This summer, many of us will be venturing out for the first time in a couple of years for our summer holidays. Indeed this is a wonderful thing to do with one’s family, whether one is going to a cottage, or on a camping trip, or to visit friends and family. This ultimately affects the ability to attend Church. In some (if not most) instances, there is probably not an Orthodox Church close by – or even around for miles, let alone the delightful possibility of sleeping in on a Sunday morning.
Yet as much as we might desire to put the hectic pace on pause, we have to remember that our life as Christians can not (and should not be) paused. It is not as if I expect people to make the 2hr. drive to get to Church on Sunday morning (I can think of nothing more disrupting a family vacation) or expect that the highlight of a visit to a different city is going to Church. Rather I expect that one’s offering of time to the Lord be modified rather than be dispensed. This might be as simple as saying morning prayers or evening prayers (in not everyday, at least on Sunday), and reading the Gospel and Epistle of the day with your family before an outing, or at the end of a day; or making an effort to pray before a meal (this might be tricky with family that is not Orthodox, but not impossible). In reality, we should be doing these things all the time; but making the time to pray together while on holiday is an important witness for our families that can confirm our hearts in thanksgiving to God for the ability to pause one’s hectic life while on holiday. Maybe this can influence how we pray at home throughout the year.
If one is going to be in a place where one can go to Church, and there is a willingness to attend, a heads up should be given to the parish priest of that Church; whether it be an email, or a phone call. In some Churches there is a prerequisite to have confession before receiving communion (especially if they don’t know you) and this is fine and a normal part of our life. Best to ask the parish priest about this when you contact him. This is an excellent way to see other Orthodox Churches, and behold the unity of our faith, regardless of how or what language it is served in. It is always a good practice to make a financial contribution as well when you attend, as an offering to the Lord in thanksgiving for being able to attend a service.
In it all, we should offer our thanksgiving to the Lord that after almost three years, we can travel with our families without the need for isolation and restrictions. Truly we are blessed by the summer, and however one takes advantage of them, remember the saving love of God who blesses us beyond understanding with these riches and long sunny days.