Friday, April 29, 2016

Visit #200 ~ A Milestone and Redirection for my Blog

Last Wednesday was the last Pre-Sanctified Liturgy for Lent and I was so happy that I was able to go there. Usually on Wednesday nights I am at work but I had taken the day off because I had to finish a video project for someone. It was only after I took off that I realized that Vespers was that evening. I was happier than a Dairy Salesman on Bright Monday (Okay, that was lame but I said it anyway ☺) I love Pre-Sanctified Liturgy. It is my favorite service in Great Lent. And my favorite part is the Let my Prayer Arise Psalm.  I was able to record the whole chant which runs nearly seven minutes. With Fr. Gary chanting the verses and with the Choir singing the chorus, it was beautiful in a joyful mourning kind of way.  Below is a video I made which has the recording. Even though Great Lent is over and Pascha is almost here, I could listen to this all year round. It is simply beautiful!


So this is my 200th visit, a sort of milestone, I suppose. I guess I should give out a prize. Nah, never mind. I have decided though to change the direction of this blog. After 200 visits to Orthodox Services, I would hardly say I've exhausted all the complexities and beauty of Orthodox Worship, but much of what my feeble powers of observations  are able to do,  is exhausted.    So instead of just repeating myself, instead of blogging after each visit, I plan on blogging "whenever the spirit moves me;" That is to say, whenever a topic reaches the top of my mind, then I will blog.  I did have fun counting my visits though (It must be the geek in me) so I think I'll keep track of each time I visit on a separate page (You can find it here and I'll post a link on the front page of this blog. I took the liberty of putting visit 201 on the page, in anticipation of attending service this evening.)

In the meantime, keep me in your prayers as I move slowly East and  will  I remember you. May we all be united in Christ.

I know it's a little early but,

Christ is Risen, 
He is Risen, indeed!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Visit #199 ~ Periscope Broadcast of my Last Visit

I did a live Periscope Broadcast - instead of writing a blogpost about my latest visit, I did a short 3 minute video....hope you enjoy!


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Visit # 198 ~ I Love me some Pre-Sanctified Liturgy!


This is a great service of the Church and I am sorry I cannot go on Wednesday nights during lent because of my work schedule. Yet, luckily, The Pre-sanctified Liturgy was served Friday morning so I was able to catch it before I went to work.  I love the combination of Psalms, prayers and prostrations.  Nothing says Great Lent quite like it!

The view from my car, before I entered
I arrived early enough to light a candle, say a prayer and enjoy the silence.


Here is a video of the nave before the Service.




Fr Gary did make mention on how this service is really supposed to be served in the evening and how we had to modify, "Let us complete our evening Prayer unto the Lord," by taking out the work evening. Okay, that works for me!


The Prayer of St. Ephraim is such a simple yet profound prayer.  If we live in that prayer, we shall truly be Christian.  It gets a bit hard for me to do the prostrations (and when I am home, I don't do them) but the prostrations certainly put your body where your soul is supposed to be!

I also love the "Let my prayer arise" hymn. I know by rubrics, it is supposed to be done by three clergy (and last year I witnessed that) but I confess I love it best when it is just Fr. Gary chanting it alone.  The tone has a slow, mournful feel to it that matches with the spirit of lent so well.

I hope to go to more services during Lent and, by the way, whoever said fasting was easy, lied to me!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Visit #197 ~ Standing Room Only


I made it to Divine Liturgy Sunday but arrived five minutes late. As I was pulling into the parking lot, I saw the procession leaving the rectory (where we now have coffee hour) and heading towards the Church. Oh, yes, I remember: The Triumph of Orthodoxy is this Sunday! Sorry that I didn't get a chance to see the procession (since I was busy parking the car.) When I arrived inside, I found that my usual space to sit was occupied. The good thing about Orthodoxy is, since they are always standing, it doesn't look unusual to be standing anywhere so I found my self without chair but standing next to an Icon.

Later on, when Fr. Gary gave the homily, everyone sits down so I spied a seat up front and sat down next to Cathy and her husband (I'm so embarrassed; I can't remember his name.) Fr. Gary preached that the Triumph of Orthodoxy called also be called the Triumph of Truth and warned the faithful not to be triumphalistic.  It was a good homily.

Standing in the front, I got a different perspective of the Liturgy. I especially liked watching the faithful approach the Chalice. The kids went first, of course. Then, one by one, those who had prepared themselves, received the Holy Mysteries.  Even though I did not receive, it was a blessing to see others do so.

Since it is Lent, we celebrate St. Basil's liturgy. That means I don't have time to stop for lunch before going to work. (St. Basil was a little bit more wordy than than St.John C!) So, on the way to Church, I stopped at got a veggie sub sandwich.  I don't know if I mentioned it, but I am keeping a modified version of the Great Fast. (No meat; only some dairy) This, I did with Fr. Gary's blessing.

Today, as I write this it is Tuesday and it was only yesterday that I really began to crave meat!  And I thought fasting was going to be easy.  Well, I am glad for the struggle. After all, that is how the Kingdom of God is won.

And since we are talking about Standing Room Only, here is a little video I made about Happy Feet!




Blessed Lent everyone!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Visit #196 ~ Let the Prostrations Begin!

Prostrations are easier with no pews!
photo by Luca Moglia, used under the creative commons license.
check out more photos here:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/-lucam-/
So I walked into Church last night, Tuesday of the Canon of St. Andrew and the first thing I see is all the chairs have been taken out, except for some lining the sides of the Nave. So now there is a lot of room for, you guessed it, prostrations! That's fine by me. Last year, if I remember correctly, I had to step out of my aisle of chairs to make a prostration so this was easier.  

