Wednesday, February 2, 2011

18th Visit - Father Gary away and my views on greeting with a holy kiss

not exaclty greeting one another with a holy kiss but what I am used to!

I am getting to the point now where the "newness" of the Orthodox Worship experience is not new anymore and where attending Vespers is becoming routine. Now this is good and this is bad. Good, because, it shows a sense of belonging and comfort on my part but bad in that I can, believe it or not, become complacent and fall into a rut of "just going to church." One thing I like about keeping this blog is it forces me to engage myself in the Worship and to pay attention, although I don't have a lot to say regarding my 18th visit in the way of "new observations."

Father Gary was away on vacation so retired priest Sergius was conducting the service. He has a rich deep voice which is pleasant to hear as he chants. I did notice that during a particular prayer where "Fathers and Mothers" and "Brothers and Sisters" are mentioned, Fr Sergius opted to only mention the Fathers and Brothers, omitting the Mothers and Sisters as printed in our Vespers Service book. I wonder if he was going "old school" and the mention of only the masculine? Perhaps his was the original version and the Mothers and sisters were added for "modern Americans?" I don't know.

I also noticed that as Fr Sergius handed the incense to one of the altar boys that I did not see the customary "kiss on the hand." I immediately concluded that this honor was only for an active and not retired priest....but I was wrong. Later, when I had a better view and could actually see the altar boy (before his view was blocked by the doors) I saw, the second time, that he gave Fr Sergious an "air kiss" about a foot away from his hands. Now, what is that about?

Speaking of kisses, I am having a hard time feeling comfortable with the 'triple kisses' even if they are cool triune reminders! It just isn't part of my culture and although the bible says to greet each other with a holy kiss, I wonder if I wouldn't like a holy handshake instead? But I need to get out of my comfort zone.

I did meet with my Pastor on Saturday, right after the prayer breakfast. I want to give that due attention so I will hopefully blog about it in a few days.

Thanks for all your prayers!


  1. Firstly, I just want to mention how inspiring your last post is- it's wonderful that you're handling the conversion situation cautiously and with patience out of concern for your wife. She might see the appeal of Orthodoxy soon, and she might not. I'm aware that it's a little bit of pressure to say this, and it's been said before, but you're the primary example of Orthodoxy and the love the Church to her. So just keep up love in Christ. :-)

    As to this post- Fr. Sergius might just be used to an older translation. In the Russian, it might say "parents" and "siblings," which would by default be translated into English as "fathers" and "brothers" (or brethren, rather) in the "olden" days. That's something you'll have to get used to- Orthodox texts vary from very formal, Shakespearean English on one end of the spectrum to modern, tasteless translations on the other. Different jurisdictions simply use different translations.

    I don't really know about the hand kissing for the retired priest... it seems like they should have, especially since he was serving as a priest. Perhaps the altar boys just weren't sure what to do.

    And the triple kisses... not really something you HAVE to get used to, especially if you go to a non-ethnic church. It's much more of a "little t" tradition than "Tradition." That being said... if you do go to a church with a large Russian population, you will eventually assimilate and learn to kiss the babushkas when they walk up to you smiling.

  2. Alexandra,
    Thanks for your encouraging words. I agree that how I act as an "Orthodox Christian" is going to reflect on how others see Orthodoxy...As a protestant Christian, I have realized that too.

    Regarding the altar boys, they are older high school kids so I suspect that maybe the retired priest doesn't like it so they opted for the "air kiss"...who knows and, ultimately, it's not that important.

    I have no problem kissing the babushkas, it's the men I have a problem with....

  3. Hi Jim, being an altar boy myself, the air kiss may simply be a timing thing with the different priest. I have found in my years serving in the altar that some priests move their hands away quicker than others, leaving me doing the air kiss, and other times, I have been caught out day dreaming, not concentrating, and then realising I forgot to kiss the priest's hand, and trying to make up for it with an air kiss.

    You can always grow a beard, and this may put people off doing the 3 kisses because of the prickly beard ;)


  4. Terrence,
    Great insight from an insider...thanks!
    about the beard, it might be fun to grow but then my wife wouldn't like it! :)

  5. Ahhhh... How I remember the 'bearded Jim" days of old. I miss them :-)

  6. ...but back in the day when I had hair on my face, I also had hair on top of my head!