What do I do if there’s no Orthodox Church near me?
When our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was asked, “teach us to pray”, he started with the words “Our Father”. He did not say “my father”. In this way he was teaching us that it is not “God and me”, rather it is “God and us”. Common worship means coming together as a group and worshipping God, with prayer, doxology, song, with our hearts, our minds and our bodies, together in one space. This is a foundational aspect, not only of the Orthodox Church, but of the whole of creation. The other aspect of common worship is that we get to see each other, we talk to each other, we embrace, we share a meal, we give each other strength, friendship, advice and love. We are family. Finally, it is only in the embrace of common worship where we can partake of the sacraments.
It is only together that we will eat and drink the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is our spiritual food and drink, giving us strength to fight the good fight. So, the question is, what if there is no Orthodox Church nearby. The answer is, go to the nearest church as often as you can afford. There are many people today who are happy to travel 300 km or more, to attend church on a Sunday. There are others who travel 500 km and sleepover in another city so that they can attend church in the morning. There are priests who travel over a thousand kilometres on a weekend just so that these people can worship together. So, how far is too far? Well? How strong is your passion for Christ? How much do you love your Orthodox Christian family? How far are you willing to go to share worship and communion with them? And when it is truly impossible? Then stand before your icons, light your kandili and your incense burner, read the typika prayers which can be found in the Orthodox prayer books. Chant with your own voice as many hymns as you can. Read and contemplate the gospel reading for the day. In this way you show both to yourself and to the Lord how much you miss your family who are at this time gathered in worship in churches far away and all over the planet.
After this, sit and read a spiritual text, perhaps the life of a saint for an hour or two. Before you know it, you will have spent half of your Sunday with the Lord. Of course, in this modern day we also have technology allowing us to watch the divine services or sermons over the Internet, on television or on the radio. Some websites, such as www.agesinitiatives.com, allow you to read the full text of the worship services for each day. All these acts of personal worship are blessed and they increase your appetite for the next opportunity when you can travel to the nearest Orthodox Church for common worship, to taste the Kingdom of Heaven, in which you will never be alone.
† Fr N. S.
Source: Lychnos December 2018 / January 2019