photo by Paul Golm, used under the creative commons license.
check out his work at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulcalypse/
If anyone claims that the Orthodox Church does not place much importance on the Bible, Wednesday's Service will prove them wrong. On Holy Wednesday there was a blessing of the oils, something that is new to me. There was a small container of Oil, surrounded by seven candles, each candle was lit after two sets of Scriptures and a Gospel reading were chanted...doing the math, that would make 7 Gospel readings and 14 Scripture readings! That's more Scripture than I usually get at my protestant Church. I Confess my feet began to hurt and by the sixth candle, I sat for a bit while the Scripture was read but I, of course, stood back up for the Gospel. It wasn't till I got home and looked up on Google that what I had participated in was called "Service of Holy Unction."
One thing I have been noticing regarding those who lead in Worship - whether the choir or the reader or the Deacon or the Priest- is when they are doing their part, they are not performing but rather worshiping. I am not saying that protestants don't worship but there seems to be more showmanship in protestantism in general. My church uses a video screen to display the lyrics to the hymns and choruses, my own pastor, who is a godly man, tends, in his preaching, towards the dramatic. But at Vespers, I see John the reader, leading us in Psalm 51 and doing metanies, and crossing himself along the way. I see choir members Crossing themselves at appropriate times when they could, by rights, just read the music. Father Gary, in his homilies, exhorts us in an undramatic way, to follow Christ. Again, I am not doubting the sincerity or piety of my protestant church, who, by what I can see, are closer to Christ than I, but I think in Orthodoxy it is easier to Worship because Tradition has shown us the best way to do so.
photo by Fred Dawson, used under the creative commons license.
check out his work at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fwp-dawson/
During the Service, there were prayers to James, First Bishop of Jerusalem, and I was reminded of something I read an Orthodox Forum regarding picking baptismal/christmation names- the forum writer recommended that converts stick to their given Christian name when choosing a patron because, he contended that the Patron had been praying for us since we received our name and could feel insulted if we look for a "fancier" name. If that is true than the Apostle James has been praying for me for nearly 50 years. I confess that I have always been on the look out for a saint to call a patron, trying to find a "hero" who I can claim but I am thinking that James will do fine. After all, being baptized in the Roman Church, I was given this name and being named after the first Bishop of Jerusalem isn't too shabby.
Fr. Gary reminded everyone that the oils were a sacrament of the church and only those who were in communion with the Church should participate. Those who were not in communion could venerate the cross, kiss the Gospel and, instead of being anointed with oil, could receive a blessing. Well, after I did that, I approached Fr Gary and he was about to apply the oil when I reminded him, "Father, a blessing." which he gave. Perhaps since he has been seeing me hang out for almost a year now, he forgot that I am not a member?
In the past being excluded like that would have really bothered me but, in truth, it made me realize that I have something to look forward to. It seems right that sacraments (or mysteries) should only be given to those in full communion and, God willing, that will be me some day.
After I received my blessing and I continued towards the icons to venerate, it made the veneration more special and more sincere.
I was one of the first in line so I exited right away and, on the way out, an older lady commented, "The knees, Father, the kness! I am glad Fr Gary anointed my hands but I could really use anointing on my knees," she joked. I then told her of my own arthritis in my knees which makes standing a challenge sometimes. She then said, "I have seen you at Vespers for a while, my name is Betty and this is my husband Dave." I then told her my story of coming to church after being inspired by Ancient Faith Radio and that I hoped to be Christmated soon. She said, "Well, we have been praying for Catechuemens."
Hopefully, dear reader, you can join them in prayers for me, as I do for you!
Today is Holy Friday and I intended to go the 3pm service...I will let you know how that goes!