Sunday, February 17, 2013

Doing the Ole "Crossing Yourself Fake Out"

Me, demonstrating how to the the "Crossing yourself Fake Out"

Okay, I'm embarrassed. I don't think anyone noticed and maybe this has happened to you. In the beginning of Vespers on my 87th time at my Orthodox Parish,  right when we were chanting the 104th Psalm, I guess my mind was drifting a bit and I thought we were coming up to the Trinitarian invocation within the Psalm and I started to cross myself. I realized, as my hand was already on my forehead that it wasn't really the right time for that so....I pretended to scratch my head.  Man, what a blockhead I am! I did smile at myself at all the ways the Lord makes sure I remain humble.

I guess this brings up a point that I have almost forgotten and what first attracted me to Orthodoxy: 
I really shouldn't worry about what others might think about me at Vespers because, frankly, I am supposed to be there to worship God. That should be my primary focus. I am sure the Lord wasn't upset that I crossed myself and probably, the more I put the sign of the cross on myself, the better!  And really one of the great things about Vespers is we are all worshiping together, each as the individual that God made us.  Unity in Diversity. Let me explain: When I went to a pentacostal church almost everyone raised their hands when they worshiped. In fact, if you raised your hands a lot, you were really holy.  At Vespers, there is a part where we chant a Psalm that mentions lifting up your hands and , some do so. Also, I noticed last night that during the recitation of the Lord's Prayer, a reader, whom I don't know, but he was robed as a reader, raised his hands the entire time we were praying the Lord's prayer.  That was how he was moved. It didn't draw attention to himself and he was "being himself before the Lord," even though no one else was praying like that at the time. I guess he understood that he was there to worship the Lord.  So, if I cross myself when no one else is and, if I do it because I feel moved to do so, then so be it! I shouldn't be so self-conscience.

Speaking of self-conscience, when I arrive late to Vespers (which, sadly, I sometimes do), I do not go around and venerate all the Icons but just slink into my seat and stand there, trying to enter into worship.  Others, who arrive late will make the rounds to icons before walking to their seat. My question is, when is it not appropriate to go up and light a candle or venerate an icon during the service? It's obvious to me you shouldn't do it during the homily. What other times are considered rude? Maybe someday, when I am not so self-conscience, and if I arrive late, I will venerate the icons anyway before joining the others in worship.

Please keep me in prayer.  A couple of weeks ago the nominating committee of my protestant parish nominated me for several leadership positions in the church. Since I don't believe it is the right time to go "Full on" Orthodox because I want to maintain the unity of my family, I wonder if I should take those positions. The only problem is, doctrinally, I am leaning east...basically, I feel like I am caught between two worlds. Not being able to leave Protestantism yet not really able to embrace it. So, pray for me in my confusion.

In the meantime, I will continue crossing myself whenever the Spirit moves me!


  1. Raising hands during the Our Father is done in many Antiochian parishes.

    In my own exiting of my former evangelical church, I was at the time a Sunday school teacher of young children. When the time came to sign on for teaching classes for the next year, I wasn’t planning to do it because I was planning to quietly leave the church.

    But people kept pressuring me and I would have caved into another year of the classes had the pastor not already known where my heart and mind were. He did not allow me to take the class because he knew I needed to be free from those obligations. I will always admire the pastoral manner in which he handled the situation, not making me feel guilty or judge while giving others an answer that satisfied their questions without exposing me broadside.

    Perhaps it is time for one of those heart-to-hearts with your leadership. As you say, you’ve attended 87 services now; if you haven’t made it clear how often you attend services at another church – and that you are even considering one day joining that church – you need to.

    1. Agabus,
      Your protestant pastor sounds like an honorable and worthy man. My pastor knows I've been going to Vespers for all this time but he feels my place is where my family is. Doctrine doesn't seem to be as important to him as to other pastors (although, he himself is very sound when it comes to core, basic Christian doctrines i.e., Trinity, nature of Christ, ect). He believes as long as I love Jesus that enough.

