A circle of friends, much like what formed after Vespers last night. photo by Chris Lim, used under the creative commons license. check out more photos at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cats-eye-view/
Last night was my 36th visit to the Orthodox Church and I am happy to say that I noticed that while I have been going to Church a lot, I very rarely go two weeks in a row. But I did this time. I have come to realize that not having these somewhat long gaps of time in between visits will help me in my journey closer to Christ and Orthodoxy. It makes sense. If I were going to college and only attended class every third week, I would turn out to be a poor student. How much more important not to just audit Divine Services. And yesterday it would have been easy to skip Vespers because I was with my wife at a triplet's birthday party. My wife helps a local family watch triplets and they just turned one. I ended up leaving before the cake was served (but my wife knew that going in) and it was tempting to stay so as to not be rude but I knew I had to go. As I get closer to Orthodoxy, I am going to have to manage family time carefully so my wife and kids don't get shafted. A relationship with them is a priority from God but so is Church. I must remember that.
Vespers was great, although it seemed a bit sparsely attended. Deacon Ken was not there, although his son Will was serving. I really enjoyed Worship, especially the veneration of the Cross. There is something about a full prostration that feels right. I know that others might think we are Muslims by our prostrations but Western Christianity doesn't know what it's missing by not involving their whole bodies in Worship. I also very much loved the Prokeimenon, The Lord is King! Below is the Prokeimenon, although not in English. Cool Stuff!
After Vespers, Father Gary's wife, Mary greeted me and, with a smile, said, "So, you write about me in my blog?" She must have been referring to Visit #32 where I mention how she told me, in jest, that I was sitting in the wrong seat. Read about it here: http://orthodoxyorbust.blogspot.com/2011/07/sitting-in-wrong-place-in-visit-32.html
Mary went on to explain how she knew I could take a joke, since I have been attending for so long that I would not be driven away but such a playful act. She figured that you have to have fun in life. (and I agree). She went on to explain how the Lord had a sense of humor, too because she had been raised a daughter of a Priest, lived in rectory's all here life and wanted no part of it. Well, she meets Fr Gary, then marries him while he is still a Roman Catholic and he announces one day that he wants to be an Orthodox Priest. Well, looks like the joke is on Mary~ but I think she can take a joke, even a Divine one!
This discussion took place in the Nave and it was there I observed what often happens after Worship. Circles of discussion form. There were two circles actually, one for the "young people" and one for us older folks. What's great about that is everyone is included and can listen or talk as desired. I myself don't feel comfortable enough to just join a circle because, believe it or not, I can be very shy, so I high tailed it out of the Church. As I walked on the path I noticed people emptying the back of a car, carrying tables and chairs, I asked if I could help and, after opening the door for them, I went to retrieve a table. I am most comfortable in a group of people when I am involved in some sort of work. For me, it makes conversation easier than when I am just standing around. I guess I feel useful, too.
I asked Tammy, who was in the parish hall, what the tables were for. She told me that we were setting up for coffee hour and the tables and chairs had been at some community event. There, they sold raffle tickets, handed out Orthodox literature, and Fr Gary was on hand to greet people and answer any questions about Orthodoxy. Sounds like evangelism to me, don't it? And to think that one of my complaints about the Orthodox Church- a complaint I shared with Fr. Gary at our IHOP breakfast- is their lack of Evangelism. I am glad to hear of this outreach. I know that Orthodoxy is something that needs to be far more known in America. May God grant us the means and the will to share it!
One last thing, I noticed at the ends of Vespers we sang a short hymn that reminded me of the choral selection sung before the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky. Is that possible? I guess I will do some research later but even the tune reminded me of what I heard in the Overture and I even picked out words talking about Victory of enemies which I remember from the piece. If anyone knows, please comment below or send me an email.
Thanks for reading!