The Longest Liturgy


It is not uncommon for visitors and members alike to comment on the length of an Orthodox liturgy. Sunday liturgies are often an hour-and-a-half or more (longer still in monastic communities).  Many of the services surrounding feast days such as vigils and the like take more than two hours (the version used in local parishes are extremely shortened in comparison to the literal “all-night” vigils for which some of the great monasteries are famous). I tell people that are new to Orthodoxy that they have to get past the internal clock that wants things done in an hour or less.

However, the truth of things reaches far beyond the general experience of liturgical chronology. There is a liturgy that is far longer than any of us imagine. It is not separate from the liturgy of the Church, but is often not seen by those in attendance: it is the liturgy of the heart.

The life of worship among Christians has taken many forms, particularly over the past 500 years. Driven by various factors, both cultural and ideological, the act of worship has morphed into enough disparate manifestations that the word “worship” cannot be used between two Christians unless accompanied by great elaboration.

In an effort of clarity I offer some suggestions of what worship is not.

Worship is not:

– a service of outreach by which we seek the lost…

– a hymn-sing in which we lift our voices with our favorite hymns…

– primarily for the benefit of those who attend…

– designed to make me feel closer to God…

I could make this list much longer, but to little good effect. The point, I think, is sufficiently made. But if worship is none of these things, then what is it? A small quote from Archimandrite Zacharias’ Hidden Man of the Heart:

The Divine Liturgy is worship; there is prayer and a whole life there, the life of Christ. In the Holy Eucharist, we accomplish the exchange of our limited and temporal life for the unlimited and infinite life of God. We offer to God a piece of bread and a little wine, but in that bread and wine, we place all our faith, love, humility, expectation of Him, all our life. And we say to God, ‘Thine own of thine own, we offer unto Thee in all and for all.’ We offer to God all our life, having prepared ourselves to come and stand before Him and do this act. And God does the same: He accepts man’s offering and He puts His life – the Holy Spirit – in the gifts, transmaking them into His Body and Blood, in which all the fullness of Divinity is present, and He says to man, ‘The Holy things unto the holy.’ God accepts our gifts and fills them with His life, and He renders them back to us.

His small definition of worship as exchange says far more about what is essential in worship than any possible outward description. The exchange which takes place within worship is a communion, a participation, the engrafting within us of the life of God and the engrafting of our life within Him.

It is perhaps possible to give an objective description of the service of worship – but to do so will have missed the point. To reduce the liturgy purely to the act of the consecration of bread and wine, the transmaking of bread and wine into the Divine Body and Blood – is an impossibility. Nothing can be reduced into the Body and Blood of Christ. The reduction of worship to a thirty minute collection of certain “necessary” elements, towards the end of which believers are given the sacrament not only misses the point of liturgy but threatens to misrepresent worship in the extreme. “Worship” that has no intention of exchange may be many things – but it fails to rise to the level of true worship.

Bearing these things in mind, I return to the earlier description of the longest liturgy: the liturgy of the heart. There are many outward details that comprise a Divine Liturgy (particularly in its Orthodox form) and yet they all share in common this Divine/human exchange. The exchange takes place not only in the gifts (bread and wine) that are offered and received – but simultaneously in the heart as well.

There is a long series of prayers, generally called the “secret prayers,” that are traditionally offered silently by the priest during the prayers led by the Deacon and Choir, or at other key moments in the Orthodox liturgy. They contain a wealth of theological piety – being directed particularly at the heart of the priest and his effort to rightly serve and pray. Two examples come to mind. The first is the prayer offered silently just before the Great Entrance (the bringing of the bread and wine to the altar). The choir is singing the hymn: “Let us who mystically represent the cherubim and who sing the thrice-holy hymn to the life-creating Trinity, now lay aside all earthly cares.” The priest prays:

