Monday, April 27, 2015

Visit # 174 ~ Myrrh Bearing Women and Twirling Children!

In our Nave this Sunday
Yesterday was the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing woman. I always thought it cool that Jesus first revealed Himself (after He was Risen) to women, who were considered second class citizens.  Leave it to Jesus to break the mold and change our thinking!  Once a month, Fr. Gary does a youth homily where he invites all the children to come near the front (each having a rug to sit on) and he preaches his homily mostly to them. But, we get to listen in. Of course, he preached about the Myrrh-bearing women and talked about how sometimes we label people but these Myrrh-bearing women were more than just that; they were individual people as well. Just like us, whatever label we may have, we are ourselves as well and more than just a label. A good message to both kids and adults alike.

The little girl twirled, just like this!
photo by Julie Campbell, used under the creative commons license
check out more photos here:

Speaking of kids, a young couple with a very antsy toddler came in late and the man standing next to me saw they were just standing in the doorway and needed a seat so he moved to the other side of the nave and directed them to now empty seats next to me.  The little girl was adorable and immediately started spinning around in place so that her mom had to say, "No twirling now."  The girl ended up crashing (harmlessly) into the chair behind her and that brought lots of suppressed laughter from all of us! During the recitation of the Creed, the girl was in her father's arms and all of a sudden the Church bells start ringing. The girl looked up in wonder, pointing and you could tell by her expression that she thought the bells were the coolest thing around!  When the bells stopped there was a short moment of complete silence, only to be broken by the little girl saying "bye-bye" to the bells. It was extremely cute.

When people were receiving the Holy Mysteries, they would, of course, take some "fellowship" bread as well.  Matushka Mary came to the back and offered me one (which I took). She then bent down to offer one to the little girl. Well, there were three in Matushka's Hand so she took all three!  It was very funny.  The father remarked to me that she guessed her daughter wouldn't be needing to eat lunch later.

It was a blessed day, worshiping God and seeing the image of Christ in all of His children, even His youngest ones.  Seeing the wonder and innocence of this child reminded me that I should have the same attitude when approaching the Lord.  May we all be reminded of that!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Visit #173 ~ Time Sure Flies when You're Worshiping the Trinity!

It's two hours for a Divine Liturgy and, yet, I feel as if no time has gone at all.  No offense to my protestant pastor or their worship service but when I attend their services, I am always looking at the clock, quite frankly, bored by the songs. The Sermon, however, does keep my attention.

But as far as Divine Liturgy goes, I feel immersed in the Hymns, Prayers and Psalms.  I admit I do get tired of standing (Darn that arthritis!) but I find myself sensing that no time is passing by at all. It is the way Church is supposed to be and that is exactly what I experienced at Divine Liturgy last Sunday!

I only got four hours of sleep the night before because I wanted to attend Vespers since, in the Orthodoxy world, Saturday night is really Sunday and going to Vespers should properly be thought as part one of the DL.  I did find by arranging my life so that I could do both Saturday night and Sunday morning did help me more easily participate in Worship.

Coffee hour was great. Besides talking to the 'regulars' (Markos, Amanda, Tami, John, etc.) I met a young man named Christian who will be received into the Church on Pentecost. He is from Roman Catholic background (a real lover of the Latin Mass) and even attended RC Seminary for a semester.  We had a good time talking and I told him I would make sure I cleared my calendar so I could watch him be received into the Church which, he said, will take place at Vespers before Pentecost.

Thanks for reading! See you next time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Visit #172 ~ Bright Week is So Bright that I gotta wear Shades!

Christ is Risen, yo!
photo by Brian Talbot, used under the creative commons license.
see more of his photos at:
For Bright Week, we had services on Monday but I couldn't attend because I needed to help my wife study for her final test in her Phlebotomy course (She got 98%, by the way!) so I didn't get to attend any services during Bright Week until Saturday...and, boy, am I glad I did! I hadn't been to a Saturday night Vespers in a while and it was great to hear (and pray) the familiar hymns and Psalms.

I left my home early so I could arrive early and say a prayer (and light a candle) for a friend of mine who requested prayer.  I know that some people arrive to liturgy a little late but still light their candles during litanies. You know, how I have always been uncomfortable doing that. I'd feel like everyone is watching me and I'd feel like I am "interrupting" Fr. Gary lead us in pray. I know I shouldn't be so self-conscience but I am. Well, there was a huge traffic jam on the way to Church and it turns out that, instead of arriving early (so I can light my candle), I arrive on time.  What to do?  I decided "To heck with it, I'll light my candle anyway." (I said heck instead of hell because this blog is rated G. ☺) I waited for Fr. Gary to start his second set of litanies and I walked quietly up the side of the Nave, lit my candle and said a prayer for my friend.  Guess what? No body stared at me! And even if they did, I didn't pay any attention.  My friend said they needed prayer so that overrode any apprehensions I may have had.  The Kingdom of God is about helping each other, right?

photo by Scott Gunn, 
used under the creative commons license.
check out more photos here:

It was great to be at Vespers again. Yes, I love Divine Liturgy and am glad I have been going on Sundays but Vespers will always hold a special place in my heart. It is where I first encountered Orthodox Worship! I had to take a nap when I got home from work Saturday but it was worth it. Guess what! I also attended the Divine Liturgy the next day, even though I would only get four hours of sleep that night. You see, when I go to DL's, I have to go to work first from 3am till 7am. Then someone covers the rest of my shift so I could leave early and go to DL.  I have always been told that you should go to Vespers Saturday night and Divine Liturgy the next day because "it's all connected." I'll blog about that next time.

