A reader asks: "I liked the article you posted about offering things up. I have never come across Eastern Catholic or Orthodox using that language. I understand the Roman teaching and have taught my children to think of Christ's suffering and unite their pain to His and pray for someone in need. Or I tell them to think of Christ's suffering and be grateful and bear things with patience. But I have avoided telling them to offer things up, I guess I always wondered how it fits in our Eastern spirituality. Can you help me out with this or point me to a similar Eastern thought or practice? Maybe it's been a silly thing for me to even with about?!"
I asked my husband for help on this one. I am always hesitant to make declarations of 'this is how 100% of Byzantine Catholics worship" because I am a mom not a theologian and historian & I am Romanian Byzantine Catholic. Much of which might be a forced 'Latinization' for a Slavic jurisdiction will be just a natural inclination towards the Latin because we are a Latin people. For example, in Romania, you will find the stations of the cross in an Orthodox church.
In any case, there are many examples of Eastern Christians 'offering up' our sufferings as a sacrifice to God and an offering for the good of another soul. In the Divine Liturgy, the priest prays the 51st Psalm ("O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you have no delight in sacrifice;if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise") while incensing the church; the people are praying the great doxology. This means, for me, that their entire Divine Liturgy is an 'offering up.'
Perhaps we should encourage and tell our children that prayerful behavior at the Liturgy is a sacrifice of a contrite heart to God. And as it is an Eastern practice to pray unceasingly (as with the 'Jesus Prayer'), doesn't it follow that we should try to extend what we do in the Divine Liturgy to our daily lives? If the priest- and the people- is offering a sacrifice in the Divine Liturgy, shouldn't we extend that sacrifice and 'offering up' during the rest of the day?
During the Great Fast, we celebrate the Pre-sanctified Liturgy on weekdays. One of the most frequent responses is "Let my prayer rise like incense before you, and the lifting of my hands as an evening sacrifice." It is clear that we are 'offering up' our sacrifice to God.
I think that our beautiful and reverent Liturgies can actually be detrimental to personal and family prayer. After a two hour Liturgy (maybe standing the entire time), a person might feel that they are 'done' for awhile. This might be why we Eastern Christians do not have a version of that blue Pieta prayer book. But we are not 'done.'
We should learn our holy traditions and practice them as well as we can, but this should not stop us from personal devotions. We should not abandon liturgy-based prayers such as the Akathist to the Theotokos, but this does not mean that a rosary cannot be beneficial to us as well. We Eastern Christians have a different way of seeing things, but this does not mean that the other way is invalid. For unity to be a possibility, our traditions should be practiced by us Byzantines and respected by the West just as we should do the same for their traditions.
There will be some 'cross-over' for both East and West. The Pre-sanctified Liturgy is a great example of this cross-over; a long, mystic, very Eastern Liturgy written by the future Pope of Rome, Gregory the Great.
so dear reader, please continue 'offering up' your sacrifices to God- and keep my family and I in your prayers as you are in mine!