Sunday, August 2, 2020

Going to Vespers - Pandemic Edition

It's been literally years since I've blogged about attending a Divine Service. I've posted a sermon here and there or some "Orthodox" thoughts but not my reaction to attending a service.  Even though it is my practice to still attend, (When I can given I'm still an active Protestant)  I guess I stopped my reaction blogs because I was starting to repeat myself. I mean, what else can I say about the glory and beauty of Orthodox Worship?

Well, this Corona virus has made attending a Divine Service a somewhat different experience and warrants a post.   My Protestant Parish hasn't had an in-person service since the end of March so I haven't been to any Service (Protestant or Orthodox) for over four months!  So I can tell you it was great to be in Church again, to see the Icons, to smell the incense and to light a candle.  But it was different. As you can see from the picture below, we were together but apart. Yes, we practiced social distancing (I'm really beginning to hate that phrase!)

Father Gary in front leading us in prayer
Fr. Gary leading us in prayer

But apparently I need some more training on how to properly practice social distancing. Given that there is so much space given for a person, while standing, I must have wandered into someone else's space because a lady turned around and motioned for me to get back. At first, I thought she was giving me a greeting but then I noticed the hand gestures. Boy, was I embarrassed! But it did serve to remind me that some people remember (even as I forget)  just how serious this COVID-19 is. It is a deadly disease and some people have more reason than others  to be afraid of catching it.  Underlying conditions, can kill some people.  I'm sure everyone knows someone (even if peripherally) who has died because of this thing.  So I wandered back into my space and continued worship.  

Speaking of worship, it was, as always, beautiful. But we had no service books so if you didn't "know the words" you had to just hum along. Thankfully, I've attended enough Vespers Services to hold my own when it came to participating.  Also, when Fr. Gary incensed the Icons he did so from a respectful distance of other parishioners. And I did notice that no altar server kissed his hand when taking the censor.  

Indeed, the lack of kissing - of each other, of Icons - seemed very unorthodox to me but that's just the way it is nowadays.  I was especially sad, because I did see reader John and his wife Tami and she normally gives the triple Russian kiss (on the cheeks just in case some readers didn't know) but last night we only bowed to each other.  But it was great to see them again and to catch up.  

When I drove up before the service began I did notice a full parking lot - well, full by Saturday night Vespers Standards, a service that is not normally as well attended on a Sunday morning.  But, since 'Rona has come to town, services are strictly monitored as to how many may attend.  So many people who can't attend Sunday morning (due to space) show up on Saturday night since there is no room on Sunday morning.  I commend Fr. Gary on how he handles "crowd control." You just can't walk into the service.  For Sunday morning Divine Liturgy, it is "invitation only" and he sends out an email at the beginning of the week to selected Faithful.  Of course, he rotates the roster so all of the members eventually have a chance to attend Sunday morning and, most importantly, receive the Body and Blood of the Lord in the Eucharist.  For Vespers, it is "first come; first served" and you sign up on an online sign up sheet.  

my chair

When I first walked into the nave, I saw an empty chair and headed for it. It wasn't until I was there a few minutes that I realized that each chair had a name (Yes, assigned seating) and I, by chance, happened to choose the right chair because when I turned around to put my hat down, I noticed my name!  Sure glad I didn't take someone else's chair!

The Corona Virus has made going back to Church a little different but it is still a joy.  To hear the hymns being sung, to smell the incense which bring to mind the prayers offered up to God in the book of Revelation, to listen to Fr. Gary encourage the Faithful- All of this makes going to Church worth it and, God willing, I'll be back again soon!

Stay safe out there people!

The Icon in the center of the Nave - No Kissing allowed!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

What's the difference between the Orthodox and the Catholics?

A friend of mine recently asked me the difference between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. I figured one of  the best resources on this subject is from Ancient Faith Radio. Here is a link to Orthodoxy or Heterodoxy podcasts:

This is the best comparison between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy I've ever heard!

It's worth the listen!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Vespers ~ Exaltation of the Holy Cross!

photo by Fr Ted
used under the creative commons liscence.
check out more photos here:

It's been eons since I've posted and I bet some of you thought I was dead! Well, I'm still hear and I am still making my way to Orthodox Services. Here is a homily by Father Gary which I thought very good. I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

My First Forgiveness Sunday Vespers and How God Tricked me into Fasting!

Nothing says Forgiveness like a hug
photo by St Peter's Theological Academy,
used under the creative commons license

I have been attending an Orthodox Church for six years now and, until last Sunday, I have never been to a FORGIVENESS SUNDAY VESPERS. To be sure, I was reluctant in the past because, although I've been at my parish half a decade, I really hadn't formed close ties with a lot of them until recently -attending the DEACON DISCUSSION group helped in that regard - and the thought of kissing a bunch of strangers while I bowed downed before them,  asking their forgiveness, didn't sit too well with me. It would feel...awkward.  But, this year I felt emboldened to go.

