AUDIO HERE[1st paragraph missing from audio]

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

This evening I’d like to begin a series of homilies that will most likely last several months, but I think that the topic is important enough for us to spend some time thinking on it on Saturday evenings for a while. I’d like for us to spend some time walking through and carefully and prayerfully considering the Holy Liturgy of the Church. Just like with anything, the better we understand the Holy Liturgy, the more fully we’re able to enter into the service. So during this cycle of homilies, we’ll be talking about each section of the Liturgy in some detail, including the Litanies, the hymns, and even the prayers of the priest that are usually not heard by the faithful.

A few weeks ago we talked about preparing for the Liturgy, including our prayers and fasting and general state of mind and spirit, so I’ll not go over that again. What I’d like us to think of today is again a more general topic – what is meant by a phrase that we hear quite often, to “pray the Liturgy.” We hear this phrase, praying the Liturgy, yet quite often we also hear it said that we’re not to be concerned with our own private prayers during the Liturgy, but rather we’re to be joined to the community in this “work of the people.” So what does this all mean? According to the usage of the Fathers, any time we’re communicating and communing with God, this is called ‘prayer.’ The Fathers go so far as to say that all of our lives should become a prayer before God. We should constantly be in communion with God, bringing His grace into that place where we happen to be at any time. I think this understanding of prayer is important when considering our activity during the Divine Liturgy. The Liturgy is a a prayer before God – truly, it’s the greatest prayer that God has revealed to us, because it includes the Holy Mystery of Communion with the Body and Blood of our Saviour. So we’re to come to the Liturgy to join our prayer with the prayer of the Liturgy and the prayer of the people of God. It’s true that the Holy Liturgy is not a time for “private prayer” – yet at the same time, that doesn’t mean that we don’t pray during the Liturgy. There are many times when we may feel called to pray about a certain thing by the words of the Liturgy, several times when the Liturgy actually calls on us to lift up personal prayers (like when we pray for the living and for the dead). In saying that the Liturgy is not a time of personal prayer, what is meant by that is more along the lines of saying that we don’t do our morning prayer rule during Liturgy, we don’t do our Pre-Communion Prayers or read an akathist during the Liturgy. But as St. Paul says we are to pray without ceasing, the same is true during the Holy Liturgy. The entire Liturgy is a prayer, so our participation in that prayer is prayer. And we may also have things that we need to lift up to God over the course of the Holy Liturgy – that is a wonderful prayer to offer, and an ideal time to offer it.

Our entire lives are called to be prayer. And in the Holy Liturgy, we are called to offer everything we are to God. The only way to express this is to say that we are called to pray the Liturgy. To lift up all that we are: body, soul, mind, strength, weakness, worry, joy, those who are part of us in any way…we offer God ALL that we are. And all of those things that we offer to God are blessed and sanctified and joined to His Holy Body and His Holy Blood. “Let Thy Holy Spirit come down upon us” we pray – and He does, He comes down upon all that we are. And this is why we’re called to pray the Holy Liturgy.

Next week, God willing, we’ll look at the various sections of Liturgy in a general way, saying a few things about the larger overview, and then getting more specific as time goes on.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Author Matthew Jackson