As faithful prepare for Christmas, it is also a time for some to prepare to return to the Church after some time away. Whether Christmas is one of the few times an individual attends and receives the Holy Mysteries, or if one attends on Sunday each week, the following article provides an understanding of the proper and faithful preparation for Liturgy and Holy Communion.
We properly begin the weekend cycle of Divine Services with attendance at Great Vespers on Saturday evening. In order to understand what Feast or Saint is being commemorated at the Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning, it is absolutely necessary to attend the Vespers Service and hear the hymnody which both praises and describes the meaning of the Feast or the life of the Saint. In fact, over the Church Year, all of the great doctrines of the Holy Fathers about Christ and the Saints can be found in this hymnody. This is why the Vespers and Orthros Services are indispensable to a correct knowledge of our Faith. To miss the Vespers Service as a matter of convenience is to deny ourselves and our children the opportunity of learning the basic tenets of Holy Orthodoxy.
We must also remember the Vespers Service prayerfully prepares us for the coming of Christ into our midst during the Divine Liturgy. Our lives are often so hectic and crammed with activity during the week that it is necessary to slow down and contemplate our relationship to our Creator with Services of preparation for the Liturgy. "Be still, and know that I am God," the Lord tells us through the Prophet-King David. This is almost impossible to achieve if our only contact with the Church is on Sunday morning.
For that reason, as part of our preparation for Holy Communion, it is imperative that we attend the Saturday evening Great Vespers with regularity. This service leads us into Sunday - the Lord's Day - and thus "sets our sights" on the Lord Who comes to us in the Divine Liturgy and offers Himself to us in the Eucharist as the "Bread of life."