Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Visit # 188~ Gotta Love those Grandmas AND Sharing some Great News!

the little booklet I used since I forgot my book
 Praise the Lord, if you'll allow this very Evangelical phrase! :) I have some great news. I know some of you have been praying for me that I'd be able to attend Liturgy on Sundays. Well, it turns out my schedule changed and I was able to switch to working evenings (from 2pm till 1030pm.) This means that even though I work on Sundays, I'll be able to go to Church in the morning. It'll be a joy to attend Liturgy on a consistent basis! Thank you for all your prayers! I guess this means they'll be more blog posts, since I blog about every visit to Divine Service. What is also great is I'll be on the same work schedule as my wife so we'll actually be seeing more of each other.

I really enjoyed liturgy last Sunday. It was the celebration of  Afterfeast of the Entry of the Most Holy Mother of God into the Temple. As I walked into the Narthex, I realized I had forgotten my Divine Liturgy Book that I had purchased back in October. (You can read about that here.) So I had to content myself with the little booklets they provided which you are supposed to return at the end of the Service. I wonder if any one "steals" them?  I have to remember for next time to bring my book.

During the Liturgy, I saw something very touching.  A new mother walked into the Nave with her baby, towing behind her, her toddler son. She came in late which, of course, is understandable, given the challenges that babies present.  Well, as soon as the woman came in with her two children, the grandmother of the children, who was armed with candles and who seemed to be waiting for them, grabbed the hand of the toddler and escorted him to the candle stand. The boy was too short to reach the candle stand so he had to step up on the stand on the same level that the Iconostastis was on. ( I don't know what that is called...can someone tell me?) Well, what boy doesn't like to play with fire. He happily lit the candle and the grandma returned him to his mother.  I thought, how great are grandma's! What  a fortunate boy he is. Not only does he have a mother and father who take him to Church, but he has a faithful grandma to help him in his faith.

Also, during the service, I noticed a mom with his son. He seemed to be around 12 years old. They seemed to be a bit lost in the service but one of the faithful, who obviously knew them, gave them a service book turned to the right page so they could follow along. Before that person returned to where she was standing in the back, she gave a warm smile.  Later on, when communion was about to be distributed, the mom of the boy kept looking back as if to ask her friend, do we go up? (Or maybe she was just asking for her son.) I don't think the lady in the back saw her but when that lady was walking up the aisle, the mom asked the question again. She was told no but with such a warm smile, it could no way be interpreted as a scolding. Behold the joy of the Eucharist, reserved for the Faithful but not with triumphalist exclusion. Rather, given the magnitude of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, it is not something that is handed out like candy. When the lady came back, she, of course, had some fellowship bread, which she joyfully shared with the mom and her boy.

It was a very edifying service. At the end, we all approached the Cross, held by Fr. Gary, in order to venerate it before leaving.  Normally, Fr. Gary says to each Christ is in our midst and, as we kiss the cross, I know the proper response is He is and ever shall be. Now because it was a feast day, Fr. Gary said Joyous Feast!. I said, Amen but I am sure that there is a more liturgical response. Can someone tell me what it is?

I was sad that I couldn't stay long for Coffee hour but I am grateful that I was able to attend the Liturgy. I am glad that I will be able to do so more often now! Praise the Lord....Oops, I mean, Glory to Jesus Christ! Oh, well, I guess both are correct! :)

at the end of the Service, Fr. Gary giving announcements. 

See you next time.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Visit #187 ~ Readers Service - Simple and Beautiful!

The Service was Simply Beautiful, like this Fall Leaf!
photo by Walt Stoneburner, used under the creative commons license.
check out more of his photos here:
I went to Vespers last night, knowing that Fr Gary was out of town for vacation. That means it's Reader's Service Time! It was a small group. I came early, lit a candle and stood up in the front by the Icon of one of my favorite Saints, St. John the Wonder-worker, Bishop of San Francisco. My eyes were front, waiting for Fr. Deacon Alexander to open the doors from the Iconostasis and begin. Instead, we hear his voice from the back where the small choir was standing.  Okay, so he'll lead the service from the back. I was a bit disappointed because that meant no incense.

It turns out I had no reason to feel any disappointment because the service was simply beautiful! We progressed through the service book nicely and all our voices rose towards heaven, much like the incense we see at the services. Having a small choir meant that when the hymns were sung, Deacon Alexander and Reader Innocent (Jack Hayford) would alternate singing  the hymn solo. That made it much easier to understand the lyrics of the hymn.

