“Everyone was a saint there”: Who are we in worship?

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Jordanville, New York
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Jordanville, New York

In a conversation I was having with my wife yesterday, she was reflecting on the funeral of a dear friend we attended recently, especially how, surrounding the funeral services, the love people showed each other and the bereaved was so deep and palpable (she didn’t use that kind of language, but that’s my “translation”!).

And then she said this: “It’s like everyone was a saint there.”

That stuck in my mind, and I was reminded of the sense that we have in the Orthodox Church, perhaps not emphasized enough, that we are who we are meant to be—our true selves—in worship. And of course that spills over to what surrounds worship.

If you ever really throw yourself into Orthodox worship and immerse yourself in its power, you will see what I mean here. I often feel myself to be most at peace, most simply myself when I am standing at the altar. There, I can be Andrew and don’t have to bother with any pretense, with what anyone thinks of me, with what I would rather be doing. I can somehow be a saint for a few minutes.

Not that I am a saint in the usual sense, of course. I know well that I am not. But we all get to be one in worship, just for a little while.

In worship we get a taste of our destiny as God’s sons and daughters, as His nation of priests. We are indeed all saints inasmuch as we participate in the Kingdom. And we are ourselves. We are homo adorans, worshiping man.

We often say that the Kingdom of Heaven will essentially be an unending worship service. And that makes people like me happy, but I think the people for whom church is already “too long,” upon hearing that, might wonder if perhaps The Other Place might be more enjoyable. But of course all the things that might annoy us about worship as it is conducted in this life will no longer annoy us in the next. We will finally see it for what it is.

And we will finally be who we are meant to be.

2 comments:

  1. “… There I can be Andrew…” Well said, brother. Now if I could only keep that focus – not only for the day, but even to the end of the service…! Pray for me, sinner that I am.

  2. “I often feel myself to be most at peace, most simply myself when I am standing at the altar. There, I can be Andrew and don’t have to bother with any pretense, with what anyone thinks of me, with what I would rather be doing. I can somehow be a saint for a few minutes.”

    I’ve had a similar thought while standing before the altar: I am at peace because I am doing the right thing in the right place at the right time. (Or is it the rite thing in the rite place at the rite time?) It is the holy kairos of Orthodox worship wherein God is making me to be good by His goodness. And when the time comes to proclaim “IC XC NIKA,” the hope we share in Christ and in His victory is so evident, it seems like my heart tries to leap from my chest to be with Jesus before the rest of me can catch up.

    Thanks for edifying us with your reflecting on your wife’s introspection, Fr!

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