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1308Re: [LutheransLookingEast] Question on Church Attendance

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  • Christopher Orr
    Aug 7, 2009
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      If you've been going regularly for 10 months and have only missed
      periodically, I would say that is your standard and you are meeting anything
      required. One is only to miss Liturgy due to cause. Determining what
      'cause' is, is between you and your spiritual father.

      For instance, we flew to the Midwest two weekends ago and the flight my wife
      booked meant I missed Liturgy. I could have gone to a 7am Liturgy, but that
      would have left my wife packing and dealing with our infant alone - not
      really something I could do. So, I missed. I have also missed when we have
      been on vacation and there is no Orthodox church, e.g., on most Caribbean
      islands and most non-major cities globally, or when the nearest Orthodox
      church is hours away. In such cases I defer to love, admit my sinfulness,
      and stay with the non-Orthodox wife and family (the baby is also not yet up
      to constant changes in schedule).

      *"...missing 3 consecutive Sundays without a valid reason means I've
      excommunicated myself."*

      This needs to be put into context. Excommunication in Orthodoxy is not the
      same as being kicked out of the Church. It means that one is barred from
      receiving communion. A simple 'excommunication' is if one eats in the
      morning before Liturgy (without a medical reason to do so, inclusive of
      pregnancy), having had sexual relations that morning or the evening before,
      or not being 'prepared' as required by your priest. As part of the
      spiritual treatment of one's passions, a priest may (may!) tell you to
      refrain from communion for a set period of time. I have never experienced
      this myself, but it is usually tied to especially heinous sins or to ongoing
      sins of a particular nature that are ongoing (e.g., those living together
      should likely not be communing).

      Personally, I have found I have a difficult time only going to church on
      Sunday mornings. I especially love Vigil on Saturday evenings in the
      Russian tradition, and weekday Vespers are wonderful. When I was inquiring,
      there were times I was in church everyday (we have a lot of services, then
      there is also a monastery that has daily services).

      As you noted, though, you are an inquirer. Take it easy on yourself. It
      seems as if you have been going to church a lot. Salvation is a process; we
      are being conformed to Christ, the likeness of His image in us is
      sharpening, developing. We are growing in wisdom and stature, as did Christ
      Himself in His human nature. There is growth in the spiritual life. One
      need not finish the race so as to start it; we build up to running

      I think the tempter is simply whispering in your ear. Ignore him. Keep
      going to church as you have been, and try to go just a tiny little bit more
      often than you would have otherwise or perhaps feel comfortable with. Such
      ascetic effort is like fasting, and Christ said WHEN we fast, not IF we
      fast. Whatever little else you can do - it is an offering to God. The fact
      we are ashamed we can't do more is humbling and God loves a humble and
      contrite spirit, he will not despise it (cf. Psalm 50/51).

      Blessed Fast to you!


      On Fri, Aug 7, 2009 at 10:45 AM, Dave W. <dkwiech@...> wrote:

      > I have a bit of an embarrassing question regarding expected/required church
      > attendance in the OC. I've been taking catechumen classes and am about
      > 1/2-way through, but it has been told to me that the OC demands attendance
      > every Sunday at a minimum. I know myself and my track record and that I
      > don't know if I can commit myself to such a strict and rigorous standard. I
      > have been attending the OC as an inquirer for about 10 months with only a
      > couple Sundays missed, so it's not like I'm a spotty attender. However,
      > frankly there are some Sundays that I'm so exhausted from work that I can
      > barely get out of bed, or there is so much work to get done that I couldn't
      > do on Saturday, etc, etc. that it's impractical. I know it sounds like I'm
      > making excuses, but I'm trying to be honest.
      > I've searched the LLE archive and found some interesting comments on this
      > topic, such as the following, which seem to imply that even cradle Orthodox
      > are not always the most committed attenders, e.g.:
      > "Coming back to the topic of "80%", I think you'll find that (or
      > similar to that) in ANY big parish. Small parishes are different
      > because they are formed of zealots (in a good meaning of the word),
      > otherwise they'd just vanish, fade away. But big parishes - they are
      > good examples of statistics inside the Church: people in It are simply
      > at different points of their spiritual life/journey, thus acting
      > differently. You'd probably find service attendance close to 100% only
      > at Mount Athos and some other strict rules monasteries."
      > The priest at the church I am attending basically stated that missing 3
      > consecutive Sundays without a valid reason means I've excommunicated myself.
      > If I miss just one Sunday for a non-valid reason, I would have to go to
      > confessions. This strikes me as rather harsh. I understand the theological
      > underpinnings that drive this, and appreciate what it means. However,
      > perhaps growing up in the LCMS and going whenever "I felt like it" has
      > stained me, since in the protestant (and even RC) churches, there is really
      > no mechanism for holding people to such a standard. I just have too much
      > going on in my life to think I could live up to this. It is very sad, since
      > I love what I'm hearing and learning in the OC, and no longer feel part of
      > the Lutheran church anyhow (I'm way beyond the Lutheran pale at this point).
      > Any tips/thoughts/recommendations? Am I just in a gung-ho parish that
      > enforces this? Again, I reference the comment above. This is very sad for
      > me, since I thought I'd "found my home" and had ended this spiritual
      > wandering that I've been in, for so many years. As a note, I don't exactly
      > live close to an Orthodox parish (about 35 miles each way), and I'm just a
      > young guy with a busy life. I'm not 75 years old and retired, with all sorts
      > of extra time to spare. I want God to be the center of my life, by not the
      > ONLY THING in my life, if you get my point.
      > Forgive me.....

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