I felt uplifted during the whole services and was very disappointed as I turned to the last page in the book and realized we were about to end. One thing that made me smile was, towards the end of the Service, while some hymns were being sung, Reader John carried out a small Icon of Sts. Cosmos and Damien (We did hymn them that evening) and he handed it to one of the ladies standing next to the table in the middle of the Nave which had a different Icon on it.  John removed the Icon on the table and the lady placed Cosmos and Damien on the table, replacing the Icon John just removed.  What made me smile about this was the lady's expression when John handed her the Icon of Cosmos and Damien. She had a Who, me? expression, surprised that she was being called upon for this service. I guess since we were a small group that evening, we all had to do our part!
Sts. Cosmos and Damien, pray for us!
At the concluding prayer, some of the faithful weren't sure if we were finished. I kinda of thought we were (I was following along in the book) but some were looking around at each other, waiting to be dismissed.  I guess people get used to Fr. Gary, standing up front and concluding the service with his-

 Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us and save us.

But none came.  Instead, Reader John turns to Fr. Deacon Alexander and asks, "Do you have any words for us?" He said, Sure and went to the front to deliver an impromptu homily. It was very good. He began by saying Don't forget to turn your clocks back tonight and went on to say that when it gets darker earlier, and when leaves change color and the grass turns brown, you can't help but think of death and wonder will there ever be life again.  It was a very solemn yet joyful homily and I found it extremely uplifting as I did with the whole service. 

Afterwards, we all venerated the Icons and congregated in the back for some discussion. I had a talk with Deacon Alexander about the Supermarket industry (I used to work in it and he currently does) and Tami hands me a music stand and tells me to carry it upstairs to the balcony.  I, of course, obey. It was the first time I've ever been up there and you do get a different perspective of the Nave from there. Tami showed me where the bells were and explained the process of how the girls would ring it during Divine Liturgy. She then joked about how now that I was up in the balcony, I'd soon be in the choir and learning to ring those bells.  
The Church is like any other church.  Once you get a job, it's yours until you die! :)

I'm glad to know that! I could get used to ringing bells. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Visit #186 - Laying Aside All Earthly Cares.

Photo by St. Petersburg Orthodox Theological Academy

So I don't normally post from a kindle but my computer is being used right now by my wife. She is studying hard for an EKG course she is taking. I was able to make it to Divine Liturgy last Sunday and I was struck by the phrase in the Cherubic Hymn to LAY ASIDE ALL EARTHLY CARES. Without going into too much detail I have had a lot to distract me these past couple of weeks but this admonishment to think heavenly instead of being earthbound really spoke to me. Sometimes you just gotta lay aside all your troubles and enter into Worship. That is what I tried to do and was somewhat successful.

Keep me in your prayers about my "earthly cares" that the Lord provide a clear path. I don't like being weighed down.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Visit #185 ~ Celebrating Mary's Protection and getting a New Book!

A Service book for Sale in the Narthex!

I was able to go to Divine Liturgy on a weekday so I made sure I made it to Church last Thursday. It was great to be there to celebrate -

The Protection of our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary.

Now I arrived early because I had my sights on a Service book of the Divine Liturgy that I wanted to purchase. It is true that I owned a Divine Liturgy Service that was gifted to me by Tiffany. It was her Father's book and it meant a lot to me that she gave it to me (You can read about that here.) . But, even though that book had the entire Liturgy used on Sunday mornings, it really was very big to hold, like holding a text book. That's because it had English, Church Slavonic and Serbian translations, all in one book. But that was just like Jim Martin to get a big book. He had a Go Big or Go Home approach to life. That is why he embraced Holy Orthodoxy so wholeheartedly ! I figured it would be more practical to get one of the smaller books that I see the faithful holding in the Nave. 

I wanted to ask questions about the book and who should show up but the ever graceful Tami. I immediately started in with my question about which book to buy but she would have none of it. Instead, she greeted me warmly with a Glory to Jesus Christ and I could tell she was very happy to see me there.  We chatted a bit and then I asked her how much the book cost, ect and she said I should ask Fr. Gary. I did end up asking him after the service was over and found out the book was $11.  There were actually two versions of the book in the case and he recommended I get the older, out-of-print one and not the new version because he used the older one during Liturgy.  So I am a happy camper now!

