Word Magazine October 1964 Page 12
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE DIVINE LITURGY ON MY LIFE
By Cathie Nassif — Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Oratorical Contest winning speech
Midwest Region SOYO, Junior Division
The tree is young and straight, reaching its branches out toward the sun and rain. The soil in which it grows is rich with centuries of cultivation and care. But let not the sun and rain reach the young, growing tree and it shall wither and die . . . regardless how fertile the planting place. We Orthodox youth, have sprung from the richest and oldest heritage in the world. The heritage of the one, true Christian doctrine given to mankind by Christ and the Apostles through the Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. In the Divine Liturgy, the Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition merge in a majestic union set to the moving music of prayers of adoration and worship.
This Divine Liturgy is the sun and rain to the youth of Orthodoxy, just as the sun and rain are to the young tree. I know that should I be cut off from the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and its divine strength, something in my life would wither and die, too.
In the past, Sunday morning, in my mind, was merely a time to “go to church,” and not particularly a time to “celebrate the Divine Liturgy.” Until my studies in the church school graduated from memorizing rules and explanations and materialized into the powerful picture of what the Divine Liturgy really encompassed, I was merely going through the proper motions of “going to church.” Then I came to realize that before my eyes, each week, the entire life of Christ, from His birth to His Passion and on to His glorious resurrection, was unfolded in soul-stirring dramatic splendor; when I finally understood that in the Holy Eucharist, I became one with God; then I knew that the Divine Liturgy would be the cornerstone upon which I would try to build my life. As the Divine Liturgy is the very life of the Orthodox Church, so is it the center of my life.
The Divine Liturgy is divided into three essential parts: the Proskomide, the Liturgy of the Catechumens, and the Liturgy of the Faithful. In each of these sections, I have felt a direct and powerful influence upon my daily life.
During the first part of the service, the Proskomide, the elements of the Body and Blood of Christ are prepared and the faithful, too, prepare themselves for this sacred feast. I soon came to realize the need to ready myself to partake of the Holy Eucharist in my every day life. So, in my thoughts, my deeds, and my actions, I cannot be unmindful of the realization that I must constantly prepare myself to partake of the Body and Blood of our Saviour. Whether I am to actually take communion every Sunday is not of single importance for there is an intense feeling of personal participation evident in every part of the Divine Liturgy. Thus my daily life is a constant preparation.
In the second part of the service, the Liturgy of the Catechumens, we offer prayers and hymns in honor of the Holy Trinity and we hear each week the reading of the Epistle and of the Gospel. In this section we are instructed, we pray, and we worship, but moreover, we hear the words of our Lord Jesus Christ through the reading of the Holy Gospel. The Gospel has been a light to my soul and mind arid has helped define the path of my life. I have been taught through the reading of the Gospel the power of love over hatred; the strength of faith and hope the fruits of wisdom and the boundless mercies of Christ. My heart has always assured me that the Gospel of Christ is truly a divine reality and has proved to me that it is the most perfect of all philosophies and should be cherished above all else in life.
The third part of the Liturgy, the Liturgy of the Faithful, is the most essential part of the Divine Service. For in the Proskomide the elements for Holy Communion are prepared; the Liturgy of the Catechumens is dedicated to instruction and prayer; and now the third part of the service, the offering of Holy Communion is administered to the faithful. The Holy Communion or Eucharist is the center of all Orthodox worship, of the Divine Liturgy and the center of my spiritual life. “The Holy Communion affirms God’s discipline of goodness and creates new hopes where earthly ones fail.” The Holy Eucharist has affected my life in four major ways: (1) I have become closer to God. In receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, I assume a oneness with God. I am in the closest possible manner united with Christ. Communion is the tie that connects man with his Creator. If that tie is broken, man “floats away a worthless atom in the universe.” The Eucharist is the life flow that courses through the whole body of Christ’s Church, that absorbs us as it passes. (2) Before receiving the Body and Blood of our Saviour, I cleanse my heart and my mind and soul of all error and examine my conscience before God. “Repentance is the relinquishment of any practice from the conviction that it has offended God.” It is probably the greatest blessing that God ever gave man; that he may repent. (3) Through the Sacrament of Holy Communion I know that God’s work is made manifest through Jesus Christ. By placing Jesus on earth the Sacred Sacrament was instituted. Before His crucifixion, Christ consecrated it and after having administered it to the Apostles, he commanded them to perpetuate this Sacrament for ever after. (4) And finally, the Sacrament of the Holy Communion has helped me realize my responsibility to myself, to my fellow man and to God.
A renowned Lebanese poet once said, “Your daily life is your temple and your religion.” By celebrating the Divine Liturgy each week, I have engraved upon my heart and mind the pattern for my daily life. The overwhelming beauty of the prayers, the music and the symbolic rituals that prepare us for the Holy Eucharist are a melody that sing in the heart through all the hours of every day. Without the blessing of the Divine Liturgy, we would indeed, in our souls, wither and die as a tree without the sun and the rain.