Orderly matters in our beloved church–2‎ / ATTIRE

coptic-christiansBrothers and sisters, in our previous monthly newsletter we talked about orderly matters in our beloved church.  We mainly talked about the importance of being attentive in the church as a way for us to be focused in our prayers, give chance for others to pray, and to express who our God is. Although I believe that this topic is not fully covered yet, I will move on to another topic and I will leave it to you to contemplate on the words “let’s attend”.  Now let’s move on to a controversial topic, church attire.  Yes, I’m going to talk about it, the topic of every Sunday morning in every house, before coming to the church, Most females want to dress in something suitable and comfortable, because the day is long; can’t be something she wore during the last 52 weeks, ok maybe I’m exaggerating just a little.  At the same time, moms and dads are arguing with their boys over the suitability of wearing jeans on Sunday to church, and with their girls over how long the skirt or the sleeves should be.  All this is taking place, while morning incense is being raised, doxology is being sang, psalms being recited and maybe even it’s the time for the offertory.  And by the time we get to church we are already drained and exhausted, and maybe even sinning.  Only to get to church to hear one of the fathers making the announcement about being respectful to church and coming with a suitable dress code.

 

Ibelieve the issue isn’t that simple, the issue is where our minds are set?  I totally understand that attire suitability is part of every culture, and applying this to the church is an important issue. The bible gave us a very important guide when it said “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head (Christ). But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head (Man)” (1 Cor 11:4,5).  So a man when he prays ought to have his head uncovered to express first authority given to him by God, second to express his submission to God.  As for the woman, she covers her hair to express her humility and preserving her virtue. Also there were many cultural factors that would have been more suitable for the woman to cover her hair.  Although we are not talking here about the use of the head cover in the church, but the above scripture reference sheds light on our general attire in the church.  Regardless of the gender, our attire should represent our submission to God in humility.  First attire for man was in the garden of Eden, picked out from the fig tree, simple leaves to cover man’s nakedness from God.  The only purpose at that time for their attire before God was to cover their nakedness, I’m not saying that we can just put on anything going to church. Because there are many other factors, first as we mentioned above our attire should express our submission to God.  Second, it should be simple as picked form the garden, third it should not be distracting for others, fourth suitable for the ambassadors of Christ.  Above all, attire shouldn’t consume our morning going to church.  Nothing outwardly should overtake what’s inside us going to church, or even nothing outwardly should overtake our dedication to the Lord’s day.  Many come accusing us that the church has become
a place of show off, a place to flaunter our clothing, cars, and social status.
Ahumble and a virtue preserving attire wouldn’t be revealing, exposing, or particularly attracting.  This includes T-shirts with vulgar writings or pictures, bright colors or unsuitable clothing.  But I also must say that I would like youth to come to church and feel comfortable and
not judged, looked down upon, or feel picked upon, because of his/her attire or hair.  I believe if one is dressed inappropriately he/she will change his/her attire, if we all are dressed modestly to express our submission and virtue preserving attire.

At the heart of the matter, our attire should express submission and virtue preserving.

Orderly Matters in Our Beloved Church

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Beloved brothers and sisters,

Through sermons, announcements, visitations, and personal conversations, our beloved church emphasizes to its children the importance of order. While at times overlooked, the topics of orderly worship, organization, timing, etc. remain vital to the structure, spirit, and practices of our church.

When attending an orthodox service (even if it’s your first time), you quickly recognize the orderly nature of prayers, the movements, and the clergy vestments, regardless of whether you understand the purpose or necessity of such matters. My beloved reader, this organization or “the church rites”, is not done without a cause but mystically connects the Church and the worshiper to Christ.

Additionally, the church rites provide the congregation and priests with the structure to offer before God an orderly worship. St. Paul urges the church in Corinth to, “Let all things be done decently and in order,” (1 Cor 14:40) for “[Our] God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints,” (1 Cor 14:33). Thus, this structured and orderly form of worship reveals and reflects the nature of our God.  These church rites, emphasize a knowledge of our God, while also showing our belonging to Him. As an orderly worshiping church, we not only offer Him the best offering, but also reveal His attributes.

Surprisingly, the church fathers do not use the word “rite” frequently, but rather use “ordinance” and “observance”. An ordinance is a command to conduct an activity in an orderly manner. Throughout the Old Testament, God commanded His people to keep His ordinances, stating “You shall therefore keep this ordinance in its season,” (Exo 13:10). The more important synonym, “observance”, means to pay attention, to listen carefully, or to obey.  This word calls us to active participation in our service as an attentive participant, not simply one who shows up.

The service emphasizes the Church’s focus on orderly worship, with the deacon uttering instructions to the participant saying, “Let us attend”, “You who are seated, stand”, “Look toward the east” and “In the Wisdom of God, let us attend”.  There is a deacon response that is currently not commonly practiced, that details to the congregation the manner in which they should stand, it says:

       Amen, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, who is Jesus Christ the Son of God hear us and have mercy upon us. Let us stand upright. Let us stand in piety. Let us stand with attention. Let us stand in peace. Let us stand in the fear of God and with trembling and reverence…

       With the church fathers’ emphasis on organized service, I wonder where we went wrong to allow our services to become so disorderly.

The Orthodox Church gives an immense feeling of other-worldliness, giving it an immense sense of beauty, and emphasizing that although the church lives in the world, the world does not exist in the church. However, when we bring worldliness into the church, it invades our ability to truly worship and elevate our prayers.  As we come late to the liturgical service, as we whisper in our side talks, as we move around restlessly, or as we use our phones during the liturgical service, we bring our world to our worship time and we interrupt and become a stumbling block to those who are trying to focus on prayers.  When we bring in our cell phones which invade every quiet moment of our lives, when we bring in our shopping list, when we bring the cares of the world into the church, we must remember of the purpose of orderly worship.

 

To be continued…