Surprise of the day: university is a challenging experience. For some people, these years are the most trying of their life so far. We all know that balancing countless assignments, family responsibilities, a social life, extra-curricular activities, a part-time job, figuring out future plans, etc… can bring us to a breaking point.
So, when Sunday morning comes along, I know many of us are tempted with the possibility of sleeping in, or taking a few hours for a much-needed break. I know! I have to force myself out of bed on a Sunday morning, exhausted from a week’s worth of schoolwork and thinking about how unprepared I am to sing in the choir and teach my Grade 1 and 2 Sunday School class.
But, through it all, those two hours on a Sunday morning give me hope. Those two hours on a Sunday morning, if I allow them, shift my focus and bring it back to where it needs to be. Those two hours are worth far more than any earthly obligation.
The joy that we receive each Sunday when we meet Christ at the chalice cannot compare to any earthly responsibility, accomplishment, or treasure. Liturgy is the closest we will ever get on this earth to heaven. You and I both understand how important this is.
Why then, do we arrive to Liturgy late and leave early? Why do we shove it somewhere on our weekly to-do lists? Why do we go to church and think about other things the whole service, barely noticing that the great Mystery that is unfolding before us? I, for one, am so guilty of everything on that list. Life is difficult, and no one is perfect.
I pray that even, during all the busyness of this world, we will never forget that the Liturgy is a great gift that God has given us. The priest, during the anaphora, says these words that always catch my attention: “We also thank You for this liturgy which You are pleased to accept from our hands, even though You are surrounded by thousands of Archangels and tens of thousands of Angels, by the Cherubim and Seraphim, six-winged, many-eyed, soaring with their wings.” May we never forget to thank God for the church services He has given us.
I think that the first step to thanking Him is being there, not only being physically present but also present with our whole being. Next time you attend Divine Liturgy, I encourage you to consider the words of the Cherubic Hymn, a hymn that many of us have heard our whole lives. It begins with the following words: “We who mystically represent the Cherubim.” I have also heard: “We who mystically image the Cherubim.” Regardless, when you pray this hymn you understand that what happens during the Divine Liturgy is absolutely awe-inspiring, and beyond comprehension.
There is nothing on earth higher, greater, or more holy than the Divine Liturgy; nothing more solemn, nothing more life-giving.” – St. John of Kronstadt
I don’t want to pretend that I am perfect, or have my life completely figured out, because really I don’t. For now, the best advice I could honestly give you, from one typical student to another, from one Orthodox Christian to another, is this: church should not be one part of our life, it should be our life. Maybe it seems like a very basic reminder, but sometimes we all forget that church needs to be our number one priority, because someday that party isn’t going to matter, the grade you got on that midterm isn’t going to matter, but your faith will.
Finally, for those of you right now who are struggling with studying for midterms (I know I am) or facing any other trials, I would like to leave with you one of my favorite Bible verses:
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. – John 14:27
Anastasia Lysack in her third year of her Music degree at the University of Ottawa. She attends Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church in Ottawa, where she teaches Sunday School and sings in the choir. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, volunteering, and visiting just about any coffee shop in the city of Ottawa.