Today I want to tell you about the main theme of the book Living the Liturgy by Stanley Harakas (1974).
Participating in the Divine Liturgy
“In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” says Father Živan, and all of us put together three fingers and make a cross, bowing to the Holy Trinity, the foundation of our belief and our church. But, did you ever think in how many ways the Holy Trinity is reflected through our church and faith? Did you ever know that you are a very important part of that reflection?
The Holy Trinity is reflected in so many ways, not only through the three fingers we put together to make a cross, but also through the three things you need before you come to church: faith, love, and understanding. Another reflection is how the church is divided into three parts, like three “little stages” where the Divine Liturgy is performed: the part behind the iconostas, the part where the choir is singing from, and the third part, where you and I stand. And just the same, there are three “roles” in the Divine Liturgy: one played by the priest and deacon, the second played by the choir, and the third, very important, and quite essential, played by me and you, dear reader.
When you are sitting in church on Sunday, do you listen to what the priest is saying; are you following the Liturgy in the Prayer Book? Honestly, I did not… until three weeks ago (again that number three). And maybe that was not my fault, and maybe it is not yours either: simply, nobody had told me that I have a role in the Divine Liturgy, and that I HAVE TO PARTICIPATE!
The Prayer Book is not very helpful in this regard either: there are only two places in this book where it is said that people are supposed to do something, to participate: say the Creed (“I believe in one God…”), and say the Lord’s Prayer (“Our Father, who art in heaven…”). Nowhere else in the book is it said that the “people” have to participate. However, after reading Living the Liturgy, now we know that we have to participate all the time during the Liturgy.
Your participation in the Liturgy is essential from the start of the Liturgy. The third sentence Father Živan says every Sunday is: “For the peace from above and for the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord.” At that moment, do you think to yourself or say quietly a prayer “Lord save our souls?” Because Father Živan is not saying the prayer, he is telling you and me to say it; and choir is not saying it either (they say:”Lord, have mercy,” but they are not saying the prayer.) So, if Father Živan is not saying the prayer, and choir is not saying the prayer, if you and I do not say it, nobody is praying in our church! And that is not good. We come to church to pray, so when we are called to pray, we better PRAY!
If you open a Prayer Book you will see that during the whole Liturgy Father Živan is calling us to pray for different things: for peace of the whole world, for the welfare of the holy churches of God, for those who enter with faith, for seasonable weather, for our deliverance from all afflictions, wrath, danger, and necessity, etc. And we have to pray, all the time. It is not easy because there is not lot of time to form the prayer between Father Živan’s words and choir’s response, but still, we have to try. We have to pray because that is why we come to church, that is what church is for. It is not a social club; it is a place where we pray to God. And it is very important that you are not late for the start of the Divine Liturgy. Imagine that a play is starting, and the main role actor is not there… You have to come on time, and you have to “play” your role – PRAY.
During our discussion we asked Father Živan if we are supposed to pray only for those things he is telling us to pray for, and he said ‘no,’ we can pray for anything we feel like. The important thing is – that we pray.
Therefore, next Sunday, please join me in prayer. There is so much to pray for, and there are so many to pray for, and I need your help with all those prayers. See you on Sunday! — Snezana