Archive for April, 2007

Maybe on the page with the AOL piece about Limbo linked below you saw this picture with a caption touting AOL News’ “photos of the week,” and thought, Gee, he looks like an Orthodox monk.

The correct spelling of his name is The Rt. Rev. Archimandrite Joseph Francavilla (not Francanilla), pastor of Holy Transfiguration Melkite Catholic Church in McLean, Virginia, childhood parish of Va. Tech student-victim Reema Samaha (Washington Post link will eventually break). Fr. Ted Pulcini, Antiochian Orthodox author of Orthodoxy and Catholicism, What are the Differences?, says of Eastern Catholic jurisdictions in the United States, the Melkites generally have the least Latin influence. (IIRC, he himself, born Latin, passed through Fr. Joseph’s DC-area parish before converting to Orthodoxy… and Fr. Joseph himself is a cradle-Latin: not many Arabs named Francavilla!) This parish and several others in the Melkite jurisdiction in the U.S. have numerous ex-Latins as parishioners. This is also where well-known conservative columnist and activist Paul Weyrich serves as deacon.

FYI, Latins are allowed to partake of mysteries (“sacraments”) at Eastern Catholic (aka “Uniate” or “Uniat”) parishes, although I think the ECs like them to observe Eastern practices of preparation, eg, before receiving Communion, which are not Latin practices – a certain prayer practice, possibly Confession, more fasting than Latins are used to, etc. I believe switching between one Catholic Church in communion with Rome (commonly but mistakenly called “Rite”) and another – outside a case of marriage between “Rites” which is handled differently (but is not automatic) – involves a claim that one believes their spiritual benefit requires the change, and the endorsement of one’s current and proposed ruling hierarchs, as well as permission from the Vatican through that country’s Apostolic Delegate or Pronuncio (ie, Vatican bishop-diplomat); but I may not be up-to-date on this. And children of a mixed-“Rite” marriage are supposed to belong to that of the father. In the last couple generations official Vatican policy has been to discourage (though not prevent) Easterners from ‘going Latin,’ to help those Churches – the largest, the Ukrainians, has fewer than 5 million faithful worldwide (PDF) – to remain alive… just like they’ve been encouraging them to recover their Orthodox customs and practices vs. historic Latin infiltrations… and more recently encouraging Latins to become more familiar with their Eastern fellow-Catholics… all with varying degrees of success thus far. If the WWW is any indication, among ECs there is a spectrum of approach to the Faith, from very Latin to quasi-Orthodox, and sometimes conflict between the two.

And sometimes, like Fr. Ted and our friend Karen, Latins experience Eastern Catholicism before “Doxing,” as she says ‘going Orthodox’ is called among the ECs! And sometimes the opposite also happens; Orthodox who convert to Catholicism are supposed to belong to the corresponding EC jurisdiction if applicable – and I believe they’ve got us all covered and then some (for better or for worse)! I considered Eastern Catholicism – plenty of Ukrainian churches in my region – especially in deference to my Irish, Latin family, concerned for my salvation in separation from the pope of Rome, as I was with the Protestants more or less from 1991-98. But my reason for converting at all had to do with the presence of the All-Holy Spirit of God, One of the Trinity, in the Body of Christ, the Orthodox Church, from whom Eastern Catholics of Byzantine practice are separated. So in the end I never even visited them, but went straight to Orthodoxy.

But God be good to Reema Samaha and all the dead from Va. Tech!

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The newly-translated biography of St. Varnava (Nastic) of Hvosno, native of Gary, Indiana, is now available for purchase from Fr. Slobodan Jovic’s parish, St. Archangel Michael Serbian Orthodox Church in California. Email him for up-to-date details. It’s actually about 160 pages bio and as many of documents from St. Varnava (aka Barnabas) – letters, sermons, etc. It’s paperback. The Serbian priest who wrote it – also surnamed Jovic but no relation to Fr. Slobodan – had the ‘privilege’ of residing in St. Varnava’s prison cell for a while in the ’80s under the Communist regime of Yugoslavia. I’ve browsed the book so far and it looks pretty fascinating!

