Sunday, August 21, 2011

visit #34 - camping with a bishop?

photo above by Flickr user eTombotron, used under the creative commons license.

On my 34th visit....(I have to stop calling these visits, any ideas on what to call them?), I noticed that the Icons were still being painted on the walls and they are looking fantastic, even if the scaffolding is a bit distracting. I love that on the very top of the ceiling in the front is an Icon of Jesus enthroned, surrounded by angels.

As I walked into the church and took my seat, I realized that I forgot to pick up a service book. I debated going back and getting one but instead I thought I would just pay attention really well so I can get a gist of what is going on. (Let us Attend!...good advice during the liturgy.) I was struck again on how everyone worshiped in their individual ways and, yet, it was truly corporate experience. Some crossed themselves constantly, some lifted their hands, some just stood there and I decided I needed to stop observing so much and just worship they way I felt led. So I crossed my self and raised my hands at appropriate times. (raising hands? hey, I was a pentacostal for ten years so it came naturally) I do love that each member of the body of Christ is individual, worshiping in a way that fits themselves and yet, all united as one. I have been to "cult like" places and everyone was lock-step. No room at all for an individual. Not so, in the Body of Christ!

Fr. Gary, in his homily, commented on how Bishop Michael spent some time with the congregation that past weekend. The whole parish camped out on the church grounds (Hierarchs in tents? interesting!) He said it was great to have the Bishop with us because the Bishop is supposed to be with his people. I did, at that time, think about my own pastor at my protestant church, Pastor Del, and how he would apply this to himself - that a pastor needs to be with his people, which he does. So a Bishop is not simply an administrator but, rather, a shepherd, who knows his sheep.

At the end of the Vespers service, Prestberta Mary came up to me as I stood waiting to venerate the Icons before I left the building and said, she was sorry that I could not be with them all at the camp out. She said it was very relaxing and hoped I could make plans to attend next year.
As it turned out, I spent the week end with my wife at a dog event, called "Your dog is worth it, too." An event that you can take your dogs to and raise money to fight cancer at the same time.

Once again, I am caught between two congregations. This is something I must consider. Even if I were to fully convert to Orthodoxy now, I have my wife to consider. Time is something don't have a lot of, like most people I know, so it gets difficult to fully imerse myself in Orthodoxy, other than in my private prayers. And I have been learning, that my private prayers, no matter how Orthodox in nature, are not enough.

Lord, have mercy!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Visit #33 - New Icons on the Wall...and more coming!

When I walked into Church on Saturday July 23rd for my 33rd visit to an Orthodox Church, I was happily surprised to see all these Icons on the side of the walls. Up until that point, all of the Icons were in the front on the Iconostatis and a few small ones on the front side walls...but walking into this was quite a surprise.

Even though I only go to Vespers and don't know all about what is happening in Parish life, I did know, through reading on their website and by the weekly bulletin that Fr. Gary emails me and other parishioners, that the Church was in the midst of an Icon project. So I expected to see some changes...but this! All at once, there are tons of Large Icons on the wall! Man, that was some pretty fast Icon writing! I later learned, by talking to the very knowledgeable Tammy, that the Icons on the side of the walls were actually painted on Wallpaper somewhere else and quickly applied as Wallpaper is applied so It wasn't fast painting, just efficient wallpaper applying.

However, the Icon writier is going to paint some Icons above the Iconastatis just like Michelangelo ala the Sistine Chapel. It was a bit distracting during the Vespers Service to see Fr Gary and Deacon Ken snake their way through the works as they led us in Worship.

As you can see it looks like a construction zone, but I know if a few weeks that it will look beautiful!

One thing I noticed is that Reader John (Tammy's Husband) is now modifying some of his actions to accommodate the new Icons. You see, as I have mentioned in previous post's, it is John's practice to scan the Icons when, during Vespers, all the Saints are invoked with his eyes ending on the Icon of Christ. Well, now, he has to turn around and scan the side walls, too! But, you know, what he is looking out is absolutely beautiful.

Tammy took a picture of me by one of the Icons with my camera phone. It's a bit blurry but I will post it anyway:

It is a depiction of Jesus' first miracle which is one of my favorite miracles in the Bible. Now, before you think that I am an alcoholic, let me explain why I love the miracle of the water being turned into wine. You see, it really was an unnecessary miracle. When Jesus healed the sick, rose people from the dead, that, you can say, is a life changing event. But supplying wine for a wedding when the only negative affect of not doing it would be embarrassment for the wedding party, well, why is that miracle so special? Because, Jesus, who didn't even want to do it, was just listening to his Mother. To me, this proves Jesus' humanity. What son doesn't want to please his own mom? Jesus did! And this very human Jesus is also God!

Praise the Lord for the Incarnation!

Last Saturday (July 30th) my family went to a friend's house for dinner (a very good time) and this Saturday (August 6th) my wife and I are picking up my youngest son from camp and then taking him to see "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" but I hope to make it to Vespers this Friday for blessing of the fruit and for the Transfiguration.

Can someone tell me what is the significance of the blessing of the fruit? Should I bring my own apples?