Attention and focus are the powerful currencies of our time. Whether we’re aware of it or not, the Orthodox liturgy is built in such a way as to harness the power of our attention. It does so in part through both predictability and novelty–the former helps you to know what to expect, and the latter helps you develop eager anticipation.
Orthodox worship can often seem rather repetitive. Our worship has such a definable shape–when you attend an unfamiliar church, you already know the general sequence of events. Through the many prayers of preparation and supplication, we develop a spiritual rhythm that draws our minds to continually pray for the world, and makes us ready to receive Holy Communion.
So the predictability makes it easier to learn the liturgy and to know what to expect, but it also makes a framework for drawing attention to the changing liturgical season. Because the liturgy has a predictable form, the changing elements stands out all the more. We humans crave this novelty–it’s exciting!
Let’s harness that–ask yourself (and your kids) when attending liturgy: what’s new this week? (Hint: it’s not the announcements.) What are the special hymns? How is the Gospel lesson different from last week? Do I even know how it flows from last week or into next week’s reading? Is the priest wearing different vestments? What prayers ring particularly poignant for me today, and why?
Liturgy is the work of the people, but you can work with its design it to deepen your own spiritual life, too.