Sunday, June 27, 2010

Want to know and live the Orthodox faith? Pray Orthros

In a follow up to what I wrote yesterday at being at home during the Liturgy, my priest gave a sermon today about ways for us in this "ordinary" time to still remain connected to Christ through the faith that He has bestowed upon us through the Church. I was actually quite shocked that Fr. Don, though I do know he is very liturgically minded, actually did not mention the Liturgy and the offices of Vespers and Orthros as ways of not only educating oneself in the faith but also in living and practicing the faith. What he mentioned were all good things: reading Scripture, having and keeping a rule of prayer, reading lives of the saints (his main focus of today's homily), etc.. But I was still floored that praying the Liturgy and the offices was not explicitly mentioned especially as we usually have only four people besides the priest and us chanters at Vespers on most Saturday evening and only one or two who make it through 90% or more of Orthros on Sunday morning. Heck, most people who come for Liturgy come late, some coming after the Cherubimic Hymn!

Despite Fr. Don's lack of a plug for Orthros, he has told me many times that if people really wanted to know and to live the Orthodox faith, there is no better office than Orthros. It is no coincidence that it is my favorite office to chant with all the variables and hymns. No other office of all the Orthodox services can compare to Orthros. On Sunday, it is a mini-Pascha. All the hymns, except if there is a major commemoration or Feast of the Mother of God, are dedicated to the incarnation of our Lord and His Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. Those are the bedrocks of our theology--God becoming man and the God-man enduring death to raise us up from corruption.

Reading books is a fine practice and I'm not mocking it (I'm a bibliophile myself) but if I were a priest (and I cannot and should not ever be one) instructing catechumens or even cradle Orthodox about the faith, I would be less insistent on using books such as Bishop KALLISTOS' The Orthodox Church or Fr. Anthony Coniaris Introducing the Orthodox Church or Metropolitan HILARION's The Mystery of Faith or any other of Fr. Schmemann's or Fr. Hopko's fine tomes to teach the faith, but insist more that they make the effort to come for Orthros every Sunday. Sure, it means you have to get to the church at 8:45 rather than 10:00 and you have a lot more psalm readings and such, but it is worth it. Plus, the fact that hardly anyone attends gives you the perfect atmosphere to absorb everything that you hear in near silence (save for my obnoxious chanting style!) and contemplate it. Plus, reading any of the aforementioned volumes, to explain the faith, one will find that the explanations involve quotations primarily from Orthros!

Orthros is a gem of the church. I wish and hope more people would try and search it out. Praying Orthros is a great way to feed the mind as preparation to feed the soul at the Divine Liturgy!

Just my opinion, of course.

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