There’s not enough info in this AOL article (link will eventually break) to say if the “hope” they’re now holding out for unborn babies (and others?) moves in an o/Orthodox direction – especially if, as mentioned, it cites “developments in the last 50 years”… as opposed to the first few centuries! But it sounds close!

To clarify – and the article does mention this – limbo was never an official Latin doctrine, merely a very widely-held theological opinion, one of those ‘logical conclusions’ Latin religious philosophy is so much about. Therefore, this isn’t so much a “reversed teaching” as a new drift in high-level theological opining.

There’s probably more info in the full article/document from “Origins” at the Catholic News Service (formerly National Catholic News Service or NC News), as they mention, but since I don’t subscribe, I can’t say for sure.

And again, to be clear, Orthodoxy teaches that nobody will ever have “beatific vision,” ie, seeing God in His Essence, since that is impossible for creatures – ‘just’ His Glory/Energies, which is all that’s available to us… but as infinite as God Himself is.

It costs money. But the Prologue of Ohrid, by St. Nicolai of South Canaan, Ohrid, and Zhicha, from the day you were born…!

OK, it only reflects the fixed Feasts, and not also the week of the year, so it recycles every year, not every 532 years (the link at bottom will be to a Serbian Church source, keyed to the Old Calendar) – but you may be able to track down info about your day of the week of the year elsewhere: eg, I was born in 1963, on the 18th Sunday After Pentecost. But on the Revised Julian Calendar as observed by some Orthodox, it was also the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle… and I would also later learn that on my 14th birthday St. Innocent of Alaska – of whom I may have heard just a couple years afterward – had been glorified by the Moscow Patriarchate on the request of The OCA.

On the (‘unrevised’) Julian Calendar as observed by most Orthodox, it was the Conception of the Holy Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist John, the “top story” in St. Nicolai’s “news report”!… and also, I would later learn, the eve of the 169th anniversary of the formal arrival of Orthodox Evangelizing Mission in the Western Hemisphere, when the Monk St. Herman, the Hieromartyr St. Juvenaly of Iliamna, Archimandrite Joasaph who would shortly become the first Orthodox Bishop elected and consecrated for North America, and their colleagues (possibly including some Greeks?) landed at Kodiak Island, Alaska, Empire of Russia – an anniversary eventually to be commemorated as the Synaxis of All Saints of Alaska, and in particular, the Holy Newmartyrs Juvenaly and his Tanaina Indian Church Reader and Companion in Martyrdom whose name is known to God, and Peter the Aleut (whose name, a fellow Indigenous North American, I took at Chrismation), and All Other Martyrs of Alaska Known and Unknown.

But interestingly, St. Nicolai’s “Reflection” for Sept. 23 (OS) echoes the biography of a Western Orthodox, Celtic Saint with which I would become very familiar as a good Irish Catholic, the Holy Bishop Martin of Tours, Gaul. And Nicolai’s “Contemplation” of Israelite King Jehoram’s “grave illness of the bowels” would cause me to LOL – for which may God forgive me – more than 43 years later as I near the completion of 17 known years with now-disabling Irritable Bowel Syndrome. And Nicolai’s “Homily” for the day concerns the Filioque of the Latin Creed with which I would grow up, and intriguingly, presages the surprisingly uncomplicated, unesoteric Scriptural realization – “Who proceeds from the Father” – that would eventually convince me of its error on my way to Orthodoxy.

So how do you get in on this secret? Go here, enter the year and month of your birth, make sure the language selection reflects your talents, and press Submit. (Shouldn’t we all!) As I said, the results will be keyed to the Old Calendar, but if you wish, just find the New Calendar date in the Old Calendar column. (You might have to check the preceding or following month if you’re near the beginning or end of one.) Either way, click on the main Saint or Feast listed there, and behold your page from the Prologue in a pop-up window! You’ll also note that the initial result does list the Sundays’ designations for that year: If you were born on a weekday, be aware of whether the liturgical week it’s part of is determined by the Sunday preceding, or the one following, depending on the time of year. (I was born on Sunday, so I had it easy!) If you’re not sure, you can print out the result and show it to your priest… or even ask me in a Comment. ‘Ve have vays of finding dese tings out.’

And have a happy, holy birthday!

