Dear Parish Faithful,
I recently had an exchange of emails with one of our parishioners who came to the Church from a Protestant background. I eventually received the response that you will find below. I then made the request to be able to share this paragraph with the parish at large, and upon receiving permission to do so, I am now forwarding it to you.
I find this quite fascinating, but not just because it clearly favors Orthodox over Protestant forms of worship. It also speaks of the challenges of the Orthodox Liturgy, as well as the "rewards" which demand some effort on our part as worshippers.
Liturgy does mean the work of the People of God. All actually flows from the grace of God, but the reception of grace is a synergistic process requiring our attention and capacity to "listen" from within. We always have to "be" there ("lay aside all earthly cares").
I never like the question, "What do I get out of the Liturgy?" But if pressed to answer, I would say, "That depends upon what you put into it." That seems confirmed below.
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Dear Fr. Steven,
My Protestant upbringing leads me to subconsciously place a lot of importance on the homily - something I feel isn't typical of Orthodox Christians.
Being a parishioner at a Protestant church is, in many ways, easy. The music is music of the day, the prayers are just people speaking in their normal voices using words they would use when talking to a friend, the text from the Bible is read in an "updated" translation, and the sermon is made as easy to understand as possible. It is almost like entertainment.
I find the Orthodox church to be quite different than that. I have to work hard to pay attention to the Liturgy as I sing it. I find it takes willpower to fully listen to the Gospel and the Epistle readings. For some reason (perhaps my past?) anything that is chanted is much harder to listen to.
But I LOVE this about our church - I find that our Liturgy much more closely mirrors the experience of a Christian life. It is NOT always easy, it is not always handed to you. There are many days and even phases in life where you really have to "work out your salvation." I am learning this in many ways, but the most prominent is from the experience of Liturgy.
I find the homily a time to sit and listen, without having to work quite so hard. And every week, your homilies give me a clear glimpse of the Orthodox Faith.
I still struggle to "become" Orthodox - there are many years of Protestant faith to undo. Each week, I feel like I get another small piece of the puzzle, as Orthodoxy becomes more and more a way of life.