medical attention! We hope to do more with and for our front-liners in the near future!