St. George
Serbian Orthodox Church
Carmichaels, PA

Thoughts on the Liturgical Life at St. George Church
by Fr. Rodney Torbic
Adult Class - July 15/28, 2005

Prayer of St. Macarius the Great-From the Midnight Office for Weekdays:

O God, cleanse me a sinner, for I have never done anything good in Thy sight;
but deliver me from the evil one, and let Thy will be done in me, that I may
open mine unworthy mouth without condemnation, and praise Thy holy name:
of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.
Amen. 1

The liturgical life of a parish is central to the health of the parish. The corporate prayer life of the parish sets the tone for the direction and strength of the parish.

The degree to which parishioners actively participate in the liturgical life of the parish reflects the degree of corporate commitment.

Orthodoxy is a way of life that entails prayer throughout the day, throughout the week, throughout the year. The Orthodox prayer life includes the corporate worship of the Church and individual and family prayer.

The St. George Serbian Orthodox Church in Carmichaels, Pennsylvania has a daily schedule of worship throughout the year. This schedule of daily services is held to with few exceptions of when the priest is on vacation or must be absent from the parish for other duties.

In most instances services are scheduled twice daily. The normal morning schedule includes Midnight Office at 5:30 AM followed by the Canon to Jesus Christ and Canon to the Mother of God.

On days the Divine Liturgy is celebrated the Akathist to Communion replaces the Canon to the Mother of God. At 6:30 AM, Matins is served followed by the First Hour and daily reading from The Prologue from Ochrid.

The afternoon schedule for weekdays includes Ninth Hour and Vespers, Monday through Saturday, with the exception of Thursdays when two Akathists are served in lieu of Ninth Hour and Vespers.

Normally, there is no afternoon service on Sundays. During the week, the Divine Liturgy is scheduled on major feasts of the Lord and Mother of God and on other important occasions throughout the year.

The Divine Liturgy is held each Sunday at 10:00 AM. During the week the Divine Liturgy is generally held much earlier.

During Great Lent the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts is celebrated on Wednesdays and Fridays. It is common to serve the Akathist to the Cross on weekdays during Great Lent as well as Great Compline in the evening. Matins and Vespers during Great Lent generally are not served during the week. The Hours are served in the morning with the reading of the Kathisma Following Pascha until the Feast of the Ascension, the Akathist to the Tomb and Resurrection and Akathist to the Resurrection are served daily in addition to other normally scheduled services. During the period of Pentecost, the Akathist to the Holy Trinity is served daily until the Apodasis.

During the Dormition Fast, the Akathist to the Dormition of the Mother of God is served on weekdays.

When parish picnics are scheduled, Akathists are held in the parish cemetery at the Cross. On Memorial Saturdays, the Akathist for the Departed is served with a Pomen. The names of all departed buried from the church are read.

For American Memorial Day and Veterans Day, the names of departed veterans are read during a pomen. The names of living veterans are read also at the time of Veterans' Day.

When parishioners or friends of the parish are having surgery or are very ill, Akathists to St.Panteleimon are commonly served.

Prior to the holding of funeral services, the Psalter is read while the departed parishioner is in the church.

A full schedule of services is held during Holy Week including the fully reading the four Gospels on Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday and Holy Wednesday. Divine Liturgy is held on Lazarus Saturday, Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday.

The Acts of the Apostles are read on Holy Saturday evening. Resurrection Matins and the Paschal Divine Liturgy are served on Pascha. The Twelve Gospels are read on Holy Thursday evening. Vespers and Matins are served on Holy Friday evening.

Others services are held throughout the year as the occasion and need dictates. For instance, it is common to celebrate the Service of Thanksgiving when a family or individual has special reason for thanking God such as a Fiftieth wedding anniversary. It is served also on American Thanksgiving Day and has been served when a person had a major operation successfully.

Akathists to the Mother of God Joy of All Who Sorrow may be served when an individual is grieving or is in need of consolation. Akathists to Jesus Christ and Akathists to the Cross may be served when individuals are facing difficult times. Parish retreats are held during the Nativity Fast and Great Lent. During the retreats, multiple Akathists and Canons may be served. As many as six or seven Akathists may be served in addition to the Divine Liturgy.

The Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Mission in Fairmont, West Virginia is closely associated with the St. George Church in Carmichaels and services are held at the Mission twice monthly. On Holy Friday, the Royal Hours are served at the Mission. The services at the Mission supplement the daily schedule at St. George Church.

The Holy Trinity Mission is located geographically in an area initially designated as part of the St. George Parish.

