So I go to Vespers after a long absence and I arrive a few minutes early. I venerate the Icons and, when done, I decide to sit close to the front. There is a few minutes before we start and others are making their "rounds" with icons, including Presbytera Mary- that's Father Gary's wife - and after she finishes venerating the final Icon, she sits down next to me as if to talk - which she does.
"You know," she says, "This row is reserved for Priests, Priest's wives or deacons."
"Really," I say embarrassed, "I guess I better move then" Great! Orthodoxy has 2000 years of traditions - I am NEVER going to learn them all!
As I grab my hat and am about to leave, she touches my arm and say, "I'm just kidding."
Presbytera Mary leaves to join the choir and my ears redden in embarrassment. I am not embarrassed because I am sitting in the wrong place; I am embarrassed because I am so gullible! I couldn't help but chuckle to myself as doors opened and Father Gary began Vespers. Ah, such a jokester, she is! Orthodox might take worship very seriously, but they certainly are not stoic.
Sitting in the front before Vespers started, I got a chance to observe people as they made their venerations. (Maybe I am not supposed to do that but I guess it's the blogger in me that likes to make observations). One lady was very nicely dressed. It was a very stylish dress which was still modest. That made me think about how people dress for Vespers. I guess I can talk about that best by comparing to some things that are the worst.
I have been to "informal" worship services where not only did people look like they just came from a day at the park, they brought their coffee with them into what the protestant's would call the "sanctuary" (I am not sure what Orthodox call the place where the people sit.) Yes, very informal! Now, I know that God looks at the heart but some protestants have forgotten they are seeking an audience with a King. We would want to dress up to visit the President, why not look your best to visit with the Ruler of the Universe?
What I like about what I have seen so far in Orthodoxy is how people dress up is not cult like in conformity. I visited a friend's church (He's from work) and he is a preacher in that denomination. Very formal. Everyone was dressed in suits and the ladies had long dresses. But it seemed to me that everyone looked the same. The suits were all black and the shirts were all white. It was almost like being a Mormon Convention. Now I am not saying that my friend is involved in a cult (although in the Orthodox sense, isn't anything outside Orthodoxy some variation of a cult? I don't know. Dear reader, set me straight on this one) but it seems that there was no room for individual expression. In Orthodoxy, I saw people dressing up in styles that reflected their personality. God has made us all different so why not express ourselves differently!. Ah, the diversity in the unity of the Body of Christ! How, Glorious!
(I won't mention my friend's church's name but if you want to know, email me and I'll tell you more).
I still have to contact Fr Gary to make an appointment. I had to rush out right after Vespers because I promised my son we would watch the Original BATMAN movie with Michael Keaton and Jack Nickolsen. And I get sleepy late at night so I rushed home.
Also, I had to get up early to plan Sunday's "Jr NYI All Glorious Water Balloon and Wetness Extravaganza" JR NYI is the youth group I run. Does that name sound Orthodox inspiried? I got tired of saying "water balloon fight"...:)