Once More With Feeling
By Michael S. Bauml
As Orthodox Christians, many of us know parts of the Divine Liturgy by
heart. We may know the words of the priest and responses of the deacon before they even
say them. While this is commendable, how often do we take the time to consider what the
words actually mean?
The Lord has blessed me personally in so many ways, he was given me a
strong voice and the ability to sing in the choir as well as allowing me to be ordained a
reader. At first, I simply was trying to read and sing without messing things up, but as
time passed and I became more familiar with these roles, I began to consider what else I
needed to do and why I was singing and reading.
Obviously, I was there to worship the Lord and to help others worship
him as well. I began to pray that my singing and reading would be pleasing to him and
that it would help others to worship him. Somewhere along the way, I began to think
about the meaning of what I was reading and singing, what the words actually meant and
because of this, the words took on more meaning for me. This allowed me to read and
sing with more feeling as the words came more alive for me and hopefully enabled me to
make them more alive for others.
Additionally my bible reading became more meaningful, phases from the
services made their way into my personal prayers, and services became more enjoyable for
me. Many times I can be wound up from the stress of daily life only to attend Liturgy or
Vespers and find that by the end of the service I am soothed, after all we sing in the
Cherubic Hymn to "Lay aside all earthly cares..."
Let us take an example of what I am saying. Assume someone is 50 years
old and attended Liturgy every week and that the phase "Lord Have Mercy" is said about 30
times in the Liturgy then he or she heard it 78,000 times. How many times have you
thought about what this simple phrase means? To me it means: Lord, I am your servant.
I am not worthy to even look upon you. I am subject to your will whether I understand
it or not. Have mercy on me for I am a sinner and hear my prayer.
Start with this simple phrase and gradually extend this to all parts of
the service and I believe that you also will find that the services are more meaningful
for you, the quality of your worship will improve, and it will help you to find peace of
soul as well. Make no mistake about it, this does require effort on your part but it is
well worth it. As Father Harrison has told us in the past when we come to Liturgy we are
not there to be entertained but to work. It is work to worship and requires us to "be
attentive". When we stop to think about eternity and the short time that we are on this
earth, it should become apparent that our every day jobs are really temporary or summer
jobs and our primary job is to worship Our Lord.
It is 10:45 on Sunday morning. The Liturgy is an hour and fifteen
minutes old, the kids as squirming, and you are tired as well. Collect yourself;
remember you have a job to do and ONCE MORE WITH FEELING say, "Lord Have Mercy."