The present youth are active and mobile. Quite often, it is the case that we do not have the possibility to be at liturgy while having to rest or work. A reader of DyvenSvit has asked us this particular question, and we have tried to find the answer by referring to Rev. Rostyslav Pendyuk. The answer is presented below.
“Yesterday, I was in the mountains for the whole day and could not be at liturgy; yet, when I saw all this beauty created by God, my heart was so full of joy that I prayed, probably, more sincerely than when we are praying together, sometimes. Is it really such a big sin that I did not participate in the liturgy, but prayed privately?”
First of all, a prayer is never a sin! I guess this issue has two dimensions. We are used to considering liturgical participation as an obligation, making associations with something imposed on us, for example, paying taxes to the government otherwise they will be fined. The obligation of liturgical participation is, rather, different. It is not that God is bored and has invented the obligation for people to go to a church on Sundays to entertain him. This obligation has a different character; it derives from our attachment to the one I am going to see.
“This is the same thing as visiting our mom. Do we have an obligation to visit her? Yes, but why? Because our mother will punish us, because she cannot live without it? Maybe, the mother will be very sad, but she will not punish us.”
This is the obligation of love that is caused by our desire to be with the one we love. It appears when the “One” invites us. Our best friend celebrates something, is getting ready for our arrival, and is waiting for us. We go to see them, not because they make us obliged to do this, but because they are important to us; because we do not want to hurt them by ignoring their invitation.
So, I do not consider going to the mountains, or any other situation, a big problem if we communicate with God, if we are praying to Him.
It is completely different if somebody is making it a rule: “I will not participate in the liturgy but, rather, I will go to the forest because I see God in every bird there.” In my opinion, this is a beautiful idea, but one that should not make any sense for a Christian.
This is because the Sacrament is not an invention of a human being; this is where God acts. That is why we should make a difference between these issues. I think that in any relationships, if those are the relationships of love, there are efforts to be put for the sake of the one we love, in one way or another. If we want to build those relationships only and exclusively for our own pleasure, then they can be called anything, but not love.
Reference: Rev. Rostyslav Pendyuk is the Head of the Patriarchal Commission for Youth Affairs, and a priest of the Church of Transfiguration of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Interview by: Tetyana Trachuk