Until then, Christ is Risen! And, remember, even if Bright week is over, the future is still bright!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Visit # 171 ~ The Feast of Feasts

The Candle Stand in our Church, ready to be lit for Pascha
photo by Fr. Gary J. Breton

I know I get very chatty on this blog but I really can't put into words how the Pascha Vigil moved me. Yes, there were times I was tired of standing and, yest, my all-too-easily-distracted mind needed reigning in at times but, on the whole, the entire experience of Pascha was beyond words. All I can say is:

Christ is Risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death
and upon those in the tomb bestowing life!

Because I didn't work the next day, I stayed for the Pascha Agape Feast where all the faithful partook of foods they had been abstaining from.  I had a really good time.  

Here is a video, part of our procession around the Church.

Lots of good eats at three in the morning!

Christ is Risen!
Truly, He is Risen!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Visit #170 ~My Pastor came to Church!

Pastor Del Bieber
Church of the Nazarene

Pastor Del Bieber (no relation to you-know-who) came to Church on Great and Holy Friday Matins with Lamentations which we celebrated at 7pm.  I had been meaning to invite him for years, ever since he learned that I was a big fan of Vespers :). I asked Tami via email earlier on in the week which service on Friday would be better. She recommended the evening one because the procession with the Shroud is pretty impressive.

On the drive to Church, I asked Pastor Del if he had ever been at an Orthodox Church. He said once for a funeral and about half of the service was in English. I told him how, when I was looking for an Orthodox Church that I bypassed the much closer Greek Church because most of the liturgy was not in English.  At my parish it is completely English, except for some Lord have Mercy's in Greek and Slavonic. I told him when we got to Church that he shouldn't do anything he wasn't comfortable doing, like prostrations, ect.

Pastor Del has been my Pastor for twenty years (give or take) and he is a man who takes his walk with Christ very seriously and someone who is concerned about the lack of holiness with Christendom today.  He believes that Christians should not emphasize their differences but rather how they have Christ in common. It is for this reason that he has been a very good example for me in following Christ. I was honored that he should come to Church with me.

I had purchased a service book earlier that day so we could follow along. I wanted to buy another one so that we both could have one but they ran out. We ended up sharing.  Pastor Del paid very close attention to what was going on and sang along on the hymns. Later he told me how much he thought the hymns and multitude of Scripture within the Service was a perfect teaching tool for the laity.  As we sang, he pointed to one of the hymns in the book and quietly asked me, "I know who Mary is but who is this Theotokos?"I explained that Mary is the God-bearer. He remarked how he should have remembered the Greek.

It was pretty impressive how we processed around the Church, as the teens rang the Church bells.  Later on, he told me that one hymn he really liked was the "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal One," I had to agree with him. What's not to love about the Trisagion?

At the end of the service, I knew it would take a long time for everyone to venerate the Shroud so Tami suggested I got with her husband Reader John to venerate and then quietly slip out.  (Reader John is one of the first to venerate since his is an honored position in the Church.) I did the triple prostrations with John and then grabbed Pastor Del and headed to the car.

On the car ride home, he told me everything he liked about the service.  He joked that Fr. Gary got off easy because all he seemed to do is chant "Wisdom" and the choir did the rest of the work. I chuckled and then said Fr. Gary didn't have it that easy and I told him about the number of services that had to be done during lent and especially Holy Week.  Fr. Gary will be one tired priest by the end of next week! Pastor Del said he was going to ask me something during the service but didn't want to make me laugh. You see, he wanted to know "What is it with Pokemon and the Service?" I laughed. I then explained that prokeimenon is a Psalm that is said before the readings.
That's my bald head on the right. Pastor Del is on my right so you can't see him
Picture taken by Tiffany Martin
On the car ride home we both chatted about Jim Martin's journey to Orthodoxy and I explained how my blog introduced Jim to the Parish.  I knew it was the Holy Spirit who had led Jim to Orthodoxy and Pastor Del said he had spoken with Jim two weeks before he passed away.  Jim was driving by and passed his old church and decided to stop and chat for a while. Pastor noticed, in his conversation, that Jim had really grown in Christ since becoming Orthodox! Glory be to Jesus Christ!

As I dropped Pastor Del at his house, I told him to keep the service book. Wouldn't it be great if in his worship service, he introduced the Trisagion Hymn? I doubt his congregation would go for it but a person can dream, can't he?

Well let me sign off now. I have to get some sleep before I go to the Feasts of Feasts!

