Friday, June 19, 2015

There is No Such Thing as a 'Normal' Sunday

Dear Parish Faithful,

"We thank Thee for this Liturgy which Thou hast deigned to accept at our hands ..."

At the Liturgy this past Sunday, we did not use book called The Pentecostarion for the first Sunday since Pascha.  And before that we used another special liturgical book, The Triodion, going back to the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee in the pre-Lenten season.  So, as we have completed Great Lent and then the Pascha/Pentecostal cycle, and even the Sunday of All Saints for this year of the Lord 2015, we return to the "normal" time of the Church year. 

In other words, are we facing a string of "normal" Sundays until next year's Great Lent, though punctuated now and then by a major Feast such as Nativity? 

I am unconvinced that this is the case.  And that is because I am convinced that no such thing as a "normal" Sunday exists within the Church. 

Just what does a normal Sunday mean when every Sunday is the Lord's Day when we proclaim, actualize and experience the Resurrection of Christ!  We are no longer singing the paschal troparion, "Christ is Risen!" but the fact is that Christ is Risen.  And that is primarily what we sing about at every Great Vespers service on Saturday evening as we enter into the weekly cycle of the Lord's Day with that service.  The same holds true for Sunday Matins, to reach its fullest expression and experience in the Liturgy and the reception of the Eucharist - the deified Body and Blood of the Risen Lord.  The midnight Paschal Liturgy and the Liturgy on a hazy, lazy summer morning in July offers the same identical experience:  to encounter the Risen Lord and to receive a foretaste of the Kingdom of God. That is quite a gift from God for a "normal" Sunday!

Therefore, if we are committed to Christ and the Gospel, then we are equally committed to the Liturgy and our presence there on the Lord's Day. 

The temptation to "take it easy" during the summer months may be especially prevalent among families with Church School age children.  A "summer vacation" mind-set may unconsciously inform our decisions about a regular and faithful presence in church during the summer months.  Certainly the wrong "lesson" to teach our children!

As essential as our Church School program is for our children and young adults, the fact remains that the Liturgy is the most essential "activity" of our life as a parish community.  I believe that this same over-all principle holds true even when we are travelling on vacation.  With a bit of planning and the commitment mentioned above, it is not so terribly difficult to be near another Orthodox parish on any given Sunday. Our presence there will indicate that we have not forgotten God while on "vacation." (I will assume, of course, that we hope that God does not forget us).  There is then the added "bonus" of meeting and worshiping with other Orthodox Christians. Every parish has it own unique style and visiting another parish while on vacation allows us to experience some of that diversity.  It is also a good reminder that we are not an isolated community, but an integral part of a network of "right-believing" Christians with whom we share "the unity of Faith and the communion of the Holy Spirit."

Since the Day of Pentecost there has not been a Sunday in the history of the world on which the Eucharist has not been celebrated by believing Christians.  It began in Jerusalem and spread from there.  And for Christians, this is the "Lord's Day" regardless of how others may treat Sundays. 

The erosion of the "specialness" of Sunday within our society will most likely prove to be an irreversible process. As our contemporary culture begins to impinge itself upon our loyalties and attention - Sunday has rapidly become like any other day of the week in terms of possible activities - then we need to practice some real vigilance in maintaining its inherent integrity as the Lord's Day.  We do that primarily by our actions which indicate our commitments and priorities.  What a joyous responsibility to have as Orthodox Christians!

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