|Sept/Oct 2018||Download the latest edition of spirit|
Our Strengths Are Many
It seems that every year when September rolls around I'm motivated to write something motivational. Motivated to write something motivational? Precisely! True motivation in the Christian sense should never be about me or about you in isolation of everyone else. We are in this together. I'm inspired, motivated by you and the good that I see in our community. And I in turn inspire and motivate you to contribute your own talents and energy to the good of our church community and thus motivate me and others in turn. You see how the circle closes? I call it the Motivation Circle.
Perhaps my greatest pleasure comes from doing the Liturgy every Sunday morning. Or should I say, leading the Liturgy? Because, really the Liturgy is a joint effort; I'm only the leader. But I could not and would not stand in front of the holy table without a congregation present. Notice that I wrote "holy table" and not altar table. Altar is not Orthodox terminology. In Greek we say, agia trapeza = holy table. Altar is pagan language, and we really should eliminate it from our American Orthodox terminology. An altar separates people from each other, from the priest, and from God! Holiness is what pervades at every Liturgy. It's not just the table in front of which I stand; it's everything and everyone present. The Liturgy sanctifies and unites us with our holy God. I cannot fathom how many of our parishioners absent themselves from this holy encounter.
I venture to say that our Liturgy at Holy Trinity Church in Portland, Maine, is about as good as Liturgy can be in any of our American churches. I know that I take great care in my own task. But we also have a marvelous choir. Or should I say, two choirs? Our senior choir has been faithfully singing the praises of our God for all the years that I've been here. And they have learned so much of our Liturgy in English in the years that I've been here. I will always be grateful for their grace and love of church and Liturgy!
In the past couple years our Liturgy has also been enriched by a small youth choir of angelic voices who have learned some truly inspiring music which they contribute at some key moments in our Liturgy. And how steadily the congregation has learned to sing the Beatitudes, those amazing words of Jesus that have dropped out of use in all Greek churches except our own! And let's not forget the short Matins that prepare us for Liturgy, so beautifully read and sung.
I am proud to say that Liturgy is our greatest strength. And so it should be. Nothing else has value if Liturgy is not done prayerfully and beautifully. Beauty is of the essence in our Orthodox tradition. Other churches may have huge crowds and hi-tech Sunday gatherings, but I doubt that they experience the beauty of worship and the beauty of the Lord as we do Sunday after Sunday. Yes, we're not perfect, and there are many things we can do better. But I think I can speak for the Orthodox Church as a whole when I say that beauty is at the core of who we are and how we relate to each other and to our Lord and Savior.
Sermons are essential parts of the Liturgy and I think we're doing quite well in that department. I see people spending longer at coffee hour, enjoying fellowship, sometimes going off in the classrooms for meetings to plan activities that enhance our community life. And we are very much a community. As I said in a recent Liturgy, we are a community of people from diverse backgrounds who have been brought together by the Spirit of the Lord. Our liturgical music reflects that diversity as we have enriched our worship with chants and music from the Russian, Serbian, Antiochian, Bulgarian traditions. And Georgian soon? Community is very much a strength. And it is a community that is alive, vibrant and growing in diversity and enthusiasm.
Am I being idealistic? Perhaps, but I really feel the strength of who we are and what we do. We are known in Portland for our Festival and our bake sales. It is time that Portland also gets to know us as a church that honors the past but lives in the present and aspires to a higher future. Are you with it?
Fr. Constantine Sarantidis