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19.06.2017 - 16: 03

Why go to the temple if "God is in the heart"?

In our time, you can often hear the phrase: "Why go to the temple? I have God in my heart! "It would seem that such a person can only be envied. Indeed, if you have God in your heart, then visiting the temple looks like something superfluous. But here the question arises: how much is this confidence grounded? Maybe God is in this other person in some other part of the body, for example, in the stomach? Or maybe the stomach itself became a god for man, according to the words of the apostle Paul:Their god is the womb(Phil. 3, 19).

But if a person is right, and his heart really became the abode of God, can one be sure that it is the true God, and not the one who tries to expose himself as God, not being such? This is what St. Theophan the Recluse is saying about this: "A man and a prayer book from afar are sensed by demons and flee far away from him so as not to receive a painful blow. Is it possible to think that where there is no fasting and prayer, is there already a demon? Can. Demons, settling in a person, do not always find their arrival, but they hide, in secretly teaching their master every evil »[1]. In other words, a person can rest assured that he has become a temple of the Spirit of God, being a plaything of unclean spirits.

Someone will say: "Behold, I fast and pray, only I do not go to the temple." One can answer this by saying that to pray and fast is a matter, of course, good and necessary, but in itself insufficient.

If a Christian, though not leaving personal prayer, voluntarily withdraws from the temple worship, then, according to the holy fathers of the Church, this is an indicator of spiritual ill health. The Monk Varsonofi of Optina offers the following discussion on this subject. One holy father was asked: "Are there any true signs that you can tell if the soul approaches God or moves away from Him? After all, relatively ordinary items have certain signs - they are good or not. When, for example, cabbage, meat, fish begin to rot, it is easy to notice this, for spoiled products emit a bad smell, change color and taste, and their appearance indicates deterioration.

But the soul? After all, it is incorporeal and can not make a bad smell or change its appearance. " To this question the holy father replied that the true sign of the necrosis of the soul is evasion from church services. A person who grows cold towards God first of all begins to avoid going to church. First, he tries to come to the service later, and then completely ceases to visit the temple of God [2].

Thus, the desire for church service is for the Christian a spiritual tuning fork with which we can always compare the state of our soul. A sign that God is in the heart is the love of temple worship.

This can be likened to human relationships. If we love someone, then we try to be close to him. If we say, for example, to a friend: "You are always with me, you are in my heart, so I did not come to congratulate you on your birthday" - it is unlikely that we will hear the words of approval and understanding in return. So it is with God. If God is in our heart, if we love Him or at least seek this love, then how can we not celebrate the Birthday or Resurrection of Christ, the Son of God, who became the Son of Man, suffered for our salvation, humiliation, pain and death, as we forget About the memorable date of the Mother of God, through whom we got access to the incarnate God, or disregard the days of the celebration of the heavenly powers of the incorporeal and holy, standing before the throne of God and praying fondly of us, lazy, sinful and strong only to the words of self-justification?

In the center of the temple worship is the greatest Christian sacrament - the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ. All worship is designed to prepare us for this mystery in the best possible way, and is in itself a vestibule and a foretaste of our eternal stay with God. In the church service, the doctrine of the Church appears visibly as the Body of Christ. The church is a Christian, united with Christ into a single divine-human organism. It is natural for a body to preserve unity, so it is natural for a Christian to strive for unity with the head of the Church - Christ and with all Christians united in Christ into one body. Therefore, participation in worship is for a Christian not a heavy duty, not a severe punishment or sophisticated torture, but a kind of natural and vital aspiration. The absence of this should serve as a signal that we are spiritually sick and in serious danger, that our life requires an early correction.  

Of course, it is not always easy for us to participate in public worship, we do not always want to. Everyone has a situation when he has to force himself to go to the temple. But without this spiritual life is impossible.

Where does this burden come from, this reluctance? All the same - from our passions, which so entered our souls, that they became for us like a second nature ("habit is the second nature"), which you can not get rid of easily and without illness.

The influence of worship on passion can be compared with the effect of light on the inhabitants of a dark cave. Animals and insects, accustomed to night and darkness, come into motion at the appearance of light and tend to fly away, escape, crawl into places habitual, into places dark, "safe", far from the light.

