I impose upon your soul and I share with you my thoughts that have preoccupied me for years. If I were to put these thoughts in one sentence bundle, this is what it would briefly say: For years and decades, if not for centuries, some dark forces of the underworld destroy one by one the sanctity and values of our Christian civilization and our (once) Christian life. This time I direct your attention to thinking about destruction of the holy Day of God, holy Sunday.
You must have noticed that all sport events, almost all charity events, movie matinees and many other occurrences happen on Sunday, and not in the afternoon hours as it would be expected but in the morning, as if it were a coincidence, at the time when in all churches, orthodox and other, the Holy Liturgy is served. It often happened that many of our parishioners complained they could not get to the church of St. Sava because the police had stopped them. And those early Sunday morning runnings happen often and almost everywhere- and just to remind you- we pay for them.
Did it ever catch your attention that TV stations on Sunday, Sunday mornings, treat our children and grandchildren with tempting shows, so the children bleary and with unwashed faces adhere to those hypnotic boxes and stare at them for hours.
If you turned on that hypnotic box yourselves at that same time, Sunday morning, you would hear Jehovah’s recruits, wizards and so called miracle workers thunder and wrangle, hiss and jig, make heaven ripping speeches and grab attention of their herds, ask for money and get it; and all that for this purpose; so that tired and burdened with his troubles the man of the western civilization doesn’t get up from his bed, doesn’t get dressed and doesn’t go to church, but lying in his bed watches their miracles and believes that alone is sufficient and that he settled all his debts with God.
In the same manner, those that run and sweat for some charity or those that go on their bikes or those that push the golf balls in the holes are to believe that they are doing it for some greater purpose and in the praise of God. The thought that there are many other days in the year when all these things could be done instead of Sunday is pushed away, very far out of his mind. “When we convinced ourselves that we could, on a Sunday morning, be equally good Christians on the golf field and in the grocery story we came very close to the point when God meant nothing to us” said one modern orthodox theologian.
We followed the stubborn devilish fight of the animal skin and fur trader to keep his store open on Sunday morning. He stubbornly kept opening his store every Sunday, paying the fine and going to court. Right from the beginning I knew he wasn’t doing it on his own, wasting tens of thousands of his money just out of spite. Everyone should have known that behind him was a very powerful force that used him as a Trojan horse to terminate sanctity, a principle of life. So it started with less important courts to more important to the most important ones, from one province to another so that nowadays all the stores in all the malls and on all the streets are open. Sundays are nowadays meant for working and shopping; some buy and get poorer, some sell and get richer. And people “the billow” rush from everywhere, forgetting and abandoning their church, their Sunday Holiday tables- if they ever had them, neglected family gatherings and conversations, and started hanging out and wandering around the malls.
Unfortunately, we Serbs give our sad contribution to that. Not only do we wander around malls along with “the billow” on a Holy Sunday, but we also decided to have our picnics held on Sundays. We, priests know that when it is the picnic season, there are no people in church. Recently, we also started practicing “the holy rule” of tradition, to have our weddings on Saturdays so that our guests, full and drunk, the next day, on Sunday, at the time of Holy Liturgy, rest, sleep in and go home. Aside the fact that the church rule and the tradition for centuries was not to have weddings or other celebrations on Saturday, which is a day for the dead and their souls; the same way the church rule is not to hold memorial service on Sunday, a jolly day of Resurrection.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7, 13-14) The demon has changed his strategy a long time ago. He won’t send OZNA and coppers any more to stand at the church door to report and beat up those that enter the church, like he used to, in our country and other countries at the time of evil communism and the “woolen times”.
Nowadays, he leads us away from our church with his lies and trinkets through the wide gate.
It is up to us not to follow him, but to come to our senses and to give back to God who has given us everything some of our comfort with a little sacrifice. Should we allow the Mammon to lead us to destruction along with the other rabble?
One defends himself for not coming to church and says to the priest: “First time I came to church they poured water on me; second time I came they tied me with a woman I am tied to even today…” The priest interrupts him and says: “The third time you come they will pour muddy dirt on you. The first time your mother brought you, the second time your wife brought you, the third time your friends and family will bring you. Try in the meantime to come on your own.”
This could be said for majority of us quasi orthodox Serbs. Many of us, if seen under the church dome, were brought to church by someone else; as I like to say in horizontal position. From baptism to death, for many days and years, they are not to been seen at church.