None is worthy among those that are bound with carnal desires and pleasures to approach or draw nigh or to minister to thee, O King of glory, for to serve thee is a great and fearful thing even unto the heavenly Powers. Nevertheless, through thine ineffable and immeasurable love of man, without change or alteration, thou didst become man and didst take the name of our High Priest, and deliver unto us the priestly rite of this liturgical and bloodless sacrifice, for thou art Master of all. Thou alone, O Lord our God, art Master over those in heaven and on earth, Who on the throne of the Cherubim art borne, Who art Lord of the Seraphim and King of Israel, Who alone art holy and restest in the Saints. I implore thee, therefore, who alone art good and ready to listen, look down upon me a sinner and thine unprofitable servant, and purify my soul and heart from an evil conscience, and, by the power of thy Holy Spirit, enable me, who am clothed with the grace of the priesthood, to stand before this thy holy table and to perform the sacred rite of thy holy, immaculate Body and precious Blood. For thee do I approach, and bowing my neck I pray thee, turn not away thy face from me, neither cast me out from among thy children, but make me, thy sinful and unworthy servant, worthy to offer unto thee these gifts, for thou thyself art He that offereth and is offered, that accepted and is distributed, O Christ our God, and unto thee do we send up glory, together with thy Father, who is without beginning, and thine all-holy, and good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

And again, after the gifts are placed on the altar, while the Deacon and People pray the Litany of the Offering, the priest prays:

O Lord God Almighty, who alone art holy, who dost accept the sacrifice of praise from those that call upon thee with their whole heart, accept also the prayer of us sinners, and bring it to thy holy Altar, and enable us to offer unto thee both gifts and spiritual sacrifices for our sins and for the ignorance of the people, and vouchsafe that we may find grace before thee, that our sacrifice may be acceptable unto thee, and that the good Spirit of thy grace may abide in us and upon these Gifts set forth, and upon all thy people.

Were I to begin quoting the words of the pre-communion prayers, those prayers that are to be prayed by all Orthodox Christians before a liturgy, this same theme would resound repeatedly. The point of all of these prayers is the “liturgy of the heart.” The exchange which takes place in the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood, is itself a constant liturgy that should take place at every moment and in every place in the heart of every Christian.

This is the longest liturgy – for it is the liturgy of our whole life. If the heart is rightly occupied in this “inward” liturgy, the length of a service will be of little consequence – other than those that are forced upon us by our physical existence (and not even always then). Responsibilities as parents can also offer interruptions of the outward liturgy, but need not interrupt the liturgy of the heart. Serving Christ in the least of His brethren is not an interruption of the liturgy, but part of its proper offering.

The great barriers to the liturgy of the heart are those that are familiar to anyone who seeks to have communion with God (true prayer). Distractions of the mind and emotions, temptations of the flesh and a host of other things seek to carry our mind away from the heart and center it outside of Christ and the exchange to which we are invited.

It is deeply important to note that the liturgy of the heart is constantly being offered and received (or not). In every action and word the liturgy is either a part of us, and we a part of it, or we are standing outside the life of God. It is indeed the longest liturgy – whose “Amen” will resound at the appearing of our Lord. Then everything will be “Amen.”

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.


35 responses to “The Longest Liturgy”

  1. […] I have ever read regarding worship. Please head over to the blog of Father Stephen Freeman <here> Read it and please let it seep […]

  2. David Avatar

    I love Church (the building, the liturgy, the community). I love Church in a way that’s a little strange among my friends and family. If I could sleep each night in a sleeping bag in the Nave I would.

    One thing about my personal life that I don’t understand is why I don’t have that same experience away from the physical building. When I’m at home I find that I quite literally use anything I can to distract (busy) myself when I could be prayer in front of my icons. Maybe it’s just that my wife and son feel weird if I spend the evening “by myself” in prayer. (particularly because our icon corner/wall is right in the middle of the house)

    Anyway, one thing I’ve come to realize is, that I’m weird in this. For many I know going to Church is like taking vitamins. People they respect have told them its good for them, they vaguely understand the principles as to why it is but in practice they have to stand around in the kitchen “working themselves up” to be able to take the pills each morning. I know a couple who go so far as to say Church is “exhausting” and spend several days “recovering” after going.

    I don’t know how to help them. Frankly, I don’t know why I enjoy it as much as I do. Perhaps it’s partly for the wrong reasons (in Church I can forget the world and think about God, which seems wrong somehow). This is something I’ve never really gotten a hold of. Is “real life” the liturgy or is what I do at home “real life”? (please don’t get hung up on my terms here I know that’s a horrible way of talking about this)

    Now that’s a good old fashioned rambling post like I used to write a year or so ago. Forgive me, a sinner.

  3. handmaidleah Avatar

    I have kind of missed those posts…

  4. fatherstephen Avatar

    Ramble on. It is a gift from God to love the services and a simplicity of heart – also a gift.

