You should improve yourself because you love Christ rather than to meet your selfish needs.
You have to work hard to improve yourself with hope. You must strive towards improvement because you love Christ rather than because you wish to satisfy your selfish needs, believing that you are now entitled to salvation.
Whatever you do, the Lord will not save you because of your efforts. He saves you for nothing.
You might say, “Then why would I undertake the feat?” If you don’t want to, you don’t have to force yourself into it. “But then why should I do all this if I can be saved for free?” You’re doing all this out of joy and gratitude and you say to yourself: “I’ll do something for you too, my Lord. I will participate in it by doing some physical labor.”
How do I explain it to you? For example, you sent me a book from Cyprus. You wrote on the parcel: “For the preacher priest.” Okay. Why would you do that? You say, “Because I love you, Father.” I know that you love me. If you hadn’t sent me that book, wouldn’t you love me? “Yes, but I wanted to do something for you.” So that’s the answer.
Do the same in all other respects. Say, you’d like to show your love for another person, for instance your wife. You buy her flowers and give her a present or something, but it doesn’t mean that if you don’t give her flowers, you don’t love her. However, this very act reveals something, and that’s what I mean.
One person told me, “I love God, but I sleep on Sundays.” How do you love Him? God loved you and showed you that. How did He show it? He was crucified on the Cross. For your sake. He tells you, “My child, I love you to death. I love you so much that I shed my blood. Do you love me?” “Yes, I love you” “Where are you then? When I offer myself to the faithful at the Divine Liturgy and My Body and My Blood are on the Holy Table, do you realize that I am there?” Jesus asks. “Yes, I understand that” “And what do you do?” “No, I can’t come because I’m asleep.”
If you understand that the Communion of the Body and Blood of the Lord takes place at the Liturgy, and you still say, “It’s okay, I’m sleepy, I better sleep, I have a lot of work, I’m very tired, the things that you, Father, are talking about, are fine and all but we have our own concerns”. All right, then. “Have a nice day!”
A friend of mine on the Holy Mount, who is an old man, always says so when he sees he can’t find a common ground with a visitor. “Okay. Have a nice day! Enjoy.” We can’t agree… Perhaps it’s not time you realized that the sacrifice of Christ is ineffable.
It’s a big deal to be aware of what is going on at the Divine Liturgy. If I can feel it, I won’t go to church formally to have a good time or because I’m Greek and I live in beautiful Greece, and I’ve been taught that way.
We know a lot of things from our traditions, but because some things were pagan, magical and sinful, they were abandoned. What do you mean, “this is how we were taught”? If something is wrong, we must unlearn it. We don’t just do things out of habit, because that’s how we were taught. We do that because it makes sense and substance.
For the same reason that we do not understand the meaning or do not want to understand it, it does not bother us; we have come to the point where great things have become a routine task, a formal matter: “I have to go to church”. You do not have to go to church! It’s a matter of love.
Do you have to? Who has ever told any mother that she has to love her child? I’ll answer you again with the words of the elder from the Holy Mount: “Have a nice day!” “I love my child because I want to. Because it’s my baby. Because I see him. Because I have something to do with him. I love him and I kiss and hug him. You needn’t tell me that I have to love my baby. I can feel it without you telling me what to do.”
This is the right way to attend the Liturgy as a way towards improving our relationship with Christ and the Church.
From the book Love Forever by the Very Rev. Andrew (Conanos)
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds