Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Visit 182 ~ Vespers with a Bishop!

His Eminence, Arch-Bishop Michael
So, talking with Bishops is good! That's what I got to do Saturday night.  I have first seen Arch-Bishop Michael "up close and personal" last year at a campfire on Church grounds, complete with 'smores!  He had come for a pastoral visit and was then, I believe, just a plain, old Bishop until he was elevated to Arch-Bishop.  You can read about that visit here.  At that time, I did not actually talk to Bishop Michael but this time I did!

The Vespers service was good - I don't think I've been to a bad Vespers service yet! :) I arrived a bit late and didn't feel right about venerating the Icons during the prayer because Bishop Michael was sitting by the Iconostasis in his chair and I would have felt uncomfortable about "invading his space," as I made the rounds. So I just sat in the back. Marko saw me and gave me a warm greeting! I remember I really enjoyed Bishop Michael's homily but, I am embarrassed to say, I cannot at this time recall what it was about! Oh, my! I guess that is why frequent Church attendance is good because it is a way to keep the Faith always before us!

After Vespers, there was to be a small reception in the Church hall.  As we waited for Bishop Michael to enter, I chatted it up with Jack Hayford and I asked him, "What is the proper way to address a Bishop?" He said, in Bishop Michael's case, it would be proper to say Your Eminence, because he was recently elevated to Arch-Bishop.  So I asked, "If I said, Your Grace, instead that would be sort of an insult, since that title is for your every day Bishops? " Jack said, he'd hope that a Bishop would not be insulted by something like that. Humility and all.... Well, when I did meet Bishop Michael his humble spirit was evident. Jack also said Vladika would be proper. I get the sense that Vladika is an informal title of respect much like papa is to the term Father.  You guys, correct me if I am wrong, okay?

One of the reasons I made sure I went to Vespers on this particular Saturday is I had met with Fr. Gary last week and we had a talk about my spiritual progress and whether I should "take the plunge" into Orthodoxy.  We discussed what was hindering and Fr. Gary strongly suggested that I meet Bishop Michael. Indeed, he said, "I will introduce you." I suspect one of the reasons Fr. Gary wanted me to meet the Bishop is so that Bishop Michael could pray for me.

In the Church Hall, I talked with Mutushka Mary a while about the All-American council. I had listened to all 6 sessions on Ancient Faith Radio and Mutuska Mary had spoken as a lay delegate a couple of times. I also spoke a bit with Marko and Tammy.  But then it came time to meet the Bishop.  Fr. Gary said, Are you ready? since the Bishop seemed to be free.  You can imagine a lot of people wanted to talk to him.

Fr. Gary said "Vladika, I want to introduce you to Jim Vivanco." Arch-Bishop Michael put down the plate he was holding and immediately grabbed my hand to shake it. It made me uncomfortable because I know you are supposed to kiss his hand.  But such is the humility of our Arch-Bishop! A true and good Father to his flock!  Fr. Gary went on to tell him about my blog and, when Bishop Michael learned from me that I post an entry after each visit, he asked me, "How many visits you up to?" Of course, I went blank! I said, Well, I am nearing 200 which is true enough.  Bishop Michael then said he hoped I would continue to "come and see" until the day I was received into the Church.  Fr. Gary gave a fuller picture of my situation when he said what was really an issue was my wife's aversion to the Eastern Orthodox Faith.  Bishop Michael asked for my wife's name and then promised to pray for both of us!  

The whole conversation didn't last more than two minutes but I was so glad to meet His Eminence, Arch-Bishop Michael and I am grateful that Fr. Gary introduced me.  I am, believe it or not, very shy at times and I really hate to talk about myself (although, as you can see, I am not opposed to writing about myself :) ) but it was great to meet such a humble Shepherd.  

I hope I can meet him again soon! 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Visit 181 ~ Question: Why do kids line up first to receive the Mysteries?

I haven't been in Divine Liturgy since June 30th, mostly because I've had trouble getting someone to take my shift at work.  Well, I was happy to be at Church yesterday. I wasn't able to stay for coffee hour because I was wanted to meet my wife and we had lots to do with the dog (It's dog grooming day!) but, of course, the main reason to go to Church is the Divine Liturgy. It was great to participate in the prayers of the people, singing Psalms and Hymns once again.  