The holding of daily services is dependent upon the willingness of parishioners to attend the services on a regular basis. St. George Church has been blessed with faithful parishioners willing to make the commitment to come to church daily throughout the year even in the hot of summer and the cold and snow of winter.

Holy Trinity Mission has been blessed to have faithful parishioners willing to come to the services whenever scheduled.

Our Lord Jesus Christ said: :For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Mt. 18:20). Generally, one or two parishioners attend the 5:30 AM service at the St. George Church. At the 6:30 AM at least two people are generally present and fairly regularly there are three. In the afternoons, the attendance average is two or three, with more at times.

The weekday Divine Liturgies and Liturgies of Presanctified Gifts have a higher attendance at St. George but rarely with more than four or five people. The Sunday Divine Liturgies at St. George Church normally are attended by 30-35 parishioners...occasionally more...occasionally less.

The important point is that the services are held daily. The priest and the parishioners in attendance pray the services of the Church and benefit as a result.

The names of sick are read each morning and each evening. The services include prayers for the departed. Pomens are held regularly during the week when an individual known to the parish departs this life.

The daily services are instructional. The content of the services becomes known to the participants and has an effect on their lives. Individuals from within the parish and outside the parish knowing of the daily services, may in time of need request prayers and may even come to the services.

Occasional visitors to the parish cemetery or to the area, knowing of the daily services, will come from time to time.

Holding daily services is consistent with the consecration of the Church as being set aside for the glory of God.

In the service of consecration we read:

When the Word came to us in the flesh, the Son of Thunder, writing
says: We have seen with brightness the glory which the Son had from
the Father, full of truth, by grace. And to as many of us as have received
Him in faith, He gave power to become children of God. Being born again,
not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, but having been sustained by the
Holy Spirit, we have raised up a house of prayer; and we cry out: "Establish
this house, O Lord." 2

The parish church exists for the glory of God. The parish church exists for parishioners to come to be baptized and Chrismated, to be married and to be buried.

The parish church exists for parishioners to learn about God. The parish church exists for parishioners to experience God. God is best experienced in the Divine services of the Church.

God is best experienced in the reading and listening to the Holy Gospel. God is best experienced in receiving His Precious Body and Blood. God is best experienced in the Baptismal fount and in the sealing with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.

God is best experienced in the marital crowning. God is best experienced in Holy Ordination. God is best experienced in Holy Confession. God is best experienced in prayer. God is best experienced in the Holy Divine Liturgy. God is best experienced in the anointing at the serving of Holy Unction.

The parish church exists for the glory and worship of God. The work and activities of the parish must remain true to the consecration and the Archpastoral blessing establishing the parish.

Prayer is work and daily prayer is hard work. Individuals participating in the church services contribute to the work of the parish. Individuals attending the Divine services in faith make a contribution to the parish by their presence. Individuals making a regular effort to attend the services of the church whether on Sundays or during the week help the parish.

The more people attending more services in faith, the more the parish benefits. Our Lord Jesus Christ said "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness..." (Mt. 6:33)

There is no better place to begin seeking the Kingdom of God than in the Divine services of the parish church. One learns in the services of the Church about God's love and the limitless mercy of God. One learns in the parish church services about God's creation. One learns about God's majesty.

Believers regularly attending the church services come to know of the Virgin Birth of Christ. They come to know of the Holy Prophets. They come to know of the Baptism, Transfiguration, Death and Resurrection of Christ.

Believers coming to Church regularly experience the Feasts of Pentecost, the Entry of the Mother of God into the Temple and the Elevation of Precious and Life-Giving Cross.

Believers coming to church regularly become familiar with the saints of the Church celebrated throughout the year. They learn of the very different lives of the saints and martyrs and the very unifying and unyielding commitment to Christ.

Serbian Orthodox faithful coming to church daily have an opportunity to liturgically celebrate St. Sava and St. Lazarus, St.J ohn Vladimir, St. Stevan of Decani, Hieromartyr Habakkuk and other Serbian saints.

Coming to church services is an investment in the Kingdom of God. When individuals choose to increase their attendance beyond Sundays, they increase their investment in the Kingdom.

Coming to church services during the week not only benefits the person coming. When a believer comes to church during the week, he or she adds strength to the prayers being offered.

When a believer comes to church services during the week, he or she adds strength to the parish community. When a believer comes to church during the week, he or she witnesses to God and dedicates this important time of life to God.

Each person receives a finite time from God for earthly living. We show appreciation to God for the time of life given by giving to God time of our lives in prayer and worship.

