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Liturgy For St Matthew The Evangelist

November 16, 2010

I woke this morning at 4am, unexpectedly brought to by some disturbing dreams. I stood before my prayer corner and said some prayers, then laid back down. I would need to be up in an hour, for my parish serves a 6am liturgy in the middle of the week. As today is the commemoration of the Apostle and Evangelist Matthew, this is the day of the week it fell on. So today I had some firsts. I was up early, which means I didn’t hit the snooze (also a first). I started my prayers for preparation to receive Communion (A discipline I am beginning now) early. In order to not make myself late for the service, I decided to complete the prayers at the Church. Upon arriving, I was early (You guessed it. Another first). Those of you with kids can appreciate this rare treat. I was also the only one in the nave. The priest was in the Sanctuary, preparing for the service. Complete silence for me to finish my prayers in the house of the Lord! It was great.

Just as I was finishing my prayers and beginning to gaze at the icons around me, trying to focus my usually wandering mind, the reader came in. And so began the service. For a few minutes, I was wondering if it was going to just be the priest and I, but being as I am only a catechumen, this could not be possible. By the way, I have no problem with that at all.

So it was my priest, my friend the reader and myself. I decided to grab a service book for a change (normally this parish does not use them, chanting, singing and praying the service by memory at the leading of the choir). I was up front near the reader stand and the gate of the Sanctuary. I wasn’t anticipating it, but I made a kind of connection in the service that I have not made previously. I was thinking about the meaning of the words to the hymns, antiphons and ektenias. When I was not singing, I read along with the silent prayers of the priest. I looked over at the candles I lit at the beginning of the service for my family, and loved ones past-on periodically, and remembered that I was carrying them in my heart before the Lord in the service. The reader had to take off for work immediately following the dismissal, and so I prayed the post-communion prayers out of the pocket prayerbook. It struck me as a foretaste of what I will get to participate in when I am finally received in to the Church. It made me long all the more or that day. Even more than that, I wish to someday enjoy that participation as a family.

But even after having sung that I would “lay aside all earthly care”, and asking Christ to grant this day to “be without sin and blameless” I found myself almost immediately falling short. I think I fell into the routine of life before I even ate breakfast. Get back home, get the girls out the door to school, finish feeding the baby… it all seems to flood in so fast. Thankfully it’s not in the falling down that we live, but in the getting back up. As a fellow blogger and Orthodox Christian,  Angela points out in her 40Day blog that we can pray as we do. All the things we sing, hear and participate in in the Divine Services can be lived out in every activity of life. The great discipline of the Jesus Prayer is that we can literally “pray without ceasing” as St Paul admonishes us in Scripture. So though I fall quickly, God picks me back up just as quickly.

Like we pray in the pre-communion prayers, our sins may be like an abyss, but God’s grace in unfathomably greater than all the abyss of our sins. Just like the Apostle did not stay at the sinful task of exacting taxes, but got up at the Lord’s bidding, so too we can walk away from that sin and run into the the mercy of the One who in the Lover of Mankind.

Apostle and Evangelist Matthew, intercede with the Son for us that God may grant us great mercy.

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