The Divine Liturgy is an ascent in silence to the Holy Mountain of God! There, with the holy ones, we rejoice in word-less wonder as we tremble with reverence before the Lord and His Saints.
In general, prayerful participation in the Divine Liturgy calls for preparation well before coming to the church temple. It is important to find silence and inner composure before coming to church. Remember the long period of silence in which righteous Job immersed himself before speaking about God. Also, the Lord himself observed silence with His disciples before ascending the Mount Thabor, when He was transfigured in glory. Practically speaking, in our busy world, we should at least keep the evening before the Liturgy in quietness and prayer. The practice of “partying” on the eve before the Liturgy should be laid aside. Find a “holy excuse” from such revelry and opportunities for too much talking (in which sin is not lacking) or gossip. If you are with group of people, do not stay late. Excuse yourself at a decent hour, go home, try to keep quiet and say the pre-communion canon from your prayerbook before going to sleep. Try to avoid rich foods and much wine after Vespers in Saturday evening; that can affect your calmness on Sunday morning. Take a little water before bed, since you will be keeping a strict fast in the morning after arising.
Holding our hearts in prayerfulness, and not speaking too much before the time, we depart to church. It is amazing how often the evil one succeeds in getting us to argue with our loved ones before church! Rob him of this by deferring any important family decision-making until after the Liturgy.
Now let us take a closer look at the Liturgy… with a copy of the Divine Liturgy in our hands, let us walk through it, seeking to understand what we are doing. The emphasis here falls not on exhaustive liturgical commentary, something desirable for theological students and clerics, but rather on a practical way of understanding which will yield more active and more attentive participation in the movement of the Liturgy as prayer. In the material which will be provided in further posts, we begin with the priest’s opening exclamation of the Liturgy of the Catechumens, “Blessed is the Kingdom…” So, keep posted!