Believers coming to church services each day hear the Psalms that are chanted. They hear and learn from the troparia and kontakia and the verses referring to the feasts and saints and martyrs remembered each day.

Believers coming to church each morning hear the accounts of the saints and martyrs as they are described by St. NIKOLAI (Velimirovic).

The theology of the Church is expressed in the Divine services of the Church. Individuals exposed to the Divine services regularly come to know the teachings of the Church, the fundamental beliefs expressed and held by the Church.

Individuals coming to Church regularly hear the joyous news of the Resurrection. Individuals coming to Church regularly hear of the hope established by Christ that gives reason for living even in the most dire of situations.

Our Lord said: "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth." (Mk. 9:23)

These timeless teachings of the Lord and the descriptions of the Lord Jesus Christ as contained in the Gospels of Sts. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are read in their entirety during Holy Week.

Believers come to appreciate the Holy Bible as an integral part of Orthodox life by attending the daily Divine services of the Church. Individuals coming to the services of the Church during the week and actively participating experience personally the opportunity to read the Psalms and verses of the services.

Saints associated with health and illness such as St. Panteleimon, St. Nectarios, Sts. Cosmas and Damian and St. Luke become more meaningful to the Orthodox Christian coming to the daily services of the Church.

Serbian Orthodox Christians strongly identified with St. John the Baptist, St. George the Great Martyr and St. Nicholas the Wonderworker strengthen their identification when Akathists are served to these saints.

The Holy Orthodox Church has many Akathists to the Mother of God. Akathists to the Mother of God Healer of Cancer; Nurturer of Children; Joy of All Who Sorrow; and of the Inexhaustible Cup are just some of the Akathists served at the St. George Church.

The St. George Serbian Orthodox Church is part of the Eastern American Diocese. St. Sava is always in the forefront of the daily work of the St. George Church.

Believers regularly attending the St. George Church in Carmichaels during the week have richly experienced the Akathist to St. Sava.

The atmosphere of the parish church is different when the church is used on a daily basis. When the services are experienced on a daily basis, an interruption in the practice is noticed.

Parishioners attending the St. George Church daily come individually to pray on days when the priest is required to be absent.

The holding of daily services encourages parishioners to attend when they come to the church for other reasons during the week. At times, some members of the Kolo will attend all or part of early morning services when baking is scheduled.

Parishioners coming to the church to make deliveries or to pick something up will occasionally attend services. Parishioners attending church daily have a strengthened identification with the church building and routinely help to keep the church clean.

Family members, friends and acquaintances of parishioners coming to church regularly may from time to time attend church services they would not otherwise attend. They also develop an interest in and curiosity about the services.

People visiting the church cemetery and receiving the parish bulletin have their curiosity aroused by the frequency of services.

The daily attendance at the services are recorded and published in the parish bulletin. Sixty-five copies of the parish bulletin are mailed out each week with copies to the Diocesan Bishop, Bishop's Deputy, Dean of the Pittsburgh Deanery, parishioners and friends of the parish.

Forty-one copies of the parish bulletin are printed each week for distribution at the Sunday Divine Liturgy and through the week. The publication of the daily schedule of services and the attendance daily serves as a barometer and reminder to parishioners and others interested in the parish. It serves also as a formal record for historical purposes.

The schedule of services for the week and cumulatively including services held is located on the parish website and is available to anyone throughout the world with internet access.

In addition to being publicized by the parish bulletin and internet posting, the services are announced on the weekly parish radio broadcast. Sermons from the Sunday services and selections from the St.George Choir are available on the parish website as part of the parish radio program.

The St. George Church is blessed with faithful and dedicated choir members singing at all the Sunday services, during Holy Week and on major feasts. The Choir Director attends the Liturgies of Presanctified Gifts and generally is assisted by at least two of the regular members of the St.George Choir at these services as well as other faithful regularly in attendance.

The St. George Choir sings for members of the parish at the time of weddings, funerals, parastoses and pomens. The Choir Director makes herself available for baptisms and weddings, funerals and pomens.

A compact disc of the Divine Liturgy enables homebound parishioners to experience the Divine Liturgy in audio form. Videos of the Divine Liturgy at the St.George Church are provided to homebound parishioners with videotape players. At least one nursing home is using a video of the St. George Church Divine Liturgy.

The daily services at the St. George Church provide a structure and order to each given day. They enrich the day in ways that are beyond description. Individuals attending the services venerate the icons with reverence. They light candles. They say personal prayers.

