Word Magazine October 1977 Page 16
LITURGY OF LIFE
By Father James C. Meena
An article in the July 28, 1976, issue of the Christian Science Monitor was entitled, “Membership of Churches is Changing.” The essence of the article is that there has been a general decline in membership in those Churches that have adopted ultra-liberal attitudes than in the more conservative or fundamentalist Churches where the enrollment has increased significantly. Some of the denominations which have grown in the past few years are mentioned. It is notable that among them there is not a single “ethnic” Church. Such polls as these seldom take into consideration Churches such as ours where the concept of family is central to the life of the Church and the community. They give a great deal of credit to those “fundamentalist” churches which they call “conservative” because they have what the Monitor calls “an aggressive evangelism and youth and missionary program.
There is no question in my mind that some fundamentalists have attained a level of spiritual commitment which is to be admired. In many of the households of fundamentalist Christians I have found a family discipline of prayer, piety and devotion that cannot be denied.
The Commandments of the Church instruct Orthodox Christians to pray daily, to attend the Divine Liturgy faithfully, especially on the Lord’s Day and to receive the Eucharist frequently because as our concept of the Family of God is unique in the Christian world, the Liturgy calls us and mystically binds us together in the transforming Eucharistic offering of the bloodless sacrifice, so we might take that Liturgical message of transformation into the world. On the other hand, in those churches where there is no Liturgical worship, there has evolved a substitute —a liturgy of the family — where family members are called together in common prayer at every meal or at least at the major meal of the day, where they spend a certain amount of time each day in devotional reading of Scripture and in a common growth together in an understanding of the Word of God. This is what impresses us when we meet such people. Every day they celebrate a “Liturgy of Life.”
We must not think that this “difference” is natural. The Orthodox Divine Liturgy of the whole Family of God is intended to be the consummation of that daily “Liturgy of Life” each of us is supposed to practice in our individual and family life-style. We are taught to spend time in prayer and meditation, in the offering up of our own sinful nature to God each day. We are commanded to spend time each day with our children and with our loved ones reading the Scriptures and offering up prayers of thanksgiving and glory to God.
I am really very much struck by the way history allows things to evolve in the lives of men. Compare the Orthodox Church, which contends that She has the fullness of faith, (and She has), but whose people express piety only in the calling together of the Family of God — but somehow have lost that concept of the “Liturgy of Life” as a daily practice in the household, with those “fundamentalist”, “reformed” churches who have no Liturgy of the wholeness of the Family of God but have developed a liturgy of the individual family. There is a mystery here that needs to be fathomed by someone much wiser than I.
Beloved, if devotion starts with the individual human family then the prayers of the Family of God are complete, for the Family of God is a calling together of all the faithful and of all faithful families. Each stands as surety for their children, that they will be raised as devout members of the Family of God. If you are not fulfilling that covenant made at the baptism of your children then you are defaulting in your promises to God. These promises are kept not merely by coming to Church on occasion or even every Sunday but by making every day a celebration of the “Liturgy of Life,” by carrying the concept of piety and sanctity which we come to understand at the Divine Liturgy into everything that we do from moment to moment, day to day.
We need to appreciate the importance of restoration and renewal of those concepts which are eternal in the life of the Church and which never change, even though, through the accidents of history, we may have forgotten about them.
“Work for the Lord with untiring efforts and with great earnestness of spirit. Don’t give up when you are tempted. Don’t give up in the face of trial and tribulations but keep on praying.” (Romans 12:6-14).