Standing for Hours at the Lenten Services Exhausts Me So Much that I Can no Longer Think Straight. Is Anything Wrong with Me?

Different degrees of the described state are familiar to everyone. Moreover, well-known and authoritative clergymen did not hesitate to describe similar experiences in their memoirs. For example, here is how Protopresbyter George Shavelsky described his feelings after the long Lenten services: “Even if there were as little as two or three people praying in the empty church, we … glorified the Lord with our reading and singing for 4-5 hours, without interrupting the service. I confess that after such services I often left the church feeling irritated rather than consoled.”

Please note that these memories of the future protopresbyter of the army and navy refer to the time before the Soviet revolution, when his responsibilities of a village psalmist included singing and reading, both of which he often had to do by himself, without having one quiet minute throughout the entire service.  We see that despite constantly being in action, Fr George was still physically and morally tired. In contrast with his experience, parishioners coming to a weekday Lenten service spend three to five hours simply standing in one place listening to monotonous readings with almost no singing. This standing is enlivened only with the occasional earth-low bows and the opportunity to sit down for a while in case of fatigue. It is hardly surprising that such an experience tends to make one feel weary.

At the same time it is clear that a sincere believer associates prayer, above all, with spiritual uplift and joy and should hardly be burdened by it. Regardless of our standing as observant Christians, the question whether we meet the gospel criteria of a true believer with firm faith, a clear conscience and sincere prayer remains a rhetorical one. Our spiritual life today consists primarily of struggling with sinful habits, vices and passions. It can be best described as continuous overcoming of our own imperfection. Clearly this process requires effort, patience and time. It is not surprising that after several hours of a monotonous service, a feeling of fatigue overwhelms us so much that it completely displaces any joy from prayer. The path to change in the current sad situation lies through effort, patience, and weariness. Nothing will ever change if we let our fatigue or disappointment stop us from coming to Lenten services and if we confine ourselves to the usual visits to church on Sundays and holidays.  In fact, one of the goals (albeit not the main one) of Lenten worship is to show us our real selves as truthfully as possible. It differs from the familiar Sunday Liturgies, festive all-night vigils and the statutory prayer services whose well-known chants and prayers often give us enthusiasm and the joyful feeling of being somewhere near the kingdom of God.

The duration and monotony of Lenten worship make us understand that our joyful and somewhat “syrupy” enthusiasm is caused not so much by our faith and prayer as by our own feelings and emotions. It reminds us that prayer is a conversation with God, which we have not become much more familiar with since the time of our coming to church. In that light, the positive changes that we have been noticing in ourselves often prove nothing more than mimicry to the changed situation. From this perspective, our fatigue is an extremely useful experience. It is sobering and stimulating at the same time. Lenten services are perfect for correcting our self-esteem and gaining a sober view of our own spiritual level, so to speak. Perhaps they might also help us gain a more lenient attitude towards those of our neighbors whom we often condemn for walking around the temple and sitting during the service.  

Summing it up, your situation, as sad as it may be, is completely in the nature of things, and the opportunity to change it for the better is completely in your hands.

Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds

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