      And, as I have stated before, not wanting to "break up the family" when it comes to church is the only reason I have not leaped into Holy Orthodoxy.

      Lord, have mercy!

      But, I think I should talk to my pastor again and share my misgivings. The truth is, we did meet regarding the upcoming elections of local church positions but, believe it or not, Orthodoxy did not come up. I mentioned how my upcoming "job prospects" might interfere with my service and we talked about my family.

      I seemed to be very closed mouth when it comes to Orthodoxy. Maybe, it's because, at home, it is such a sore subject that I have gotten used to being quiet about it.

  2. I'm sorry for giggling at the fake out - we've all done that :) It's ok.
    I'd say the only time it's not appropriate to quietly venerate is when the Gospel is being read or if there is an anointing or other such service going on right in front of the icon. Oh, and this may be just me but if there is a priest hearing a confession off to the side of an icon, I'll not venerate that side to preserve privacy.
    Hopefully Father will correct me if I am wrong on any of these comments.

    1. Mimi,
      That makes sense in regarding the timing of "late venerations." I have never seen anyone interrupt the Gospel reading but then again,during Vespers, the Gospel isn't read although, occasionally, a lesson is chanted by the reader, and during those time no one venerates.

      I remember when I first started going to Vespers, it used to freak me out that someone was venerating icons while Fr Gary led in prayer. In my protestant church, that would have caused the ushers to forcibly remove the offender for interrupting the service!

      I am glad I am not the only one who has done the fake out; I figured it happened to everyone but I wasn't sure :)

  3. Hi, Jim!

    I've done the crossing myself fake out too, especially when I was new to Orthodoxy! It took me a long time to get really comfortable. One thing that helped me become less self-conscious was visiting different kinds of Orhtodox churches. When I realized that the Serbs do it their way, and the American Orthodox have another way, and that the Russians do it one way and the Greeks do it another, I found that Orthodoxy has room for so many different kinds of veneration and activity. And as you've already pointed out -- there is plenty of variety in just one parish! After a while, I stopped trying to do it "right" because it turns out, there's not just one right answer.

    I knew a priest who said that you never know when your guardian angel is sending you a message or a litle nudge. He specifically told us that if we had the urge to cross ourselves, we should do it - no matter where we were or what we were doing. Those angels have their reasons! I hope no one is counting how often I cross myself in a day or in a service, because it's surely more often than would be deemed Officially Necessary.

    My prayers to you as you negotiate the family peace and attempt to live in a protestant parish and an Orthodox one... this is a difficult time, but it is also a period of finding great treasures. May God bless you and may He send His Holy Spirit to guide you as you make your way!

    1. thanks, elissa,
      your prayers and comments are very encouraging to me!
      I like what you said about the nudges from my guardian angel....I think I'll start listening more :)

  4. Hi Jim - Glad to see you are still "plugging along"! I get a kick out of how you are counting your visits. :) You certainly have my sympathy and understanding in the "two worlds" feeling. I just met with my pastor yesterday to talk about my "status" as Sunday School teacher, and what the future might hold. I told him I can't predict anything at this point. I don't "fit" anywhere. But he's not in a hurry to send me away, either, so here we are...

    BTW - I stopped by to mention that I'll be taking down my woefully neglected and inactive blog sometime in the next few days, so you could drop it from your blogroll. But I see you already did. :)

    Blessings to you and your family...

  5. Bill,
    I know if I were a protestant pastor and I found out that most of what one of my parishioners believed was NOT protestant, I'd ask him to leave...but, sadly, my pastor doesn't do that. WHAT'S WRONG WITH HIM? ISN'T DOCTRINE IMPORTANT ANYMORE? :) Okay, just a little rant. Apparently, though, as long as I love Jesus and don't teach anything that he'd consider "off the wall," well, he says' stay. And then there's my family who is here...oh, well..

    I have the blog roll up mostly for me so I can click on the newest updates but if I see a LONG period of inactivity, I figure I should just remove them. Maybe, someday you'll get into blogging again. If so, let me know and I'll put ya back up! :)