The Priest Who Did Not Want to Serve Liturgy

Divine-Liturgy-as-it-truly-isThere was once a priest who did not want to serve the liturgy because it was a cold winter day.

The temperature was 10 degrees below zero and the priest knew that the only person who was likely to come to the service was the chanter. The priest had no idea about the Church’s teaching on the presence of the Triumphant Church and how the Divine Liturgy benefits the living and the departed. With difficulty he forced himself to go to church. On the way to church he kept wishing that the chanter would not come so that he would not have to serve and go home. However, the chanter did come.

The priest did the Prothesis (or Proskomedia, the service of preparing the holy gifts) in a hurry and began the Divine Liturgy. Shortly after, some bishops, priests, monks and nuns and some lay people arrived. Most of them sat in the choir section and began to chant so beautifully that the priest forgot about how cold and lonely he was earlier. His whole body was warm and his whole being was all a flame…. When he did the small entrance he noticed that the church was full of people – most of them familiar – he did not pay much attention and just continued with the Divine Liturgy.

When the time came for the Sanctification of the Holy Gifts he saw three bishops, brightly clothed and radiant entering the Holy Altar. They knelt with him and prayed. The priest then stood up very carefully with fear, took the censer and in a loud voice said,

‘Especially our All Holy, Immaculate, Most Blessed and glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary…’.

The soul of the priest was amazed and filled with divine joy. Peace and heavenly stillness, hesychia, dominated his inner self. When the time came for the elevation and dividing of the Host (Lamb) the whole church filled with the sweetest melodies. The whole multitude of people who were present along with the monks, priests and bishops chanted not only once but many times,

‘One is Holy, One is Lord: Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father. Amen’.

Next they chanted the Holy Communion hymn,

‘Taste and see that the Lord is good, Alleluia.’

The priest was wondering what to do. Should he partake of the Holy Communion first or step aside for the three bishops who were present. Just as he was thinking this, one of the bishops nodded to him indicating that he should receive Holy Communion and then to Unify and Place the remaining of the portions of the Lamb into the Chalice along with the portions in memory of the Holy Theotokos and the Saints. Having completed this the priest then opened the Beautiful Gate … and saw no one in the Church… he turned and looked back into the holy altar, he looked to the right, looked to the left, the bishops had disappeared, he stood there speechless, amazed. He slowly opened his mouth and chanted the next petition,

‘With the fear of God and faith and love, draw near …,’

and the chanter slowly drew near to take Holy Communion. The priest was still amazed, still wondering! The whole Triumphant Church was present. All those present in the church were persons familiar to him, they were persons that had departed from this life and he would from time to time commemorate their names during each liturgy:
‘that’s why they were present, that’s why they all seemed so familiar’, he thought.

As for the bishops in the altar they were the Three Hierarchs: Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory the Theologian.

So many years of study at university, so much research and so many sleepless nights he spent studying and these efforts were not able to give him not even one drop of the sweetness and divine knowledge that this one Divine Liturgy gave him. (Hat tip: Jim Kolettis)


  1. Some of the most beautiful Liturgies I experienced are the ones where only the priest and I showed up. Though I don’t have a very good singing voice, it was a great blessing to do the responses. The Nave felt very full at those times.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  2. ChristineFevronia says

    Beautiful, George! My favorite Monomakhos post to date!

    Who is the artist who depicted such a glorious vision?

  3. Jim of Olym says

    Beautiful story, George! I’ve sent it on to some priestly friends.
    And Happy Theophany to you!
    Rdr. James Morgan

  4. Gail Sheppard says

    So lovely. 🙂

  5. Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

    …”The priest had no idea about the Church’s teaching on the presence of the Triumphant Church and how the Divine Liturgy benefits the living and the departed. With difficulty he forced himself to go to church.”

    “So many years of study at university, so much research and so many sleepless nights he spent studying”

    Where in the world did he study for so long: at what university and what seminary, and who ordained someone who didn’t get it? I don’t recommend studying as a help for sleeplessness either.

  6. This reminds me of a favorite comment my father always made when only a few human people showed up for services, Well the faithful are here. I wonder how many times we don’t realize that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who are also participating in our liturgies.

  7. There was a small Akathist service the other night here in Baltimore with a handful of people.

    After the service began, Kh. Frederica reports that someone began singing the ison, low and perfectly on pitch.

    The problem was that no one present — or visible — was singing the ison.

    Democracy of the dead, indeed.

  8. Fr. Evangelos Pepps says

    Though this story has been around for a long time, a blessing to be reminded of. Gracias , Yeorgo. Hristos yenate/Chrsit is born!

  9. Really nice gift to the Monomakhos, George! Christ is born in glory!

    Here’s a little something I found on the internet, a video of an Orthodox Turkish Gagauz woman from Moldova and her new Mexican husband, newly converted. There is hope for Orthodoxy! To the famous French song I love you / je t’aime

    • Archpriest Andrei Alexiev says

      Sorry, once again a negative vote by accident!

      • Archpriest Andrei Alexiev says

        BTW, I had to cancel Royal Hours/Vesperal Liturgy Monday morning due to weather conditions. It was a situation where my son would have been the only Reader/Chanter for the whole service. The only other folks who might have showed were a man in his 80’s and another man who lives 70 miles away.

