Thursday, February 2, 2012

First Divine Liturgy at my Parish!

Okay, so even though I knew my wife wouldn't like it, I decided to go to Divine Liturgy last Sunday. She had asked if I was going to Vespers on Saturday night, as was my routine. I said, "no" but I was going to the Orthodox Church on Sunday. She was upset about us not worshiping together. I told her that I wasn't growing in our protestant church. We had had this discussion before when I first started exploring Orthodoxy and she didn't like it then and she doesn't like it you can see why it took so long to go to the Divine Liturgy.

I arrived at 9am for the "Adult Education" which would be known as Sunday School by protestants. I walked into the Nave and saw reader John fixing the candles. His jaw dropped when he saw me. His expression said, "Hey, you only come on Saturday Nights! What are you doing here now?" John warmly greeted me with a hug and later Fr Gary came out of the Sanctuary and greeted me.

"You decided to take the plunge," He said, as he gave me the triune kiss on the cheek.

I smiled and said, "Yes."

The Adult Education class was a study on Metropolitan Kallistos Ware's book, "The Inner Kingdom." A good book I must read.

Ten minutes before 10am, when the Liturgy was supposed to start, Reader John started leading us in prayers. We said the "Our Father" twice. Can someone explain what that is all about? I imagine, we did "Matins" and some other service. I don't know.

I was surprised when the bells started ringing. I thought that only happened on Pascha but it seems every Sunday is a celebration of the Resurrection. :)

Although I was happy to be there, my overall "feeling" was a bit of a let down. On the drive home I started to think about why that would be? Well, I guess in my mind, I knew it was a big milestone to go to the Divine Liturgy, that when it came, it was almost as if it were only just Vespers with Communion. And that's okay - I mean, the feeling part, that is. It is almost as if God is asking me, "So, are you going to seek out "feelings" or are you going to Worship?"

I must admit, though, I did get a feeling of awe as Father Gary processed around the church with the gifts, praying for Metropolitan Jonah and Bishop Michael. As I look at the chalice and the plate with the bread, I thought, "This is about to become the Body and Blood of Jesus!"

This is actually not my first Divine Liturgy. And I am not talking about my Pascha Vigil at this Parish, either. When I was in the Air Force, back in the 1980's, I was a Chapel Manager and I became friendly with the Orthodox Chaplain. I knew nothing about Orthodoxy then and only saw them as some weird branch of the Roman Catholic Church. I remember liking the Liturgy but not really understanding much of it. I especially liked the Cherubic Hymn -
Let us who mystically represent the Cherubim and sing the thrice-holy hymn to the life giving trinity, lay aside all earthly cares, that we may receive the King of all invisibly escorted by angelic hosts. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Well, I loved it then, but, sadly, at last Sunday's Liturgy, that hymn seemed to drag on. Sorry to be so blunt but I guess I just remember it differently.

Again, that's okay. I am in this for the long haul. Just like it took me a while to get used to the Eastern Orthodox version of the Roman Catholic "Gloria" and the way the East does the doxology, I can get used to this new version, at least new to me.

Now, I still plan to go to Worship with my wife on Sundays but I believe that this Sunday, I will again attend the Divine Liturgy. Please pray for me. One of my struggles is that on a lot of Sundays, I actually work overtime at my job. With this economy, I can use the extra money. I know as I progress to become a Catechumen, that Sunday's will have to belong to God. Pray for alternate sources of income. But, I am not going to worry about that now. Indeed, it is a big step that I actually went to Divine Liturgy. We will take it one day at a time!

I actually did NOT stay for Coffee hour because immediately after the Liturgy, they had their annual business meeting and if they had coffee hour, no one would stay for the meeting and they wouldn't be able to get a quorum. Sounds like the Orthodox have the same problem as the Evangelicals! :)

Thanks for reading and feel free to comment below. Also, if someone could answer the question about the prayers before the Divine Liturgy, I would appreciate it.


  1. Sounds like they read the Hours instead of a full Matins service to me, but I'm not sure without being there to hear it. May God strengthen you to overcome the multitude of obstacles lying before you. When we focus on Christ, all distractions fade into the background. :)

    1. John,
      Yes, it turns out to be the hours. I got an email from the Reader's wife who explained what Reader John was leading us in....thanks for the prayers!

  2. If the Our Father was read twice, and only ten minutes, sounds like the Sixth Hour.

    Pete can do the 3rd and 6th in 19 minutes. Takes me about 22. If both hours are read together, the norm, there are three Our Fathers.

    Still praying for you and your family. Bill, off2

  3. The Liturgy is the climax of worship but it is not a show, as you know already. In my experience, what I "get out" of it depends on my state of mind/soul. When I contemplate on my sinfulness and God's mercy, it all comes in a new light, every time. I think that's why preparation is an important part of experiencing the Liturgy. There are prayers you can read at home, usually the Prayers Before Communion, depending on your bishop, there are different collections of them. (some samples Also I think that is why we fast before the Liturgy. On another note, learning to understand the Liturgy is another key to experiencing. Your priest can suggest good books about it, here is a small article you might like:

    May God bless you.

    1. Maria,
      thanks for the links! I do have a prayer book I got from Fr Joseph Honeycut of Ancient Faith Radio which I use on Sunday mornings but these other resources you point to are helpful!

  4. What an exciting post to read. I agree with the others about suspecting it was Hours beforehand.
    God bless you indeed!
    On a side note, the other day everyone in my parish showed up to church wearing boots and tennis shoes due to the snow/slush/ice/mud in the parking lot, and I thought of you.

    1. Mimi,
      thanks for the well wishes! I am on my way to liturgy this sneakers, though :)

  5. Jim. I am glad you were finally able to attend a regular liturgy. Even though I have only commented on here a couple of times, I want you to know that I have been following this since you started and think of/pray for you fairly often. May the Holy Trinity, the Theotokos and Saint James protect you.

    BTW -- if a church has them, the bells are a normal thing.

    1. Agabus,
      thanks for the thoughts and prayers.
      It is your prayers and everyone else's that keep me on this journey.

      I am glad about the bells being the norm! I like them...I wonder if they annoy the neighbors..:)

    2. At the parish I am attending, there are several neighboring churches. When the bells -- which are a really nice set from Russia that someone donated -- are not rung, the folks from the other churches (two mainline Protestant congregations and a Catholic parish) say they miss it!

    3. Or rather, lest I speak out of turn, that is what I have been told.

    4. Agabus,
      I can understand why other churches might like it but when I was thinking of neighbors, I was thinking about houses where people might be sleeping in due to a hangover or something...:)

    5. ...but, hopefully, they get no complaints!

  6. Jim,

    I am very happy for you. I know I have not Replied your post that much but I am glad that you are able to start on the out side the steps of moving forwards. It's easy to take the steps on the inside but when you have to take them on the out side it's a bit harder. Keep up the good work and keep believeing in your self to what every your hart mid and spirit tells you to do.

    1. Mary,
      You are so right about taking steps on the outside...It is harder but necessary...thanks for your well wishes and I look forward to reading your next post!

  7. The Cherubic Hymn is very solemn. It has never been my favorite hymn, but every now and then I like it

  8. Jannelle,
    The first time I ever heard that, back in the 80's, that is the first thing that ever stood out to me in Orthodoxy...Then, I was a very convinced pentacostal and it sounded very different from any Worship I had participated in.