Sometime last year I posted a list of 55 Precepts for Christian Living by Fr. Thomas Hopko. I have seen the list circulated quite a bit since then and I recently came across the suggestion of journaling through each item on the list. I thought that was a wonderful suggestion and, as I considered doing it, I decided that I'd like to share some of my thoughts here.
Go to liturgical services regularly.
This is one of the precepts that I sort of skipped over whenever I encountered Fr. Hopko's list; after all every Christian knows they should go to church, right?
It's interesting though, how writing about a topic causes one to think much more about it than perhaps one would have thought before. As I wondered what on earth I could possibly say about the necessity for Christians to attend services regularly, I found myself focusing on the word liturgical. He didn't just say "go to church"; he said "attend liturgical services regularly". And I realized that, while this precept didn't make much of a blip on my radar at first glance, it is most definitely worth thinking about and discussing.
So, why liturgical? Well, liturgy is the work of the people, and the Divine Liturgy is specifically the work of and for the people when we offer back to God the bread and wine, gifts graciously given us for our sustenance, which become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. It is a ritual wherein we offer what we have to offer and our good God in turn gives them back to us in such way as to make it possible for us to be united, physically as well as spiritually, with Himself. By partaking of the Body of Christ it thus becomes possible for us to be part of His Body. If we are not partaking, we are not part of His Body.
Perhaps it seems harsh to say that those who do not partake are not part of the Body, but the truth is not always pleasant or palatable. There are those who would argue with me I'm sure, but there really is not a way around it.
Thus the attendance of liturgical services is of paramount importance. The primary purpose is not prayer, though prayers are said; rather the purpose is union, communion: being united with Christ and with one another in the offering of gifts as thanksgiving and receiving the ultimate gift with thanks.
People have often commented to me that they notice how difficult it is to bring lots of little children to church each Sunday. They notice the wriggling and the fidgeting; the loud whispers and occasional (or even not so occasional) screaming. They are sometimes annoyed, I'm sure, with us going in and out of the nave, over and over again. But the Holy Eucharist is the reason we come, and while I may not always get the opportunity to actually pray in church (wonderful as it is when I do), the important thing is that we are able to receive the Body and Blood and be strengthened and renewed.