  5. Mary Avatar

    Aren’t we called to “lay aside all earthly cares”? I am familiar with feeling guilty about praying in Church – and where does that come from? Who would wish to keep us from loving our Father’s House? It is a privilege to be there, especially through the night. Our family home, I believe this is also the Church. Slowly slowly I approach the truth – it isn’t my home that needs to change and become holy, it has always belonged to God – but my heart and my vision.

  6. […] is liturgy … a question for even the secular crowd to consider as we approach the political liturgical […]

  7. Meskerem Eshetu Avatar
    Meskerem Eshetu

    I am glad I live in a town where the services are carried out everyday. We have Matins and Vespers and Liturgy is sometimes 3 or more times a week depending on Which Saint’s day it is, and very fortunate to be able to attend those if not doing anything else. I am so glad our priest knows what his duties are and tries in his whole heart to make it the way it is supposed to be.

    When our FAITH is about thanking the LORD every minute of our lives and asking for guidance in everything we do and then be thankful for all the blessings we receive I do not think we at all should complain about the length of service.

    What if we stayed at home on a Sunday, or go somewhere or do nothing or even go to church and let our minds do something else will that make us feel better that day?

  8. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    I’ve always been intrigued by the phrase: “a sacrifice of praise”. I think it fascinates me because it is so difficult to actually lift up my heart in praise. It is all too easy to say the word without really meaning it.

    Also years ago I read the book, Prison to Praise. The author took the passage from St. Luke that we should praise God in all things to heart and extended it to everything in his life, even and especially if he did not like what was going on.

    But if we are supposed to acquire the Holy Spirit and in the process allow Him to sanctify through us, it seems living a life of thanksgiving and praise would be just as effective as “Keep your mind in hell and despair not” But maybe they are the same thing?

  9. fatherstephen Avatar

    Michael, indeed!

    According to Achimandrite Zacharias – the Elder Sophrony taught that giving thanks in all things would indeed fulfill the saying of St. Silouan.

  10. Stephen Avatar

    Michael, Living a life of thanksgiving and prayer and keeping your mind in hell and not despairing. I often think about these things and believe that they must be the same thing. Some of us, by external circumstances our thrown into hell, mentally, physically or both. Others are given blessings but despair because of our insatiable appetites. Keeping your mind in hell doesn’t necessarily mean, at least for me, that we can’t thank God at some level. It could be that we see something of God that could not have been seen any other way. In the middle of hell while contemplating and considering the idea of despair as a viable option, it is often times these moments when we see reality the most clearly and are able to lift up a feeble prayer of Thanksgiving, even if it is one that is only thankful that things are not worse and that we still desire salvation. These are just some personal thoughts based on some real experiences. Fr. Stephen, feel free to correct anything that sounds wrong.

  11. Bruce Avatar


    I too was drawn to the simple phrase “a sacrifice of praise”.

    What do I sacrifice? My guess is whatever it is that is getting in the way of praising God right now, this moment. Often it’s a willingness to sacrifice my desire to change the world to conform to what I would like it to be, not what it is. For me, this sacrifice also involves my willingness to tune into the “praise/gratitude” channel rather than channels like “why me” or “if only this would change” or “I’m not enough”. When I can have faith that the praise channel is always available and ceaselessly being broadcast regardless of circumstance, I am reminded of how many possibilities and Teachers exist in the fertile ground of situations I may want to label as my “struggles”. I’m also reminded its my responsibility to turn the channel, not God’s.

    I also like to remind myself that I have experienced the reality that I can worry or be anxious without ceasing, therefor, with God’s help, it is certainly possible to begin to turn each anxious moment into a praise which accepts that the outcomes in my life are God’s business not mine and He can be trusted. The action of praising Him is one of the many principles He teaches which allows me to trust in the flow of His will for my life.

    I love 1Thess 5:16 -18(paraphrase)….’rejoice, pray without ceasing, and be thankful in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you’. Easy to say; but a great reminder of why I must abandon myself(my desires and my selfish actions) to open the space needed for His Life to have a chance to through His Grace reveal Itself in me.

