Of course, the Divine Liturgy is the chief celebration within the lives of Orthodox Christians. In it, we offer up the labor of man's hands to the One who made the material we work with, and we receive it back, blessed and sanctified, as the food which lasts forever (something we could never do with our hands alone). This, then, is the beautiful, eternal content of our liturgical experience: we meet our Maker and are, by His grace, changed to become like He is. Having said that, it's rather obvious to anyone who's had to serve for any extended period of time in any capacity in a Divine Liturgy (whether as priest, deacon, sub-deacon, acolyte, reader, or choir member) that your service is something of a sacrifice; those "wedded to a text," as I've heard the Ochlophobist say, are not able to take it all in, but rather must focus on a certain, mechanical function within the liturgy as service to God and, in doing so, enable others to pray. Mechanics may, in a sense, take away the one sense needful to prayerful communion with God, but, "They also serve who only stand and wait," as Milton said.
Also relating to form and content is the overall comparison I've made all year between this M.Div. degree and my undergraduate B.A. in Education. It is the reality of things that, here in the States, a man looking to be ordained to the work of an Orthodox clergyman must have some formal theological training, just as a teacher must possess some formal knowledge of how to instruct pupils (though alternative certification obviously serves as the exception). Some of the classes I have attended here at SVS have been minimal in their reading load and demand on my time, though the discussions springing from them are imminently practical, and the interaction with my classmates has been invaluable, as they will think of things I never would have thought to ask about. Other classes have demanded hours upon hours of reading and writing, all on subjects, I am convinced, I will never need to reference in normal parish life (at least directly; sermon preparation or the random coffee hour question from a theology buff might require a passing reference to some of this). Some of my professors are men I hope I can emulate as a priest; I pray to God no one ever compares me to others. And there are some things--I couldn't tell you what at this point--which I am convinced that I will try upon coming into a parish to work which I will promptly jettison and never think about again. We have gone through christological terminology in Patristics ad nauseum, for example, but Fr. John told us after a particularly vexing class that we must not confuse this system of theological terminology with the Gospel; when Christ asks you, "Who do you say that I am, do not commence with a comparison of St. Cyril of Alexandria's ἐκ δύο φύσεων language with Chalcedon's ἐν δύο φύσεσιν definition. Yet, in spite of the abstract, stilted nature of some of this, there is an integrity and beauty in knowing that in the one Christ man can, indeed, find integration and wholeness and, in that completion, find peace. I've always been more of a big-picture person. These kinds of things need to be in their proper perspective. Or, as my New Testament professor said today, "would [that we] not waste time attacking or defending the wrong things, but that [we] would above all else seek to acquire the mind of Christ as [our] own."
All of this--from classes of wildly divergent natures to genuinely exciting topics of study to questionable assignments to things that seem outright useless--is exactly like my education undergrad. What this tells me is that I need not despair, because no priest worth his salt hangs his hat too heavily on his book-learnin' from seminary. I had to keep learning in the classroom, even to the point of teaching myself an entirely new methodology. And I did pretty well, if I do say so myself. What happens of value is what comes after all this. Oh, you need to know your field, of course, but you also need to know that the form that all of this takes--the classwork, the reading, the papers, the discussions, the work around campus--is not as important as the content of it all, which is a life of discipline and sacrifice for other people, borne out of the Gospel that is the root of all this.
Your continued prayers are appreciated.