From a ROCOR parish priest in Michigan’s FAQs (emphasis added):

Should I celebrate my birthday or my namesday or both and how?

The question often is asked: “Should we celebrate our birthdays or our namesdays?” The answer is: yes. We should celebrate both of these important days in our spiritual lives, but in slightly different ways. On our birthdays we thank God for His mercy in allowing us to be born (and thus giving us the opportunity for eternal life with Him), for giving us parents to guide us in a loving, safe Orthodox home, and for other such things. Arranging a Thanksgiving Moleben on this day in the parish church or at home would be very appropriate. On namesdays we honor our heavenly protector, that is, the saint for whom we are named. This we do by going to the parish church and partaking of the Mysteries of Confession and Communion, or if there is no service in our parish on that particular day, arranging for a Moleben to be served for our saint in the church on that day and Confessing and Communing on the nearest day possible to our namesday. It is also a pious tradition to invite our friends to our homes on our namesdays for a reception in honor of the saint for which we are named, to sing the saint’s troparion, and to read the life of the saint. It is also very important to have an icon of our patron saint in our home icon corner. Some who read this may not know in honor of which saint they are named. For instance, there are at least 23 different saints with the name “John” on the Orthodox calendar. This is nothing to be ashamed of, but it is VERY important to learn about your heavenly patron, to make that saint a focus of daily prayer, and to keep that saint’s commemoration (your namesday) in a pious manner. If you are not sure for whom you are named, and your parents also are not sure (this should be part of the baptismal record at the parish where you were baptized), please see Fr. Gregory. Although it is not a shame to not know your heavenly patron, it is a shame to not take the time to find out about your saint or to choose a saint with your name as your heavenly patron if indeed this information cannot be otherwise ascertained.

In the church on Sundays we do not sing “Many Years” for those who have celebrated birthdays during the previous week,* but we do for those having celebrated namesdays. This is simply because the namesday is spiritually more significant than the birthday. This is not to say that the birthday is not important, but that the namesday is MORE important. Why is this? Everyone born on earth has a birthday, but not everyone has a namesday. That is, many people are born on this earth, but not all of them have the honor of being named after one of God’s saints. Also, one does not entreat one’s day of birth to intercede at the heavenly throne of God, but one DOES entreat one’s saint in such a way. Finally, the Holy Church appoints a special service and prayers to be read for an infant on the day on which his name is given (the 8th day after birth). There are no such prayers for the infant on his birthday (the prayers on the day of the birth of a child specifically mention only the mother). This is not to say that birthdays are without spiritual significance. As mentioned above, they are indeed spiritually significant and services of thanksgiving should be arranged on the birthday, but as we can see, namesdays are even more spiritually significant than birthdays, and thus we should be even more zealous to celebrate our namesdays than our birthdays.

(*–FYI, some other parishes *do* sing Many Years for birthday people on Sunday, eg, during ‘coffee hour’ after Liturgy. -LPO’F)

By Bishop Alexander (Mileant) [PDF], late ROCOR ruling hierarch of South America (emphasis added):

The most widespread form of prayer is petition, offered in acknowledgment of our weaknesses, infirmities, and lack of experience. Because of sins and passions, our souls become weak and sick. Therefore, it is essential in prayer to ask God to forgive us and help us to overcome our faults. Sometimes requests are made because of an impending danger hanging over us, a need, etc. Petition in prayer is inevitable in view of our weakness and is readily accepted by the allmerciful Lord (Matt. 7:7; John 16:23). But if our prayer has only a predominant character of request, if the voice of praise and thanksgiving is almost unheard, this indicates poor development of our spiritual life.

You’ll find a number of versions on the Web… also Scottish Gaelic (called just Gaelic in the Commonwealth, where Irish is often Irish Gaelic). I was given this version:

Ta Criost aiseirithe! Aiseirithe go fior!

or with fadas (long-vowel markings, as your browser may support them):

Tá Críost aiséirithe! Aiséirithe go fior! (I could’ve sworn fior had a fada, but I don’t find it so on the Web just now. For pronunciation, see below.)

by Fr. Serge Kelleher, the Irish-American Eastern Catholic priest in Dublin (Baile Atha Cliath!), Ireland.

