Monday, September 23, 2013

A Reason to Give Thanks of my 116th Visit

my new job
I was tired last Saturday but not dead tired like I was the week before so I made the effort to attend Vespers and I am glad I did. It is always good to Worship! I especially wanted to make sure I went to Vespers this Saturday in order to give thanks for God because, after ten months of unemployment, I got a job! Yes, a job! Now, vacations are fun but ten months is long enough. I got hired by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as a Transportation Security Officer. It is a federal job that starts out part-time but I am hopeful that I can go full time soon. At least I got my foot in the door, as they say.

So my heart was full of gratitude, as we chanted the Psalms.  I was sad that I missed the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross. We began this Vespers by venerating the Cross before Fr. Gary switched out the Cross for a different Icon. But, I was exhausted last Friday due to some running around I have been doing.

So, thank God, for my new job! I will let you all know how I am doing.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Horse Galloping through the Nave on my 115th Visit....Sort of.

Horse race
photo by Alexander Kavun, used under the creative commons license.
check out more photos at:
I do find that arriving early is the best way for me to "fully enter into" Worship during Vespers. It allows me to pray first and mentally block out distractions. It also allows times for memorable conversations about horses.  Let me explain:  I had noticed the bread and wine on the table in the center of the Nave and that is the tell-tale sign that Litya will be served that night. I asked Tammi, Which Feast are we celebrating? since Litya is only served on the eve of major Feasts.  Turns out it's the Feast of the THE NATIVITY OF OUR MOST HOLY LADY, THEOTOKOS AND EVER-VIRGIN MARY.   Tammi went on to explain how in front of the bread and wine is where Fr. Gary will place the Icon of the Feast during the Litya service.  She then pointed to the iconostasis where on the very top are the 12 Icons for each of the Major Feasts of the Church Year. She pointed the one on the far left. That is where the Icon for today usually is but Fr. Gary took it down so we could venerate it later on the table in the middle of the Nave. So to "fill in the hole" Tammi and her husband Reader John donated an Icon of St. Demetrius in honor of John's brother, Demetrius who passed some time ago. So as the Church year progresses and a different Icon is taken down from the iconostasis  and the Icon of St. Demetrius fills in the hole and  rides across the iconostasis till the last Feast of the Year. Tammi said this last part with a chuckle and I glanced up to see St. Demetrius oh his horse. I smiled as I thought that for the past three years I've been here, I hadn't noticed that he was up there filling in a hole. I guess we all have our job to do.
The Nave of my parish....notice the 12 Icons on the top of the iconostasis. Although it is hard to make out, you can see St. Demetrius on his horse on the far left.

Tami went on to say that there were 12 Icons on the other side of the iconostasis of lesser feasts. She said she'd never see them (I guess because she's woman) but said maybe someday I could. I don't think so. One thing I like about having the Holy of Holies is it reminds me of God's holiness and only those who have a need to go in the Altar area should.  
What the Icon look like up close
After Vespers Fr. Gary said that even though it is unusual to have General Confession on a feast day, he said, since it was already on the calendar, he would. I was glad for it.  After the conversation I had with Fr. Gary where he suggested that, since he can't hear my confession (until I am Orthodox, that is) I should confess my sins during Evening Prayers at home. I hadn't thought that the monthly General Confession would be a good time to confess as well. So I did. Hey, it's the next best thing to "one on one" confession.

So, September marks the new Church year.  I listened to a podcast on the way to Vespers from Fr. Ambrose called Holy Apostles Weekly Homilies. You can hear it here. In it, Fr. Ambrose mentions how it is customary to make New Years Resolutions on December 31st. Well, we should do that for the New Church Year so I think I shall resolve, with the help of the Holy Spirit and the prayers of all the Saints, to attend as many services as possible, to be faithful in morning AND evening prayers and to start fasting with the Church.  I know I mentioned that I would start fasting back when I got the great "priestly advice" at the end of August but I hadn't started yet. It's a lot harder to implement when you live with non-fasters, especially if those non-fasters are doing the cooking.

During the General Confession there was a small Snafu that was quickly resolved.  Fr. Gary said the first sentence, beginning the Confession Service and waited for the Reader's response. Well, for five long seconds, we heard nothing. Then, the reader said something (he moved himself to the choir loft) but it was clear that he didn't have the book in front of him so he stumbled. Well, Reader Daira stepped up and said that part and things went very smoothly.  The Reader in the choir loft, by this time, had found his place on the page and resumed his reading at the proper time.  I mention all of this because, to me, it was a great example of how Worship is everything and we all work together to make sure that it is beautiful and God-pleasing. 

Keep me in your prayers, dear readers and may this new Church year bring you closer to Christ and His Kingdom

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Prayers for Egypt on my 114th Visit

Nothing says Egypt like pyramids!
photo by Flickr user, Bob the Magic Dragon
 used under the creative commons license.
check out more work at:
I arrived early which I am finding is a good way to ready myself to participate in Worship. I sat/stood near the Icon of St. John of San Francisco, whose intercessions I have been asking for lately. In the petitions, Fr. Gary threw in one that I hadn't heard before, he prayed:

Again we pray for those who are being persecuted for their faith, especially the Christian faithful of Egypt and across the Middle East, that the Lord God will send down upon them every spiritual weapon to endure their tribulations; and that He will grant that Peace which passes all understanding upon the region, and throughout the whole world, as a foretaste of His heavenly Kingdom.

I was glad we prayed for our Egyptian brothers and sisters, given all that is going on there now and I remembered my daughter's friend from Egypt who recently put out a plea on facebook for all us to pray.  In his homily, Fr. Gary mentioned how the Holy Synod of Bishops of the OCA called upon us to pray and he reminded us that we not only pray for Christians and people of good will but also for our enemies. "There is only one thing we need to kill ~ our passions," is the line from Fr. Gary's homily that really sticks out in my mind. Given all the talk of war, persecution (along with the temptation for revenge) that statement was a timely affirmation of what it is we need to do in lives to become more like Christ. May all see the Peace of Christ within us.

There was a "guest choir" at Vespers last night. Instead of standing in the back of the Nave, they were in the choir loft above, as is the custom for Sunday mornings. They were very good but I had to fight the idea that I was in a concert instead of lending my own voice in praise. I felt like I was "ruining" the singing by joining in.
I have heard tale that in many nations there is no congregational singing at all. Is that true? If so, I think that is a tragedy. That reminds me of my Roman Catholic days as a boy where the words of the hymn would be in the missalette and yet not one voice could be heard except that of the choir.  I think that is why I was drawn to a Pentecostal church as a teen. Say what you want about the Pentecostals but you cannot deny they are enthusiastic participants in the service. So, let me know in the comments below, do people join in with the choir at your parish?

Speaking of beautiful choirs, Fr. Stephen Freeman shared this video on his Facebook page. Good stuff:

Thanks for reading!