  10. This goes with a post I made under the religious freedom article regarding Moscow’s statement on primacy. The religious freedom article would not let me post a follow up with the Phanar’s response. Here is Moscow’s statement again. :

    And here is the Phanar’s response:

    Without comment on Moscow’s statement, the Phanar’s statement seems to me to be contradictory. They want universal primacy to be attached to the “person” of the Patriarch of Constantinople, not something that is bestowed by canons, diptychs, etc. The notion seems to be that primacy of a person (other than Christ) is a necessary condition of churchness and that the diptychs and canons only manifest what is already there. Yet they state that the protos was originally Rome then, after the schism, Constantinople. However, if universal primacy is personal and not a creature of conciliarity, shouldn’t we all be Roman Catholics? What happens when doctrinal integrity and personal primacy conflict? On what basis does primacy devolve down the diptychs if not conciliar establishment of the order of the diptychs? By what power does canon law bestow or retract powers regarding primacy if it is somehow a chrism independent of conciliarity?

    I’m sure these and other burning questions will be hammered out in the days, weeks, years, decades and centuries to come, provided Jesus tarries.

    • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

      “MISHA!” You wrote also that Thomas’s “French is FLAWLESS”. Can you point out for us where and what Thomas wrote IN FRENCH?

  11. Rd. Daniel Everiss says

    Many long years ago, in about 1965 or 1966, when I was still a novice -monk, for practical reasons, I was staying a day and overnight in the parish school, [ so as to be present for liturgy the following day], on the grounds of St. Innocent’s Church, then in Encino, California (later they sold that property and built a new better church across the freeway, in Tarzana, California).
    Twice, or three times, when I was walking around the grounds , and meditating and praying for God’s help and guidance, I heard choir practice [ of a large choir], in the church, which always was unlocked.
    And at that time, my life was in turmoil, and my faith was weak.
    It was beautiful singing, so I went in to see the choir.
    But I could not tell what language it was in, and no service or priest was schedualed.
    When I opened the doors to the narthex, I still could hear the beautiful harmonious singing, but by the time
    I opened the inner church doors (to the nave) and looked up at the balcony where the choir usually was, …
    the singing and the singers had.,…vanished.
    This happened twice or three times, to my memory.
    But, there were no cars parked in front of the church, and I knew that most [virtually all], parishioners lived far from the church anyway, so most of them had to come to church, by cars.
    Perplexed, I tried to make as many human excuses for this as I could, including that the noisy freeway was nearby, etc,
    but…I finally had to conclude that…..angels must be singing [perhaps because the earthly parishioners were
    Till now, I have not related this to but a few close friends.
    To me, this was but another example of how God reaches down to those who call upon Him, to those who need Him:
    “In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and He answered me!”.
    Rd. Daniel
    At any rate, my faith in God was increased, and at a difficult time in my life.
    I did not imagine this.

    • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

      Didn’t the Encino church burn down? First i’ve heard that they had a parish school building there before they moved to Tarzana. 1965-6—–must have been when Fr. Sergei Glagolev was the rector there. At what point did you transfer to Holy Virgin Mary church in Los Angeles and start up their bookstore? I know that when I moved there in 1972, you had come and gone already Did people know you were a monk then?. You heard a large choir practicing? How unusual that a choir practice would be of such beauty!

      • Rd. Daniel Everiss says

        Just to conclude my testimony here. I have responded to Bp. Tikhon,
        in depth, in a private email to himself, as he has been resident in my old LA Holy Virgin Mary OCA parish, for many long years.
        Why I even shared this private memory, is that this article, jogged my memory,
        plus the other comment here, about the eszon being sung , but no person being there to sing it, etc.
        What I have noticed in my 70 years, is that…often….some…see/hear God’s workings..i.e. ‘miracles’, while many others, even most people, do not.
        WHY? this is so?………we usually cannot know, in each specific happening, as when God allowed myself to hear that angelic ‘choir practice’….which increased my weak faith at that time..
        “When God so wills, the order of nature is overturned, because HE DOETH WHATSOEVER HE WILLETH!”
        And, the basic fundamental truth of WHY God allows anything to happen to each of us:
        for our ultimate good…i.e. to best prepare our immortal souls for life with Him.
        This short earthly life is but a preparation for eternity, a time for testing and cleansing of our souls, so that we might be fit, to live in Heaven with the All-Virtuous and Good God and His Saved.
        Only ‘saints’, the sanctified CAN dwell in Heaven,[ fit in there], those who shed their passions and acquired virtue in this life.
        Just my thoughts-
        Rd. Daniel

  12. Frederica has now shared the story, which was picked up by Rod Dreher:

  13. Fr. George Washburn says

    Special greetings to V. R. A. F. C. W. PhD. from his old commanding officer, retired Lt. Col. Roger Welsh, with whom I lunched today.

    • Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster, PhD says

      Christ is born! Glorify Him!

      Thank you, Father George, for conveying Chaplain Welch’s greetings. Those were some good ol’ days in the 1980s with the 7th Infantry Division (Light) at Ft. Ord, California. Please return the favor and provide my contact information to him.

  14. Love this! Thanks for posting it.