Saturday, March 23, 2013

There's a First Time for Everything!

First Shave
There's the First Shave and then there's....well, read below!
photo by Marina Thompson, used under the creative commons license
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You would think as I approach a hundred visits to my Orthodox Parish that I wouldn't have anymore firsts. Well, on this my 92nd time I can say I attended my first Presanctified Liturgy. I had always thought that a Presanctified Liturgy would just be like Vespers with communion tacked on.  Well, I was a bit wrong.

I arrived a bit late because I was having a conversation on Facebook with my son.  It was a good conversation where we got to "share each other's heart." We both do better writing than talking so it was good. I picked up a service book in the Narthex. Well, it turns out it said Wednesday so after trying to find my place, I went back out to look for another book.  Nothing.  I went back to my seat (where I stood, of course- This is an Orthodox Church, after all) and I am ashamed to say I cannot remember the lady's name but she is always very nice to me, asking me how the job search is going. Well, she saw my lost look on my face and handed me her book and went back to stand next to her husband.

After awhile I found my place.  Psalm after Psalm after Psalm. I felt like I was at a monastery. At least, when ever I would hear podcasts about monasteries, they would always mentioned how they covered the entire book of Psalms in a week (I think during Great Lent).  I had always thought that would bore me.  But, it did not! The choir led us in an easy to follow chant and we sailed on through them.  I've said it before and I'll say it now: There is so much Scripture in Orthodox worship, it puts us Evangelicals to shame!

It was strange to hear no bells as Fr. Gary incensed the Icons and us.  But, that is just to draw our attention to the non-celebratory penitential aspect of Great Lent.  And speaking of penitential - Yes, we did prostrations. Last week, I was stuck in the middle aisle with chairs in the way but this time I moved out and did a proper prostration when indicated.

I was really moved during the service.  At one point, Fr Gary was chanting about Christ as Victor (if memory serves) and I almost expected Christ Himself to walk out the Royal Doors.  It was also very moving when he did the entrance with the Gifts.  We were all to prostrate as he did this so I didn't even see Fr Gary process  I am wondering, did he leave the Sanctuary with them or would all of the movement been within the Sanctuary? If you know, comment below :)

The most moving part of the service when Fr. Gary chanted in a slow, almost mournful voice, Let my prayer arise and we responded with prostrations.  This was truly worship! And I believe it captured what Great Lent is supposed to be: Joyful Sorrow!

We then had a string of intercessions. When it came to the Intercessions of the Catechumens, I remembered Jim Martin, Tiffany and Ben who will be received into the Church on Pascha! I wasn't even offended when Fr. Gary chanted  Catechumens, Out! And I didn't even make the joke to myself "I've been thrown out of better places than this," because the truth is, I haven't! :)

After the people received the Gifts, three people came to me and gave me the bread of fellowship. That's a great way to include people who aren't able to receive the Holy Mysteries yet.

Fr. Gary gave a very short homily because he knew that some people have been fasting all day! When I looked at my phone to see the time, I saw that nearly two hours had passed. That didn't bother me but my other son (not the one I chatted with on Facebook)  was waiting for me to pick him up from work since the service began so I scooted on out. But before we left, instead of kissing a Cross that Fr Gary was holding, he gave us all some blessed bread. That was very nice!

So this is my first Presanctified Liturgy. Hopefully, it won't be my last!


  1. It is so true that it sounds like hearing the Psalms read in that low, solemn way would be a terrifically boring way to spend time -- and yet, it really is such a moving and wonderful service! Christ prayed the Psalms, and every year I grow more fond of them. I'm so glad that you were blessed to attend a Presanctified Liturgy. They do embody the very spirit of Great Lent, and are such a blessing to us on our path. "This was truly worship" indeed! May you have a very blessed Lent.

  2. elissa,
    The funny thing is, I used to find the Psalms SO BORING!
    So glad I am changing that in my life!

    1. The Psalms that are sung during the Liturgy are the Psalms of Ascent - the ones that the Jews would chant as they walked to the temple. I find when I'm reading the psalms, I have to sing them in my head when I get to them to the Lenten melody :)

  3. The Presanctified is truly my favorite liturgy of the church (I almost said service, but that's probably not the case - but there are so many that I love) - when I was first exploring Orthodoxy, I remember being heavily with child, and the prostrations, the melody (that never leaves you), and the surprise and gratitude I felt when Father included me and the child I carried in the prayers for the faithful.
    As to your question, yes. In my experience, anyway, the priest processes with the gifts either out to the ambo and into the priest's doors; or all around like he does with the gifts during the St. John or St. Basil Liturgy. A side note, he ties the aer onto his head before the procession, I believe due to the presence of Christ in the gifts already (as they were consecrated during Sunday's Liturgy.)

  4. The melody never leaving you is so on the mark! I loved it!
    What is an Aer that he ties to his head? I hadn't noticed it.

    1. I know you don't get to see Liturgies very often, so you may have not seen this part, but the aer is the piece of cloth that is waved over the gifts during the Creed at the Liturgy and also is placed on top of them when the priests process out of the side door and back to the altar.

  5. oh, and thanks for the link to the Psalms of Ascent!

  6. Yes, I did notice in the few liturgies that I went to that Father Gary waved a cloth over the that's what that is called!

  7. Well, Jim, late in the day I wish you and your family a Happy Easter. I will continue to pray that next year I may wish you a Joyous Pascha. Will you be attending with Jim Martin and his family on their reception? YBiC, Bill

  8. bill,
    Yes, God willing, I will be seeing Jim, Tiffany and Ben received into the Church, all by Christmation....bummer, would have been cool to see a baptism!

  9. Jim,

    Thanks for your thoughts. Unfortunately I was unable to attend any of the Presanctified Liturgies. Your detailed thoughts and descriptions are always a pleasure.

  10. Kirk,
    Thanks; I enjoy your blog as well!