Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Visit #167 ~ Staying on the Ladder!

The Ladder of Divine Ascent....STAY ON IT!
photo by Flickr user, FutUndBeidl,
used under the creative commons license.
check out more photos here:

Church was good on Sunday. I had been sick so I missed all of the Cross veneration last week and that kinda bummed me out but I'll take what I can!   This week's theme was, as everyone knows, the Ladder of Divine Ascent. Because the Orthodox world was rocked this week by the passing of Fr. Thomas Hopko, Fr. Gary did mention him in his homily. Indeed, he read the entire 55 maxims for living a Christian life written by Fr. Tom and compared them to the Ladder of Divine Ascent and, indeed, it is a good comparison. Right after the homily, Tami came up to me and said, "Wasn't that great?" Of course, I agreed!

During Communion, I, like the seeker I am, stayed put and I remember thinking how much God loves His people, so much that He provides Himself as nourishment for their sick souls with His own Body and Blood. I found this thought very comforting as I stood there. I also was overwhelmed by offers of the "fellowship" bread that the faithful partake of after they have received the Mysteries. About, four or five people made sure I had some "fellowship" bread and I was beginning to think that I wouldn't be hungry for coffee hour if this kept up! :) Maybe, that was God's way of making sure that I understood that, even though I was not receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, I was still loved!

Right after Liturgy, Matushka Mary handed out copies of Fr. Thomas' 55 maxims. Here is a copy of it below:

They are good to read and think about and put into practice.  #6: Make Prostrations when you pray. I decided that I would do just that. For me, it's not that easy to make prostration (for physical reasons) but I can do so with some effort. So, I will make that effort!

Here is a link to the entire list http://holycrossoca.org/newslet/0907.html

Which ones are your favorites?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Too Sick to go to Pre-Sanctified Liturgy And MEMORY ETERNAL Fr. Hopko

I was looking forward to going to Pre-Sanctified Liturgy tonight but, alas, I am sick and will have to stay home.  That saddens me.

I was also saddened by the news that Fr. Thomas Hopko passed away. His talks were very helpful to me and I loved all his podcasts.

Here is an old podcast episode you might like:

Fr Tom

Memory Eternal, Fr. Thomas Hopko

From the family:

Fr. Thomas reposed peacefully today, March 18, shortly after 3 pm.
The last of his five children, who had not been able to visit him at the hospice until today, arrived this morning. She told him that she came, and now he could go. And, by the mercy of God, he reposed after spending much of the day with her.
No funeral plans yet. They will be posted as soon as they are available.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Visit #166 ~ Orderly Worship

I went to the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy Wednesday Night and I was even able to stay for the meal afterwards because I took a vacation day for Thursday and didn't have to wake up early to go to work.  I brought a gallon of water, at Tami's suggestion, to contribute to the meal.  The meal was very good. I don't know how they did it but the Shepard's Pie was Lenten but still delicious!

As for the Worship itself, it was, of course, wonderful. I love chanting the Psalms with the choir.  I also liked the part in the liturgy where it says we are worshiping with invisible powers.  Yes, it seems that Angels were joining us in our Hymns...or, rather, we were joining them!  I might have mentioned this before but I'll say it again and this has to do with people raising their hands in Worship. Now, I used to be a Pentecostal so raising hands was almost considered required if you really wanted to know God.  At our parish, whenever we get to a part of a Psalm that mentions raising our hands many ( but not all) will raise their hands in response to what is being said.  I contrast to the frenzy I would see it Pentecostal churches and I have to say that Orthodoxy takes seriously St. Paul's admonish to do everything decently and in order. Now, I know for some Orthodox, raising hands is not something that should ever be done. (See Father Joseph's Podcast to hear about an opposing view. ) But, I can say that what is done in our Parish is respectful, controlled and orderly.

So no matter what your view is on the subject, we can agree that Worship should glorify God and that is what happens during Divine Services. We join in with the Angels in singing His praises. And that is a good thing!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Visit #165 ~ Seeing Mumbled Prayers

,,,,not the mumbling I heard....

I enjoyed Divine Liturgy last Sunday, even though I was a bit tired. When I arrived at the Church, instead of gong inside for the Adult Study, I rested in my car and took a quick nap.  I left the car and came inside just in time for the beginning of Orthros. Despite being a bit tired, I was able to enter into prayer right away. One good thing about standing for prayer is that you are less likely to fall asleep then if you were sitting down.

In the front row, I noticed a boy, probably around seven or eight years old and when it came time for the congregation to sing some (what I thought) were obscure hymns, he  seemed to know them all by heart. True, he looked like he was mumbling them but he was singing them just the same. I thought how nice it was that this child was growing up in the Church knowing the Hymns.  I've heard it said that all of what you need for Salvation is in the Divine Liturgy. That seems to be true. All the Scriptures, all the hymns, the multitude of Psalms....they all point us to Christ and just by being a faithful attendee of the Services of the Church, you can learn Salvation History and embrace Christ.

What a blessing for me it has been to be able to attend Liturgies on Sundays. It means that, during the week, I have to make up the time by turning an eight hour work day into twelve hours but it certainly is worth it.  Because I get up so early for work, evening Vespers is much harder for me but thankfully, I have some vacation days at work and this Thursday I will be taking off. That means, I can attend pre-Sanctified Liturgy Wednesday night and even stay for the meal because I can sleep in the next day.  Plus, my wife is off of work Thursday so I can spend the day with her. It's Win=Win!!!!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Visit #164 ~ Icons! Icons! Icons!

our parish procession wasn't quite this large...

The Divine Liturgy on Sunday started with a very small procession of Icons with the kids of the parish. How can that be anything but cute! Of course it was. I carefully observed how, afterwards, two adults collected the Icons and very intentionally, stacked them a certain way so as to not damage the picture.  How I love the sense of respect and awe that is in Orthodoxy.

During the reading, which was from the letter of the Hebrews, I listened as it recounted all the exploits of the Saints. As I listened to the names of all the Old Testament  Saints being chanted by Reader Tim, I was overwhelmed as I glanced around the Nave and saw that we were indeed surrounded by a Great Cloud of witnesses and I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit on how I did not, as the epistle advised, lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us so that I could progress in my walk with Christ.
Going to Church isn't always a pleasant experience- Holy Spirit Conviction, you see. It was a very moving experience.

But I was glad I was there. I did notice that the prayers were slightly different at certain points and did not match up with my service book. I then remembered that, during Great Lent, St. Basil is celebrated.  So Church was even longer than usual. I find it amazing that, with my short attention span, how quickly the time goes. There is so much going on that I am not bored! The only thing I have to do is pay attention and I am drawn in!

Glory to God!