I love the Canon of St. Andrew! I couldn't make it Monday night so I made sure I prayed the Monday version at home but I was happy to worship with the Faithful Tuesday night. Here it is Wednesday and I won't be able to go to anymore of the Canon so I'll be praying the home version of the Canon for the rest of the week. What really impressed me as I prayed last night is all the Scriptural references. Each phrase had a Scripture verse address in parentheses and it is clear that the Orthodox Church is steeped in Sacred Scripture. I was reminded of the Resurrected Jesus walking with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Jesus, using the Old Testament, explained to the two disciples how all of the Scriptures pointed to Him!  

I have decided that this lent I would take the Fast seriously. Last year, I made no effort at all, saying to myself, "Well, I'm not really Orthodox so I don't have to" but I know spiritual growth is a struggle. Fr. Gary, in his homily last night, read a blog post from a Russian (of course!) and in the post the writer said that fasting shows ourselves that we are serious about following Christ. In the long run, God doesn't care if we eat meat but to show ourselves that we are serious, then fasting is a good thing to do.  


It is a "modified" version of the Fast that I am doing. Yes, I talked to Fr. Gary and he said, given my situation, that modification is, for me, the way to go about it.  So, pray for me that I'll have a blessed Lent, growing closer to Christ as we all await the joyful celebration of His Resurrection on Pascha!




Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Visit #195 ~ Snapchatting My Way Thru the Last Judgement!


Okay, I know...I shouldn't be on Social Media during Divine Liturgy but I really wanted those who follow me and aren't at all familiar with the Orthodox Church, to Come and See, or, as in this case, Log-in and See. ShapChat allows for 10 second videos which I took at various times during the Liturgy. I made sure I wasn't too intrusive and, hopefully, I wasn't distracting to anyone. If so, we'll have something to talk about next week at Forgiveness Vespers!  The Sunday I did all this on was the Sunday of the Last Judgement. I hope my snapchatting won't be subject matter on that Day! Lord, have Mercy! Anyway, below is a video I put together so you can see what I actually snapchatted! (Is snapchatted even a word?)



The service was a real blessing. I found myself enjoying watching all the Faithful interact with each other during the Divine Liturgy.  There was a lot of smiles, in between hymns and Psalms, a lot of warm glances- all the while, everyone's attention, towards the Altar, where Christ was making Himself known to His people! The awe and reverence of the Service, coupled with the love among the people, made this Service a place I wanted to be- where God was in the midst of His people!

One great thing about being in an Orthodox Church, is, because of it's Icons, it is a place where bored kids don't have to stay bored for long. In a Protestant church, if a baby get's fussy, the only thing you can do, besides sticking Cheerios in their mouths, is to take the baby out. Well, in the Orthodox Church, you have other options. Your baby is fussy?  No worries, just get up during the service and visit the Icons. No one looks at you funny, like you're disrupting the service or anything. Last Sunday I saw this very thing. A very cute baby got a little fussy and was on the verge of crying so the mama took the child to the Icons on the wall and the baby was transfixed- and quieted! It was win-win! The people didn't have to be distracted by a crying baby, the mama got to continue in Worship and the baby, well, the baby got to be a baby!

The homily was good. You can hear a little snippet of it in the above video. Fr. Gary talked about how people could come and see our parish and, yes, they'd see beautiful icons, hear a beautiful choir but how much more important it is they find people who, though sinners, are seeking Christ!

With Great Lent coming up, we all have an opportunity to really seek Christ! May we all have a blessed Fast as we prepare for the Resurrection of our Lord on Pascha!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Visit #194 ~ Visiting Priest with Stirring Homily!

Father Volodymyr Chaikivskyi
Fr. Gary was at a different parish today so we had the privilege of being served by Fr. Volodymyr.  Yes, he is Russian with a VERY THICK accent and, to be honest, it was hard to understand him sometimes. But I had my trusty service book to follow along with plus I am familiar with much of the liturgy (this being visit #194 and all) so I could figure out what he was saying. So, how can I maintain, that he gave a stirring Homily when it was hard to understand him? Yes, with his thick accent, I had to fight thoughts that I was watching an old movie with Russian KGB agents (my mind always wanders to the absurd- I haven't figured out if that's a curse or a blessing) but his homily was short and all I had to do was pay close attention and what Fr. Volodymry said turned out to be very important. He, of course, preached on the parable of the publican and the pharisee  it being the beginning of the Lenten Triodion and all, and Fr. Volodymyr said that this parable was a dangerous parable. That peaked my interest right away. How is this dangerous? He made the point that we, as Christians, can listen to this parable and say, "Well, thank God, I am NOT like the pharisee."....and, thus, we fall into the same self-delusion as the pharisee, not realizing we need to repent. It is dangerous for Christians to think they are better than others. We must always be like the publican, beating our breast, asking for God's Mercy. The homily was very short but it's message stayed with me!  Well, that's good because isn't that the point of homilies?

I also enjoyed the rest of the service, trying hard to attend and fight out distracting thoughts (which is what I have to do at every liturgy) As communion was being distributed I was blessed by others giving me fellowship bread ( I always forget the term for that bread) and I always receive it with joy. If I can't commune with the Holy Eucharist, I am at least grateful that the Faithful remember me.  Well, Matushka Mary was heading back towards where I was standing and handed bread to a couple right next to me. She then came up to me and whispered "Sorry, I ran out" and then walked away.  

Better luck, next time, Jimmy!

I smiled to myself and then continued in worship.  All in all, it was great to be in Divine Liturgy. I had to rush out of there to go to work so I missed coffee hour which is a shame because it is fun to talk to everyone.  Below is a video of Fr. Volodymry and Deacon Alexander during the Liturgy. As you can hear, Fr. Volodymry is difficult to understand. But I'm glad he served Sunday! 

video



God bless all the priests of the Church!