Monday, August 25, 2014

Visit #146 ~ My Two Sons go to Vespers to Meet the Bishop around a Campfire

A Talisman in my son's pockets?
I almost didn't go to Vespers Saturday because I was really tired but, on my way home from work, I get a call from my son,Justin,  who recently moved out, saying he wanted to go to Vespers with me. I said, "Sure," but it may be a long service because the Bishop is visiting.  The last time the Bishop was here, the Saturday night Vespers included a matins service as well so it went on for a while.Justin said,  no problem. When I arrived home I took a power nap and Justin arrived. When my other son, Daniel,  found out that the Bishop was going to be at Church, he said, "Wow, a Bishop, I can't miss that!"   I don't know what he was expecting to see....being a Protestant, he might have had visions of papal pomp and circumstance surrounding Bishop Michael, along with numerous attendants and, perhaps, angels? :)

In any event, both Justin and Daniel thought it appropriate to bring a chess piece of a Bishop and stick in their pockets to bring along with them to Vespers, since they were about to see a real, live bishop.:)  The service turned out to be an average length Vespers service and I realized they probably didn't have the longer version because Bishop Michael was going to attend our campfire after Vespers to meet and greet his flock.

Worship was great, as usual. My sons decided not to follow along with a service book but just listen. Bishop Michael's homily was very good. He preached about how we, as Christians, must read the Scriptures and live the Scriptures and then he gave St. Cosmos as an example. That Saint's story was very inspirational to listen to.  After service, the Bishop gave the blessing and the Faithful approached Bishop Michael to venerate the Cross. My sons opted out but I went.

We went to the campfire for a while and I talked with Jim Martin about Project Mexico. He said it was a great experience and I was happy to hear his stories. My son Justin roasted a marshmallow for me and it was great to be around the campfire but we couldn't stay long because Justin had to work that night and I wanted to leave before the Bishop began talking. I thought it would be rude to walk out just as he began to speak.

It was great to have my two sons with me at Vespers and I hope they can come again soon. As it turned out they didn't "meet" Bishop Michael (and neither did I, really) but they did get to see him and hear him.  It is something, I think, to listen to a man who can trace his ordination back to the Apostles.  

Bishop Michael and those who served at the altar 
Justin asked if I had an extra Orthodox Bible because he was interested in reading the "extra books." I told him I did not but, the very next day, I ordered him an Orthodox Study Bible from Amazon. It should arrive Tuesday and I will give it to him the next time I see him!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Visit #145 ~ Reflections on Jesus' Mother and Ketchup on my Shirt

ketchup messy photo: ketchup anigif_enhanced-buzz-30763-1340284481-4.gif
It wasn't quite THAT bad....
I had to stop and eat something before Vespers so I drove into Wendy's and got a burger and fries. I thought, I shouldn't get ketchup for the fries on the off chance I miss my mouth and drop some on my shirt. I am, sad to say, a slob.  I figured if I am very careful, I would finish my dinner without a mess. Well, I was wrong and didn't discover it until I was a few blocks away from Church. I contemplated just sitting in the back without any Icon veneration and then sneaking out afterwards and avoiding any contact with anyone. But I figured, what the heck, and just pretended the ketchup stain wasn't there.

Excellent worship as always. It was good to see Fr. Gary back from his trip to Project Mexico. We were, of course, commemorating the Dormition of the Theotokos so she was on my mind throughout Vespers. Sermons I have been listening throughout the week came to mind which highlighted Mary's exalted position. And with all the Icons in the Church, I couldn't help but think about her and ask for her prayers. Fr. Gary's Homily mentioned how he could see how our "non-Orthodox friend," could get the wrong idea and think that we worship Mary. The truth is we don't but other's believe we cross the line. But think about it? Jesus is fully God and fully HUMAN. How could He not but honor His own mother. Should we not do the same? Protestants miss out on so much by not asking for the prayers of the Saints who have gone into heaven.

I chatted with Patty after Vespers. John and Tami were absent and they NEVER were so I asked her about it and she said they were at a celebration up north for a priest who used to be Pastor at our parish.  That's good. I wanted to ask Tami how her week at camp was. (She goes every year to an Orthodox Summer camp and works in the kitchen. It was at that camp that I got Orthodox Jam back in my 8th Visit to the parish.) I also asked about Fr. Sergious who served Vespers last week and this week had to have a pacemaker put in.Prayers for him, for sure!

I think back on my journey towards Orthodoxy and see how much I've changed. When I first started, I began with returning to my Roman Catholic roots and used some of their prayers in my own daily devotions, especially the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy which I still think is a beautiful prayer but I understand how it's not quite Orthodox. In the beginning of this prayer you are supposed to say a Hail, Mary, which, at the time, I could not, in good conscience, do so I would replace the Hail, Mary with the Lamb of God prayer.  And look at me now! I along, with the Church, ask for the prayers of the Theotokos on a daily basis.

By her prayers and of all the Saints, may I be drawn closer to Christ and to His Church.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Thinking about Duck Dynasty Beards at my 144th Visit

Will the real Phil Robinson, please stand up?
Fr. Gary and a small crew from the parish, including Jim Martin, are away for the week for Project Mexico so Fr. Sergio stepped in to lead us in Vespers.  I noticed another clergyman in the Sanctuary and I knew right away he was a deacon because he had a censor and walked out the royal doors to sense the people and the icons.  And he was beardless! Scandalous! :)

That got me thinking about beards and the Orthodox. Why are beards such a big part of Orthodoxy? Is it part of Holy Tradition or can that be relegated to small "t" tradition? In the Church of the Nazarene, the protestant denomination to which I belong, they make a big thing about birthdays of the Pastor. It is publicly acknowledged, there is a gift given to the pastor during the service and many times a "coffee hour" party to celebrate. But making a big deal about birthdays is not essential Nazarene doctrine. Can the same be said about beards and the Orthodox? I'd love to hear people's thoughts about this. I mean, to be really holy, does one really have to look like Phil Robinson of Duck Dynasty? I certainly hope not.

As the deacon began leading us in the prayers, I realized that the voice sounded an awful lot like our own Deacon Alexander. I think it was him but you know how some people look completely different when they shave off their beards? Well, it that was deacon Alexander than he'd be one of those people who look completely different. If he did have to shave it off, I wonder why? I didn't get a chance to stay after Vespers to talk to anyone so I guess I'll have to wait till next week to find out.

I remember one of my facebook friends (or, former, for some reason he unfriended me....but I'm not bitter :) )....He is a convert to Orthodoxy, from Judaism and he had a full beard. He shaved it off and lamented that "for some reason you can't get a job around here unless you are a shaved down pagan" So, I see that beards are a big thing in Orthodoxy and highly treasured. I'd love to know why so please comment below.

Deacon (Alexander?) gave the homily and it was excellent. He talked about the contrast between light and darkness and how that is made much of during the feast of the Transfiguration. He quoted:

On the mount Thou was transfigured, and Thy disciples, as much as they could bear, beheld Thy glory, O Christ our God; so that, when they would see Thee crucified, they would know Thy passion to be willing and would preach to the world that Thou, in truth, are the Effulgence of the Father.

All and all, a great service and I was happy that I went especially since I contemplated staying home because it has been a rough week at work but making the effort was sure worth it. It is a job to worship God with His people.

Now, about those beards, please comment below.