Friday, March 26, 2010

Annunciation: A Hierarchical Liturgy and Two Ordinations

Yesterday was a day of marathon church services rarely seen outside of a monastery or holy week. We were blessed here with a visit from Metropolitan Jonah, which was actually delayed, but nonetheless joyous. He was supposed to preside over the Presanctified Liturgy on Wednesday evening and ordain the Subdeacon Photius (Avant) to the Holy Deaconate. Then he was to hold Little Compline that evening and tonsure the Monk Christopher to the little schema, and finally preside over the the Annunciation Liturgy and ordain the Deacon Daniel (Talley) to the Holy Priesthood. His Beatitude's flight here was cancelled due to snow out West, so he did not arrive until the wee hours of Thursday morning. Because of this delay, both ordinations were done at the Thursday Liturgy and the tonsure was moved to Thursday evening. I can only imagine that His Beatitude must have been exhausted after a red-eye flight, a 2-hour Matins service, a 3-hour Liturgy, and another lengthy service for Little Compline. I, myself, did not make it to Matins or Compline. We thought the long Liturgy would be enough church time for t
he little ones.

Although there are ordinations here all the time, and I had attended a couple before coming to seminary, I have a confession to make: I've never before been able to see what was going on when we were all singing "Axios! Axios! Axios!" I guess I have Zaccheus syndrome or something. I remember standing on a chair at then-Bishop Jonah's consecration trying to see parts of the service. The thing about ordinations is that they are generally more well-attended than regular services, and I often find myself at the back of any given service taking care of my kids. This would be fine if I were tall or even of average height, but I'm not. So I sing along and sneak peeks between people when I can, and life goes on.

Somehow, the Liturgy yesterday was an exception, and I was able to see during Dn. Daniel's ordination that the priests would start singing "Axios!" after he was vested with each particular article of clothing. Cool! I know it's one of the most basic thing someone attending an ordination would know or remember, but I never saw it before. It was a glorious service (I love Annunciation anyway), and I'm thankful to have been there.

I'm sorry that I missed the tonsure yesterday evening. The Monk Christopher is now the Monk Kilian. I had to look that saint up last night on OrthodoxWiki! My husband said that, at the end of the service, when everyone went to greet him, they were instructed to do so by asking him, "What is your name, brother?" When he responded, "My name is Kilian," they were to answer, "May the Lord save you in the Angelic Schema." Wow.

Other than that the goings on around here have been: a major wind storm that knocked down hundreds of trees and caused us to be without electricity for 2 1/2 days; a round of nice, sunny weather that had all the kids on campus running around like crazy and all of us thankful to be out of doors again; a Lenten retreat in the midst of the warm weather, where Fr. Joseph Honeycut of the Orthodixie podcast was our speaker (you can listen to the talks on his AFR podcast); and, unfortunately, a cool-down in the warm weather (the high today is 39 degrees).

The little girl that I watch during the day got what they thought was tonsillitis, was prescribed amoxicillin for it, and then broke out in a rash all over her body. This was determined to be an amoxicillin allergy and lasted for several days, went away, and then was replaced by a bright red, lacy rash only on her face with no other symptoms that the doctors couldn't identify. Any moms out there have bells ringing about that description? It turned out to be Fifth Disease, which she would have been contagious with before the rash showed up and was probably what caused the symptoms that were attributed to tonsillitis. Neither of my kids seem to have gotten it, but it does pose a danger to pregnant women, especially in their first trimester, since it can be passed on to the baby in-utero and has been known to cause miscarriages. I can have a blood test to find out if I had it, but I can't really see what good that would do, since there's no treatment for it or anything anyone could do. I think leaving it in God's hands is about all that I can do. Pray for us, if you would.

Tomorrow, Lazarus Saturday, our kids will supposedly march in procession with palm branches in anticipation of Palm Sunday, so the girls are very excited. We were asked on Thursday to bring a dish to the brunch that will follow the Saturday Liturgy. Apparently this is done here every year, so no one felt the need to warn us newcomers! :) Another puzzling thing is being told that fish and dairy are acceptable inclusions in the brunch dishes, when Saturday is a caviar, wine, and oil day. I don't mean to gripe on this subject, but it always seems odd to me when the local church does not help us keep the fasts that the Church prescribes.

For the next week or so, we'll be attending services as we can and trying to figure out how Pascha is done around here. Apparently the food one brings in one's Pascha basket is not actually to be eaten at the post-service meal, which is all provided by the refectory's Chef Nat. We've seen on the community service lists that people are needed to help make pounds & pounds of Cheese Pascha and dye eggs. Does that mean we don't bring our own? We don't know. But whatever it is, it will be Pascha, and it will be glorious!!

The following week we are planning a visit to the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City, PA with another St. Vlad's family. I am really looking forward to this visit, as I have been there before alone, and have long wanted to introduce my family to the love, warmth, and peace I found there. If I don't blog again before then, Blessed Pascha to you all!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Is This Lent?

That is the question someone asked me last year when a series of traumatic things had happened in her life during the first part of Lent, and it struck me as odd because I had been so consumed with the Lenten season. It would be like asking, "Is this winter?" while surrounded by 12 inches of snow.

Now I understand, maybe, what she meant. This Lenten season has been more filled with colds than church services, nausea than fasting, and listlessness than ascesis. My father confessor told me it's just a different kind of Lent for me, and as such, it, too is a gift. So far I'm having a hard time seeing it that way, perhaps because it seems like much less of a choice than my other Lenten endeavors have been.

First, I think I may have taken on too much at the very beginning. Before my morning sickness kicked in, I volunteered to compile the student/staff directory that has been overdue since the fall AND be the "go-to girl" for the Wednesday evening potluck dinners after Pre-Sanctified Liturgy. The first was hard work, but rather quickly over. The second will continue until the end of Lent, and we're now in our second week of having no one volunteer to "host." Guess who hosts by default?

This is the second weekend (not in a row) that I've spent mostly resting or in bed. My husband has been gone both times, which shows the remarkable self-entertaining abilities of my children. They have been fantastic, but I know they can't wait for Papi to come home tonight (me either!)

Last weekend, I took my husband and older daughter (aged 4 1/2) to the subway station so they could ride into the city and see an El Greco art exhibit. Younger daughter and I stayed home, and I wasn't sure older daughter would handle it well, but she did. The exciting part of the trip (for her) was getting posters of two of El Greco's "icons." The exciting part of the trip (for me) was getting stuck in the heavy, wet snow while trying to parallel park on the street when I went to pick them up from the subway station. Believe it or not, in New York City, I was rescued by two young guys who appeared with shovels at the moment of my distress, who offered to dig me out for free. It seemed so appointed, so I let them!

The next day we visited a parish in New Jersey that had sponsored us for the St. Nicholas Project at Christmas (sent us some gifts). We wanted to thank them personally. It turns out that we were there on their priest's first Sunday back from a hospital stay, and he actually had a visiting priest celebrate the liturgy. People began recognizing us from the pictures I had sent them of the girls opening their presents, and by the time we got downstairs for coffee hour, we were literally besieged with greetings and hugs and kisses. We almost never made it to our seats! When we did, we had to move right away because the priests wanted to chat with us. I was trying to engage in that conversation while keeping one eye on our girls, but I soon found that I had nothing to worry about on that front, as friendly parishioners stepped in and talked with them, later giving them paper and markers to color with, and eventually they even played hide-and-seek with the Matushka! It was the warmest welcome we have ever received in a parish, hands down. They even had the thank-you letter and pictures I sent set up on a three-panel display board in the coffee hour hall area.

Other than that, I guess we're plodding along. Pray for me, a sinner.