Message from Fr Gary Nov 2015

“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. For His mercy endures forever!” Psalm 136:1 On Thursday, November 26, we will celebrate Thanksgiving. This is an important holiday in our great nation; however, giving thanks is an even more important aspect of the Christian life. Businesses and schools will close so that we can enjoy the festivities with our families. What a splendid day! Surrounded by our closest friends and family, we stuff our faces with traditional foods like turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, (and if you grew up in a Greek family, grape leaves; something the Pilgrims didn’t have!). In countries throughout the world, the last Thursday in November is exactly that, merely the last Thursday in November. It is nothing special, just business as usual.

It is an ideal American Tradition to specifically acknowledge gratitude in November, but as Orthodox Christians we must realize that we do this on a weekly basis (at least) in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. The climax of the liturgy, the Eucharist (Holy Communion) is Christ offering His Body and Blood for our salvation! Eucharist comes from the Greek word eucaristo, which means, “Thank you.”

THE DIVINE LITURGY was in practice right after the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Disciples of Christ on the 50th day after His Resurrection. It was officiated long before the beginning of the writings of the New Testament. The Divine Liturgy, as such, was the center of the inspiration of the first Christians in their communion with God and with one another. Rev. Thomas Fitzgerald writes, “The Eucharist is not so much a text to be studied, but rather an experience of communion with the Living God in which prayer, music, gestures, the material creation, art and architecture come into full orchestration. The Eucharist is a celebration of faith, which touches not only the mind but also the emotions and the senses.”

The description we clergy usually hear about liturgy is, “It’s too long!” or “We stand too much!” Boredom, during the Divine Liturgy is a classic symptom, however it is one that is easily cured. If you find yourself daydreaming during liturgy, try one of the following suggestions: 1.) Focus your attention on a specific icon and pray to that Saint. Pray that distractions are deflected and that your heart is opened. 2.) Open the Divine Liturgy text and follow along. Read the inaudible prayers that the Priest recites during the hymns. This will improve your understanding of the liturgical functions of the Priest. 3.) From the text of the liturgy choose a specific petition and dissect it, giving it a more precise definition (i.e. “For travelers by land, sea, and air, for the sick, the suffering, the captives, and for their salvation, let us pray to the Lord.”) Who do you know that is traveling? Is your spouse on a business trip? Do you know any one who may be sick, suffering, or held in captivity? Then pray for them. This is what the liturgy is about. It is not a choir performance, or a chanting exhibition. The word “liturgy” literally means, “the work of the people.”

The work that we are called to do during liturgy is to pray, “pray for peace in the world, abundance of the fruits of the earth, and peaceful times.” All the prayers offered in the Divine Liturgy are presented in the plural form, “Let us pray,” “Save us, O Son of God,” “Let us be attentive,” “For our deliverance,” “We give thanks,” “Make us worthy, O Master,” etc!

Our Lord pours His blessings and mercy upon us daily! He makes us worthy to receive His loving grace, and His love for us is boundless. That our country puts everything on hold, and as great as an American Holiday that Thanksgiving is, we should find ourselves giving thanks on a more regular basis. Our Lord has blessed us with so much. Our community of St. Demetrios should be thankful for the many great blessings we receive on a daily basis!

In His grace now and always,

Fr Gary

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