Fatigue and love
It is not true that between Orthodox and Roman Catholics there are only disagreements. At least, there is a nice detail, for which these would be ready to join. Orthodox like to Roman Catholics that these sit during the service, and the Roman Catholic priests envy the Orthodox ones because these may marry. All this lasts since long time.
I wanted thus to go more directly into the field of some discussions, often fierce, about religious life. For example, today one can often hear rejoinders like: “the so long services of the Orthodox don’t make any sense!” Of course, all these discussions are superficial, funny and come from people who, as a rule, do not go to church; however many are concerned with them.
From the very beginning we must say that the Liturgy is the centre of Christian life. The Liturgy is Christ. This is the perfect way through which God offers Himself to the men, in the Eucharist. The length of the orthodox services is also due to the conviction of the first Christians that the second coming of Christ will be immediate – “parusia”.
The services were and are a waiting, but also a coming, in the most veritable sense, of Christ. In those seven existing praises of the Orthodox Church, the history of the universe and the man is imitated and made actual again, from the creation until the re-establishment of the eternal harmony. That is why, during them, there are prayer moments, of catechism, that is education (when one reads from the Old Testament, Apostles, or from the church decrees, that illustrate the deeds and teachings of the Saints). In order that the fatigue do no burden the prayer, there are moments when the believers may sit, these being “the Apostle” and the “Kathismata”, which in fact from Greek means “to sit”. When there is a service with vigil, they bless the “Lithia”, bread with wine, and then it is given to the believers for eating, so that they do not exhaust themselves.
In a word, the services of the Orthodox are not so much inhuman. And afterwards, if we indulgently get over the theology of our “oldies”, we can arrive at the Holy Fathers. For instance, St Philaret of Moscow said “It is better to sit and think of God, than to stand and think of your legs”. The same saying was repeated as well by the great ascetic of the past century, St. Theophan the Recluse. In the Egyptian Patrum (IV-V century), we find also an extraordinary episode in this regard. It is said that once two brothers came to avva Isaiah and asked him: “avva, if I see my brother dozing in the church, what should I do, let him or wake him up to the prayer ?” The Saint replied “I say you truly, brothers, if I see my brother dozing, I put my knee under his head and rest him”.
This is the meaning of the Christian live, as the Orthodox understand and as the apostles understood it, to wait for Christ. In the garden Gethsemane the disciples fell asleep trice, but did not go away. To offer to God twenty minutes a week, as long as a Roman Catholic mass lasts, and those pretentiously, is a natural result of the western consumerist society. In the West the husband and the wife drive each their own car and one doesn’t dare to make use of the other’s belongings. It is normal that everyone has as well his own time, which he uses how he may wish. And then if it happened that a tiny part from this time is to be offered to God, than this is made like a sort of loan.
But the Orthodox have as well the right to make use of their time how they want. Who then wants to accuse them for the fact that they offer too much of their time to God? If two lovers can, in the street, talk with each other during hours, sometimes in the wind or rain, why then some people sitting together with their God, Whom they love, and Who loves them astonish us? There are moments when love defeats fatigue.
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