St. Mary Orthodox Church

Cambridge, MA

November 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Glory to Jesus Christ!

Every liturgy we hear the words, "Let us attend," or in Greek, "proskomen." This is a deliberate call to mindfulness. It is a wake-up call. "Wake up! Something beautiful is about to happen!"

There are many other calls to mindfulness in our services. "Let us pray to the Lord," is one, the bells on the censor, another, the processions, big and little, a most obvious one, the icons, the chanting and hymns, the exchange of the kiss of peace, the ceasing of the people, the reading of the Holy Scriptures, and the sermon, all are calls to mindfulness.

I see the Divine Liturgy as a long guided meditation on the life of Jesus and the activity of the Holy Trinity in the world and in our lives. As in sitting meditation and contemplative prayer, our minds often wander and we must remind them to come back to the object of our focus. That is the point of what Thich Nhat Hanh, "bells of mindfulness." The many "bells" built into the Liturgy serve us in the same way.

Come back, come back, come back, come back.

Once, when my twin brother came to Cambridge to be ordained a deacon, many of our relatives joined us from Tennessee. Afterward a Baptist cousin said, "Today we heard about Christmas, Easter, the Ascension, the Transfiguration and more, all in one service!" She was thrilled by what she had seen and heard and found joy in this liturgy that was so different than her own. These stories from the life of Jesus Christ, stories she knew from Baptist Sunday School, worked to connect her to this new and exotic place. Mindfulness has the power to make us feel at home everywhere.

Fr. Alexander Schmemann wrote about "the Liturgy after the Liturgy." We do this when we take the mindfulness of God we practice in the Divine services into the world. When we see God everywhere everything changes. The whole world becomes a sacrament.

When we are mindful in all we are doing, then we experience life in a much deeper and more meaningful way. The Liturgy comes alive. The world comes alive. We come alive.

With Love,
+Fr. Antony