Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
The Divine Liturgy is supposed to be "the work of the people". Unfortunately, most often it becomes a show put on by clergy, altar servers, chanters and the choir. I heard just recently that in some churches lay people are not allowed to read the epistle and don't even mention the participation of women in some circles! Clericalism is a terrible thing and, since we are on the subject, so is sexism. Remember those radical words of St. Paul that in Christ "there is neither male nor female"? It is a terrible state of affairs when people are discouraged from participating in the work that was always meant to be theirs.
Every member of the church is a part of the Body of Christ. When we gather together we are not always aware of that truth. We need to make ourselves aware. We need to remember. The purpose of all the preparatory work we are supposed to do before we receive the Eucharist is largely to awaken our mindfulness of the Body of Christ and our very real place in it. Perhaps this is what St. Paul meant when he told the Corinthians that many of them were sick because they didn't receive the Eucharist mindfully.
There is power in the gathering of believers around the Holy Table. "Where two or three are gathered, there am I in the midst of them." There is even more power when the hearts and minds and actions of the gathered people of God are focused on the great "work" to be done. The more we participate, the more the mystery unfolds for us and for everyone. The Holy Spirit is present for us in our worship, but are we really present for the Spirit? Are we available to receive the Spirit if our hearts, minds and actions are not directed towards the fulfillment of the Liturgy?
At St. Mary's we have always encouraged active participation in liturgical services. I want to nourish and cultivate that spirit even more. We are asking lay people, women and men, to help us during Holy Communion by holding the kalima (red cloths) and the bread baskets. . The epistle has been read by lay people at our parish since before my tenure, but we want to make sure that everyone has a chance to do so. If you are interested in taking a more active role in the Divine Liturgy, then please call the church office or Maria McDowell who has graciously offered to spearhead this effort. We will make sure you get on the list.
If that is not your thing, then sing and pray in your pews, lifting your voices, your minds and your hearts to praise of the Holy Trinity. The nave should literally ring with the joyful sounds of the entire people of God singing and praying and working together.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Antony Hughes