Visit #169 ~ Good Friday Vespers

We remember Christ upon a Cross on Good Friday
photo by Molly Sabourin, used under the creative commons license.
check out original pics here:

On Thursday, Fr. Gary put the Icon of Christ on the Cross. At Vespers of Good Friday, he took it down. The whole Vespers service was great. It was at 3pm because that is the time that Christ died on the Cross. You can't help but get drawn in during this service. All the ceremony and hymns are designed by the Church to make Holy Week present in a Christian's life. So, when Fr. Gary was reading the account in the Gospel's about the death of Christ, when it came to part where He died, the Altar Server, (with the help of Reader John) removed the Icon of Christ from the Cross.  He held the Icon in his hand as Fr. Gary finished reading the Gospel. Afterwards, the Server approached Fr. Gary who took the Icon and, before taking it through the Royal Doors, he blessed us with it, making the sign of the Cross over us with the Icon.

Later, Fr. Gary came out with a Shroud with the Image of Christ on it. Carrying it above his head, he walked to the center of the Nave and placed the Shroud with the Image of Christ on it on a table. The Altar Server handed Fr. Gary a clear plastic cover which he placed over the Shroud.  Then he placed the Gospel Book on the top of the Shroud. (I think Dc. Alexander was holding it but I'm not sure.) So, there Christ lay, buried in the Tomb and the Faithful (and inquirers like me) wait.

Christ in the tomb
photo taken at my parish 
by Amanda Tesla

At the end of the service, the Faithful went to venerate the Shroud. Since it wasn't just a quick bow and a kiss but, instead, two prostrations, then a kiss to the Gospel book, His hands and then feet, and then a final prostration, it would take a long time if we all did that one at a time.  So, people were "pairing up" in order to venerate together. I noticed one lady make motions to a little girl who was standing in the back. I guess she was the mom and they both venerated together.  I was thinking of opting out of venerating for very self-centered reasons. First of all, I didn't feel comfortable "pairing up" with anyone and secondly, I guess I feel like people are watching what I am doing and I hate being the center of attention like that.  I know I shouldn't let that bother me- after all, I am at Church to worship Christ- but I still get self-conscious at times.  Tami came up to me and said, "let's go together" since her husband Reader John had already venerated.  I can always count on Tami to be the perfect hostess.

After the service, I drove to my protestant parish and waited to pick up my pastor. Yes, Pastor Del said he'd go with me in the evening to the Matins with Lamentations! It was around 5pm when Vespers ended so I had time to grab a bite to eat and I took a nap in the car while I waited for Pastor Del to meet me.

More about that in my next post.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Visit #168 ~ Great and Holy Thursday!

Bells rung during the Gospel Readings...It was cool!
(No, this pic  wasn't my parish)

I had heard that the service on Great and Holy Thursday (Matins with the 12 Gospel's) was a long service...boy, was it ever! But, like anything in Orthodoxy, if you stick with it, you will soon realize the benefits of the Divine Services. I walked in just after 7pm and Reader John was in a middle of a Psalm. I stood in the back and Marko give me a quick wave and a smile (Sure is nice to be greeted!) I made sure I wore my sturdy boots because I knew we'd be standing a lot.

I thought it was so neat that after each Gospel to be read was announced, the bell would ring- one time for each number. So, when we heard Gospel number two, the bell rang twice; Gospel number three and the bell rang three times, ect. The first reading was from John's upper room discourse and, I confess, because it was so long, I was getting easily distracted- not to mention the fact that my feet get tired because of my weight and arthritis. (I don't mean to complain, but I figure I'd be honest on this blog.)  To my shame, I remember when Fr. Gary announced that the next reading was from the Gospel of Mark, I thought, O Good, Mark is always short! I of course know it is improper to sit when the Gospel was being read so in between when hymns were sung, I slipped back into the Narthex and just sat on the stairs. I could still hear everything and sat through one Gospel reading.  Then, I heard a different sounding song from the choir, only it was a solo from the Choir director, Reader Tim. It sounded beautiful. I sensed something different was going on  so I walked back into the Nave.

It was then that I saw everyone on their knees and/or in full prostrations, as Fr. Gary carried a Cross that had been standing in the middle of the Nave.  I quickly dropped to my knees. It was so cool the way Fr. Gary carried that Cross around the Nave. When he got to the front and placed the Cross back on the stand, he then put an Icon of our Lord on the Cross.Now that Christ was there, that Icon was included to get incensed when the Icons were incensed during the hymns.

I love how individual expression is always part of Orthodox worship. Even though most people stood during the Gospel reading, I noticed one worshiper with a lit candle who fell to her knees during each reading.  We worship together yet we are still ourselves. I confess that as the night wore on, my feet were hurting more so I opted to fall to my knees during the Gospel reading as well.  If people thought I was overcome with piety, they would have been mistaken! I just needed to rest my feet! Although, I must admit, that being on my knees did help my sense of reverence and humility.

Even though I have been to Holy Week services in the past, this is my first Great and Holy Thursday.  I probably didn't go in the past because I had heard how long the service was and I when I worked for Hostess Cakes, I was up at 4am so I opted for the Wednesday Extreme unction service instead. But since I took off Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I was able to attend without having to worry about getting up early.

The good news for Today, Good Friday is my protestant Pastor, Del Beiber will be attending with my this evening. More on that when it happens.

Blessed Holy Week everyone!