My Collins Gem Irish-English dictionary says eiri, without the ais- prefix, means rise in the common sense, like to go up in the air (hence eirithe, the adjective you usually see on Orthodox websites). Aiseiri means resurrect, (also resurge, as in resurgence. The use of aiseirithe in connection with the Lord can be seen in a number of Latin and Anglican Church websites in Ireland, in Google; the one for the Tuam [say TOO-um, “with a trace of the mists and the bog” as Fr. Greeley would say!] Archdiocese is from a Latin diocese in the West of Ireland.). Like the Creed says, “On the third day He rose again” – not a second time, that’s just the way many languages express resurrection as opposed to rising up in the air. (In fact, resurrection itself, from Latin, is even like this, re- plus surrexit.) Although in Irish they call His Ascension Deascabháil, which seems to be a completely religious term, for which I can’t find any derivation (ascend in normal Irish, referring to normal ascending, being yet another completely different word). And I am not aware of either Scripture or Tradition testifying that the Lord floated above the ground after His Resurrection, as often depicted in Western and Western-inspired images! 😉 Though possibly in disagreeing sources’ defense, I just checked the Irish RSV (strangely, the only Irish Bible offered by the official Catholic bookstore chain over there a decade ago was a New Testament translation from the U.S. Mainline Protestant RSV [though now they have added the whole Bible, though not information about the translation]), and it seems to most often – though not exclusively – use eiri rather than aiseiri – though it seems to have been translated by an Irish Anglican canon whose first name is not a saint’s name!!!

For further understanding, ta is is, Irish being one of those languages (like Hebrew) which puts the verb first. Pronounced by itself, ie, not in conversation (or greeting), it’s pronounced TAW. (With short A, without a fada – it’s NOT an accent or emphasis mark – it would be TAH.) Otherwise, you don’t drag it out so much, so it’s almost a TAH or TUH, completely unemphasized.

Criost is obvious! You don’t say the O, and long I is pronounced EE, so the whole word is KREEST, with a slight roll to the R like in Spanish and many other languages. (But only a slight one!) Think of the first syllable in Greek Christos, except it’s definitely a K sound rather than that Scottish/German/Hebrew CH (loch, buch, Chanukkah).

That aiseirithe, I gather from these folks, is most commonly uh-SHAY-ruh-huh. The first E is long, hence AY (rhymes with bay, stay, bray, lay, cay, fey[!]) – but shorten the EE sound at the end of the diphthong, especially if you’re American; ie, it’s not AEE like we usually say those words (think of the Fonz!), but more like ‘longer’ E’s in Spanish and other Latinate languages. OK? Since the S is between the “slender” vowels I and E, it’s pronounced SH as opposed to S. The middle I is silent, and the vowel sounds in the unemphasized syllables are de-emphasized, almost schwas in most pronunciation. And a slight roll to the R again. TH sounds like H, because as Fr. Greeley’s Nuala Anne McGrail – whose first language is Irish – tells us, no civilized language has a TH (ie, theta) sound! Though, the truth (“de troot”) be told, many Irish pronounce D like a voiced TH, like the TH in the, this, that, these, those!! (The discussion mentions an alternative pronunciation for aiseirithe, from a West-of-Ireland dialect, because that one is often studied by non-Gaeilgeoiri [non-Irish-speakers], being one of the few areas of the Island where the language may still be heard relatively commonly – though all Irish today also speak English.)

That go fior – indeed or truly – I’m not so sure of, now without the long I which I thought it had – either guh-FEER or guh-FYOOR. Usually they say in a vowel duo like that you emphasize the first, but not always. And often before an R any vowel is long, no fada needed… implying not emphasizing the I here. It’s a common expression, it just didn’t show up on the tapes of my first 5 lessons – which is as far as I got! – so I can’t say for sure. But for certain, the go is a very-unemphasized particle, hence the guh. And don’t forget the slight roll to the R.

Therefore, it’s pronounced:

taw-KREEST uh-SHAY-ruh-huh! uh-SHAY-ruh-huh guh-FYOOR!

