by St. John Chrysostom
Staying till the dismissal
So, you came to church and were granted to meet Christ? Don’t leave if the service hasn’t finished. If you leave before the dismissal, you are guilty as much as a fugitive. When you go to the theater, you don’t leave if the show hasn’t’ finished. You enter church, the Lord’s home, and do you turn your back on the immaculate Mysteries? At least fear Him Who said:
“Whoever scorns God, will be scorned by Him” (See Proverbs 13:13).
What are you doing, O man? While Christ is present, His angels stand by, and your brethren are still communing, you abandon them and leave? Christ offers you His holy Flesh, and you won’t wait a bit, to thank Him at least in words? When you sit at a supper you don’t dare leave the moment you have been filled, while your friends are still sitting at the table. And now when the dreadful Mysteries of Christ are being performed, you drop everything in the middle and leave? Do you want me to tell you whose work those who leave before the Divine Liturgy finishes—and thus don’t partake in the last thanksgiving prayers—are doing?
Probably what I’m going to say will be grave, but I must say it.
When Judas took part in the Mystical Supper of Christ, while everyone was sitting at the table, he got up before the others and left. So those people imitate that Judas…If he had not left then, he would not have become a betrayer, he would not have perished. If he hadn’t separated himself from the flock, the wolf would not have found him alone, to devour him.
After attending church
Let us depart from the Divine Liturgy like lions who are producing fire, having become fearsome even to the devil, because the holy Blood of the Lord that we commune waters our souls and gives us great strength. When we commune of it worthily, it chases the demons far away and brings the angels and the Lord of the angels near us. This Blood is the salvation of our souls; with this the soul is washed, with this it is adorned. This Blood makes our minds brighter than fire; this makes our souls brighter than gold.
So draw our brethren to church. Exhort the deceived. Counsel them not only with words, but also with works. Even if you don’t say anything, but merely come out of the worship service showing to those who were absent—with your appearance, with your gaze and your voice, by the way you walk, and with all your chastity—the gain you procured from church, this is enough for exhortation and counsel, because thus it is that we should come out of church, as if from sacred sanctuaries, as if we were descending from Heaven itself. Teach whoever doesn’t attend church that you chanted with the Seraphim, that you belong to the heavenly lifestyle, that you met with Christ and spoke with Him.
If we live the Divine Liturgy thus, we will not have to say anything to those who were absent. But seeing our benefit, they will feel their own harm and will quickly run to church to enjoy the same goods, with the grace and philanthropy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, belongs eternal glory. Amen.