Brothers and sisters, what a blessing it is to pray to the Lord together! This past Saturday evening, we had a “reader’s vigil” – that is, a vigil service without a priest, since Father Seraphim was still out of town.
Often, reader’s services can seem to be lacking in some way, since there are no vestments, no litanies, no censing… But this time it was not that way. We had a fairly large group of people for a Saturday Vigil, most of whom stayed to the end and participated in the singing and reading, and there was a palpable sense that we were, as a group, praying together.
Brothers and sisters, the life of the Church is prayer. Individual prayer, to be sure, but also corporate prayer, prayer with one another and for one another. This is why the services are such an essential part of the life of the Church. Here we put aside our own individual feelings and come together as the Body of Christ. In the midst of our own joy, we acknowledge and pray for the sorrows of our brothers. In the midst of our own sorrows, we give thanks for our brothers’ joys.
The services teach us how to pray and they give us the opportunity to practice, to learn. They teach us thanksgiving, glorification of God, repentance for our sins, and prayer for salvation – our own individual salvation and that of all of our brothers in Christ.
I think it is very significant that nearly every other Christian confession has lost the cycle of Church services with the exception of a single service on Sunday morning. Truly, the Sunday Liturgy is the most important of the services. It is where we come together in one Body by partaking of the Holy Mysteries together. And truly, the Sunday Liturgy is sometimes all we can manage to fit in. But it cannot be the limit to our prayer together. Prayer is not a once-a-week thing. Prayer is our life, individually and corporately.