  12. Karen C Avatar
    Karen C

    Dear Father, bless! Thank you. Like David, I love to be in Liturgy (or even just in the Nave). I was in a new parish for the Theophany Feast. Though it is a larger parish with three Priests serving, there weren’t many there because of bad weather and as it was a work day morning. Most of the melodies used in the litanies and some of the hymns were new to me (neophyte that I am), so I was a bit lost a lot of the time. Nevertheless, I would rather have been there than anywhere else. “One thing I ask from the Lord; this I will seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, and behold the delights (the beauty) of the Lord, and visit His Temple.” Psalm 26 (27):4-5 LLX. God grant that I may live out true worship wherever I am, and especially in my home.

  13. Karen C Avatar
    Karen C

    Sorry, that reference should have been LXX, not LLX!

  14. David Avatar

    Sometimes I think I’m simply being emotional, but it’s hard to ignore certain “instincts.”

    For example, our Priest (like the vast majority these days) allows catechumen out of the Nave and to remain for the entire liturgy. But after several months my wife and I found ourselves almost compelled to leave when the Deacon would chant “Let the catechumen depart”. Eventually (for the last month or so) we did. This seemed to us more right, though it was not asked of us.

    Then at our entrance into the Church, I had a distinct realization of the border of the Nave as we stood there. In fact, I became convinced that I could not cross it without holding tightly to the Priest’s epitrachelion (I believe that was what the vestment is called).

    Perhaps this is an over-active imagination. But if I had any “religious experience” the first time I attended a service (only myself, the priest and the reader were there that night) I did not have that sense of sadness I would have when we had such poor attendance at my old Bible studies in my Protestant days. Instead, the Church didn’t seem empty at all.

    I am truly an unfortunate man (that is, in myself) but perhaps when others see me they will be reminded of that man whom Jesus cast out demons. That way God will be glorified and they might be saved.

    I still don’t know what to think about my obsession with being in the temple. It still seems somehow lopsided or disconnected. Somehow I get the sense that I should be able to pray at the mall as well as in front of the Royal Doors. Remember worshiping not on this mountain or Jerusalem but “in Spirit and in Truth”? Or am I still being too Protestant about this?

  15. David Avatar

    I suddenly feel torn between Mary and Martha. Yes, Mary chose better. But neither should I send someone hungry away without bread telling them that I will pray for them.

    This is also a matter of minding my own business (that the different parts of the body should each do their own work and not worry about the effectiveness of the others). I used to call this “trying to be all the Apostles at once.”

    But then if I sit in Church and continue to pray after services always leaving it to someone else to make the coffee, I feel guilty!

  16. Meskerem Eshetu Avatar
    Meskerem Eshetu

    About Mary and Martha, the LORD said this not to show Martha is wrong it is to teach us that our time need to be balanced and also to show us it needs to be prioritized.

  17. Karen C Avatar
    Karen C

    Dear David, as Orthodox, it’s never just us alone in the Nave/Sanctuary. We are surrounded by that cloud of witnesses and the Lord Himself is there. That sense of Presence and fullness is the gift of the Orthodox Church I believe. Also, I really understand that Mary – Martha pull. When we are “distracted” by activity (or false guilt) from prayerful contemplation of the Lord, I believe the Lord’s words to Mary clearly indicate what is better. I think it is better not to fight that thirst for an experience of God’s Presence. In any event, I have found it irrepressible in my own life. I actually think we become less effective interpersonally and in our responsibilities by trying to undertake them out of guilt instead of prayerfully with the Lord’s help and clear direction from Him. Personally, I can do without coffee (or whatever). I can’t do without my brethren praying for themselves and for me. I wish more of us felt compelled to remain in the Nave and continue to pray after the conclusion of the Liturgy. I prefer to sit and listen to the readers who chant or read the post-Communion prayers before hurrying off to coffee (though, often having the responsibility for at least one restless child, I haven’t been able to do that very much!). There are times, though, when our activity, rather than being a distraction, can be the consummation and fulfillment of our prayer. May the Lord give you wisdom (hopefully your Confessor will be a good counselor in this) to discern which is which in your own heart and life.

    On another subject, I just had the opportunity to listen to Pt. 2 of Met. Jonah’s interview with Kevin Allen on “The Illumined Heart” podcast of Ancient Faith Radio. As an American Christian, Orthodox for just over a year and a half, this was tremendously encouraging to me. I heartily recommend it to all who have an interest in American Orthodoxy.

