Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name; worship the Lord in holy array.
In a previous reflection, we talked about the why, where and how to worship. The “how” to worship referred to the universally accepted services such as the Divine Liturgy which is celebrated virtually the same way the whole world over. For today’s reflection, we will discuss how we as individuals should worship, i.e. the proper disposition for worship.
Some people may be thinking what is the proper attire to worship in. If we are talking about attending a service in church on Sunday, the proper attire is the “best” you have. Years ago, a member of my congregation was a medical resident. He worked long hours at a hospital that was 20 minutes from the church. Because he was a resident, he didn’t get to choose his hours and had to work almost every Sunday. He told me that sometimes he got an hour off between surgeries and asked would it be okay if he came to church for twenty minutes in scrubs. Since it would take twenty minutes to get to the church from the hospital and twenty minutes to get back, the time it would take to change clothes and change back would eat up the whole hour. I told him come as you are, and I commended him for the effort to get to church for twenty minutes under these circumstances. Of course, several people remarked about his scrubs and why he came in late and didn’t stay long. I told him that this was the best he could do under his circumstances. It was either come like this or don’t come at all. That is not the circumstances for most of us. We have to do the best with our circumstances, which for most of us is actually getting there on time.
More important than our clothing apparel is the disposition of our hearts and souls as we worship. We should worship with awe, with love, with joy and with humility. Let’s start with humility. We worship God because we have (or should have) a great desire to worship, a need to worship, a need to stand in the presence of God. We recognize the majesty of God, that’s the awe part, and we want to experience the awe of God. So much of life is so stressful, that to stand in the presence of God should be empowering, relaxing, and encouraging. With a humble disposition, we recognize that God is greater than us. We also recognize that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and as such, we need saving. A person who feels self-sufficient, who feels no need for saving, who feels no sense of longing for anything outside of themselves is not going to be able to worship. We don’t worship in order to self-congratulate, but rather to stand in the presence of the Almighty God, and ask for the grace of the Holy Spirit to come down on us and to fill the empty spaces.
Worship is an expression of our love for God, and also of His love for us. God loves us so much that through worship, especially the Divine Liturgy, God is able to unite with us in the receiving of Holy Communion. This is where the human being and the divine God meet in a physical, tangible way. It is the most intimate expression of love that there is, a union between God and us. Worship should be something we love doing. And the things we love should fill us with joy. Worship should be an expression of joy for us. Is worship always joyful for me? Truthfully, no. I worship so often as a priest that sometimes it is mundane, it’s the thing on the calendar. However, there are times when worship is so joyful, that it feels like I really am escaping the cares of life to receive the King of all, as we sing in the Cherubic Hymn at the Divine Liturgy. And honestly, most of the time, I don’t really know until I’m in the middle of worship if it is going to be a joyful experience or not. There have been plenty of times I have “dragged myself” to church, and in the middle of what I thought would be a humdrum experience I found myself filled with joy. Years ago, on the day of my father’s funeral, we celebrated Divine Liturgy prior to the funeral. In the middle of Liturgy, I found myself filled with joy actually. I was so happy that on what was a difficult and sad day, I got to have the intimate encounter with Christ in Holy Communion. I really needed that on that particular day.
There is no chance that one will enjoy worship if he or she never worships. Coming to worship, with a sense of humility and love, will help lead us to a sense of awe, which will lead to joy.
A great and paradoxal miracle has taken place today. A Virgin has given birth, and there is no damage to her womb. The Word becomes flesh, and He is not separated from the Father. Angels and Shepherds give glory, and we join them in shouting: “Glory in the highest to God, and on earth let there be peace.” (Idiomelon, Aposticha, Vespers of the Nativity, Trans. By Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Personal Reflection Point: How would you describe the glory of God’s name?