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The meaning and goal of Church services


Any spiritually sensitive person recognizes that his existence and all the good things which he uses are the result of Godís goodness. This awareness gives rise to the need to thank God. "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name" (Ps. 103:1 [LXX 102:1]). "All that is within me" refers to the totality of all the qualities of soul, all the noblest and best faculties of man, which are called to take part in glorifying the Lord. This leads to the glorification of the Lord in the church by means of reading, singing, painting and various other artistic gifts ó by everything which contributes to the majesty of the divine services.

What should we pray about?

Prayer is a conversation with God, similar to a conversation with other people. What do we talk to other people about? We express our thoughts and feelings; we ask for help; we learn by listening to others; we offer gratitude and praise; we beg for forgiveness. A similar conversation takes place in the house of God. The fundamental elements which comprise this conversation are: 1) giving thanks and glory to God; 2) repentance for our sins and for our failure to fulfill our Christian duty; 3) asking for help, for deliverance from illnesses and dangers, for salvation, and offering prayers for one another, for the Church, for our country, for the whole world. One particular form of our prayer for other people is prayer for our deceased fathers, brothers, sisters, for their forgiveness and repose.

In almost all forms of prayer we can see the union of the various elements of prayer. Our petitions to God are joined with our repentance, our thanksgiving, our adoration.

"Prayer in the church gives consolation to all. It moves us to repentance for our sins, to compunction, to amendment of life, to a life of virtue. It requires the fruits of repentance. It reminds us of the dread Judgment Day, drawing a picture of the Lordís terrible tribunal, at which all the world will be judged. It sets before us the horrid corruption of our sinfulness, from which we cannot be freed without the Saviour, without the medicine of faith, without the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion, without fasting, tears, acts of mortification of the flesh and almsgiving.

"The divine services instruct, comfort, nourish, heal and strengthen Christian souls. They elevate and bring joy to a Christianís spirit. They are a heavenly treasure on earth, given to us by our merciful Lord and Redeemer. They are a treasure-trove of all blessings, all the gifts of the Holy Spirit; they are the treasury of all the energies needed for life and piety, of all the virtues worthy of emulation in people and of exemplary lessons" (St John of Kronstadt, Thoughts on the Divine Services).

When we turn to God for help, we also ask the Saints to pray for us, since they stand closer to God than we do.

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