  18. Romanós Avatar

    Going in the order of the preceding comments…

    “…my wife and son feel weird if I spend the evening “by myself” in prayer.” David, that may not really be true, and if it is, there’s no better way of helping them get over the shock of Dad spending quality time with God than by doing it more and with regularity. If wife and child understand that Dad is performing his priestly function of listening to God’s voice, and interceding for them regularly, it can become an enormous sense of strength for them, and you too, in the long run.

    “…I don’t know why I enjoy it as much as I do. Perhaps it’s partly for the wrong reasons (in Church I can forget the world and think about God, which seems wrong somehow). No, David, it’s not wrong to enjoy your time with God; but spending time with God, as it that relationship builds and matures, makes you want to spend more time with wife and child, it makes you love people more, because you can’t help wanting to share the love you receive from God in your encounters with Him. There’s the chance, though, that a person can use divine services and ritual prayer, and even just “alone time” with God as a way of avoiding the world, as if it were an evil to be avoided. As a married man, you don’t have the luxury of falling into that state, and that knowledge can cause tension in your life. If you listen carefully to the Lord when you’re alone with Him, you might be told by Him to “get up and go out there and help your wife with…” and “we can get together again later.” The trick is listening, and when you hear (through your conscience) to always respond with “Yes.”

    “Prison to Praise” is the book, Michael, that I was reading when I had my conversion “experience” at the age of 24. It is a pentecostal book, and I have seen in my 33 years of Christian life that “institutional” pentecostalism is mere shamanism with a coating of Christianity, but the book helped me nonetheless. The author of that book, Merlin Caruthers, said something that helped me greatly. He said, “If there’s something that you cannot do on your own, even though you want to, ask the Holy Spirit to do it for you.” I was at the point of knowing the truth of Christ and the Bible, but I had invested a lot of time and effort in a “New Age” cult that I had been part of, and that was keeping me from saying “Yes” to God. When I actually had my theophany, and the Lord spoke to me and asked me why I was holding back, and I told Him, I found myself at an impasse in my will. I wanted to surrender my life to God in Jesus Christ, but something kept me from doing it, even while hearing “the Voice.” What incredible faithlessness! In this my dilemma, I remembered reading the passage in “Prison to Praise,” where it was said that we can call upon the Holy Spirit (who we know, of course, is a person, and therefore can be addressed) to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Well, this is exactly what I did. I reminded the Holy Spirit that I read this principle, and that as I had no other hope, I was going to apply it, right now, and I asked Him to surrender my life to Jesus Christ for me. And guess what? He did! And I’ve never been the same since.

    I wrote about this experience in blog, in at least a couple posts:, and

    Also, Michael, commenting on what you also said, “if we are supposed to acquire the Holy Spirit and in the process allow Him to sanctify through us, it seems living a life of thanksgiving and praise would be just as effective as “Keep your mind in hell and despair not” But maybe they are the same thing?” I would say this: They may not be the same thing, but they can be. The first principle taken from Merlin Caruthers, the second from Staretz Silouan (of Mount Athos), certainly would not look very much the same (from the outside), or be experienced the same (from the inside)… but then, what of mere appearance and feeling? To myself at least, I have been at both places, and the second place has swallowed up the first. In other words, I started out as trying to praise and thank God in and for everything, but in practice I found myself concentration mainly on the good things, and in my happiness and my prosperity. Thirty-three years later, almost everything that people consider good and worth having and enjoying has been stripped from me, except my health. I don’t praise and thank God with the naivete of my youth, and for show (as I often did), but inwardly, in the peace and happiness with God’s will that is in my heart. This is where I’m at now, “keeping my mind in hell and despairing not”:

    I’ve commented way more than my share, and I’ve read the comments of the others, all very good. I might have more to say to David, but not right now.

    Thanks, Fr. Stephen, for another great post!

  19. Jeff Romanczuk Avatar

    To add to the topic and echo David’s comment about loving the Church in a way that’s “a little strange” to friends and family:

    I think trying Father Stephen’s “liturgy of the heart” explanation might work better with them than what I’ve tried to say up until now to explain this weirdness, that the Liturgy is heaven on earth for me. Of course, I didn’t “get” that until I became Orthodox (and subjected to the “long liturgy). Until then, and often even now, I’d compartment the secular world and the church like they don’t coexist.