On more than one occasion, individuals normally not attending daily services, have come in times of crises or for special reasons as a Slava, a trip or impending surgery.

The holding of daily services establishes the parish church as a desired destination during the week. Parishioners and others who do not attend daily services think about them and come to know that daily services are part of the Orthodox way of life.

The world gets viewed differently as one spends time each day immersed in the services of the Church. When bombing occurred in Serbia and when churches were destroyed in Kosovo, the implementation of additional daily prayers was quickly made.

It is common for names to be added to the daily prayer list without individuals knowing their names are added. Sometime later, the person or a family member or friend may make a prayer request and find out the person for whom the prayer is requested has been prayed for, for an extended period of time already.

Since beginning to hold daily services, the St. George Church has begun to accumulate a wide range of different books needed for the services. Following is a listing of some of the books purchased: a full set of the Monthly Menaions; a full set of the multi-volume Octoechos; Festal Menaion, Lenten Triodion, Lention Triodion Supplementary Texts, Book of Akathists (multiple copies), Psalter (multiple copies).

Because individuals outside of the parish know of the daily services, the parish sometimes receives copies of services from individuals which previously were not available. This has been true regarding certain Akathists to the Mother of God, an Akathist to St. Sava and Service for St. Lazar.

A particular additional benefit coming from the accumulation of books is their research value. The contents of the service books have been used in papers presented in the parish Adult Education class.

The content of Akathists and the Menaion are very instructional regarding feasts and saints. They give a theological view in capsule form not readily available elsewhere.

Divine worship is the heart of each parish church. The Divine Liturgy enables believers to partake of the Precious Body and Blood of Christ. The Divine Liturgy calls believers together on a regular basis and orients them to the Kingdom of God.

There are many ways to contribute to a parish church. Attending and participating in the Divine services of the church is a very important way of making a contribution.

Individuals who make the effort to increase their church attendance particularly during the week, will in the long run, realize they made a wise investment.

Going to church services is a way to thank God. Going to church services is a way to learn more about God. Going to church services is a way to seek protection by God.

Life can be long from birth to departure from this life. A person can live eight, nine, even ten decades. The temptations in life are many. The pitfalls are many. Going to church services helps the believer address the temptations and pitfalls.

Going to church is a way to learn how to deal with temptations and pitfalls that beset a believer. Going to church is the way to find healing and wholeness in Christ.

The Holy Apostle Peter said to Jesus: "To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life?" (Jn.6:68) Believers making the journey to the St. George Church for the Divine services hear words of and about the Lord Jesus Christ throughout the year.

From the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom 3

We thank Thee, O Master who lovest mankind, Benefactor of our souls,
That Thou hast made us worthy this day of Thy heavenly and immortal
Mysteries. Make straight our path; strengthen us all in Thy fear; guard
Our life; make firm our steps; through the prayers and intercessions of
The glorious Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary, and of all Thy saints.

To Consider

The value of daily services in an Orthodox parish.
The varying content of the services.
The educational value of the daily services.
The cumulative effect of the daily services upon the participants.
The cumulative effect of the daily services upon the parish.
The cumulative effect of the daily services upon the community.
The commitment required of parishioners to attend on a daily basis.
The stewardship of the parishioners using gifts from God for the benefit of the Church.
The financial sacrifice of parishioners travelling to church on a regular basis.
The cost to the parish in keeping the church open daily.
The benefits to the parish in keeping the church open daily.
The complexity of doing services everyday.
The preparation required to do services everyday.
The learning curve of the participants.
The familiarity of the services to regular participants.
The dynamics of participation when attendance varies.
Order in the conducting of the services.
Decorum in the conducting of the services.
The need for proper books to do the services.
The benefit of having individuals capable of singing properly.
The benefit of people capable of articulating words properly.
The benefit of having participants understand the message of the texts.
Establishing a credible schedule of services.
The question of when it is best to hold the services.
Finding a balance in the amount of services and choice of services.
Using different languages for the benefit of the attendees.
Finding continuing value in attending the services.
Attracting new people to attend the services.
Determining why individuals will come to the church for lengthy periods of time for other than attending the Divine services and transforming this willingness into attendance at Divine services.

1The Unabbreviated Horologian.or Book of the Hours. Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, New York 1997, p. 3.

2The Great Book of Needs. Vol.II. St. Tikhon's Seminary Press, South Canaan, Pennsylvania, 1998, p. 50.

3The Divine Liturgy According to St. John Chrysostom. St. Tikhon's Seminary Press, South Canaan, Pennsylvania, 1977, p. 84.

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