Wednesday, December 7, 2011

43rd time in the Orthodox Church - Full parking lot but not a full church?

Matchbox cars @ garage sale
photo by Daniel Spils, used under the creative commons license. check out more photos at:

So even though I had one of the worst work days in a while and even though I was totally exhausted from 11 hours on the job and one hour each way commuting and, even though my son begged me to go to my protestant parish for our weekly Old Testament survey taught by my pastor, I decided I was going to Vespers!

My son Justin was a little offended that I would choose Vespers over going to the Bible Study (which is taught very well by my Pastor) because he took it as a slight against him. I tried to explain to him that I really needed to be in Worship and not just sit around discussing the Bible. Don't get me wrong, my Pastor does an excellent job in the bible Study and he always makes sure there is practical application (so we are doers of the Word and not just hearers) but nothing beats Worshiping the Triune God. In the end, we decided that my wife would drop Justin off at the Bible Study and I would pick him up after Vespers.

When I arrived at the Church, I couldn't believe how many cars were in the parking lot! I had always heard that St. Nicholas was a popular Saint and now I believed it! I arrived a little late - Hey, give me a break; remember my 11 hour day :) - and I noticed that a lot of people were still mulling about, smoking cigarettes and a lady even said hello to me. I thought, this is odd? Shouldn't they be inside already? Vespers started 5 minutes ago! It wasn't until I noticed the full parish hall that I realized that Alcoholics Anonymous met on Monday nights and when I walked into the Narthex and spotted everyone inside, I realized it was just the same regular Vespers crowd. Well, that's okay. It was good to be here!

What can I say about the Worship? It's always good! I did have to adjust for the prokemien (Don't know if that is spelled correctly). Instead of of chanting "The Lord is King, He is robed in Majesty" we said something else which I cannot now remember. Different phrases for different days of the week. Since Vespers is usually always on a Saturday night, I am used to "The Lord is King." But the change was good!

We had Litya as is the custom and after I went up with everyone else for a little anointing of oil on my head and to have some wine dipped bread, I returned to my seat and was greeted by Matushka Mary. She was happy to see me and told me a story about how when she was a kid and someone received oil on the head and when they went home anyone else in the family who could not make the service would rub their heads against the person with the oil to "get a blessing." She then reminded me that the oil is holy and not to just wipe it off willy~nilly (willy~nilly are my words, not hers).

That raises a question. Back during lent, I believe, there was a service where Father Gary, at the end, anointed everyone with oil on the head and hands and he went out of the way to say this is a Sacrament of the Church and only the faithful should participate. Others should come up for a blessing, which I did. Now, is the oil I got on St. Nicholas's Vespers service, a sacrament as well? If so, I should not participate. Does anyone know?

This Saturday is the cookie walk! Maybe, I can get my wife to make some cookies to donate...I'll let you know. I would bake them myself but then, I believe, we would lose potential converts. :)


  1. You are remembering the service of Holy Unction on Holy Wednesday, which is only for Orthodox communicants in good standing of the church and is a sacrament.
    An anointing at Vespers or Matins is available to all.
    Happy St. Nicholas Day!

  2. Prokeimenon is the word you're looking for. I always love reading these experiences, Jim. Good stuff as always.

  3. Mimi,
    Thanks! I knew I would recognize the word if someone reminded me!. Service of Holy Unction. How is that oil different from the oil given at vespers?

  4. David,
    glad you enjoy know, there are just too many new words I have to learn in Orthodoxy...but I'll get by...:)

  5. The oil of Holy Unction is blessed through seven readings It is also given to ill people (it is kind of similar to "Last Rites" in the Western Tradition) and is given to us on Holy Wednesday in remembrance that we are all ill in soul and body.
    Interestingly (at least to me) is that it is not a universal Orthodox practice and is fairly late in Holy Week development (meaning centuries vs. millennia, grin!)

  6. mimi,
    maybe because it is so late in practice by Orthodox standards would account for its lack of universality. You know how the Orthodox like to take their time about things...:)