My parish cheats because, although it is a Vesper's service (which should be in the evening,) Fr. Gary holds the service immediately after Divine Liturgy. I can tell you singing, Now that we have come to the setting of the sun,... before I've even eaten my lunch is a bit disconcerting. But, Fr. Gary believes that he will get more participation if he holds the service after the Liturgy. Many in our parish are older and traveling at night is difficult for them so I'd say Fr. Gary made a good call.

The service was beautiful! I admit, I was struck with all the humility being shown in offering and receiving forgiveness from each other.  It was hard not to "choke up" as the process continued. Okay, I was crying but I tried really hard to fight it! It was especially a blessing to bow before my friend Marko, who, besides being a good Facebook friend, is also someone I especially like talking to in person. His humility when discussing the faith is an example to me. I threw in a bear hug with him at no extra charge!

But I wouldn't be me if I didn't have an awkward moment.  As we progressed down the line of forgiveness, I stood before TJ, the altar server who looks to be around 8 years old. Me, being the adult, TJ waited for me to start so I said, "Hey, kid, forgive me," and then kinda waved at him. Years in my protestant parish as a children's worker and all the training they give you that you NEVER touch a kid, kicked in. TJ stared back at me like I was nuts and he would be right! I gratefully moved on to the next person.  Maybe next year, I'll be less awkward. :)

TJ leading the Trisagion Prayer during a Vespers Service
Forgiveness Sunday is a precursor to Clean Monday and that is the day for total fasting. Now, normally, that would be a very difficult thing for me to do. Not eat anything all day, are you nuts? But weeks ago I had scheduled a very overdue colonoscopy for Tuesday February 28th which meant that the day before, Monday, I would not allowed to eat anything (except for a horrid concoction made by the devil himself- those of you who have had a colonoscopy will know what I am talking about,)  It wasn't until a few days ago that I realized that my preparation for the procedure would fall on Clean Monday. So, even though I really wouldn't have considered a total fast for that day, God made sure I'd fast anyway. Well, played, my Lord! 

That being said, I hope to participate in the Lenten Fast so that Pascha will be especially blessed!  I am glad I started out this Great Lent with Forgiveness Sunday and may God grant us all a time of Spiritual growth as we journey towards Christ's Resurrection.

Forgive me, a sinner! 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Cancelling out NASHVILLE during Prayer Time.

I started binge watching  the CMT show, Nashville a few weeks ago and I really love the story lines (I know; it's just a soap opera- don't judge me!) and I absolutely love the music. I started watching the show because I had heard that the very, Orthodox Jonathan Jackson was in the show. (Below is a video that firmly establishes Jonathan Jackson's Orthodox street cred.)

As I said, I  really enjoy the show, although it may not be everyone's cup of tea but I love the music.  But sometimes you can overdo things with music. I had been listening to so much NASHVILLE music that in my prayer time this morning, I couldn't get the background noise of my mind to quiet down. There I am sitting in my chair. ( I know, I should be standing) and the song from the show, LOVE LIKE MINE won't get out of my mind. Now it's hard to confess your sins to Psalm 50 with a country music soundtrack playing in the background, so I re-started Psalm 50 but the NASHVILLE music just wouldn't leave.

I figured to get that song out of my head, I would turn on Ancient Faith Radio and recite the Psalm with the chanting to quiet my soul. I was hoping that the chanting would be in Slavonic or Greek so that I wouldn't be distracted by the English in the chanting. But, I thought I'd take my chances. Better to be distracted by English chant than a country music break-up song.

I plug in my earphones. Here's hoping for Slavonic! Nope, it's English. Oh, well. Wait, what are they saying? It turns out I had tuned into Ancient Faith Radio just as the Monastery Choir of St. John of San Francisco was chanting - you guessed it - Psalm 50. And I had caught it at the beginning. So, as the choir chanted, I just followed along in my prayer book. It was a beautiful experience and helped me focus on the rest of my prayer time.

After my time of prayer, I thanked the Holy Spirit for helping me get back on track and I thanked St. John the Wonder-worker for his intercession.  I rely upon his prayers a lot! Okay, now I've got to go and buy that song! I hope it's on Itunes! 

Have a blessed day!

Post Script:  I know it's been months since I've blogged or podcasted. I had just got burnt out on it and needed to take a break. I don't see myself podcasting again anytime soon but I hope to start up blogging again. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Episode 14 ~ My Favorite Icons (part 1)

Click here to listen to the Podcast:

There's still time to include YOUR favorite Icon on the next this voicemail and leave a message, telling us about your favorite Icon

(516) 259-1975

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Episode 13 ~ Summer's End Reflection

I'm a day late  with the podcast....but not a dollar short!
Click here to listen to the podcast:

I used this Youtube clip in my show:

What are YOUR Favorite Icons? Leave a comment below and let us know!