Dear Parish Faithful,
"And they held steadfastly to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." (ACTS 2:42)
I would like to share some pastoral considerations that I have compiled over time, to perhaps lead to further reflection on how we can "expand" our lives in the Church as circumstances allow. The question we are facing is the following:
What can we do on a practical level that would deepen our experience of God and bring us deeper into the life of the Church?
We exist as Christians on the personal and parish levels. In both areas there is room to expand our hearts as we expand the amount of time necessary to fulfill the words of Christ to make God and neighbor our first priority. At home, we can:
+ Be regular in daily prayer by devising and adhering to a “Rule of Prayer.” This means that everyone needs a good Orthodox Prayer Book. This Rule needs to be practiced with consistency and attention – in both the morning and the evening. The Prayer of the Hours could punctuate your days with the remembrance of God while at work or home. (I can provide you with that prayer if you do not have it). The Jesus Prayer can be on your lips at any time during the day.+ Read the Scriptures with some consistency. Becoming “scripturally literate” is essential for a Christian.+ Make a point of even a short prayer or blessing before sitting down to a meal – alone or with the family. All that you have is ultimately from God. We need to recognize this in a concrete manner.+ Honor and observe the fasting days of the liturgical year.+ Offer the Prayers of Preparation for Communion before the Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning. These are found in any good Orthodox Prayer Book.+ Respond to those in need of your help and assistance when the opportunity arises.
On the parish level, here are some items to consider:
+ Become more than a “Sunday morning only” participant in worship. Incorporate the Saturday evening Great Vespers into your life with some kind of pattern: once-a-month, for example. Honor the Feast Days by making room on your personal calendars so as to be present.+ Become more aware of being a steward of your time, talent and treasure. Is there a parish ministry that you feel drawn toward? Please speak with me if that is the case. Be responsible in the ministry that you are already committed to. Be a “cheerful giver” of your treasure for the upbuilding of the church. Trusting in God’s love, overcome any reluctance to share of your material and financial blessings by pledging generously to the church.+ Become more aware of the diversity of persons that you worship together with. Everyone who walks through the door is your neighbor. We are members of the Body of Christ, not mere “individuals” who accidentally worship in the same church. Meet those that you do not know. Avoid judging others by appearance. No one is “better” than the next person, regardless of social status or other worldly considerations. We are all sinners seeking salvation from the “Physician of our souls and bodies.”
Rejoice in being an Orthodox Christian! Rejoice in being able to come to church and worship the living God! Rejoice in the people that you have providentially met in the Church! Rejoice in Christ our Savior!
Glory to You, for every sigh of my sadness,
Glory to You, for every step of my life, for every moment of joy,
Glory to You, O God, unto ages of ages.
Akathist of Thanksgiving - "Glory to God For All Things"