As we heard in the Gospel, a Samaritan woman met Jesus at the well of Jacob and asked Him, Where should we worship God, in Jerusalem or Mount Gerizim? The Lord replied: The place does not matter, but what is most important is how we worship God. For "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (verse 24).
God is Spirit. When God created the body of Adam, God "breathed in his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul" (Genesis 2:7). Thus "God made man in the image of God" (Genesis 1:27). As the image of God, it is natural for the soul of man to turn to his Creator. The Psalmist says, Lord ...like a child weaned from his mother, so You would reward my soul (Psalm 130.2). That is why every race of people feel the need to worship God, in the way everyone has learned from their ancestors.
But not just any worship is acceptable to God. That is why the Lord points to worshiping God “in truth.” That is, knowing God. Let’s know who the real God is. You will have noticed that in the Divine Liturgy (and in other Holy Services) the Church has established the recitation of the Symbol of Faith, which is not really prayer in itself. Why is it included in our worship? Because it is essential, that our faith in the true Triune God comes to life.
At the same time, the words of the Lord “in spirit and truth” are also to be understood as having to worship God with all of our soul; with a heart devoted to God; with all mental and spiritual powers; with warm love. It is striking that in the first Prayer of the Matins Service, the Priest is seen begging God on behalf of all the faithful: Lord, justify us, “with fear and love, always worship You.” We see speech of profound reverence, fully aware of Who it is we are addressing, and how we are to worship, speaking to God as children to the Father! To also have a warm love, like the one expressing the words of Prayer before Holy Communion: “Thou hast smitten me with yearning, O Christ, and by Thy Divine love has Thou changed me.” Our souls must be charged by our divine love of Christ during this time. The Priest, shortly before we recite the “I Believe,” venerates and kisses the Holy Gifts, saying “I will love You, O lord, my strength. The Lord is my foundation, my refuge, my deliverer” (Psalm 17: 2-3). It is a sudden burst of love to God in a holy moment of the Divine Liturgy, that is the Memorial of the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of us all.
In order for our worship to be “true,” the human intellect needs to be closely involved. Prayers and hymns at the time of worship touch our souls and are reflected back towards God. One can arrive early at Church, but if their thoughts are not on what is happening, and they think of other things, then there is no benefit. This is why, before the most important parts of the Divine Liturgy and other events, the Priest speaks: “Let us be attentive!” Let us give our attention here, and focus on what will be heard and done.
My beloved brothers and sisters, the most blessed moments of our life are those that we live at the time of our communication with God. That’s why the Orthodox faithful wait for the moment when it is possible to be in the Church and to worship God. Let us beg the Lord to speak to us, as He told us today, to worship Him in our whole lives “in spirit and truth.” Amen.