Friday, November 16, 2007

"Worship is the Point of Everything"

I'm not sure where online I read the following words of Fr. Gregory Mathewes- Green, but I remember thinking when I read them how profound they are. So I'll share them this morning just because it's what I'm thinking about at the moment.

There is a certain "given-ness” to our worship. As a former Episcopal priest, I am glad that in Orthodox worship we don’t have to pick and choose. If previously we were Episcopalian low- churchmen, we may have taken the Book of Common Prayer and cut it down; as high-churchmen, we may have taken the Book of Common Prayer and built it up with supplementary services like the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. In Orthodoxy, however, the Typicos is simply given. There is joy and freedom in this changelessness, this timelessness.

We pay great attention to the holiness of God in the service, and this affects, for example, how we conduct a procession. But there is also resistance to obsessive over-attention to detail. We ought to feel at home in our Father’s house. That doesn’t mean leisureliness, but an ability to stop obsessing before the big picture gets lost.

One of my mentors as I journeyed into Orthodoxy was another former Episcopalian, Fr. Bill Olnhausen. One time I asked him, “What’s the difference for you, between worship as an Episcopalian and worship as an Orthodox? From the standpoint of a priest, how does it feel different?” And he said, “Well, back when I was an Episcopalian, if I was standing one place in the sanctuary and I realized I’d left my prayer book on the other side, I didn’t know how to get it. There wasn’t a choreography for crossing the sanctuary at a non-liturgical time. But as an Orthodox, I felt much more comfortable. And I figured out how to get my prayer book if I’d put it down out of reach. I’d walk over and pick it up.” How eminently sensible and yet, ultimately, worshipful. In the Orthodox liturgy, worship is the point of everything that is going on. The intent is not to display perfectly staged enactment of something in a book. The intent is to explore together the glory of being in God’s house.

At the heart of Orthodoxy is worship. We’re not a group of theologians who also worship, or social activists who also worship. We’re worshipping creatures whose whole reason for being is to make a glorious act of self-offering to God, for all eternity. And we begin doing that now. We also do works of charity in the community, reach out pastorally to one another, we offer Christian education, and the whole gamut of activities that ought to happen in parishes. But this activity must spring from that central reason for our being, our reconnecting with our Father who is in heaven. This is the reason that He made us. This is the reason that we exist. And we will discover our destiny only when we open ourselves to true worship.

Fr. Gregory Mathewes-Green


-C said...

The photo is not of Fr. Gregory, but one I took during worship at my own church.

Mimi said...


And, your photo is lovely too!

-C said...

His sentiments are just about perfect, I think.

Thank you for your kind comment, Mimi, not just here but on many of my rambling posts.

DebD said...

Oh, that is very good. Thanks for sharing.