The Church is the Earthly Heaven
The contemporary world in its attempts to make everything simpler stumbles at the steps of Orthodox churches. Everyday hassles suddenly appear insignificant as soon as we set foot in a church. Even unbelievers gasp in amazement sometimes when they enter our churches… In fact, this isn’t surprising because God’s grace is always invisibly present in the place of worship.
Nonetheless, people today have a powerful temptation to drop in to a church for a couple of minutes, barely enough to light some candles. They say they are short of time. Actually, by doing so they miss out on communication with God!
This is what St Philaret of Moscow has to say about it:
1. The Church of the True God with its sacred objects, rituals, and Sacraments is not a human invention but God’s own institution.
2. The management of God’s churches and the worship in them must not depend on human deliberation. It must be grounded in the “rules and laws of priestly office” laid by the “apostles vested in the Holy Spirit, strong in actions and in words.”
3. God’s Wisdom has deemed the establishment of the holy temples not only a useful but also a necessary tool in the salvation of men because God’s Wisdom never does anything excessive and not useful.
4. That is why every man who wants to be saved must diligently attend God’s temples with attention; participate in prayers and praises to the best of his abilities; observe and follow the word of God and the doctrine of life; and sanctify himself with church sacraments, in accordance with the rules and the laws laid out and passed on to us by the God-inspired Apostles and wise Fathers.
The Importance of Church Worship
Saint Theophan the Recluse provides us with the best arguments in favour of church worship: “In the Old Testament, God through Moses decreed the rites of worship in all detail. Likewise, in the New Testament, our Lord Jesus Christ decreed the worship compatible with the New Testament spirit, and appointed the servants of the word and the Sacraments to build the mysterious Body of His Church. And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4: 11, 12). It was thanks to this fact, as well as his own example, that He set the external rites of worship (See John 7: 14; 1 Cor. 11: 23–25). The Apostles, acting according to the Saviour’s will (See Acts 2:46), laid out the major parts of worship (See 1 Cor. 14; Colossians 3:16), and their successors, guided by the Spirit of God, determined all worship rituals in all precision. The Holy Councils made these rituals mandatory for all believers. The essential value of this worship is that it is edifying and spiritually nurturing for the faithful and that it contains spiritual meaning under its outer sights and actions. On the one hand, it is not unlike a transparent curtain, through which the spirit of the true faith and piety shines. On the other hand, it resembles the heaven itself with the abundance of promised treasures, reminding us of the rituals of the Old Testament Church, which were but a shadow of the future (Colossians 2:17).”
Upon admission to the Church of Christ, every believer is obliged to listen to Her in all things and obey Her unquestionably. It is his fundamental duty to honour and follow the whole rite of worship and fulfil its rubrics piously, as intended and designated by the Church. The Lord said indiscriminately, If he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican (Matthew 18:17). The Church commandments are as important as the Church herself, that is, they possess divine importance. “The Universal Church has never said anything and does not say anything except the words of the Spirit of God, Who is forever Her teacher.” (Fragment of the Encyclical of the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs on Orthodox Faith). It leads is not only to believe in the Holy Gospel, adopted by the Church, according to the commandment of Christ, “Believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15), but also to believe all other writings and Council decrees. Therefore, every law or commandment is binding for every Christian.”
Optina Elders on How to Behave in Church
Enter your church as the House of God and stay in your church as in the House of God, acknowledging God’s presence and avoiding all kinds of dismissive attitudes and immodesty.
They say that the church is boring. It is boring for them only because they don’t understand the worship! You’ve got to educate yourself!
The Church is boring for them because they don’t care about it. That is why it seems alien to them. If only they brought some flowers to the church or did something for the adornment of the temple: it wouldn’t be boring then! Are you bored by your own izba?
When the devil blocks your ears and closes your eyes during the service, read the Jesus Prayer. Listen to the Kathisma as long as you can; soon, you will find them pleasant. They are beautiful and sweet, and they will drive away your drowsiness and sadness…
You must not talk in church. It’s a bad habit. You’ll have to suffer if you do.
Holy Righteous John of Kronstadt once said, “The Church contains all our sweet hopes and aspirations, our peace, our joy, along with our purification and sanctification. All that is the most exalted, the most precious, the holiest, and the wisest can be found only in the Church: The Church is the earthly heaven.
The Church engages the entire human being and teaches him in his entirety with the worship: She engages his eyes, ears, smell, touch, taste, imagination, feelings, reason, and will thanks to the beauty of the icons and the temple as a whole; bells; singing; censing; kissing of the Gospel, the Cross, and holy icons; prosphoras; singing and recitation of the Scriptures.
What will happen to a man who falls from a ship into the sea and sees a rope or a boat sent to his rescue but does not grab at the rope or the boat and even pushes them away? He will perish in the abyss. Such are the Christians who have a rope of the Holy Scripture and all Sacraments, including the greatest of them all—the Sacrament of the Body and the Blood of Jesus Christ—to rescue them from eternal death. Whosoever rejects this rope, he will surely die—and rightfully so, for his pride, insanity, lack of wisdom, disgusting passions, and whims.”
August 7, 2018
St. Elisabeth Convent