    People always mention the two hours to me, and I am sensitive to that. My father grew up Orthodox and the long liturgies were the main reason he converted to Roman Catholic while in high school. Once I converted the opposite way, I just attributed that to him being the baby of his family, and spoiled. For me, I rarely ever notice the time between the hours and post communion prayers.

    On the bright side: my mom is Irish Catholic and wouldn’t have married my dad if he weren’t Catholic as well, so I wouldn’t be here to write this.

  20. LynneA Avatar


    Glory to God. I’m glad you’re here.

  21. David Avatar

    I try not to look too much into these things, but the mind plays tricks no?

    I appreciate all the remarks. I’ve worried for years (long before my interest in Orthodoxy) about what it means that people don’t like being in Church, what it meant when I didn’t “feel” like being there.

    On that same line, I dislike the day time, particularly sunny days. If I could have my way, it would be cold, stormy and night all the time. I worry that says something problematic about me. It’s an intense reaction. I go into people’s modern houses with bright walls with lots of windows, no curtains and I actually feel ill. My son loves going to the park (and in Southern California you can do it all year round, it was 70 degrees yesterday)… but it is a great sacrifice for me. I intensely dislike it.

    While I say that I would love to live in the temple, I still prefer Vespers or Compline to the Divine Liturgy. It’s very troubling.

    Maybe I’m just looking to get troubled over something.

    You see, this is what happens handmaidleah, when people say they miss my ramblings… it just encourages a deluge. 🙂

  22. Stephen Avatar

    David, (Forgive me if this is not helpful) I used to like cloudy days melancholy music and all that stuff. I then moved to Scandinavia and had four or five years of “a cloudy day”, mentally, spiritually, as well as literally ( the sun seldom shines in Northern Europe). I also thought that I liked to contemplate my darker side, until I learned what true depression is, how it can suck the life out of you. I think that the light of Christ illumines all of these things. What do we have vespers for? To remind us that the light is on it’s way. I long for this light, THE light, to illumine my darkened soul. At this point the dark serves only as a reminder of what is to come and that we are not meant to stay in this state (expelled from the garden). I know that it can be comfortable at times but we all must allow ourselves to move into the light at some point. My opinion is that if we fixate on one aspect of the Church, we run the risk of seeing that thing out of context, unless of course we are focused on Christ alone. But many of us have trouble with this and that is why we need the Church in all it’s parts-Dark and light.

  23. Ryan Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,

    At time in the liturgy and in the secret prayers you have in this blog entry it speaks of a “bloodless sacrifice”. I am not sure I understand. I thought it was the body and blood? Of course it is but then why is it said “bloodless sacrifice”?


  24. David Avatar

    That’s very helpful Stephen. Thank you.
    Certainly some of this is emotional (though I’m not depressive as much as polar), but this problem is much more physical.

    My eyes hurt in bright light (I do everything I can to avoid simply wear sunglasses all the time which I would think would make it worse). I hate being hot (I sweat profusely). I find myself unbearably sleepy in the afternoon and require herculean efforts to get up in the morning, but practically sparkle at 1am.

    All my life I’ve purchased the lowest watt light bulbs I could find. My mother is similar (guests often notice that my mom’s house is kept uncomfortably cold). However, she’s not depressed at all. She practically glows. But if the house isn’t cold enough to numb your hands, she isn’t comfortable.

    It’s a very visceral response to stimuli. Bright sunlight seems to me like a loud stereo. Surely it would drive anyone crazy to have speakers blaring all day. To me, darkness is a kind of quietness. Night has a peacefulness a lack of distractions. I cannot pray during the Liturgy like I can at Vespers. In fact, most Sunday mornings I can’t pray in any meaningful sense at all (I just do the best I can and concentrate on every “Lord have mercy”).

    I believe most of the world is over-stimulated, it is certainly over-stimulating to me.

  25. mic Avatar


    i am so glad that you asked that question, that is something that i have wanted to know for years and yet keep forgetting to ask.

    Good looking out brother!


  26. fatherstephen Avatar

    It is a good question – what is meant by a “bloodless sacrifice.” It’s a very patristic phrase. First, it is the teaching of Scripture that Christ was crucified (sacrificed) “once and for all.” It is never a sacrifice that is repeated. In light of this the Fathers taught that what is made present to us in the Holy Mystery of Christ’s Body and Blood, is indeed the very Body and Blood of Christ, that is the very “sacrificed” Body and Blood (because there is no other). “This is my blood which is shed for you” (not some other blood, but blood that is shed). The reference or habit to referring to the Liturgy as a “Bloodless” sacrifice is meant to say that it is not a new or different sacrifice, a new shedding of blood, a repetition of what cannot be repeated. It is, instead, a making present the only sacrifice (Body and Blood) that God Himself has made.

