HEALTH WARNING... Keep going to church over the summer months
by Rev. Fr. Andrew Jarmus,
Director of Missions and Education and Communications, UOCC,
"Summer time and the living is easy," as the old Sam Cooke song goes. As soon as the weather gets warmer, our thoughts turn to relaxing, lightening up on the responsibilities of life. School lets out. We take vacations from work. And some put their Church attendance on hiatus until the fall.
The problem with this is that Church is not a responsibility, it is a gift. God gives us worship, and the community of the Church as aides to help us grow in His image and likeness. "The Sabbath was made for man, man was not made for the Sabbath", Jesus teaches us.
Like all of life, our spiritual life is lived in a certain rhythm. Over the Church year, with all of its fasts and feasts, a certain momentum is developed in our souls. This momentum is a result of the active presence of the Holy Spirit in us -- guiding our decisions, nourishing our souls, and leading us to a personal communion with our Lord Jesus Christ.
However, a word of warning: if this momentum is not kept up, all that we gain begins to be lost. As a parish priest, I have sadly seen more people than I would like to count who had grown greatly over the winter and spring portions of the Church year, only to fall right back to square one because they took "time off" from church over the summer. The result of their "breather" was a loss of this Spirit-driven momentum (ironically, the Greek word for "breath" also means "spirit"). Like a muscle, when our souls are left inactive they atrophy.
If you are going away this summer, speak with your parish priest and ask him to help you find you the closest Orthodox church. If you are going out to the cabin or on a camping trip, take along a Bible and a prayer book; celebrate the glory of nature with its Creator. Every day is a "day that the Lord has made". Every season, every moment of our lives is a gift from God. Any time is time to spend with the Lord.
Let us not be fooled. Orthodox Christianity is a high-maintenance way of life. To neglect our spiritual lives is to invite the spirits of apathy, sloth and delusion into our hearts. To keep the Faith is to receive an ever-deepening sense of God's presence in our lives.