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.
IS IT NECESSARY FOR AN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN TO ATTEND WEEKDAY DIVINE SERVICES?
Despite the popular misinterpretation of Christianity (that is, that it is sort of a Sunday morning assembly), Orthodox Christianity does not fit this popular rumor. Orthodox Christianity is a way of life, a worshipping community, and not just something we do on Sunday morning. Worship in general and the Mysteries (Sacraments) in particular introduce us to the future age and Kingdom. The Risen Christ is made manifest. We participate in the saving acts of His life, so that our life may be continuously renewed and refashioned in the likeness of Him Who created us.
Each day and year can be the fitting and decisive year to e a year of the Lord. By this I mean, that each day and year can be the fitting and decisive moment both to remember God and all He did and continues to do for us, and to anticipate with joy the riches that He has prepared for us who love Him (2 Corinthians 2:9). For a devout Christian each day can and must be a shared existence with eternity, with Christ.
The daily non-sacramental worship of our Holy Orthodox Church consists mainly of the Evening Service of the Vespers (Esperinos) and Morning Service of Matins (Orthros), which are the longest and the most elaborate of the Orthodox Services. In addition to them, the daily cycle contains the following Services:
1. the four services of the Hours (Hores);
2. the Compline Service (Apodeipnon);
3. the Midnight Service (Mesonyktikon).
Each Hour has a set of psalms, hymns and a distinctive prayer for that Hour. Each Hour has a particular theme, and sometimes even a sub-theme, based upon some aspect of the Christ-event and salvation history. The general themes of each of the Hours are: the coming of the True Light (First Hour); the Descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Third Hour); the Crucifixion and Passion of the Lord (Sixth Hour); the death and burial of the Lord (Ninth Hour).
Compline (Apotheipnon) is a service that is recited after supper and before retiring for sleep. It focuses on three things: thanksgiving for the day that has passed; protection for the ensuing night; and forgiveness of wrongs committed during the day.
The Midnight (Mesonyktikon) Service, as its name indicates, is a service for the middle of the night. The "middle" of the night is an important hour in Holy Scripture; among the significant events that have occurred in the deep of night is the Resurrection of Our Lord. Holy Scripture also alludes to the occurrence of the Second Coming (Paousia) as an event that will take place in the middle of the night (St. Matthew 25:26; 1 Thessalonians 5:24).
The Lord's Day (Kyriaki or the Day of the Lord) is a Christian institution. It is the Christian festival, founded upon Christ's Resurrection. It is "the day which the Lord has made" (Psalm 117:24). It is a day of rejoicing and holy convocation, when no one is permitted to fast or kneel in sorrow or in penance. The principal activity of the Church on the Lord's Day is to assemble for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. There has never been a Sunday when the Divine Eucharist has not been celebrated. In and through the Divine Eucharistic action the Risen and Reigning Christ offers and distributes Himself in Word and Sacrament to every believer; and the miracle and the mystery of the New Life lived in community is continuously revealed and built up.
Because the celebration of the Divine Eucharist introduces us to the "Final Day" (eschata), the Lord's Day is also known as the "Eighth Day," i.e., the day which will have "no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light and its lamp is the Lamb" (Revelation 21:23). The "eighth day" is a term which indicates the final age, when the New Creation, already begun by the Resurrection of Christ, will be fulfilled and completed; when the new world will be ushered in by the General Resurrection.
There is evidence, too, that the Primitive (Early) Church set aside other days of the week for special consideration. Saturday (Sabbath) was regarded as the memorial of the creation narrative: "So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all His work which He had done in creation" (Genesis 2:3). In the liturgical tradition of the Church Saturday continues to be a festival. It recounts the creative act of God, Who brought all things into being out of nothing and reminds us of the opportunity we have to share in God's perpetual Sabbath, i.e., His creative life. Hence, the Church never fasts on a Saturday, except on the one Great and Holy Sabbath (Saturday), when the Church annually commemorates The burial of God in the flesh.
From the Apostolic times the Church observed Wednesday and Friday as fast days. From an early date, the Wednesday fast was connected with the betrayal of Christ by Judas, while the Friday fast was connected with the death of the Lord on the Cross. Both events manifest the terrible darkness and evil of this world, and the tragic and dreadful circumstance of human sin and apostasy. Monday (Deftera hemera or Second day) is dedicated to the Angels. Tuesday (Trite hemera or Third day) is dedicated to the Holy Apostles and to Saint Nicholas, who stands as a model for all the great hierarchs, the successors of the Holy Apostles and the Teachers of the Church. On Saturday, the Church commemorates the Holy Martyrs, the Ascetics, and all those who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection.
On Wednesday and Friday the Church brings into special focus the combined mystery of the Cross and the Person of the Ever-Virgin Mary, the Theotokos (Mother of God). Both days proclaim two things:
1. The immeasurable love of God, "Who so loved the world that He gave His Only-Begotten Son" (St. John 3:16) and
2. The only possible, saving human response to this love through the free, humble and joyous acceptance of his will and purpose: "Behold, let it be done to me according to your word" (St. Luke 1:38; cf. St. Mark 14:36; see also Phil. 2:8).
In actuality, these "optional" services are important for us as Orthodox Christians. Attending these divine services helps us to live in an atmosphere of grace, or as Saint Paul says, to live in Christ. Instead of living as if we have two distinct lives -- "religious life" while all other activities belong to regular "real" life.
The Liturgical Worship of our Church is not a magic pill. We must live in a way that opens us to the grace that is available there and then incorporate it into all of life. Our life outside the church service should become a liturgy, an offering of praise and a means of communion with God. (Source: Orthodox Worship by Father Alciviadis C. Calivas )
All the divine services are offered for the edification and inspiration of all of our Christian believers and not just for the priest. No Orthodox Christian church can exist without providing divine daily services to its members. No Orthodox church can function without the divine services and the Mysteries (Sacraments) of the Church.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" - Saint John Chrysostomos
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God