Saturday, April 23, 2011

3pm Vespers of Holy Friday makes it Visit #27

Listen to this before you read below...If the above player doesn't work for you try this link....

Here is the Icon that greeted me as I walked in to the Church

I have to tell you, as a Christian, I have never been in love with the Psalms. I liked all the Narrative portions of Scripture - stories of adventures of King David or exploits of the Apostles in Acts - but, the Psalms never really resonated with me. As I studied Orthodoxy, I learned that the Psalms play a big part in Worship and that scared me a bit. After all, who wants to be bored in Worship? Well, I have slowly been being cured of this defect and last night I absolutely loved the Psalms. We started off with Psalm 104 and all the prayers that followed were either outright quotations of the Psalms or allusions s to it. The culmination for me was Psalm 22, "My God, My God, look upon me. Why has Thou forsaken me?". I love how before each Scripture reading The Prokeimenon is chanted which is simply a portion of a Psalm. It really softens the heart to be attentive to the Word of God.

The church was beautifully adorned with flowers and a large Cross in the center with Jesus affixed to it. During the readings I was surprised when, during the portion of the Gospel where Jesus is taken down from the Cross, the altar server walked over to the Cross in the center of the Church and removed Jesus. I thought, "Wow, that makes it real for me!"

Another very moving part of the Service is when Fr Gary processed with Gospel Book under the Shroud. They walked over to the table in the center of the church where the now body-less Cross stood and they placed the Shroud on the Altar.

Orthodox take Worship very seriously. At the end of the Vespers service, beginning with Fr Gary and Fr Sergius , all made three prostrations before the shroud, and kissed the Gospel book and the shroud. I had wanted to do that also but, I confess, I felt awkward doing that as everyone watched. You see, only two or three people at a time could venerate and it seemed as if everyone was watching. I know my attitude should have been, so what? But, I am still a bit self-conscience. I'm still afraid I will do it wrong. (You have no idea how uncoordinated I am!)

Also, I needed to leave because I was the Pizza getter of the family and they were all waiting for me to return with dinner. So I slipped out. Before I left, Tammy (by the way, every Parish should have a Tammy, someone who is friendly, welcoming and helpful) gave me a "Vespers of Holy Friday" to take home, provided I returned it soon. (Come to think of it, Tammy gave me her book as I entered about 30 seconds late and she went and got another one for herself - she is a perfect hostess) . So today, I plan on reading all of it, God willing.

Now, the big question, will I be awake enough to attend church tonight? Keep in mind, it ends at 2:30am, followed by a feast and I have a sunrise service to go to with my son....Many prayers, Please!

Oh, by the way, after pizza our family went to our protestant church (church of the Nazarene) and the service was good. I am in charge of changing the church sign messages and I did that after the service. Before it simply announced the time of the Good Friday Worship. Now it says something I borrowed from the Latin Rite. I cleared it with both Pastors and they liked it. Here it is below.

Good Pascha everyone!


  1. I've enjoyed reading your experiences. This was my second year visiting a Friday night "Lamentations" service, and this year my wife came along, bless her. She was not over-impressed (the monotony of chant and tones is not of interest to her). But she was a good sport.

    At about the half-way point she asked "is this all it is" - meaning, just psalms and songs, no sermon? I said yes, but then Fr. Michael proved me wrong by preaching a short sermon after the main service was over. It was a message aimed at me (though of course he didn't know it), and I hope others listening were as affected as I was.

    Anyway, after the service, there is a local custom of driving around to all the Orthodox churches in the area that are open all night for Vigil (reading the psalms and gospels over the tomb, or in some traditions, just standing watch). The youth especially love this - they get to traipse around late a night. We went along, and got to see the iconography and decorations at seven other churches, including the downtown cathedral. It makes for a long evening, and we were really tired, but it's worth it.

  2. Bill,
    I like the idea of running around to different churches at night...that definitely sounds like a "youth event".

    Someday I have to get my wife to a service but I don't think she'll like it...