After years of reading about Orthodoxy and listening to podcasts about it, I finally took the plunge and visited an Orthodox Service. It was a 7pm Vespers service for Ascension Thursday. (In Orthodox thinking, the day actually begins sundown the night before so celebrating Ascension Thursday on Wednesday evening is do-able in Orthodox thinking)
First, I could not believe how beautiful the sanctuary was, with all the icons and candles etc. Since I arrived a bit early, I was able to observe others. A woman across the aisle (we all sat in folding chairs) was praying as one would do before a worship service but she was standing to do so. Of course, this was no surprise to me because I have heard/read about how the Orthodox, like the Jews, stand for prayer. It was just a bit surreal to see what I have been reading about in "real life."
It was also surreal to see people kissing icons and bowing before them.
In the beginning, a man who was wearing a robe introduced himself to me as John. (I asked if he were a priest and he said he was a reader). Later on, his wife Tammy introduced herself to me and after Vespers she introduced me to a Deacon (named Tom) and finally to Fr Gary who, it turns out, was a convert from Roman Catholicism. (His girlfriend, now wife, had a lot to do with his conversion).
After the service we all shared in Litya, something I had heard about but go to partake of...here is a picture of what it looked like - This is from a different church but you get the idea...
Everyone went up to receive this bread/wine combination plus a special blessing from the priest but I did not go up but Tammy handed me some afterwards. She took special care to tell me it was not the consecrated Eucharist so I could partake.
I absolutely loved the music. It was all aCapella and the choir was great. Everything was sung, even the bible readings.
Another thing I had read/heard about is how people would kiss the priest's hand. This they would do because it is those hands that offer the Eucharist and it was interesting to see the altar boys kiss his hand whenever they would hand him a candle or something.
I look forward to going back.