And speaking of Liturgy, as I was standing with the faithful, right before the chanting of the epistle, Tami pulls me aside, tells me to leave my book on the chair and follow her. She quietly tells me that she wants me to put the Gospel Lectern on the top step next to the Royal Doors so that Fr. Gary can proclaim the Gospel and then give his homily.  You know times are tough when you've got to get a Protestant to do your heavy lifting! 
(Just joking) I was happy to help out.

The Gospel Lectern that I carried!
I grabbed the Lectern at the appropriate time and turned out to be a bit heavy. It was, after all, all solid wood. Tami had instructed me to make sure the Let us attend signage was facing the congregation.  I told her I could handle it.  Of course, I stumble a bit as I picked up the Lectern but at least when I placed in on the top step, I didn't fall.  After Fr. Gary read the Gospel he motioned for me to remove the Lectern. Apparently, he wasn't going to use it for the homily.  

It was a great service, even though lightly attended. But it's not about numbers; it's about worshiping God! And I definitely  felt like I was in worship and it made me think of heaven where worship is happening all the time.  The Divine Liturgy is a good place to get ready for the coming Kingdom! 

At the end of the service when we all venerated the Cross that Fr. Gary was holding, Fr. Gary made sure to thank me for my help! There was no coffee hour afterwards but I was glad to talk with some people briefly after everything was over. 

It's always a good thing to go to Divine Liturgy! 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Visit #184 ~ Love Those Anitphons!

We Sing the Scriptures in Liturgy!
photo by Ben Sutherland,
 used under the creative commons license
check out more of his work here:

I hadn't been to a Sunday Divine Liturgy since August. As I've said before, I have been having trouble getting someone to cover my Sunday morning shift. Pray for me that, when my schedule changes in November, that I'll be able to get Sundays off! Is there a patron Saint for Schedule Changes? If so, tell me so I can get them to work! :)

I really loved the Antiphons and I couldn't help but compare them to the choruses we sing in my protestant parish.  While the worship leader in my protestant church is very thorough and thoughtful in the songs he picks out, nothing compares to actually singing Scripture! It was truly a blessing to sing Psalms...or even the Beatitudes! Below is a video of another parish singing one of the Antiphons! It don't get any better than this!

Once a month, Fr. Gary has a children's homily. That is when the kids of the parish pull up a rug and sit down near the front and Fr. Gary speaks to them directly, although us adults in the congregation can listen in and learn as well. He spoke about Pope Francis, probably because he is all over the news anyway and he spoke about how our own Bishops take time to talk to their people and to pray for their people, just like Pope Francis did.

I had to leave a bit early from the Liturgy because I was going to meet my wife at an early Oktoberfest, sponsored by the Elks Club so they called it Elktoberfest! Clever, huh? I left right after the Faithful received the Holy Mysteries.  So many people there know that I am not Orthodox so many go out of their way to make sure I receive the fellowship bread.  (I forget what that is called.) I make it a point never to turn down anyone who offers it to me, even if I think I've had enough. I figure it would be rude to refuse. If someone is going to go out of their way to give me some bread, I won't say no! I'm am always so grateful that they are thinking of me!

Below is a video of some of the music my wife and I saw at the Elktoberfest! Sadly, I had missed taping the polka version of Funky Town, but I assure you, it was a hoot to listen to!  It was a fun time with great food! Gotta love those Germans.

So, remember to pray for me that next schedule change I am able to get Sundays off! And if you can think of any Patron Saints that might be helpful along those lines...... :)

Monday, September 14, 2015

Visit #183 ~ Panikhida for James Patrick Martin....and then Vespers!

It's been a year since my friend Jim Martin reposed so I wanted to make sure I made the Panikhida being served for him last Saturday before Vespers.  Tiffany was there, along with others of the Faithful and it was a very emotional time, especially when, towards the end of the service, Fr Gary the very mournful tones of May his memory be eternal! It was good to remember my friend and I continue to remember him (and his family) in prayer.

It was good to stay for Vespers. My work schedule has made attending service a challenge at times and completely impossible at other times.  I was happy because, today for the first time, I went up to light some candles and say some prayers without feeling self-conscience.  The other times I did that it was hard to concentrate on praying because I felt so self-conscience. But, this last times, I lit three candles - one for Jim Martin and family, one for my family and one for myself - and I was actually able to pray without feeling "a thousand eyes staring at me." It was good.
fr Gary and Jim's Godfather, reader John

I felt like I didn't want Vespers to end.  The prayers, the psalms, the smell of incense, the beauty of the icons all pointed me towards the Kingdom of Heaven.  It was a good place to be! Hope to be back soon!