I thought I'd be a few minutes late but I walked into the Church just as Fr. Gary came in through the doors. Deacon Ken was inhis usual place in the back so I stood next to him. (Interesting note, if this had been a protestant church I would have said, I sat down next to Deacon Ken - Gotta love all the standing the Orthodox do!)
The Service went on as usual and I enjoyed all the prayers, especially "The Lord is Robed in Majesty", one of my personal favorites! At one point, when Fr. Gary was walking around the Church censing the Icons, Ken leaned over to me and said, "What's missing?" I had already sensed that something was slightly different about the service which I couldn't quite put my finger on but as he asked the question, it came to me- "The censor had no bells," I whispered back to Deacon Ken. Okay, what happened? Was the regular censor in the shop and they had to make do with this hand-me-down model? I didn't think so; I figured it had something to do with Lent.
I could tell by the prayers that The Triumph of Orthodoxy was the Feast on Sunday. The choir sang all about Icons and how they revealed God. Then I looked all around the Church at the Icons. I remember how, on my first visit, they looked so foreign to me- almost scandalous to have images and make them a part of worship. But, it seems, like everything else in Orthodoxy so far, it all makes sense. I remember hearing on a podcast that Icons are deliberately made not to be an exact representation of a saint, but rather are "other worldly", something to make you think of Heaven, and not earth. This is in direct contrast to Roman Catholic Iconography. My cousin, a deeply committed Roman Catholic, shared some pictures on Facebook of a visit she made to a particular Church. The statues of Christ, Mary and all the other Saints were "life like" and, frankly, didn't raise my sights upward but the Orthodox Icons promise to deliver Heaven - and it seems they do! Every time I look at an Orthodox Icon, I feel transported- sorry to sound so flakey but it's true., ...no disrespect intended to our Roman Catholic Brothers.
After Vespers, I talked to Deacon Ken a bit more about the bells. He told me that they are omitted during a penitential period i.e., Lent but can be used on Sundays, since that is always a day of celebration! We remember that Christ is Risen, even during Lent!
"There are twelve bells on the censor, representing the disciples," said Ken, "but one of the bells doesn't ring." Ah, I thought, "The Judas Bell." It's a wonder why they didn't replace it with "a Matthias Bell" after the fashion of Acts chapter one. Oh, well, the symbolism of the unringing bell is pretty cool and you can't argue with two thousand years of tradition!
At least, I'm not going to!