Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

Random Quotes from an Unpublished Paper: Part 5

Posted in D.Min. Study Notes by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 22 August 2015

These are random quotes from an unpublished paper. I will post more quotes from the same paper every few days during the Dormition Fast (Old Calendar).

In order to reclaim liturgical consciousness, we must strive for an entire paradigm shift in our lives. We have already mentioned the fact that for most Christians, elements of Christian observances seem to be secondary to the rest of their lives outside the church. Church services, prayer rules, Scripture readings, and changing diets (often mislabeled as “fasts”) are squeezed in among the primary obligations of secular lives–work, shopping, vacations, holidays, etc. People usually complain that they do not have time for prayer, or for attending church services, or that it is too inconvenient for them to fast; but hardly anyone ever complains that they cannot find time for work, or for a vacation, or that it is too inconvenient for them to eat bacon or ice cream.

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One instrument has been used consistently to both change the disposition of the heart and to demarcate liturgical acts: prayer. We observe a daily rule or prayer, which sanctifies the day and also marks the night as sacred time. But often, we do not properly understand the role of prayer in our lives. We feel that the sacred time in our day is the time spent in prayer.  We treat prayer as some form of obligation: 15 minutes for God, the rest of the day for myself.  Indeed, we often misunderstand religious obligations and see them in the same way as we see our social obligations.

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In other words, the sacred time of the day is not the time of prayer, but the time which is marked, framed, crowned by prayer—that is to say, the whole day itself.  A good example of this could be a beautiful chalice: as sacred and beautiful as it may be, it’s what’s inside that matters.  Or a beautiful temple—it is sanctified not by gold and glitter, but by the presence of God; and without God inside, it is merely a museum of beautiful architecture and fine arts.

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Another important aspect of prayer is that it is not a ‘conversation’ with God. Imagine someone calling us on the telephone and reading the exact same text every night and every morning, and then just hanging up the receiver without waiting to hear our response. We would not call that a conversation.

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It is so easy to get piously-dreamy when reading the Scripture, but the Apostle is talking about our average breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Scrambled eggs, a ham sandwich, fried potatoes–eat those “to the glory of God.” The “glory of God,” His real presence with His people–this makes our every meal and snack a liturgical act.

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In other words, the religious obligation is not to say, “Thank you, Jesus, for this food!”–and then to dive in, forgetting about Jesus. The obligation is to “stop and smell the roses,” to pause and examine the time, to pay attention to the moment, to observe its meaning, and to realize that this common and frequent task of eating is not meant to pleasure the gut but to connect us to the world which God has created out of His love for us–and through this, to connect us to God.

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