So the passions in us, while we are far from the Church, from the temple, from the worship, are dormant in the familiar and cozy spiritual darkness. But we should come to the temple for service, and as if all the forces of hell rise in our bodies and souls. The feet are wadded, there is a fog in my head, my back is hurting ... And everyone is indignant about everything: the readers read incomprehensibly, the choristers are stumbled and falsified, the priest or not, or he is in a hurry, the deacon looks defiant, they answer unkindly in the church shop, But if they joke and smile, it also irritates ("in a holy place!"), Etc. etc. And, of course, the background is the thought: "What am I doing here?". And if you do not understand the need for temple prayer, then there is almost no chance to stay in the temple. Nevertheless, we will not receive true consolation anywhere except the temple.

Many people are familiar with the state of despondency, or, as it is commonly called, depression, when nothing pleases and everything loses its meaning. In the temple in this state also do not want to go. But Orthodox people know that if you still force yourself and get to the temple and worship, then everything is somehow miraculously changing. It seems that he stood idly on duty, he hardly heard prayers, he did not pray so much himself, as he tried to cope with a spiritual storm or with rattling thoughts, but you leave the temple, and in your heart - the world. It seems that nothing has changed, the circumstances are the same, but they no longer seem so insurmountable as before.

And this is not surprising. After all, in the temple our imperfect prayer receives its fullness, uniting with the prayer of the whole Church of Christ, in whichThe Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings(Rome 8, 26). Therefore, in most cases, even the deepest and most concentrated private prayer will not be as beneficial for the soul as an imperfect church prayer.  

Holy fathers often call the temple "heaven on earth." In it we come into contact with the world of the hills, we enter, if I may say so, into the space of eternity. Here we get pacification of passions and protection from the violent influence of evil spirits, being made (at least temporarily) inaccessible to them. Every time we enter the temple space, we make our personal small exodus from the world thatLies in evil(1 IN. 5,19), and avoid his deadly sting.

The action of public prayer is the reverse side of the dual commandment of God about the love of God and neighbor, since the personal prayer of every Christian praying in the temple is strengthened, on the one hand, by the prayers of other worshipers, and on the other - by the energy of the Divine.

This is what our old Russian prelate Simon, Bishop Vladimir and Suzdal wrote about this: "Do not be false, on the pretext of bodily weakness, do not be absent from the church meeting: how the rain raises a seed, so the church draws the soul to good deeds. All is unimportant, what are you doing in the cell: Do you read the Psalter, do you sing twelve psalms? All this is not equal to one cathedral one: "Lord, have mercy!" That's what, my brother: the supreme apostle Peter himself was the church of the living God, and When he was captured by Herod and imprisoned, was he not delivered from Herod's hands by the prayers of the Church? And David prays, saying: "One thing I ask of the Lord, and that only I seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, contemplate the beauty of the Lord and visit his holy temple early." The Lord himself said: "My house will be called the house of prayer." "Where," he says, "two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them." If such a cathedral is convened in which there will be more than a hundred brothers, how can you not believe that the Lord our God is here? "[3].

Of course, there are sometimes objective circumstances that really impede the visit of the temple. But not everything that seems to us an obstacle, is such in the eyes of God. In this respect, the case described in the life of the righteous Juliana Muromskaya is indicative: "The same winter was so cold that the earth broke up from the frost. And she did not go to church for a while, but she prayed to God at home. And one day a priest came that church early one morning to church, and there was a voice from the icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, saying: "Go, say kindly to the Elixir: that he does not go to church for prayer? Although home prayer to her God is pleasant, but everything is not the same as the church "[4].

For a man who has established himself on the path of the divine, a visit to the church service becomes a necessity no less than, and sometimes even greater than, bodily nutrition. The saints are especially keenly aware of this need. So, the righteous John of Kronstadt confessed: "I am extinguished, I die spiritually, when I do not serve a whole week in the temple, and I burn, I revive with my soul and heart when I serve ..." [5].

However, even today, probably, in every Orthodox church one can meet at least one parishioner, who, like the evangelical Anna the prophetess (compare Luke 2, 36-37), almost permanently resides in the church. While those around it usually do not contribute. And her relatives rebuke, and her own, Orthodox, are urged to moderate her ardor, and she, overcoming years and illnesses, is almost crawling, and she is striving for a kindly heart-beaten "mass".