I actually was able to pray the hours before the Liturgy and below is a link to a 15 second video of that. Reader John leads us in those prayers. Yes, I know we're all sitting down but, give us a break, we're old!!!! :)

 I love the order and structure of Orthodox Worship. It doesn't matter how you "feel" but you just have to show up and participate.  I've been in many Protestant services where the leaders try to "rev up" the crowd so that it "feels" like church but that isn't necessary in Orthodoxy. Things are done decently and in order, as St. Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians.  One such example is the blessing the Reader gets before he reads from the Scriptures.  Reader Tim left the choir loft during the Trisagion prayers, walked through the side doors into the Altar. There, Fr. Gary gave his blessing to Reader Tim. Tim kissed Fr. Gary's hand and the Scripture book and then exited out the side door to the center of the Nave, ready to read from the Epistles.  This is great that it happens each and every time before the Scripture reading. It reminds everyone about proper order and, I believe, keeps us humble.  And, without humility, no one sees God.

During Communion, of course, I do not go because I am not Orthodox, not yet part of the faithful. Something I've been thinking about for a while and have kept forgetting to ask.  I notice that right before the Mysteries are distributed to the Faithful, all the kids line up first and they receive first. So This Question:

What is the reason the kids receive communion first? Is it a theological reason?

I'd love to know the answer to this. Are things done differently in other parishes? Keep in mind, that all of my "Live" Orthodox experience has pretty much just happened in one place so I am not sure how things are done in other places.  Please comment below if you know the answer.

As always, keep me in your prayers as I remember you in mine.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory Forever!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Visit #180 ~ First a funeral, then Vespers!

at the memorial service of Seymour Levin
May his memory be eternal!
A friend of mine passed away last week. His name was Seymour Levin, an ordained deacon in the Church of the Nazarene.  He was a faithful servant of God and has a great testimony of being converted to Christ while in prison. He converted despite being raised Jewish. (As you can see from the pic above, he still had Judaism had a place in his heart)   I went to his memorial service last Saturday....well I tried to, anyway.  You see, I was so exhausted from work that I feel asleep at 3pm and didn't wake up till 5:15pm, thus by the time I got to the service, it was time for the last hymn.  The place was packed and, even though, I missed the service, I was able to join the receiving line and condole with his widow.  They had a light supper downstairs afterwards. I stayed a little bit and then made my way to Vespers.

My life has been a bit crazy lately and I haven't been able to get Sunday's off for Church so, thankfully, I attended Vespers last Saturday. It was great to be back in Vespers which is my "introductory" service into Orthodoxy.  I do love Vespers but when given the choice of the DL or Vespers, I of course, have to opt for the DL, which is why I haven't been to a regular Vesper's Service (not counting Holy Week or Pre-Sanctified) since February 3rd. (Read about it here.) But Vespers holds a special place in my heart.

I lit two candles as Fr. Deacon Alexander led in prayers.  One for my family and one for the newly-reposed Seymour Levin.  Fr. Gary spoke about St. Jacob of Alaska and the importance of missions.  You can read more about him here.

St. Jacob, pray for us!

It was good to be back at Vespers. Hopefully, I can attend the Divine Liturgy this Sunday, if I can get someone to take my shift at work.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Visit #179 ~ Being Uplifted by the Faithful!

Marko, smoking a Cuban 
(Don't worry; he was in Canada at the time so it was legal)
I was in a bit of a funk when I entered into the Nave on Sunday morning.  You see, I was still reeling from an argument I had with a close family member on (of all things) the issue of the SCOTUS ruling on Same-sex marriage.  It got very personal and things could have come to a permanent break, but, it didn't, thank God. What helped me focus in what was good about the world was being with the people of God.  I was especially helped by the cheerful, friendly disposition of Marko.  He entered into the Nave with his wife Amanda and in between venerating Icons, he'd greet people, sometimes with a smile, most times with a hug.  How can anyone remain down when they see joy like that walking around?

Another blessing is having Tiffany and Andrew with their baby Payton stand next to me during the Liturgy.  At one point, Andrew let me hold Payton and, of course, she tried to grab my glasses.  I am not a "baby" person. Indeed, when I first became a father, my wife was worried that I wouldn't bond well with my children because I never liked to hold babies, but Payton, in my view, is such a cute and beautiful baby!  (Just so you know, I did like my own kids, even when they were babies.)  Tiffany gave me a Divine  Liturgy Service book that belonged to her father Jim.  I started to tear up when I received the book. Next week, I'll bring it with me to service. It will take some figuring out on how to navigate through it so as to follow the service.  The book has English on the left side and Church Slavonic (& Serbian) on the right side.

