Sunday, December 19, 2010
When I was a Pentecostal, there were times that I didn't "feel" like going to church but would go anyway and, afterwards, I would be grateful I did because of the emotional high I would receive. Well, even though I got no emotional high from attending Vespers (in the pentecostal sense that is) I am very glad I went. Because of the Christmas play I am directing at my Protestant Church- and because of some other reasons- I am a bit stressed around now and actually considered forgoing Vespers...but I didn't and I am glad. There is something about giving yourself over to Worship with your heart, mind and body in the setting of a Vespers service that is completely freeing. While Worship doesn't completely remove the stresses of life, it does put them in proper perspective. So my advice to any readers who are unsure if they should attend Church is, Just Do it!
Father Gary spoke about the three Holy Youths from the Book of Daniel. He did this by reading from a book from Fr Thomas Hopko, whom I know from Ancient Faith Radio. Of course, when I heard him say "the youths" I had to chase away images of "My Cousin Vinny" and Joe Pesci saying "Da Youts"...but that quickly passed and I was able to learn from the example of the three young men who would serve the true God only, even if it meant their death. Fr Hopko compared that attitude with the "Name it and Claim it" Gospel which, sadly, many prescribe to.
Tammy, who is reader John's wife, reminded me of something very important when living the Christian life: Love must be paramount! You see, as I was leaving she made sure she came up to me and asked if I would be able to make it for Christmas. When I told her I had too many Protestant things going on, she gave me a a warm hug, with the obligatory three kisses on the cheek and wished me a blessed Christmas with my family. There was such sincerity in the exchange that I could truly see that Christians are marked by the love they show for each other. All the liturgy in the world done with the best choirs is useless if Love is not in the community.
May all of God's people show love at all times!
I sat next to Deacon Ken in the back who was not in his Deacon uniform (May I call it that?) but dressed as a civilian. Whenever I sit next to him (He's always there before me), he always makes sure he gives me a playful punch in the arm as a greeting. This welcoming is as important as Tammy's hug. It all shows the love of Christ!
As I was leaving, Ken asked me if I was ready for my play and I told him yes and to please keep me in prayer about it. He said he and his wife would try to attend. I told him, "Great, you might even win a door prize!" Ken said, "Good, I could always use another door." And with that I left chuckling out of the church, to my car, off to pick up my son from work.
Who knew Deacons could be so funny?
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Apocrypha? I think not! It's the Word of God!
Yesterday marked my 15th visit to my new found parish. At first, I thought I had missed it because when I walked in everyone was hanging around in the foyer while Father Gary was conducting a service inside; I found out later someone was having a commemoration of some loved one who had died and it was running a bit late. Father had blessed some sort of barley sweet cake at the ceremony and after Vespers I ate some...pretty good stuff.
The reading last night were from the Wisdom of Solomon, a book not accepted by the Protestants. I have been reading the Wisdom of Sirach in my new Orthodox Study Bible I bought for myself in October for my birthday. I have decided to read all the "Apocrypha" books since I have never really read it before since I have been a protestant for so long. Sirach is pretty interesting. It is sort of like proverbs, only less one liners and more of a narrative. Very instructive. (As an aside, I laughed twice when I read Sirach's illustration of a eunuch and a virgin, in order to demonstrate an impossible or frustrating situation)!
When I was 16 and attending a Pentecostal church, I remember asking my friend and mentor Dave (Dave was mentioned in the June 22nd post) about the Apocrypha books and why we had a different bible from the Catholics. He said the Apocrypha books were, upon reading, clearly inferior to Scripture. I, being 16, just accepted that. Reading it now, I feel like I am reading the bible for the first time (because in essence, I am!) Dave eventually became a Roman Catholic so I think he doesn't hold the same view anymore. In the meantime, I plan on reading Tobit after I finish with Sirach.
A young lady was standing in front of me. (I later learned she was from Georgia, the country, not the American State) and when everyone sat down for the Bible readings, she remained standing. An older lady (her mom maybe?) came from the back, stood next to her and then motioned for her to sit down. (undoubtedly so she wouldn't draw attention to herself). I guess this is an example on how Orthodoxy is not monolithic. We may believe the same things, worship the same way but there are local variations. This, I celebrate!
I kinda like that the young women stood. She's probably thinking, "What's wrong with these old people? We're Orthodox, we're supposed to stand!" (Gotta love the Russians, a hardy people...oh, wait, she was from Georgia....just as hardy!)
At the end of the general confession when people approached Father Gary to kiss the Cross he is holding and then his hand (Since those hands provide the Body of Christ) I noticed that a retired priest who is attached to the parish did not kiss Father Gary's hand. I wonder what that's about? anyone know?
Please keep me in your prayers.