Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all His work which He had done in creation.

Genesis 2:1-3

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.

Exodus 20:8-10

Do priests get bored in church? Well, I can’t answer for all priests, only this one. And the answer is yes, sometimes I get bored in church. Sometimes I don’t want to go. But I go anyway.

Every four years, when we see the Olympic games, athletes we’ve never heard of become nationally known names. These athletes have toiled for years in anonymity, for the opportunity to win an Olympic medal. Every one of them will have days they don’t want to go to the gym to work out, but they do it anyway, because they focus on the prize in front of them. Every athlete gets bored from working out. However, an athlete burns up the same number of calories running a mile whether they are enjoying it or are bored with it.

The same goes for worship. There is a beautiful quote from Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol (translated by Jesse Dominick) which reads:

We have to go to Liturgy, even if we stand there like stumps. Some will say: “I’m not how I should be. I don’t understand any of it. My mind can’t concentrate there.” But go, no matter what. One elder said: “When you stop into a perfume store, your clothes smell fragrant after you leave, even if you didn’t buy anything.” This is what happens, he says, when you go to Liturgy.

Maybe you won’t be able to do anything spiritual, but even the fact that you went, that you stood there like a stump—that’s already something. So tell yourself: “I’ll go as I am—an unhewn log. After all, God knows how to hone down the unhewn log.” And if you don’t go because you say, “I can’t, I can’t concentrate,” then everything will get worse and worse, and you’ll never get better.

Yes, we actually reap some benefit from worship even if we are bored.

In creating the world, God established the Sabbath as a day of rest. He created the world in six “days” (metaphorical days, remember His time moves differently than ours) and on the seventh day, He rested. One of the Ten Commandments is for us to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. As Christians, we no longer reserve the seventh day of the week for worship and rest. We actually are to give the FIRST day of the week to this purpose. The word for “Sunday” in Greek is “Kyriaki” or “the day of the Lord.” Perhaps if we called it SONday, we might remember that it is the day we are to partake of the Son of God, rather than SUNday, a day to relax in the sun.

When God liberated the Jews from captivity in Egypt by having the angel of death “pass-over” the homes of the Israelites who had the blood of an unblemished lamb on their doorposts, He told them “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance forever.” (Exodus 12:14) This is why the Jews celebrate Passover for a week each year, to remember what God did for them. Similarly, we celebrate Pascha (the new Passover, Pascha is how Passover is translated in Greek) to remember what Christ did for us, that at through the blood of an unblemished Lamb, Christ, the Lamb of God, the angel of death passes over us, and we pass from death to eternal life. We are also to set aside a week to celebrate Pascha, which is why we have Holy Week, and not just Holy “Day.” We are to reserve this week for the Lord. While it may not be possible to come every day, we certainly should attend on many of the days.

As for boredom, it is true that our minds will wander in church. It is also true that one only gets out of something what they put into it. As we make our way through the Holy Week book next week, or even as we make our way through the Liturgy book on a Sunday, each of us has the opportunity to open our minds and our hearts, to reflect on what is being said, to pray the responses to the petitions and to allow the Holy Spirit to stir us in some way.

Bishop Kallistos Ware (of blessed memory) told the story of holding a Paraklesis service in a chapel at Oxford University in England. There were two people there along with him. The three of them were holding candles as they chanted the service. A couple of visitors walked by the chapel and wanted to go in, but as they passed by the window, they saw that the chapel was filled to capacity with people holding candles, and figuring there would be no room for them, they stopped by later. When they met the bishop later, they asked him what service he had held that night that would cause the chapel to be filled with people. He told them that there were only three people in the chapel, the rest were angels. I met Bishop Kallistos when I was serving as a deacon, and he told me this story, and he also told me that when I walk down the center aisle offering incense, that I should cense every pew, even the ones without people, because he said that the angels fill the empty seats.

I would like to share a quick story I read to close this reflection about a priest who did not want to serve the Divine Liturgy. It is a beautiful testimony that I try to remember each time I don’t feel like serving the Divine Liturgy (yes, even I do not want to go each time) and something I hope will motivate you when you don’t want to go. Keep it in mind this Holy Week especially during the early evenings, when there aren’t as many people in church.

There was once a priest who did not want to serve the Liturgy because it was a cold winter day. The temperature was 10 degrees below zero and the priest knew that the only person who was likely to come to the service was the chanter. The priest had no idea about the Church’s teaching on the presence of the Triumphant Church and how the Divine Liturgy benefits the living and the departed. With difficulty he forced himself to go to church. On the way to church he kept wishing that the chanter would not come so that he would not have to serve and go home. However, the chanter did come.

The priest did the Proskomide, the service of preparing the holy gifts in a hurry and began the Divine Liturgy. Shortly after, some bishops, priests, monks and nuns and some lay people arrived. Most of them sat in the choir section and began to chant so beautifully that the priest forgot about how cold and lonely he was earlier. His whole body was warm and his whole being was all a flame…. When he did the small entrance he noticed that the church was full of people – most of them familiar – he did not pay much attention and just continued with the Divine Liturgy.

When the time came for the Sanctification of the Holy Gifts he saw three bishops, brightly clothed and radiant entering the Holy Altar. They knelt with him and prayed. The priest then stood up very carefully with fear, took the censer and in a loud voice said, ‘Especially our All Holy, Immaculate, Most Blessed and glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary…’.

The soul of the priest was amazed and filled with divine joy. Peace and heavenly stillness, hesychia, dominated his inner self. When the time came for the elevation and dividing of the Host (Lamb) the whole church filled with the sweetest melodies. The whole multitude of people who were present along with the monks, priests and bishops chanted not only once but many times, ‘One is Holy, One is Lord: Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father. Amen’.

Next they chanted the Holy Communion hymn, ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good, Alleluia.’ The priest was wondering what to do. Should he partake of the Holy Communion first or step aside for the three bishops who were present. Just as he was thinking this, one of the bishops nodded to him indicating that he should receive Holy Communion and then to Unify and Place the remaining of the portions of the Lamb into the Chalice along with the portions in memory of the Holy Theotokos and the Saints. Having completed this the priest then opened the Beautiful Gate… and saw no one in the Church… he turned and looked back into the holy altar, he looked to the right, looked to the left, the bishops had disappeared, he stood there speechless, amazed. He slowly opened his mouth and chanted the next petition, ‘With the fear of God and faith and love, draw near…,’ and the chanter slowly drew near to receive Holy Communion. The priest was still amazed, still wondering! The whole Triumphant Church was present. All those present in the church were persons familiar to him, they were persons that had departed from this life and he would from time to time commemorate their names during each liturgy: ‘that’s why they were present, that’s why they all seemed so familiar’, he thought.

As for the bishops in the altar they were the Three Hierarchs: Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory the Theologian. So many years of study at university, so much research and so many sleepless nights he spent studying and these efforts were not able to give him not even one drop of the sweetness and divine knowledge that this one Divine Liturgy gave him.

Go to church, even when you don’t want to. You’ll get something out of it. You’ll stand in the presence of the saints and the angels. Put something into your worship though. But even when you can’t or don’t feel like it, still go.

Have mercy on me, O God. Have mercy on me.
Christ was tempted; the devil tempted Him, showing Him the stones that they might be made bread. He led Him up into a mountain, to see in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. O my soul, look with fear on what happened; watch and pray every hour to God.
(Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, Ode Nine, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)

Have a blessed Holy Week journey!


Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced multiple books, you can view here:


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