The Service book belonging to Jim

Speaking of Jim Martin, he was honored today (along with some other people) at his former Protestant parish. Right after Divine Liturgy, I rushed out of there so I could attend the Protestant Service with my wife.  (Yes, I hated missing the coffee hour and fellowshiping  with the Faithful but I am glad to be sitting next to my wife in church.)  The Nazarene denomination has what is called a Memorial Roll where you pay a certain amount of money and the name of deceased loved one is put on a plaque. (Sounds like selling indulgences to me....just joking :) )The money is used to help missionary's health care.  There was a four or five people being remembered, along with Jim and Pastor Del said some nice things about each of the loved ones.  Below is what he said about Jim. It begins with Pastor Del talking about a lady who, before she passed, said she was ready to meet God. The whole thing runs for about one minute:

No doubt the peace that Jim had in his life at the time that Pastor Del mentions, is due to the fact that he was now a faithful communicant within the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church.  Jim found the peace he was looking for by being united with Christ in His Church!  Glory to God! 

The Divine Liturgy that morning was refreshing! Fr Gary had returned from vacation. Now that he is back, I'll see about setting up an appointment with him to discuss fasting (and other issues.) My daughter gets married in two weeks so it'll have to be after that.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Visit 178 ~ Visiting Priests and on-going Improvements

The Nave look a little bit like a Construction Zone as we added new Icons

The Divine Liturgy was great, as usual.  One thing  I love about the Divine Liturgy is that, even though it is always at least an hour and half, it can "fly by" time-wise, if I pay attention and realize what is taking place.  By heeding the advice of Let us attend throughout the whole service, I find meaning in all that is going on and, thus, I am not "bored" even though basically the same thing happens every week.  I cannot say the same thing for some protestant services I attend.

Fr Gary is still on Vacation so we had a visiting priest, Fr. Volodomyr Chaikivsky who led us in Worship. His accent was very thick and during his very short homily (full of good content,) I couldn't get the notion out of my head that Vladimir Putin was talking to me.  Sorry about that.  I did manage to ignore the accent long enough to really listen, though.  Fr. Volodomry commented on how we are to seek the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness.  Great advice no matter what the accent.

A video posted by 15 Second Orthodoxy (@15secondorthodoxy) on
We are adding new icons and, as you can see from the short video above, it means the Nave looks a little like a construction zone.  I do know when it is all said and done that the resulting new Icons will be a blessing to behold.  In fact, at the end of the service, Deacon Alexander said, during the announcement time, that we have a reputation within the diocese as having the most beautiful Icons around.  That's kinda nice.

Sunday was Father's day. I was happy to be in the Service for Father's day and I was also happy that, later on, my wife and I went to see the 40th anniversary showing of JAWS! Best film ever!!!

It was a good day!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Visit #177 ~ The Synaxis of All Saints

I loved the homily today by Fr Gary about All Saints! He mentioned the reading from Hebrews which talked about how we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. As soon as he said that I glanced around and saw how, on the walls, there were indeed witnesses for us who were praying for us and rooting us on!

Coffee hour was very good. I caught up with Marko, Amanda and spoke with Tami for a bit.  They had a meeting for the Ethnic Fair towards the end of the coffee hour so, since I was not on any of the committees, I absented myself.  Later on that afternoon I had to take my wife to a "surprise party" in her honor because she just completed an intense phlebotomy course and all of her friends wanted to celebrate with her. Sadly, I did a horrible job of louring her into the place she had to do and ended up telling her she had to come with me because it was  a surprise party for her.  We all had a good time and I ended up taking a video of my friend's dog which, for fun, is right here:
A video posted by Jim Vivanco (@nawanda60) on

At Coffee hour, we talked a bit about the Apostle's Fast. I, myself, do not really fast but maybe I should consider adapting the practice, watcha think?

See you next time.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Visit #176 ~ Lighting Candles for the Newly Baptized and Illumined

A candle and a prayer for Payton Faith
I went to the Divine Liturgy yesterday and, of course, it was good to be there.  But a part of me wishes I was at a different parish that day where Payton Faith Campbell was being baptized!  I was unable to attend Andrew and Tiffany's daughter's baptism (because their parish is so far away and because of my work schedule) so, instead, I said a prayer and lit a candle for the newly baptized and illumined Payton Faith! I took a picture of the gold lamp stand where I lit the candle at the beginning of the service. This pic was snapped while I waited in line at the end of the service to venerate the Cross.

A small group of people were absent from the DL today because they were able to attend Payton Faith's baptism.  Marko, who is the godfather, is pictured below. I had asked him (via facebook) if he spit on the devil on Payton's behalf. He said, "I renounced the devil thrice" because, in Orthodoxy, if something is good enough to do one time, it's good enough to do three times! 
the godparents! 

The proud parents!
So, God bless Payton Faith Campbell!

Thanks for reading!