My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY: COMMUNION WITH GOD THROUGH THE DIVINE SERVICES OF THE CHURCH
"O God, You are my God; early will I seek Thee!"--Psalm 63
At dawn the Orthodox Christian believer again rises and seeing the coming of day, the expression of God's abundant love towards mankind and all creation, he or she goes first to the Almighty God with praises, thanksgiving and petitions, seeking His blessing for the new day.
[From the old Israel, Christians inherited the discipline of prayer at set times of the day. The Orthodox Church, the New Israel, through the Life-Giving Spirit, established Orthros (Matins) fully as the prayer of sunrise.]
For the Orthodox Christian believer participating in the divine services of the Church is not optional but necessary to have a genuine and authentic spiritual life. The divine services are inseparable from any other spiritual discipline, i.e., private prayer, philanthropy, virtue, etc.
His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago when visiting our parish and following the Divine Liturgy said to the faithful, "I urge all of you to attend the divine services from the very beginning. I don't mean at ten o'clock when the Divine Liturgy begins, but from Orthros (Matins) that begins at 9:00 a.m."
What is Orthros (Matins)?
The second half of the All-night Vigil, Orthros (Matins), is meant to remind us of the New Testament period: the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ in the world for our salvation and His Glorious Resurrection.
The beginning of Orthros (Matins) immediately reminds us of the Nativity of Christ. It begins with the Doxology or Glorification of the Angels who appeared to the shepherds in Bethlehem: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill among men."
This is followed by the reading of the Six Psalms (Exapsalmos), selected from those by the Prophet King David (3, 37, 62, 87, 102 and 142) in which the sinful condition of mankind is depicted with all its weakness and temptations. The ardent expectation of mankind for their only hope, the mercy of God, is expressed here. Those praying in church should be listening with special attentiveness and reverence to these psalms.
After the Six Psalms the Deacon proclaims the Great Litany. The Cantors follow the Litany with the loud and joyful chant of this hymn with its verses: "God is Lord and hath appeared unto us; Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord." It is affirmed that God is Lord and has manifested Himself unto us, and He Who comes in the glory of the Lord is worthy of glorification.
The troparion of hymn that particularly honors and describes the feast or Saint being celebrated follows, and then two kathismata are read, two of the twenty sections into which the Psalter is consecutively divided. The reading of the Kathismata, as well as that of the Six Psalms, calls us to ponder our wretched, sinful condition and to place all our hope on the mercy and help of God. At the conclusion of each kathisma the Deacon recites the Small Litany. (Source: The Law of God)
Orthros (Matins) Divine Service
Psalm 3, Psalm 63, Psalm 88, Psalm 148.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men! We praise You! We bless You! We worship You! We glorify you! We give thanks to Your for Your great glory...
Every day will I give thanks to You and praise Your name forever and ever. Lord, You have been our refuge from generation to generation, I said: Lord, be merciful to me. Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.
Lord, I flee to You. Teach me to do Your will, for you are my God. For with You is the fountain of Life and in Your Light shall we see light. Continue Your mercy to those who know You.
Enable us, O Lord, to pass this day without sin. Blessed are You, O Lord God of our fathers, and praised and glorified be Your name forever. Amen.
Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us as we have set our hope to You.
Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your statutes.
Blessed are You, O Master, make me to understand your Commandments.
Blessed are You, O Holy One, enlighten me with Your precepts.
Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever. Do not despise the works of Your hands.
To You belongs worship!
To You belongs praise!
To You belongs glory!
To the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, may the Lord have mercy on us. Amen.
All of our divine services are there to strengthen our communion with our Creator. All of us know, that we, as Orthodox Christians, are always engaged in spiritual warfare, and therefore, we need God's help and guidance to succeed and triumph over the machinations of the Evil One. God, the Holy Trinity, is always present in all of the divine services, sacraments and worship of our Church. It would be a great mistake to think, or to believe, that they are "just" or "only" ancient rituals.
I observe, at times, the attitude of some, that are not showing the appropriate reverence, understanding, and the lack of participation in them. People walking in church during the divine services and sacraments at different times, without any regard or respect for what is taking place. People that come in the church empty handed and leave the church service empty handed. They may not even know why they are there.
It is most important, that everyone attending the divine services of our Holy Church, believe that they are in the presence of God. They have come to the spiritual Hospital to see "the Physician, of our souls and bodies." To be healed by Him, to be reconciled with Him, to be forgiven by Him, to be strengthened by Him, to be spiritually renewed by Him, to be saved by Him.
By participating in the divine services of our Church, the believer has a personal encounter with Him, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Our Savior.
To those of you that may still have reservations and doubt to the spiritual benefits derived from attending the divine services of Our Holy Church permit me to quote from the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom: [During the Consecration of the Holy Gifts and while the priest and Orthodox Christian faithful are kneeling] The priest in a low voice offers the Prayer, in which it is mentioned now the purpose of the performance of the Holy Eucharist: "That to those who partake thereof, they may be unto the cleansing of soul, unto the remission of sins, unto the communion of the Holy Spirit, unto the fulfillment of the kingdom of heaven, unto boldness toward thee, and not unto judgment or unto condemnation.
Again we offer unto Thee this reasonable worship for all those who have fallen asleep in the Faith: forefathers, fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, ascetics, and every righteous spirit (soul) made perfect in faith."
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communionof the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--St. John Chrysostomos
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God