“The Divine Liturgy is truly a heavenly service upon earth…There is nothing upon earth holier, higher, grander, more solemn, more life-giving than the Liturgy.” + St. John of Kronstadt I should state at the outset that I come from a rather eccentric background of Seventh-Day Adventism, intense anti-Christianity, and most recently, Roman Catholicism. I have spent the past six years studying as much as I could of the Christian religion, pouring over the lives of the saints, theological texts, Holy Scripture and histories. This has led me to where I am today, currently in the process of becoming an Orthodox Christian. From this perspective, then, I wish to state that nothing could have ever prepared me for what I was to experience this past Sunday, on the Feast of the Presentation. In my life, I have been well-acquainted with all manner of church services, from the evangelical with its stripped-down and dusty churches bereft of even a cross to the Ordinary Form of the Roman Catholic Mass, the traditional Latin Mass, and even the Liturgies of the Eastern Catholic world. In other words, I would say that I am quite familiar with many different forms of church services, along with all the spirituality that comes with that. Ever since I began attending Ypapanti Greek Orthodox Church in Victoria, I was astounded at the timeless quality of both the church itself and the Liturgy. Though there might only be a handful of people attending on some days, I have always found myself transported from earth to heaven when I am there. Ironically, though the visual elements of Orthodoxy are beyond beautiful, I find that they are all there to help me transport my mind into my heart, to help me cultivate interior prayer and be present with God. That said, nothing could have prepared me for the Divine Liturgy held this past Sunday for the feast of the Presentation. It had been a long week, and I had forgotten that it was a major feast. I had no idea that His Eminence Metropolitan Archbishop Sotirios was present either. I had simply come, excited as always. As someone who is technically non-Orthodox as of this moment, I was astounded at what I saw. Truly, I have never in my life seen a service in a church that could ever compare with what was happening right before my eyes. This was right and fitting worship for the King of Kings, something directly in contact with the ancient faith of the Fathers and Apostles, and yet absolutely timeless. Nothing about the Divine Liturgy hinted at a dead nostalgia for the past, nor a feeling of being “stuck.” This was the real deal; I half-expected to bump into St. John Chrysostom after walking out the front doors of the church after Liturgy, such was the timeless nature of it all. As I mentioned, however, despite the intense and transcendent beauty of such a service, it all seemed secondary to the interior feelings I experienced during the proceedings. Everything about the Liturgy itself drove me inwards to be with God, cultivating within me a desire to reach out and embrace the God who, as my priest Fr. Constantinos Economos told me so simply, is the “lover of mankind.”


 

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