Monday, August 2, 2010

Sixth Visit - Prostrations galore!

Okay, I’m officially freaked out!

I went to Vespers Saturday and, even though I was very tired from working for the Air Force that day, I am glad I went. The Worship was beautiful, as usual and the incense, candles and bells help transport me to a different realm BUT when it came time for some Icon veneration, -It was the Icon of the Cross- Father Gary and several others did full prostrations on the ground. Others just dropped to their knees. I didn't know what to do. I felt out of place and I did what I have heard described as a “profound bow”, that is, I bowed from the waist down. And of course with the Orthodox, if it’s worth doing once, it’s worth doing three times! So every time it mentioned bowing down within the liturgy, they did.

What freaked me out is, really this type of Worship –using your whole body, soul and mind to Glorify God – is something that is foreign to me. I am used to singing some worship songs –short little “ditties” that lack the rich content of Orthodox Hymnography- and even when I sang those, the most demonstrative thing I have ever done is perhaps raise my hands but this…! Pentecostals have nothing on the Orthodox! I was struck by the lack of emotionalism that I have witnessed in other places. No Worship leader had to beg, plead to “let yourself go” and worship. Rather, the Orthodox just worship, with their mind, body and will. They don’t have to get “pumped up!”

All of this leads me to a question. Shouldn’t I be more engaged in Worship? In my own private devotions, I will cross myself (the Orthodox way, of course from right to left) and I will do a few bows but if I am going to worship in an Orthodox church, shouldn’t I be doing all they are doing? These past six times that I have been at Vespers, I have not crossed myself or done any metanies. I have just stood when everyone else stood and I have bowed my head a bit. I think the reason I don’t fully participate, is I believe (whether rightly or wrongly) that I should receive some instruction first. I feel I have to make my intentions clear, some declarative statement on my part that I intend to be Orthodox, almost like receiving permission because, after all, I am not Orthodox, just a seeker. I think I should shoot an email to Deacon Ken and set up a “meet and greet” or a cup of coffee at a diner or something and talk it over with him.

So what do you guys think? Should I be crossing myself, doing prostrations, kissing Icons, ect., even though I am not even a catechumen, let alone Orthodox? Leave some comments below; I’d love to know your opinion.

After Vespers ended, I had to rush out of there to pick up my son from work.


  1. I think what you are saying is that you feel like you are playing at being Orthodox rather than being Orthodox. (kind of like a white rapper)? Am I understanding you correctly?

    If so, please don't worry. You are certainly welcome to do any of those things. Do what seems natural at the time and the others that you are less comfortable with will follow. My non-Orthodox husband crosses himself at the invocation of the Trinity and he even kisses icons and he has no intention of becoming Orthodox.

  2. Not so much as a white rapper -after all, Eminem is pretty sucessful :) - I feel more like a wedding crasher; I am at a party that I kind of barged in on and I feel I should just stay quiet in the corner so no one asks me to leave...Not that they would really ask me to leave (Actually, they have been very welcoming), I think I am afraid of doing things wrong...I mean, has anyone ever gotten hurt from a badly executed prostration?

  3. How to properly do a prostration, according to the Russians:

  4. Thanks for the link: I just read it and it gives great details on how to make a proper prostration. I wonder, is there ever any variation on how to do a prostration?

  5. There are some variations on prostrations... some people don't fully touch their head to the ground, some return to a standing position differently than others, some are more comfortable in a compact position closer to the floor and others prefer their bodies to be more angular. The fact remaining is that there are only so many comfortable ways to do a prostration, and when one is doing them very frequently, in quick succession, and holding still during one for very long periods of time (such as in Lent), one rapidly learns how to and how not to prostrate. :-)

    That being said, I second the recommendation to please, relax. I remember being self-conscious in church and carefully watching what everyone else was doing to make sure I got it right. Now that I'm part of "everyone else," I can safely say that we don't really care what you do or how you do it as long as you're being respectful. Please feel no qualms about prostrating, venerating icons, etc.- if you undertake such actions with the proper intent, it can only help your movement towards the Church. Don't feel restricted, but let yourself experience worship!


  6. Thank you Alexandra: soon I will blog about my seventh visit where I actually participate... It is a great comment that "we don't care what you do as long as you are respectful"... That is because everyone should be concentrating on worship ... By the way, are you the alendra who once left a comment on my old podcast "leaning east"AKA monkey in the middle?

  7. Not that I know of, I don't believe I've ever commented on a podcast. I just like following your blog, it's very intriguing to see the perspective of a developing newcomer after I've already been so entrenched in the Church. If you ever want a new/different view on something or have a question about wider American Orthodoxy, please don't hesitate to email me:

  8. I think it's just a case of trying to do what is standard while at the same time realising that there is no need to be self-conscious. Alexandra has pointed out that there are different ways people prostrate. In addition, not everybody does all of the prostrations, and some people will not do them at certain times which are different from the times that others do not do them. Much of this is down to local or national custom, while some of it is simply down to misunderstanding. Do the best you can and you will not be struck down. If you are, then just do a prostration while you're down there, and all will be well.

  9. Begging pardon. It was anonymous, and not Alexandra.

    I found you through, BTW.

  10. ha! ha! "profound bow" that sounds like a neologism for "correctly done bow" in a new calendar milieu.

    o. Mark

  11. I recently converted, actually I guess it's been more than 5 years, but I still have questions and concerns about how I am doing things. When I asked what I should be doing in church (before I became a catachumen), I was always told only whatever I was comfortable doing. I was raised Southern Baptist, so venerating Icons was difficult for me at first. I would cross during prayers, but not at the icons and it took several weeks to kiss any other icon besides Christ. Find someone in the church you are comfortable being around and ask them what you should do if you are unsure. From what I've learned is Orthodox are not pushy or judgmental, but we love to help newcomers when asked! And when you are ready to become a catechumen, everything will be explained. Don't be afraid to try and don't be afraid to ask.

  12. Michael,
    That's great advice on what to do if I am struck down! :}

  13. O.Mark,
    I got the term "Profound bow" from Fr Dave Dwyer, a RC priest from "Busted halo"...

  14. Ambrosia,
    I too find that everyone is non judgemental and helpful...It's a great relief!