Abba Seraphim spoke at Mickfield in Suffolk at 7.30 p.m. on 22 September. He spoke on the Liturgy and Orthodox Worship. Asking ‘what do we mean by worship’, he spoke on the theme of God being ‘worthy’ of our adoration and prayer.
He reminded us that the Liturgy here on earth is but a reflection of the Divine Liturgy which is worshipped in Heaven; Protestants, he remarked, in one of those dry asides that also enlighten as well as amuse, might well be surprised at the incense hereafter!
This, he expounded, is why we instinctively wish to approach Our Lord in awe and wonder; he then explored the practical implications of this. Language matters, and it is obviously important that the Church can communicate its message to those who listen; but the manner in which we worship also matters. To address God as we would the milkman is not to show respect, it is to put ourselves first, when we should be putting God first. Language should show the respect and awe we feel; Liturgy should be the most beautiful language we can contrive; liturgists use their God-given talents here.
Abba Seraphim then considered other ways in which we consecrate our talents to God. The musical can do it through music, and he examined the types of musical instrument used in Coptic worship; it was generally thought that the use of the bongos by the Eritreans added to the joy of nations – but we could not quite see the BOC taking this up!
The Liturgy allows us to live with Christ, and, as such, is a total experience. Where some Churches need a sermon to emphasise the gospel message, or to press home a point, the Orthodox Liturgy does that through the process of worship. In this sense it is a holistic experience, and we join with those in repose and with the Saints and with Our Great High Priest in the everlasting worship.
The talk was followed by a good discussion of many of the points raised by His Eminence. We particularly appreciated the contribution of Abba Markar, the University of East Anglia Coptic chaplain, who had brought some of his congregation with him, who emphasised the way in which Coptic Liturgy owed its form to the teachings of the Apostle Mark and the Tradition of Alexandria.
Abba Markar’s presence allowed us to reflect on the many ways in which the Coptic Church has helped us in the BOC. Abba Seraphim commented that having helped bring the True Faith to these Islands during Roman times, the Egyptians were once more instrumental in doing so. It seemed a suitable note upon which to end – not least because it was nearing 10 p.m.
Abba Seraphim has promised to come back in November, and we hope he will lecture on Holy Tradition.
We want to thank Mark Wright, who has founded the Anglia Church Trust and who runs (and has restored) St. Andrew’s Church, for hosting and organising this event; it said something for the BOC and its Fellowship that one member had come from as far afield as St. Albans. Father Anthony from Babingley was also present.