Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Visit # 188~ Gotta Love those Grandmas AND Sharing some Great News!

the little booklet I used since I forgot my book
 Praise the Lord, if you'll allow this very Evangelical phrase! :) I have some great news. I know some of you have been praying for me that I'd be able to attend Liturgy on Sundays. Well, it turns out my schedule changed and I was able to switch to working evenings (from 2pm till 1030pm.) This means that even though I work on Sundays, I'll be able to go to Church in the morning. It'll be a joy to attend Liturgy on a consistent basis! Thank you for all your prayers! I guess this means they'll be more blog posts, since I blog about every visit to Divine Service. What is also great is I'll be on the same work schedule as my wife so we'll actually be seeing more of each other.

I really enjoyed liturgy last Sunday. It was the celebration of  Afterfeast of the Entry of the Most Holy Mother of God into the Temple. As I walked into the Narthex, I realized I had forgotten my Divine Liturgy Book that I had purchased back in October. (You can read about that here.) So I had to content myself with the little booklets they provided which you are supposed to return at the end of the Service. I wonder if any one "steals" them?  I have to remember for next time to bring my book.

During the Liturgy, I saw something very touching.  A new mother walked into the Nave with her baby, towing behind her, her toddler son. She came in late which, of course, is understandable, given the challenges that babies present.  Well, as soon as the woman came in with her two children, the grandmother of the children, who was armed with candles and who seemed to be waiting for them, grabbed the hand of the toddler and escorted him to the candle stand. The boy was too short to reach the candle stand so he had to step up on the stand on the same level that the Iconostastis was on. ( I don't know what that is called...can someone tell me?) Well, what boy doesn't like to play with fire. He happily lit the candle and the grandma returned him to his mother.  I thought, how great are grandma's! What  a fortunate boy he is. Not only does he have a mother and father who take him to Church, but he has a faithful grandma to help him in his faith.

Also, during the service, I noticed a mom with his son. He seemed to be around 12 years old. They seemed to be a bit lost in the service but one of the faithful, who obviously knew them, gave them a service book turned to the right page so they could follow along. Before that person returned to where she was standing in the back, she gave a warm smile.  Later on, when communion was about to be distributed, the mom of the boy kept looking back as if to ask her friend, do we go up? (Or maybe she was just asking for her son.) I don't think the lady in the back saw her but when that lady was walking up the aisle, the mom asked the question again. She was told no but with such a warm smile, it could no way be interpreted as a scolding. Behold the joy of the Eucharist, reserved for the Faithful but not with triumphalist exclusion. Rather, given the magnitude of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, it is not something that is handed out like candy. When the lady came back, she, of course, had some fellowship bread, which she joyfully shared with the mom and her boy.

It was a very edifying service. At the end, we all approached the Cross, held by Fr. Gary, in order to venerate it before leaving.  Normally, Fr. Gary says to each Christ is in our midst and, as we kiss the cross, I know the proper response is He is and ever shall be. Now because it was a feast day, Fr. Gary said Joyous Feast!. I said, Amen but I am sure that there is a more liturgical response. Can someone tell me what it is?

I was sad that I couldn't stay long for Coffee hour but I am grateful that I was able to attend the Liturgy. I am glad that I will be able to do so more often now! Praise the Lord....Oops, I mean, Glory to Jesus Christ! Oh, well, I guess both are correct! :)

at the end of the Service, Fr. Gary giving announcements. 

See you next time.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Visit #187 ~ Readers Service - Simple and Beautiful!

The Service was Simply Beautiful, like this Fall Leaf!
photo by Walt Stoneburner, used under the creative commons license.
check out more of his photos here:
I went to Vespers last night, knowing that Fr Gary was out of town for vacation. That means it's Reader's Service Time! It was a small group. I came early, lit a candle and stood up in the front by the Icon of one of my favorite Saints, St. John the Wonder-worker, Bishop of San Francisco. My eyes were front, waiting for Fr. Deacon Alexander to open the doors from the Iconostasis and begin. Instead, we hear his voice from the back where the small choir was standing.  Okay, so he'll lead the service from the back. I was a bit disappointed because that meant no incense.

It turns out I had no reason to feel any disappointment because the service was simply beautiful! We progressed through the service book nicely and all our voices rose towards heaven, much like the incense we see at the services. Having a small choir meant that when the hymns were sung, Deacon Alexander and Reader Innocent (Jack Hayford) would alternate singing  the hymn solo. That made it much easier to understand the lyrics of the hymn.

I felt uplifted during the whole services and was very disappointed as I turned to the last page in the book and realized we were about to end. One thing that made me smile was, towards the end of the Service, while some hymns were being sung, Reader John carried out a small Icon of Sts. Cosmos and Damien (We did hymn them that evening) and he handed it to one of the ladies standing next to the table in the middle of the Nave which had a different Icon on it.  John removed the Icon on the table and the lady placed Cosmos and Damien on the table, replacing the Icon John just removed.  What made me smile about this was the lady's expression when John handed her the Icon of Cosmos and Damien. She had a Who, me? expression, surprised that she was being called upon for this service. I guess since we were a small group that evening, we all had to do our part!
Sts. Cosmos and Damien, pray for us!
At the concluding prayer, some of the faithful weren't sure if we were finished. I kinda of thought we were (I was following along in the book) but some were looking around at each other, waiting to be dismissed.  I guess people get used to Fr. Gary, standing up front and concluding the service with his-

 Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us and save us.

But none came.  Instead, Reader John turns to Fr. Deacon Alexander and asks, "Do you have any words for us?" He said, Sure and went to the front to deliver an impromptu homily. It was very good. He began by saying Don't forget to turn your clocks back tonight and went on to say that when it gets darker earlier, and when leaves change color and the grass turns brown, you can't help but think of death and wonder will there ever be life again.  It was a very solemn yet joyful homily and I found it extremely uplifting as I did with the whole service. 

Afterwards, we all venerated the Icons and congregated in the back for some discussion. I had a talk with Deacon Alexander about the Supermarket industry (I used to work in it and he currently does) and Tami hands me a music stand and tells me to carry it upstairs to the balcony.  I, of course, obey. It was the first time I've ever been up there and you do get a different perspective of the Nave from there. Tami showed me where the bells were and explained the process of how the girls would ring it during Divine Liturgy. She then joked about how now that I was up in the balcony, I'd soon be in the choir and learning to ring those bells.  
The Church is like any other church.  Once you get a job, it's yours until you die! :)

I'm glad to know that! I could get used to ringing bells.