The Church is the center of the liturgical life for Orthodox Christians. Inside the Church, the faithful live and receive the Grace of the Holy Mysteries. The greatest opportunity for receiving Divine Grace is the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
The most Reverened Augustine (Bishop of Florina, Greece) is a well known Bishop in both within the Orthodox Church and the outsider. Bishop Augustine gives many beneficial homilies on the Divine Liturgy and discusses the main points of the Liturgy, makings its meaning understandable both to the highly educated, and to the unversed layman, in order for all Orthodox Christians to enjoy in its riches.
My personal favorite homily by Bishop Augustine is on one of the petitions in the Great Supplication in the Divine Liturgy, which says “For the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord.” Below we can read the homily on this particular supplication:
“Man is constituted of body and soul. No one disputes the fact that he has a body. It can be seen, handled, and analyzed in scientific laboratories. The body is of great value. It is a wondrous organism, which can operate for up to 100 or more years. The bodily organism is made up of many parts, each indispensable for the body’s normal functioning. Each part, among which are the eyes, ears, lungs, kidneys, liver, spleen, and heart, as well as many others, has its own specific function. Some of these parts are irreplaceable. Science, it is true, has succeeded in artificially reproducing certain organs, but these replacements can not compare in perfection with our natural organs.
The body, as we are taught in the New Testament is a temple of God. A temple made of stone is not valuable in and of itself, because of its materials and its artistic design, but because it is where man worships God. So with the human body. The body is valuable because it is the dwelling-place of the soul.
“Is there a soul?” men ask. “We see the body. We do not see the soul. Where is this soul?” The soul, we answer, is immaterial, and as such is invisible. Yet, even though it is invisible, no reasonable man can deny its existence. The proof is in its many manifestations, which can only be explained as the actions of the soul within the body. It is not the body but the soul which thinks, judges, perceives, feels, is conscious, exercises free choice, all of which makes man like a small God on earth. These qualities of the soul- intellect, free will, conscience- distinguish man from all other animals. The man who properly uses these divine gifts can attain heights of virtue, and become like an angel, differing only in that he will still have a body. He will be an angel in the flesh. But the man who misuses these gifts will fall into sin, become corrupt, bestial, demonic, and incarnate devil.
Man has a soul. And because this soul is so precious, man should be infinitely more concerned for its well-being than for the well-being of the body. Sadly, however, man today has turned all his attention to his body, to the corporeal and material needs. He concerns himself with the body- how to make it work better, how to make it live longer, how to make it enjoy every earthly pleasure. He talks of everything except the soul. It is as if the soul does not exist.
Consider these two examples. A man takes ill. He is told that he can only be healed abroad, in England or America. Regardless of how poor he may be, this man will do whatever he can to get there. We do not accuse the man of being concerned for his body’s health. But we ask: Is it only the body that gets sick? Is the soul never ill? Are not the evils that live and breed in the innermost depths of man, such as greed, lust, envy, hatred, and wrath, horrible diseases, more dreadful than any that inflict the flesh? Should not the man seek out a doctor that can cure him?
There is-glory to God-such a doctor! The only supreme, almighty doctor of souls and bodies is our Lord Jesus Christ. You can meet this doctor in His clinic. His private sanitarium is His holy Church. And yet the man who sacrifices everything to travel abroad for medical attention does not take a single step towards the healing of his soul. Just think of how many are living without confession! Every effort is made to heal the body, yet nothing is done for the soul.
But this body which we handle with such care will one day fade away and die. And, like the body, all material things which the world admires are doomed to destruction. What will remain? A single powerful earthquake lasting only a few seconds can level entire cities. What will survive world-wide destruction? What will remain? The soul will remain. As will Christ-He who created it, He who will judge it.
Imagine an enormous set scales, suspended from the stars, and visible all over the world. Imagine that on one side of the scale the material wealth of the world is piled high, and that on the other side there is only a single soul, not of a great and famous man, but of the poorest and most unfortunate man of the earth. Imagine this soul is like a winged angel, flying towards the scale. If only the tip of its wings brushed the scale, it would tip the soul’s fervor, even though all the riches of the world were amassed on the other side. Does a man gain anything if he wins the whole world but loses his soul? Of course not! There is nothing a man can give to win back his soul (Mark 8:36-37).
The most important of all subjects, then, is the salvation of our souls. Our souls must be saved. Woe to the soul that is not saves. Eternal damnation awaits it. And so the Priest, immediately after the beginning of the Divine Liturgy, and before any other petition admonishes us to ask for the peace and for the salvation of our souls: For the peace from above and the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the lord.”