Monday, May 9, 2011

Visit number 29 - Vespers after Pascha NOT a let down!

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Sometimes after a BIG EVENT, when there are a lot of good memories to be had and plenty of reason to discuss that which just happened, the time following is something of a let down. Maybe you have a big party with all your friends and family around and you are happy for a few days BUT then, the daily routine of work and the mundane practices of daily chores steal away your joy.

Well, that has not happened by me attending a Vespers service after the Great and Holy Pascha Vigil!

One reason is we are still in the Pascha season (and will be there until Ascension Thursday) so the Joy of the Resurrection is still celebrated. In fact, I had forgotten that the tri-fold "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal One" is replaced with "Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life."...and it took me by pleasant surprise. Hearing those words again brought me back to the joyful Pascha Vigil and reminded me of the centrality of the Resurrection in the Gospel Message- and, thus, should be central in my life.

I did notice when I arrived to the church that the attendance was a bit sparser than usual. I know this because, I usually arrive just at 7pm ( or just slightly after) and I have to park in the back of the church. Well, I got a parking spot right up front! The lighter attendance did not take away from the joy of the celebration.

I got a bit reflective, as I sometimes do when I am at Vespers and I thought about how the low attendance would have meant the death of the service in my protestant church. I did a count and, not counting the clergy, the altar servers, John the Reader and the Choir, those in the "audience" numbered seven. That's low enough to call for drastic action in my protestant church. In fact, we abandoned Sunday Evening Worship altogether because of the attendance dwindled down to like what I saw at Vespers. And, Wednesday evening worship was altogether revamped to make it more of an event for kids. (They have a Christian scouting program called "Caravan.")

But seeing the faithful gathered at Vespers, even though small in number, made me realize what we were doing. We weren't gathering (strictly) for our own edification nor were we assembled so "we could get something out of it" - and thus justify getting rid of it if our needs weren't being met- No! We were gathered to worship the risen Christ and no matter what the number in the congregation, that was going to happen!

Now I am not saying that about my church to sit in judgement on them. In fact, given the fact that they do not have the variety of services that there are in Orthodoxy, it might make sense for them to "change things" to make it more seeker friendly. In fact, it is a good thing that the kids have a Christian scouting program to attend and it is beneficial. But I like that the Orthodox are so focused on Worship. It's not to generate numbers, it's not to ensure high attendance but rather it is simply to worship the risen Christ!

To me, that is wonderful!

Christ is Risen!


  1. I get what you mean, Jim. The pressure is off in a way, right? It's not our job to fill the pews, to worry about evangelizing every person we meet. It's our job to worship Jesus and do what he calls us to do. I remember all those years ago at Free Gospel thinking, "I just want to be a regular person." I think that was my way of rejecting the evangelical (fundamentalist?) pressure to feel responsible for the spiritual state of the world, and guilty about it somehow, too.

    Anyway, thanks for posting. It feels like you should get a book out of this somehow!

  2. Yes, it is freeing to not feel responsible for the spiritual state of the whole world. But once I fully enter into Orthodoxy (God willing) I do have to work out a balance where I understand that I should "just be" and being a witness to Christ. One thing I did love about Free Gospel church was that evangelical ferver which, I believe, came from a true desire to serve Christ and from a genuine love for people. What I love about orthodoxy is that it tends not to put people into categories of the saved or the lost...not that they don't believe in such a distinction but rather the "lost" we pay attention to the most is ourselves.

    A book? I don't know about that! I have enough problems with keeping up with blog posts...oh, and speaking of books, I just ordered yours from amazon....there were only two left in stock... The next time I see you I want an autograph on the front cover! :)