Happy greeting! And I remind myself it’s not about showing-off, but celebrating the once-and-future (and growing!*) Orthodoxy of Ireland… and the Lord’s Resurrection!

(*–At least 9000, with 1200 claiming Irish nationality/origin, and a total of at least 20 pct personally from outside traditional Orthodox countries [Powerpoint page]. Biggest Orthodox country representation: Romania [Powerpoint page: click down twice on that “slide” to see Romania], who interestingly, sometimes call themselves “Latin Orthodox” because of their Latinate language and traditional part-Italian ancient ancestry.)

Ta Criost aiseirithe! Aiseirithe go fior!

Iconograms.org, a service related to the Greek Archdiocese of America, is a source of some neat Orthodox (and other) *free* e-greetings. But for someone’s birthday, they make you work a little: enter the person’s patron saint’s name (and/or other similar search criteria) into the Search box and see if they give you any hits. When you select an icon, you’ll have a chance to choose a “Category,” one of which is “Birthday.” Next, under “Title,” it offers a choice between “Happy Birthday” and “Many Blessings.” (Just don’t send “Many Blessings” to a priest or Bishop, since it’s their liturgical – and general – role to give blessings, and laypeople’s to receive them. How blessed are we!)

They explained to me that they don’t offer Birthday as a choice up-front in favor of Nameday, which is more in keeping with Tradition and traditions in Orthodox cultures.

According to a brief statement, the Moscow and Constantinople Patriarchates have reached agreement on letting Bishop BASIL (Osborne) of Sergievo/Amphipolis remain with the latter.

Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!

Why not the more-familiar (to non-Orthodox eyes) Jesus bursting out of the tomb, radiating Light, soldiers lying on the ground “like dead men,” angels at His sides, flag flapping in the breeze(?), etc.?

Because Orthodox icons are theological, and the Lord is not a showoff! The Resurrection was not a neat trick to prove He’s Someone special (which of course He is!). It was, as the Paschal Troparion (hymn) says, to “trample down death by death* and bestow life on those in the tombs,” exactly as depicted here. (*–Note His feet, and legs bent at the knees, actively “trampling down” the gates of Hades [fallen in the shape of the Cross] – their hinges, locks, and keys scattered in the darkness.) He is always for US, not for Himself. His Resurrection is about US.

Under Catholic/Protestant influence, you may see other kinds of icons among the Orthodox – the Lord actually rising from His own tomb (not mentioned in the Gospels) – some very appealing to this pair of Irish eyes – or the arrival of the Myrrhbearing Women, etc. But the one above is in the style most traditional to Orthodoxy. He grasps the hand/arm of Adam to raise him from his coffin/Hades, Eve praying, St. John the Forerunner (messy hair) and other righteous of the Old Testament looking on.

(OPINION ALERT!)– I’m even reminded of the idea raised by scholars of the Gospel and Epistles of St. John the Theologian, that ‘between the lines’ in those Scriptures is a concept of resurrection that the Lord raises us with Him in His own Resurrection, like Vine and branches (cf. John 15) – suggested here with the “branch” Adam, and in other versions of this icon where the Lord grasps both Adam’s and Eve’s hands. IOW, that there is One Resurrection, His, in which we may participate if we become part of His (Rising) Body. In fact, the icon’s usual Greek label He Anastasis need not translate the He, “the,” and it doesn’t say “of Christ”… just “Resurrection,” like, ‘This is all there is, become part of it.’ Of course, everyone will be raised, some to Life and possibly others to Suffering, in the Glory/Light/Uncreated Energies of God. But the righteous of the OT are being raised to Life, as indicated by the halos on (i.e., Uncreated Energy radiating from) some of them – as we all may be.

Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!

A wise saying from Mitrophan Chin to his Protestant aunt in Hong Kong:

“I used the example of family pictures: You would kiss the picture not because you like the paper but because you cherish and love the people depicted even if they are pictures of your deceased loved ones. The Orthodox Church likewise is a family of Christ consists of both the living and the departed and the icons are windows to the departed holy persons, where we can still express our respect through veneration.”

Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!

When you can’t get to church, or when a parish or group of the Faithful sometimes doesn’t have a priest present, it is recommended to pray the Pro-Liturgy or Typica, individually or as a family or parish.

