If a priest prays in an empty church, does he make a sound?
Yesterday evening I served our customary moleben. I confess that I was ambivalent about this one, because it was Labor day, and I thought we might do some sort of family picnic. I do this sometimes, because of my weakness, but with God helping me, it is always a short phase, and I do what I promised. A family outing became impossible due to bringing Communion to a sick person, and 3 1/2 hours of driving, and more driving for a required errand.
I then considered "being a parishioner", but I had just preached about letting the nets down on the RIGHT side of the ship, and that this indicates that we must do the right thing. Laziness and catering to convenience or fatigue are not on the right side of the ship. So off I went.
I had not texted the service time, although I had announced it on Sunday as I always do. I anticipated a quiet service, with me and the angels. And so it was. I served alone, and sang the Akathist. The sound seems to reverberate louder when I am alone. The intensity was high.
The question I ask myself often, as an exercise is "does this matter"?
I am alone, praying out loud; am I making a sound? That is, does God hear the prayers of us poor priests even when those we are praying for are unaware of our prayers? The answer is always YES, although it sometimes does not feel like yes. I think we priests understand the life of the fishermen apostles, who sometimes fished all night and caught nothing. After their unfruitful night, they had a huge catch of fish, a hundred and fifty and three, and though there were so many, the net was not broken".
We must choose to always answer the question "YES". I have found that this is an act of my will, and not just belief.
This is the way of being a Christian in the world, and even more so (because of the volume of interactions and concerns) the way of a priest. I pray, and not very well, and have no reason to expect God to respond to the prayers of a sinful man, but I also pray as a priest, noetically and sometimes actually in front of the altar. obedient to the command 'Take care of him, and on the morrow, when I return, I will repay thee".
I have great confidence in these prayers, at the liturgy, or a moleben. God has chosen to hear the prayers of his priests even if they are sinful. Therefore, even though I was alone, and not always perfectly attentive, heaven resounded with the sound of each of the names I made intercession for, and this three minute long list of souls received great benefit.
I cannot see most of the benefit, but this is because of my sins, which cause me to have poor vision and understanding, but I choose to know by faith that there is benefit.
Priest Seraphim Holland 2013 St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
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