Anticipating Needs

Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ
Galatians 6:2

The Good Samaritan by Vincent Van Gogh (detail)

If you watch the altar servers closely, you will see that they anticipate the needs of the priest. The priest is the primary celebrant of the Divine Liturgy, the one who pilots the ship. But in order for the priest to do his job well he needs their help.

Their work is important. They light the candles and incense, they hand the incense to the priest, they move about the altar area frequently to make sure that the Divine Liturgy is celebrated smoothly without any bumps and stops.

The Church works the same way. The Church is Christ's body, his arms and legs. This means that the work that Christ does in the world is often accomplished by us. 

The purpose of the Church is to help our save ourselves and each other. The Church is the locus of salvation, the place where we are baptized, receive the Eucharist, confess, worship, learn, meet Christ, reorient ourselves back towards Christ, and a host of other constituents that make up the substance of our salvation.

A healthy Church is one where the love of God prevails, where the commandment to love God and neighbor remains foremost in our minds, and where our dealings with one another are performed in accord with this commandment.

If this is our goal and our focus, if we seek to obey the commandment with a pure heart and good intention (which requires radical self-honesty), then something remarkable happens: We begin to experience a freedom that our soul longs for but which is hard to comprehend until the experience of it comes.

What is this freedom? It is the freedom to be ourselves, to define for ourselves what our gifts and talents are and then actualize them — live them out — in a way that brings something good to our neighbor. When we do that we discover that service to our neighbor is actually the wellspring — the source — of meaning, purpose, and joy.

A healthy church is not one that has a lot of members. Many churches have lots of members but they are not necessarily places of meaning, purpose, and joy.

A healthy church is one in which the members learn more deeply who Christ is, that He is concerned about them and their lives in the most intimate ways (even the details), and who in gratitude to what Christ gives them, give the same measure of love to each other in return.

Christ is the High Priest of St. Peter's Orthodox Church and we are His servants. Our work in the Church is similar to the altar servers and the priest during Divine Liturgy. And as we define our talents and gifts, and as we explore how we can offer them to the Church — which is to say to each other — then Christ will manifest Himself among us.

And when that happens, creativity flourishes.