I have also heard that some read the actual Liturgy privately. (All people’s parts are available in the Jordanville Prayerbook; additional parts also available in the Antiochian Pocket Prayerbook.) Since I can so seldom get to church, I find this more helpful in maintaining a sense of connectedness to the Church, as well as growing increasingly familiar with the Liturgy itself. (Contrary to some advices, I include the full Litanies and priest’s prayers, as full of theology as they are and all. It’s not in a spirit of presumption, but may God have mercy on me!)

Sadly and amazingly, I am not aware of any parish that streams the Liturgy live on the Internet mostly in English. The Greek Archdiocese of America ones AFAIK are substantially – sometimes exclusively – in Koine, and sometimes even lack a homily in English.

Ten years. “What a long, strange trip it’s been!” It’s actually *25* years since my first Eastern liturgy, too – Theophany 1982. [I don’t know about you, but I find myself constantly confusing Theophany and Transfiguration, maybe because they both start with T and involve ‘theophanies.’ Theophany is January, “Epiphany/Baptism of the Lord.” Transfiguration is August, Light on Mt. Tabor…Hiroshima too.] At that time I was a novice with a Roman Catholic (Latin) religious order in New Jersey. (For those of you keeping score at home, I was 18.) One of the priests in my order who “had bi-ritual faculties,” ie, was permitted to officiate in both Latin and Eastern Rites, was staffing an Eastern Catholic parish in Pennsylvania. (I’ll leave them anonymous to protect the guilty… as you’ll see in a moment.) For a change of pace, someone decided we dozen or so novices would mark Theophany in PA. (Epiphany for us was on one of the nearby Sundays.) That parish also hosted students from the local Latin parochial school that morning, so the priest, who normally served in another language (I remember thinking “Ruthenian,” but mustn’t it have been Slavonic?), served in English. I have vague memories of him chanting, and an iconostasis, but nothing else from the church. We didn’t even receive communion; I don’t know why. I remember him commemorating “our holy and ecumenical pontiff John Paul [II] the Pope of Rome,” and thinking, Wait a minute, the Orthodox have an Ecumenical Something, wouldn’t they be upset?! Afterward we toured the Byzantine parochial school – they weren’t off for Theophany – and from a sign in a classroom I learned that Jesus in that language is Izusu (sp?) – as in Slava Izusu Christu, Glory to Jesus Christ! (Glory Forever!) – which unfortunately became amusing/troubling to me when Isuzu (sic) cars became better known in America in succeeding years! Then the parish cook-ladies had us for lunch. Tragically, one of them was ill, and over the next few days an incredible gastrointestinal virus went through our whole novitiate, providing the strongest memory of my first in-person exposure to Eastern Christianity.


But 15 years later, it went a little better(!). By then I was a Quaker, and engaged in graduate-level Quaker Studies at Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Indiana, on the state line due east of Indianapolis. I had just mostly completed an M.A. in Peace Studies at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana (in the county just east of South Bend), so ESR’s own Peace Studies program employed me as a graduate assistant. One of my jobs was to help coordinate and publicize a weekly quasi-academic peace colloquium. Earlham College, to which ESR belonged, had a staff member who had converted from Quakerism (an Englishman yet!) to Orthodoxy, and was a member of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, and he offered to present “An Orthodox Perspective on Peace,” or something like that. Actually, this was my introduction to Orthodox America’s “jurisdictions,” too. For the sake of the publicity, I asked if Orthodox in the title should or could be modified by some adjective, since I’d only ever heard it after words like Greek or Russian or such, and thought just Orthodox hanging there all by its lonesome might not be clear to folks, and Orthodox Christian might not convey it either – this was eastern Indiana, after all, not central PA (a/k/a “Pan-Slavnia”)! But he told me he didn’t want to complicate things by bringing “jurisdictions” into the discussion – and that’s how I learned ethnic adjective = jurisdiction! (Why I didn’t think of Eastern Orthodox, I may never know!) Just to tie-up this loose end, he focused on Patristics, and so was in fact ‘pre-jurisdictional.’ Anyway, he and I continued the conversation via email, but at the time I had no personal interest in Orthodoxy, ‘merely intellectual.’ Come late Lent – Orthodox Lent – Catholic and Protestant Easter had been a few weeks earlier – he invited me to Pascha at his parish, St. Paul’s (OCA) in relatively-nearby Dayton, Ohio, pastored by Fr. Ted Bobosh, author of Come and See, a good booklet that researches converts’ impressions of Orthodoxy, helpful both for converts/prospects and those born Orthodox.