    That may sound somewhat convoluted – but is the answer.

  27. fatherstephen Avatar


    Not to pry, but, have you ever discussed this with a doctor? Extreme sensitivity to light can sometimes be a symptom of other things.

  28. Margaret Avatar

    This is a beautiful posting and there are blessings in the comments here, thank you, Fr. Stephen!

  29. David Avatar

    You’re certainly not prying Father, I’m the one indulging myself here with too many words. Lord forgive me, I am a pest.

    I never considered a medical cause for the light sensitivity. Though I did talk to my eye doctor about it because I have a harder time focusing in bright light (and prefer to read in near darkness). However, I can work all day in the hot sun if I have to (I used to do construction work in central California summer vacations when I was a kid where 110 degrees isn’t unusual).

    I think I just don’t like it, but I don’t like it a lot!

    You know, if you get picky about something long enough and nurse a pet peeve it can be overwhelming. That’s a strong possibility too.

    There’s a whole picture here I’m trying to paint. Heat, light, sound, the turmoil of the day, all that stuff. I’m always saying I need rest because I’m constantly over-stimulated (this is partly due to my obsessive habits of reading, both on and off-line).

    I’ve heard it said that many people diagnosed as depressive are actually polar, but the doctor never sees the manic state because … well … our society like manic, it endorses and applauds manic. The depressive is probably the reasonable response to exhaustion caused by the mania.

    Not that I’m trying to self-diagnose (and yes, I’ve gotten assessed before and found to be quite unfortunately sane). 🙂

    On the other topic,
    BTW, I’ve always thought that was the problem with one Western interpretation of the “Mass” being somehow a recrucifixion of Christ, that is that the Western version isn’t properly “bloodless”. But then I have to be careful because in my upbringing there were plenty of anti-Catholic straw men kicked around.

  30. Marsha Avatar

    David, forgive me for intruding (and I remember you very well from a year or so ago) but have you read the book “Highly Sensitive People”? I have a child who led me to that book, and it described my husband and I quite well.

    We get overstimulated with too much light, too much noise, have strong reaction to a lot of stimuli, like foods, clothing, etc. There isn’t anything wrong with it as such, but it does tend to make us a bit out of step with modern society. My husband’s reaction to light and mine to noise are as strong and visceral as you describe.

    Blessings to you, David.

  31. David Avatar

    Thanks Marsha, I’ll look into the book. You’re never an intrusion.

    If I were to chose, I’d prefer the sensitivity, much of the good of my life has come from it. It just creates some dilemmas that I’ve never really worked out (even now at 36 years old).

    Mostly I want to go live in a cave in Alaska. Though, I’m told by an Aleut woman who attends our parish (who’s village was long ago converted by St Herman) that caves in Alaska are not a nice as I would think unless I’m a 9 foot tall Kodiak.

  32. Damaris Avatar

    “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young — a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.” (Psalm 84 in the Protestant Bible) This is my favorite psalm. Surely it isn’t wrong to love being in church. Perhaps my only challenge is to remember that God’s dwelling place is not only the church but all the world; that the faces of the everyone around me are in a way icons of Christ and our prayers are like incense. But to me also, being in church is being in heaven.

  33. Sean Avatar

    “Serving Christ in the least of His brethren is not an interruption of the liturgy, but part of its proper offering”

    Honestly, this is one of the most loving expressions I’ve ever read about children & and one of the most accurate expressions of the nature of the Divine Liturgy: service and sacrifice.

  34. Manu Avatar

    Seems that in America liturgy is faster than, for example, in Russia. In the church my husband and I go to (in Moscow) even the early Sunday liturgy is never shorter than 2 hours, the late Sunday liturgy dures about 3 hours. Christmas or Easter services are about 4 hours and longer – and I am not talking about monastic services.

    By the way, I would like to ask which language do you use in your liturgy? English or Greek or Arabic or Slavonic?

  35. Fr. Stephen Avatar

    We use English, with some occasional use of Slavonic or Greek at a funeral, pannikhida, etc.

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