Orthodox worship is highly formal. The Divine Liturgy is essentially unchanged since the earliest days of Christianity – why fix something which is not broken? It is rich with meaning, and many learned and spiritual books have been written on the symbolism found within it. Everything is done with deep reverence and love for our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Church is where Eternity and Time meet and we are caught up in the boundless love of God, who weeps for our sorrows and dances for our joy.
And yet, surrounding this formality, Orthodox worship is curiously informal. People arrive early for a service, or arrive late (seldom does anyone arrive precisely on time). Throughout the service, people will wander around the temple, lighting candles and venerating icons. You may hear the choir whispering urgently to one another when they realise that they have the wrong music. Sometimes the priest overlooks a line of a prayer. Every now and then a child might run through the temple on her way to or from her parents or the children’s room. Things go wrong. It happens. We’re not perfect.
Orthodoxy does not exist in a vacuum. Orthodox Christians bring their whole self, warts and all, into the presence of God who is almighty Creator and compassionate Judge, Beginning and End, truly Divine and truly Human. Only in this way can God renew that which is broken, cleansing us and restoring us as citizens of Paradise, eternally redeemed through His Cross. Nobody is too bad or too good for God, and nobody is turned away from His holy temple. God calls everyone individually and personally. God calls you. Come and see!
The psalmist writes: “Shout with joy to God, all the earth: come into his presence singing hymns of praise”. We say: “Come and join us!”