When we arrived – my friend, his young children, and I – something was already going on. (One consolation was that no matter how late things were in Dayton that Saturday night, they were an hour earlier for us, since Indiana wasn’t doing Daylight Saving Time!) It seemed the parish was using a converted house or something like that (not their present facility). Many children went downstairs to nap or do other things. I remember no iconostasis – it seemed this was the living room of the house – so I could see everything going on in the Altar. Everything or almost everything was in English. There were many chairs in the room, all occupied, SRO. I knew Orthodox did the Sign of the Cross differently than the Latins I’d grown up with, and after a slow beginning – I was still a Silent Meeting Quaker and theoretically averse to prescribed things in religion, nevermind gestures – I joined in with its frequent repetitions throughout the services. I may have also chimed in with the more repetitive sung responses – they had a choir and congregational singing, both excellent. You hear a whole lot of words in the Orthodox services, even sung, but I had read to just let them all roll over you the first time, and it was OK. Pascha was several services in succession, lasting several hours. We processed around the block at one point singing the Paschal Troparion, a very catchy, fun melody (which I can’t now locate online) which one wanted to sing faster and faster! Individuals read the Prologue from the Gospel of St. John in several languages besides English, including Latin, Greek, maybe Japanese and Ethiopian(?) since they had parishioners from those countries, and probably a couple others. I also knew about antidoron, the blessed bread given out instead of or in addition to Communion, but I was still very self-conscious about it, being non-Orthodox! And while everyone else, male and female, kissed Fr. Ted in jubilant greeting after the services, I just shook his hand! Everyone greeted each other with “Christ is Risen!” and responded “Indeed He is Risen!,” but again the “Unprogrammed” Quaker [it’s used as a semi-official designation], I resisted joining in that! Then there was a social in the basement, with parishioners’ Easter baskets including things they’d given up for the Great Fast (including beer), first blessed by Father.

Pascha is probably the best time to visit an Orthodox parish if you have the time and energy, although if you’re just looking to be impressed, the rest of the year might seem anticlimactic until it becomes more part of your life. I still wish the Pascha Season, 40 or 50 days, was longer, both for theological and emotional reasons (I really love this Paschal Troparion [page 1 of this PDF], my favorite Orthodox piece of music!). Christmas, too! Oh well….

I’ve only made it to Pascha one other time because of my health, 5 years ago as it happens, by which time I was seriously considering converting. This was at St. Herman of Alaska (OCA) in Delaware County, just west of Philadelphia. Actually this was a more ‘whole’ experience, taking-in Lamentations Matins* on Great Friday night, Pascha late Saturday night, and Bright Monday morning Liturgy. I didn’t know quite what to make of the Lamentations then, but Pascha again was extremely festive, the choir and congregation sang great, I learned this infectious Carpatho-Russian folk-chant setting of the Paschal Troparion (MP3 – it sounds ‘prettier’ sung by women!), and folks were very welcoming (some of whom have gone on to launch a mission in the next county over). The only reason I didn’t join St. Herman’s is that I felt I should join a parish closer to me, in case I needed to be visited at home.

(*–If you missed it last night, the Lamentation Matins texts [PDF] are chock full of references and allusions to God’s Energies, Light, power, incorruption, etc. It was great even just reading/praying it at home, since my health prevented me from attending.)

“Interactive worship”
Participatory worship
“Call/Response”
“Sacred Ritual”
Early Church
“Embodied worship”
“Wisdom of the ages”
“Worship Resources”

Working their way to Orthodoxy?
Maybe the universe does bend towards justice!
Seriously, maybe there’s something true about Orthodoxy after all, very human while very Divine, even very human because very Divine.

This just in from The AP. (Link may break.)

(“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean nobody’s out to get you!!!” You saw it here first!)