Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Visit #164 ~ Icons! Icons! Icons!

our parish procession wasn't quite this large...

The Divine Liturgy on Sunday started with a very small procession of Icons with the kids of the parish. How can that be anything but cute! Of course it was. I carefully observed how, afterwards, two adults collected the Icons and very intentionally, stacked them a certain way so as to not damage the picture.  How I love the sense of respect and awe that is in Orthodoxy.

During the reading, which was from the letter of the Hebrews, I listened as it recounted all the exploits of the Saints. As I listened to the names of all the Old Testament  Saints being chanted by Reader Tim, I was overwhelmed as I glanced around the Nave and saw that we were indeed surrounded by a Great Cloud of witnesses and I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit on how I did not, as the epistle advised, lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us so that I could progress in my walk with Christ.
Going to Church isn't always a pleasant experience- Holy Spirit Conviction, you see. It was a very moving experience.

But I was glad I was there. I did notice that the prayers were slightly different at certain points and did not match up with my service book. I then remembered that, during Great Lent, St. Basil is celebrated.  So Church was even longer than usual. I find it amazing that, with my short attention span, how quickly the time goes. There is so much going on that I am not bored! The only thing I have to do is pay attention and I am drawn in!

Glory to God!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Visit #163 ~ Immersed in the Psalms and Priestly Correction

I was immeresed in the Psalms, like this child was immersed in waves

Wednesday's Pre-Sanctified Liturgy was so beautiful!I walked in a little late and took my place among the Faithful. I soon realized that, in order to fully participate, I'd have to go back and get a service book because the whole congregation was singing the Psalms.  It took me a while to figure it out....At first I sang every note. I soon heard that we were singing antiphonally.  First the choir would sing a portion and the rest of us would answer back.  I felt myself immersed in the Psalms and, because it was God's Word, I found it to be completely healing.

My favorite part was the "Let my Prayer Arise" Hymn that was sung. It was done by a trio of clergy, Fr Gary, Fr. Sergious and someone else that I didn't know.  It was beautiful.  Here is what it sounded like. Listen below. This is from some other  parish but it sounded the same as ours.

At the end of the Liturgy, right after the homily, Fr. Gary announced that, instead of kissing the Cross, he'd be handing us the blessed bread. I don't remember the name of it. Can anyone tell me? Anyway, I joined the line, cupping my hands like everyone else, awaiting to recieve the bread. I noticed that everyone kissed Fr. Gary's hand as soon as they recieved it.  Well, when it was my turn, the first thing that Fr. Gary did was to rearrange my hands so that my right hand was on top and not my left hand.  Oh, the curse of being left-handed! He did this gently, not wanting to embarrass me but still wanting me to get it right.  I was so flustered I walked away, forgetting to kiss his hand! As I made my rounds to venerate the Icons, I chuckled to myself. I am so glad that God finds many ways to make sure I stay humble.  

After all, it is the meek who will inherit the earth!

Blessed Lent, everyone. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Visit #162 ~ Snow? Who Cares about Snow? We've got Church to go to!

photo used under the creative commons license.
check out more of  Rachel K.'s photos here:

I am thankful that Divine Liturgy was not cancelled because it snowed. It is true, that, because of the adverse weather conditions, which Fr. Gary called it in his email to the congregation, that Adult Sunday School Class was cancelled yet, The DL was still going to take place. Meanwhile, my protestant parish sent word out that services were cancelled for the day and the Baptist church that my son attends also cancelled services. But, with the Orthodox, it's not so much that The Show must go on but, rather, The Eucharist must be celebrated! I wasn't surprised that Church wasn't cancelled for the Orthodox; Any people who are hearty enough to fast as much as they do, surely won't let bad weather keep them down.

It is true that the attendance was low on Sunday. Only about 30 people. It was a bit strange that there were no children there.  I am used to seeing the kids line up for the Chalice and then come the adults but, on that day it was only adults approaching the Holy Mysteries. The service was great and I was happy to attend.  

There was a taco dinner planned for coffee hour and that still took place. There was supposed to be a formal presentation of the August Mission Trip to Mexico. Instead, Matthew, a parishioner was able to make it to the coffee only and he just played a slide show.  There were 500 pictures!  Matthew said that about three dozen of them had Jim Martin in it. He gave me a disk and I intend to make a short slide show of just Jim Martin's Pics and send it to his widow, Judy.  

It was great to go to DL two weeks in a row. Hopefully, I can attend again soon if I can work getting shifts swapped at work.  

God bless you all and, remember, eat lots of pizza this week! Next Sunday is Cheesefare Sunday!


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Visit #161 ~ Yes, I was at Divine Liturgy on Sunday!

Alright, I was at Church Sunday!
I work on Sundays from 3:30am till noon. Well, I was able to switch some hours so I could leave my job at 8:30am and thus I was able to attend Divine Liturgy.  I am so glad I did.  My original plan was to go to Vespers the night before as well as attend Church on Sunday, but, alas, I did not. Even though I love Vespers, I am glad that I made it to DL.

It is a different feeling on a Sunday morning as opposed to a Saturday night.  More activity in the Nave on Sunday morning.   I walked into the Narthex five minutes before and Orthros was being prayed. A bunch of us were standing around in the Narthex waiting for it to end. When it did, we all took our places in the Nave. I, of course, made the rounds around the Icons first, along with everyone else,  and then stood in the back. Mark, a friend from the Facebook group, Ask an Orthodox Hipster, was there after I made the rounds. He looked happy to see me and shook my hand.