On a summer day, I could list you till noon many different “reasons” for not coming to church. In spite of what people say to justify it, there is only one reason and it is very clear: they abandoned and forgot their only God and they submitted to other gods and idols of this world. All the excuses that I have heard so far about spine pain, and other pains, fade away to one of my experiences. In my previous parish, in Niagara, there was an old man, blind due to diabetes, Dusan Djurdjevic. His old lady, aunt Darinka and he came every Sunday, every Holy day, and whenever there was a service in church regardless of weather, storm or deep snow. They lived far from Niagara, in Chippawa, on a farm, the same way they lived since they moved to Canada after World War II. With the money from their modest pensions they would pay for taxi, and after the service I was glad to give them a ride home.
Uncle Dusan’s place was at the cantor’s stand from where he sang without the book. Blind and old he used to stand as straight as a pin. He never leaned onto anything, let alone sitting down on a chair.
One night, a friend and countryman of Dusan called me to come to his house. He is alive and can witness that every word is true. Uncle Dusan, fell into coma due to his diabetes, and his old lady was unable to help him, she could not lift him or move him. We found him lying on the floor in the bathroom. I was shocked to see gruesome wounds on his legs, and it looked as if he did not have feet, and the shin bones were clearly visible through deep and wide wounds on the legs. You could put your fist through the wound openings on his legs. And in such pain and so vulnerable he stood in every Holy Liturgy with calm and blissful face and praised the Lord with his song so nobody could not even notice his pain. And now you tell me how childish and faint all our excuses are, compared to this example.
Another old lady, of crippled health, would manage to come to church limping. People asked her how she managed to be there for every Holy Liturgy even though she was ill and old. She responded: “My heart goes forward, it leads me and pulls me, and the legs are just following it.”
And that is the answer. Many do not come to church because their heart went cold and distant from God, and belongs now to other gods. A man started a race with no finish. He surrounded himself with some fast equipment, exchanged the old machines with the new ones and fast ones so he could apparently have more time, but he has less of it. When women used to do the laundry by hand, and to iron clothes with an ember in the iron, when the meals were cooked on the stove and when people used a pen for writing, there was time for everything and people would get everywhere. And nowadays, when machines are doing the laundry and meals are already pre-cooked and prepared, when phones decrease distances, we have less time and patience for each other. The more efficient and faster the machines that surround us are, the more tired we are. Someone made an observation that tired eyes are one of the characteristics of the modern man. We are always in the rush to get somewhere but we get nowhere. Our time is cut and chopped. We chase after some needs that are forced onto us. Half of the mental illnesses, as an American psychologist noticed, are caused by the alarm clock and the agenda.
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.” (Exodus 20:8-10)
And God has posted a sign on the highways of our lives-and that is a day to rest, holy Sunday- when we need to stop, rest and think before we continue. That is God’s natural order of things and those that do not obey do offend God and wear out and kill themselves.
We feed and take care of our bodies, but we cruelly starve our souls. We ruthlessly use our life batteries, but we hardly ever charge them. So is it surprising that the soul boils and hisses. And then, a poor man, that had no time for anyone or anything smart, gains the time, even more time than he needs, while he spends long hours in some mental institution, or a doctor’s office, or a hospital room.
God gave us the day of rest to water and feed the plant of our soul and to charge our empty batteries. He gave us the warning that a man does not live “on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
Sunday is a day when we establish and strengthen our lines of connection and communication with God. If those lines are torn and broken, it is in vain that a man when in trouble cries out to God. The phone doesn’t ring.
God, who created us, has every right to a part of our time and our lives, to us. He gives us so many days and years, is it too much that He asks for a small part of it in return.
“What I want is not your possessions but you” (2 Corinthians 12:14) says St. Peter to Corinthians. We are asked for a sacrifice. Not to come to church when you have no other commitments, when there are no picnics and beautiful summer days are over. But to come then, to leave everything, all your commitments, to suffer loss if necessary, but do not take way from God. God does not need leftovers and surpluses, but what’s best in us and around us.
“God blessed the seventh day and made it holy” (Genesis 2:3) “It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever” (Exodus 31:17) If we follow that sign and do as God wills, we will live happier and we will be blessed forever.