by Fr. Stephen Supica
Wisdom. Let us attend.
At the beginning of Great Lent – on the two Saturdays before Lent begins, and the first Saturday of the Fast – we have special Memorial Services for all our departed loved ones, indeed, for all those
“from the beginning of time, from one end of the earth to the other…”
As we enter into Lent, it is a good time to remember our departed – and our own departure.
We’ve had two people die in the past month in the Tri-Cities – both without any warning, symptoms, or time to prepare themselves or their families. Neither of them had I ever seen in church. Trust me – meeting someone for the first time when they’re horizontal in their casket is not one of the more positive parts of pastoral ministry. To know that someone has deprived themselves of the Church’s worship, of the blessings of the Divine Liturgy, and of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ which He offers to us in Holy Communion … that’s a painful thing.
At every Liturgy, we pray for
“a Christian end to our lives, peaceful, without shame and suffering, and for a good account before the awesome judgment seat of Christ.”
If we’re not in church to offer that prayer, what are we doing to ourselves?
I have the advantage of being a priest. That means that pretty much whenever there’s a service at church, I’m going to be there. “I’d rather be skiing,” I’d like to sleep in this morning,” The weather is lousy” – none of that works in my position. I’ll be in church unless I’m unable to stand up. You have the misfortune of having a choice in the matter – there probably won’t be a bunch of people wondering what’s going on if you don’t show up for church. You may not even have to make excuses to your friends or family. Your only responsibility is to yourself – and to the One whom you call “Lord.” However, you are not the only one for whom you are responsible. You have a responsibility for everyone for whom you set an example: your friends, your family, the other folks in church. You show them by your behavior what you think is truly important – worshipping God and communion with Him, or something else. If those people have any respect for you whatsoever, they will be influenced, however unconsciously, by your example. You’re not making a decision only for yourself, even if the impact of your choice isn’t as blatant as if the priest decided not to show up for church some Sunday.
You have a choice about where you are on Sunday. You do not, however, have a choice about certain other things – including the fact that you will one day die. One day they’ll be praying for us on Saturday of the Souls. Each of us will stand before our Lord Jesus Christ after our departure from this life. It would be a good thing to practice for that inescapable reality by standing before Him at the Liturgy.
We can’t prevent – or even predict – our departure…but we can prepare for it.