My beloved spiritual children in Christ,
Christ is in our midst! He was, is, and ever shall be.
Worship and Devotion in Daily Life of an Orthodox Christian
There is no other Christian tradition that possesses the spiritual richness of the Holy Orthodox Christian Church. The ascetic life as it is taught and practiced in the Orthodox Christian Tradition is vast and limitless. Its ultimate spiritual objective is communion with God and theosis (deification).
Holy services, worship and prayers at regular intervals throughout the day and night are an integral part of daily life of an Orthodox Christian. The notion that the only time one worships is on Sunday morning is not an Orthodox Christian practice or understanding. Daily prayer is a communal matter, and is conducted in the churches and the monasteries. Private prayer in the home combines liturgy with spontaneous personal prayer.
Daily worship in Orthodox Christian Tradition is conducted in a twenty-four-hour cycle, reflecting Christianity's Hebrew roots. The liturgical day beings at sundown, and at that time, the churches and monasteries hold a service of prayer called Esperinos (Vespers). A prayer service called Apodeipnos (Compline) occurs after the evening meal and before bed. A service called the Mesonyktiko (Midnight), usually only in the monasteries. The service of Orthros (Matins) is held just before sunrise. There are four other prayer services, called Hours. The First Hour is often said immediately following Vespers. Many churches say the Third and Sixth Hour during the Proskomede portion of the Divine Liturgy, and the Ninth Hour just before Vespers. Orthodox Tradition does not list the Divine Liturgy in the daily cycle of prayers because it is believed to occur outside of normal time. The daily prayers occur inside normal time (chronos), and serve to sanctify it while bringing the faithful into eternity.
During the prayer services, the faithful Orthodox Christians repeat a number of litanies, or prayers of petition, for both the living and the dead. They also read Psalms, which are arranged in a special book called a Psalter. If all nine services are held each day, the entire Book of Psalms is read in a week. The Cantors also chant short hymns. A priest cannot celebrate the Divine Liturgy alone, but must have at least one other person present.
Orthodox Christian faithful also maintain house prayer corners and pray in the home in the morning and at night. The prayer corner consists of a holy icon of the Mother of God holding Christ, a cross, holy icons of the various family Saints, holy icons of Angels. There is also a shelf upon which a vigil light rests and is lit, the incense burner (themiato), holy water bottle, flowers from Holy Week, prayer book, Holy Bible, etc. Family members may take turns to light the kandyli (lamp), offer incense on major holy days and of course pray as an individual or family. There are manuals that guide the faithful in how to pray at home (the home church), so that even the house prayers are liturgical. Orthodox Christian Tradition teaches that when everyone offers the same prayers, regardless of their physical proximity to each other, they still pray as a community of believers. Prayers in the home are also spontaneous and personal. While the designation of particular Saints is an official matter (glorification), every Orthodox Christian is viewed as a saint, by virtue of participation n the community, called the Body of Christ.
In his First Letter to the Thessalonians, the holy Apostle Paul instructs the faithful to "pray unceasingly" (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and our Church has taken this admonition to heart. In the Orthodox Monasteries, some have practiced hesychasm under the supervision of an adept or a spiritual father. Hesychasts have long used the Jesus Prayer (or "prayer of the heart") in their spiritual discipline, which uses the words, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." The Jesus Prayer is used in more recent years by the lay Orthodox Christians as well. The purpose of the Jesus Prayer is to engender a state of continues prayer. The idea is to repeat the prayer with faith so often that it begins to repeat itself in the heart of the believer, hence it is called "the prayer of the heart". When this state is achieved, then the Orthodox Christian prays without ceasing, not even interrupted by sleep or work. Attaining this spiritual state is of course not easy, and depends on the spiritual state of the believer, on his/her faith and conviction, on concentration, discipline, patience, perseverance and above all else, the grace of the Holy Spirit. For the ordinary Orthodox Christian the Jesus Prayer is brief, inspiring, comforting, and easily said while walking, working, shopping, etc., at times when other words are hard to find, or in times of distress, anxiety, suffering, sadness or joy, the Jesus Prayer will give you strength and inner peace.
An Orthodox Christian community that does not conduct daily services for the needs of its faithful is a spiritually dysfunctional parish. Without the daily divine services of the Church, the parish loses its holy mission and purpose. Christians become complacent and spiritually weak. Let us not forget what Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ said:"For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them" (St. Matthew 18:20).
Every moment belongs to God, and an Orthodox Christian should experience the transformation of all time into sacred time. This only happens when we are totally committed to a liturgical life, when our daily rhythm is governed by the pulse of the Church calendar. Through the cycles of prayer, fasting (which helps liberate us from sin and enables us to pray), and feast days (which center our life on Pascha); liturgical life redeems our time and fills it with the Light of Christ.
Our Lord Christ gave us our first and best examples of prayer. He gave us the specific prayer to Our Father, The Lord's Prayer. More than that, by His own example of prayer life, Christ showed us the importance of worshipping God throughout our lives. Christ was always withdrawing during His earthly Ministry-to the mountains, to the desert, to the sea, to the garden-to pray to His Father in Heaven. He was always regenerating His human life with the power of God the Father through personal prayer.
I invite all of you to attend our daily services: Orthros or Matins in the morning, vespers in the afternoon, paraklesis (Supplication) service to Saint Nektarios (chapel) on Wednesdays, Paraklesis (Supplication) service to the Ever-Virgin Mary, the Theotokos at her Chapel in New Carlise on Friday morning and of course major holy days, the Divine Liturgy. The times of the various services are listed in your Monthly and Weekly parish bulletins.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God