I looked around, waiting for the DL to start and I noticed an older lady who had a walker. With great difficulty, she moved herself up to the Icons so that she, too, could venerate them.  I was impressed by her tenacity.  Nothing was going to stop her from saying hello to the Saints. The service was great, of course, I was afraid that I would be bored because my attention span usually only lasts as long as a Vespers Service but, by God's Grace, I wasn't too antsy.  I admit that I don't particularly like the setting of the music for the Cherubic Hymn, mostly because it seems to drone on. I understand that this is done so as to give Fr Gary time to do what he has to do in the Altar to prepare the Gifts.  However, it wasn't too bad for me.  God forgive me for judging the Service that way but I guess it just shows my own state as a spiritual beginner.

At the end of the service, before the dismissal, a lady in a foot cast came to the center of the Nave (by pre-arrangement, no doubt) and Father Gary said a prayer of healing for her and blessed her with some holy water. He also prayed for traveling mercies for  a young man that I believe was his son. These two acts reminded me that parish life is made up of all kinds of people going through different things in their lives. Yet, they all seek God's blessing. That is what the People of God are supposed to do! They join together, different yet united in Christ.

Coffee hour was really edifying. I met a man named Greg ( or was it George, sorry  I forgot) who is a 21 year army veteran and was all excited about an pan-Orthodox Rugby team.  He was very interesting to talk with.  I also spoke with Tami and John and spent a lot of time talking to Father Deacon Alexander.  I learned how he was only been a Deacon for about five years.  He is great to talk to because, not only is he out going but he is full of excitement for the Faith.  He told me his schedule and wants to meet with me sometime. I told him sure. We had talked about doing that some time back but it never seemed to work out.

I left Church Sunday feeling like I had worshiped God and had good fellowship with His people.  It was a very fulfilling feeling. God willing, I will be back again soon!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Visit #160 ~ A Homily about a United Church.

Fr Gary was back this week and Deacon Alexander helped him serve at Vespers.  It was great, as always. Fr. Gary's homily was about the United Church and he used the occasion of St. Bridgette's Feast day as a kick-off point  to talk about how the Church should be one. He said many people who are not acquainted with Orthodoxy are surprised when we commemorate western saints, like St. Bridgette from Ireland. People think that she, along with St. Patrick are just Roman Catholic. Yet, at one time, says Fr. Gary, the Church was one and we should all be praying for a unified Church.

St Bridget
commerated on Feb 1st
While it would be great if the Orthodox Church united with the Western Church, I think a great place to start is if all of the jurisdictions in America would unite into one Church. That, I think, would be a good thing and would help Holy Orthodoxy not just seem like another denomination.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Visit #159 ~ Will Someone Please Open the Door!


Fr Gary was on vacation so we had a Reader's Service. The Reader's Service was great, very similar to Great Vespers, except with parts omitted that are exclusively said by Fr. Gary. The choir, though small, sounded powerful! I noticed a new face there - new to me, anyways. He was dressed in black so I guess he was a reader and he had a very deep voice which made the choir sound a bit different that night, but still wonderful. We were led in the prayers by Fr. Deacon Alexander.

Before service, Tami and I had a little chat. I had emailed her before because when I read in the bulletin that Fr. Gary emailed on Thursday, it said he would be away for the weekend. I asked Tami if Vespers was still on for the night. She said, yes but then remarked how, when the priest is away, the attendance is down. That was true enough for tonight's reader's service. In fact, there was no one to serve with Deacon Alexandar and that led to, what is to me, a funny incident.

During Vespers, Fr. Gary comes out and censes all the icons and the people, beginning with the Altar and then proceeding out of the side doors (they are called Deacon's Doors, right?) Well, at the time that Deacon Alexander is censing the Altar, we hear him and then notice he is not coming out of the Sanctuary to cence all of us. Instead, he is only censing the Altar.  I could see the puzzlement on Reader John's face, wondering why he was only censing the Altar. Finally, Reader John goes to the door and opens it. Out comes Deacon Alexander with incense in one hand and a large candle in another. Now it was clear enough why Deacon Alexander was staying inside the Sanctuary: He had no one to open the doors for him!

That made me chuckle to myself.  Usually, the choir has it timed so that by the time Fr. Gary censes the Icons around the Nave and then, us - it is timed so that the choir finishes with the hymn before Fr. Gary continues with the Prayers. Well, because Deacon Alexander got a "late start," the choir was almost out of "hymns" and there was no way that Deacon Alexander wasn't going to forgo censing all the Icons and us. That would leave an awkward silence as Deacon Alexander completed his task. Cheers to to Tim, the choir director, who, thinking on his feet, had the choir repeat the last few lines of the hymn so that the awkward silence would not happen!

The Service continued. The next time that Deacon Alexander came out of the doors, he only had incense in his hand and had left the candle behind so he was able to negotiate the doors by himself.  At the end of the service, Deacon Alexander gave a great homily about the end times, saying every generation believes they are in the end times, including our own. He cited all the troubles in the world. The important thing is to remember that we are to be faithful till the end.

I am very glad I went to service Saturday night and I look forward to next week!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Visit #158 ~ First visit of 2015!

I am glad that I went to Vespers. I just went a few days before on New Year's Eve but I guess this Visit is the first "Official" visit of 2015~  It did take some work because, as I said on my last post, I want to make a special effort to attend more services in 2015....even if it hurts a little bit. So, I made sure I had a nap when I got home so I could "rest up" for Vespers. And I did my best, during Vespers, not to be preoccupied with how little sleep I'd be getting when Vespers was over.  I actually arrived a bit early. I prayed and lit a candle. After I was sitting in my seat, Tami came over and wished me a happy new year. She said, we don't get to talk much because I always have to scoot out right after services. It was nice to catch up with her.

I am hopeful that I continue going to Vespers EVERY WEEK. If you glance back at my blog, you can see that my attendance has been usually every other week so hopefully I can change that this year! May God help me get closer to Him this year!