In conclusion, I want to give an amazing example of unconquerable love for the divine service of one of the Greek ascetics of the piety of the 20th century: "Bogolyubivaya Keti did not want to miss a single Vespers and Liturgy. She wanted to go to work every day, so she was looking for temples where the liturgy was performed on weekdays. She sacrificed her sleep, made many hours of pedestrian crossings, just to not miss the Divine Liturgy <...>

Keti tried to get acquainted with the priests of all neighboring villages, so that she could invite them to celebrate the liturgy. She often went to the Pantanasse temple. At night the river Luros crossed the rope bridge. Often in winter it was covered with ice, and Kety always had several bags with groceries for the poor.

Once, when the bridge was swept away by water, to the other shore an old shepherd helped her to move. Sometimes she had to spend many hours on the road. Once, Ketya was attacked by dogs, another time she met a bear, but the animals did not cause her any harm.

It's hard to describe everything that happened to Keti. There were no telephones. Once, none of the familiar priests warned her about the liturgy. After work, Ketya still set out on her journey. First came to the Philippines. Then I visited the villages of Cambi, Pantanasse, St. George. But there was no service anywhere, and in the meantime it was getting dark. Keti (still on foot) went to Kerasovo, and from there to Vulist, where her sister sister joined her. On the way they stumbled and fell into a hole. Women are knee-deep in asbestos. They cleaned themselves up and went to the liturgy. In total for the evening and night of Keti there was a distance of 30 kilometers. And so it often happened.

<...> Once in the temple Kate fell from a chair, which she climbed to light the lamps. She had a fracture of the hip. She went to the hospital, where she was prescribed a bed rest. But how could she then attend the services? Lame, she left the hospital, stopped the car and went to the church of St. George of the village of Philippiada, where her friend, Father Vasily Zalakostas, served. There she lay down in the temple porch. Twenty days and nights she spent in the church. Every day a priest came and celebrated the Divine Liturgy.

Once in the winter, a bad weather happened. The wind tore the trees from the roots. But this did not become an obstacle for Kety. Without a moment's hesitation, she went to the liturgy, but did not return back for a long time. In the excitement colleagues were waiting for Keti. At last she seemed. Her face glowed joyfully, although all the legs (as far as they were visible under her long dress) were in the blood. She explained that the delay was due to the fact that she had to climb over the fallen trees that met her on the way.

So what did Ketya feel at the time of the Divine Liturgy? Probably, it was something inexplicable, if she, overcoming all difficulties, did everything possible and impossible to get to the service. She herself sang, presented priests, carried heavy liturgical books.

Sometimes she went to night service, and in the morning she hurried off for another Divine Liturgy. And then, visiting her friends and hearing how the radio broadcast the service, she began to pray a third time. She knelt and prostrated. No noise could distract her. <...>

Her love for the divine service was such that often, falling asleep, she whispered: "Church, Church ..." [6].

It remains only to wish all of us to gain at least a small fraction of that love for the church service, which is described in these lines!


[1]Theophan the Recluse, Svt. Thoughts for every day. Day 206: The tenth week after Pentecost (1 Corr., 4, 9-16; 17, 14-23).

[2]Varsonofi of Optina, Prp. Conversations. Cellular notes. Spiritual poems. Memories. Letters. "A wreath at the grave of the Father". - [B. M.]: Vvedensky Stauropegial Monastery of Optina Pustyn, 2013. - S. 130.

[3] The Kiev Pechersk Patericon. - The reprint. - [M.]: Ed. St. Trinity Sergius Lavra, 1991. - S. 19-20.

[4] The Story of the Osoirina's Elation // Izbornik: The Tale of Ancient Rus / The Entry. Art. D. Likhachev. - Moscow: Artist. Lit., 1987. - S. 274.

[5]John of Kronstadt, Rights. My life is in Christ. T. 2, § 1177.

[6] The devotees of the laity / trans. With the Greek. Athanasius Zoitakis. - M .: St. Gora. - T. 1. - 2010. - 231-234.

A source: Pravoslavie.Ru

Author: Andrei Gorbachev

Tags: Religion, Christianity