Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Great Homily and Great Priestly Advice

Getting advice is always a good thing
photo by Paul W. Locke, used under the creative commons license
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I came early to Vespers on Saturday and sat (stood) in a place I normally don't, right next to the Icon of St. John Maxamovich., Bishop of San Francisco. He is one of my Fav's and I ask for his intercessions a lot. This being my 113th visit to an Orthodox parish, I of course, entered into worship, enjoying the Psalms and was pleasantly distracted by the family in front of me.  They had two children, a boy and a girl and the little girl was a bit frigidity, wanting to get picked up by her father, ect. I loved how the parents, while showing them proper attention, kept directing them to worship, in a loving yet firm way.  That is the way family worship should be and it was a blessing to watch. After Vespers, this family received special prayers from all of us for traveling mercies.  It seems they were going on vacation the next day.

I loved Fr. Gary's homily. He talked about how we need the Divine Services and should go as much as possible. He also said no matter how many times we fall, we should always come back. Fr. Gary even went so far to say that tonight, some of us will succumb to the passions but that we should always come back.  How true that is! No matter how many times we fall, we must come back!

I had sent Fr. Gary an email (Facebook IM, really) asking if he would hear my confession. What prompted this request is some activity/advice I got from an Orthodox group on Facebook.  I had posted my dilemma of wanting to convert and, yet having a spouse who wasn't that interested. Some good advice I got was this:
“Attend (Liturgy) as often as is reasonably possible, pray, fast, give alms. Live out the Orthodox faith. You don't have to be Chrismated to do that, and it will teach you more about the faith than all the books in the world. If you can make mid-week Liturgies, go. The Liturgy will teach you all you need to know.”
So I figured if I confessed my sins to God in front of His priest, that even though it would not be a sacrament because I am not Orthodox, I would be doing the best I can given my protestant status.  I explained all of this to Fr. Gary, how I figured if I (finally) got serious and strove to "live the life," I'll be closer to Christ and, perhaps that would lead to conversion.  In any event, being closer to Christ is bound to make me a better husband, don't you think?

Fr. Gary said he would hear my confession, if it was something pressing or major but it sounded to him that confessing my sins during my personal evening prayer (which seem to be the focus of evening prayers) is the way I should go. God would hear me and forgive me but unless I had some heavy burden on my heart, which he would be happy to listen to, he believed it would be better not "hear my confession."  Basically, in order to be Orthodox, I have to be Orthodox.

Since I hadn't murdered anyone since breakfast and avoided bank heists, I figured my ordinary run of the mill sins would have to be handled in evening prayers. I was touched by Fr. Gary's pastoral demeanor while talking to me. He kept emphasizing that if something was "heavy upon my heart" that he would listen to me. I did ask him if he thought it would be a good idea for me to fast with the Church. He said all Christians are called to fast so he would not discourage fasting.  Okay, I better buy some more beans.

So keep me in your prayers as I strive to live close to Christ, using all the tools in the Church that I am able, given I am not yet a member.

Monday, August 12, 2013

My Son attends Vespers with me....sort of!

Saturday was busy. My niece and nephew drove down to visit their grandparents (My in-laws) and before my 112th visit to Vespers, I stopped by to say hello (and eat a delicious dinner!) My wife stopped by the house before going to work (she's a transporter at the hospital) and my son Daniel came with her.  So since Karen couldn't drive Daniel home, he had to come with me to Vespers. He said he was okay with that!

Dan the Man
So in the car I give him the "what to expect pep talk," telling him he is not expected to do anything like kiss Icons or do prostrations or cross himself~ basically, people are there to worship the Trinity and aren't taking time to look around to see what other people are doing. I warned him about the incense, about how people will light candles during the intercessions. I did all this in under two minutes....and it turned out to be a wasted talk! You'll see why.

We stop by the Narthex to grab a service book and take our place among the faithful.  Wait! There is no Fr. Gary! There is no one up front at all, leading us in prayers. Instead, the choir are singing hymns and the book we are following is somewhat useless since we are skipping all the intercessions that are usually led by a priest (or deacon) Apparently, Fr. Gary was still on vacation and couldn't get anyone to "fill in" so we were experiencing is a Reader's service.  

I was bummed because I wanted Daniel to smell the incense and to see all the beauty that is a Vespers service. But, perhaps, he will come again.  Later my wife asked how Daniel liked the service. I explained, "Well, with Fr. Gary being gone, it was almost as plain  as a Baptist service." She said, "yeah, right." One thing that is nice about  a reader's service is that the prayers aren't "read" but rather "sung" just like everything else in Orthodoxy so it really was still very beautiful.  The whole service lasted only a half-hour and we had arrived ten minutes late as it was so Daniel had a twenty minute introduction to Orthodoxy. Maybe, going to a reader's service is less shocking than a full blown Vespers service. It certainly is more "visitor friendly" than a Divine Liturgy.  

So my question is, was that Reader's service still Vespers or is it called something else?

As an aside, when I went to visit my niece, I showed her a youtube video of 8mm film that I converted to digital format. It is her as a baby, with her now deceased mother and me as a young man with my wife!
Take a look if you like:

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Blessings of the Fruit on my 111th Visit!

Fruit of the Loom Characters
No, not these guys....
photo by Peter Eimon, used under the creative commons license
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Last night at Vespers (my 111th visit) was a very solemn occasion. We were celebrating  the Transfiguration of the Lord. At first, There was no Icon on the table in the middle of the Nave, just a white cloth. For some reason, I had thought the Icon was underneath the white cloth and that at a specific time, Fr. Gary would unveil it to reveal the Icon. Turns out that Fr Gary walked through the Royal doors to retrieve the Icon from the Altar and then place it on the white sheet. One of my favorite parts is when the choir will sing the same hymn three times while Fr. Gary walks around the Icon and the bread and wine (for the Litya) and incense it all. Very moving.

Fr Gary quoted Jesus Christ Superstar in his homily. Quoting Judas, he asked, 

Now why'd you choose such a backward time
And such a strange land?

If you'd come today
You could have reached the whole nation
Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication

Fr Gary went on to say that they ways of God are a mystery to us and only He knows why He came when He came. He also said, "Why did He only take Peter, James and John to Mt. Tabor? Why not take the pharisees as well. They surely would have believed had the seen Jesus standing next to Moses." I thought that was a good point and one I have never thought of before. But, as Fr Gary said before, the ways of God are a mystery and we should trust Him.  And I do.

I had to rush out of there to pick up my son from work so I didn't get a chance to ask the question, "Why is the fruit blessed during the feast of the Transfiguration?" Can someone answer that for me? It was cool to see people come early to the service and place nice baskets of fruit on the table. Fr. Gary blessed it with Holy water near the end of the service.  Maybe next year, I'll bring my own basket.

Thanks for reading. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Cartoon worth reading!

By Sara Vivanco
My daughter is a fantastic cartoonist. Here is here latest work which talks about the dangers misreading your bible. I think there is something we can all learn here, right?