by Fr. James C. Meena
from The Word, January 1983
One of the things that housewives experience, to their utter frustration, is to make preparations for the biggest meal of the day, take the food out of the freezer and refrigerator, clean the vegetables, get everything ready and put it into the necessary pots and pans, place it on the stove and then remember an errand that needed to be run. Leaving the food to prepare itself on the stove top or in the oven, they run their errand and return to discover that, after taking all the pains of preparation, they forgot to turn on the stove. The food did not cook, so the family had to wait for supper. This has happened at my house and it has probably happened at yours. So I would like to discuss with you the need to turn on our stoves.
I recently had a very pleasant experience in demonstrating to the younger classes of our Church School the meaning of the preparation for the Divine Liturgy. One of the things I said to these children is that these gifts which are brought to the Church, bread and wine, which are prepared on the Altar of Oblation, are still very common gifts, things of the earth. They are changed into spiritual things by the energy of our prayers, yours and mine, and by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. But, unless we exert the energy to turn on the flame of the Holy Spirit, then that which we are cooking up just stays uncooked.
As I look out on the faces of the worshippers throughout the celebration of one Divine Liturgy after another, I am often disturbed by what I see. . . not only a passivity but a look of distraction, the look of those who are here because they think they have to be here, but who are not really here at all because their minds are elsewhere. I caution you that this is one of Satan’s devices to distract us from what it is that we are gathered in worship to do.
The whole purpose of our coming together is that we might devote our spiritual energy, the energy of our pious prayers in concert with the Holy Spirit to transform pieces of bread and a chalice full of wine into the very Body and Blood of Christ. You and I are part of that miracle, just as we are part of every transforming force in the world when we are willing to turn on the flame of the Holy Spirit. But it takes a little energy and it takes a concentration on why we are in church and what it is we are to do. It is for this reason that you are being challenged to get involved in the prayers of the liturgy. I am convinced that unless your prayers are offered with the priest’s then the consecration is less valid because the consecration is a concert of energy between the faithful of the Church and the fidelity of God in his Holy Spirit. If we sit during the Liturgy and our focus is elsewhere and we are not devoting the energy of our prayers to the task which is set before us, if we are not deeply involved in our part of transforming those gifts, then we are failing in our share of the Priesthood which is given to us not by the parish Priest but by Christ himself.
Beloved you are Priests, just as I am, and you are celebrants of the Eucharist, just as I am. In fact, without you, Eucharist cannot be celebrated. Therefore, it is important that we understand that as we offer up these prayers at the altar and as we give them audibility, they are given credibility only if you are involved in offering them up with us. You, the Faithful, are called upon to be supportive of the principal celebrant with your prayers. The time has come to an end when we may consider ourselves an audience to the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. This misconcept, which was so much a part of us as we were growing up, must be recognized as being incorrect and that we come to Church either as participants and co-celebrants or we do not fulfill the role that God sets before us. It pains me when I see faces of beloved people who are not spiritually, emotionally and intellectually with us in this magnificent transformation that is taking place. I realize that sometimes little children are a cause of distraction. I realize that the less pious are also a cause of distraction. I realize all of these things, but if we exercise a degree of pious will, we can always bring our focus back to the job that we are here to do. That job is to be a functioning part of the Body of Christ, part of that Priesthood of all believers, to be among the co-celebrants who are offering Christ up unto Himself and offering ourselves up unto Him as well. So beloved, turn on the stove.
St. John, Author of The Ladder - March 30
Thou hast set up a holy ladder by thy words and hast shone forth as a teacher of monks; thou dost lead us, O John, from the purification that comes from discipline to the light of the Divine Vision. O righteous Father, pray to Christ our God to grant us His great mercy.
Kontakion of St. John of the Ladder, Tone 1
From thy book thou dost offer teachings as everlasting fruits, O wise one, and dost sweeten the hearts of those who watchfully attend to them, O blessed one. For it is a ladder that from earth to heavenly glory leads souls who honour thee with faith.