Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Common Grace

On Sunday the 20th, we had the privilege of attending an Orthodox Church service in full; what made the service special was that Father Cristi had prepared copies of the liturgy in English for all of us.  Having the liturgy completely changed the way I experienced the service.  Instead of being something that I could not draw much from, it was transformed into an experience that deepened my appreciation and understanding of the Orthodox tradition.  The progression of litanies and antiphons (responses) was very interesting to follow because the order has obviously been refined over history of the Faith.  
The Service began with the Great Litany and Antiphons in which the Priest and Deacons prayed for various topics ranging from the people of the Church to the country as a whole.  Prayers were also said asking for mercy and testifying to the goodness of God and calling people to be attentive to the Epistle readings.  The service progressed through the Litany of Fervent Supplication, the Litany for the Deceased, and then to the Great Entrance in which the Priests came out of the back room and after censing and putting forth a prayer in reverence to God, moved on to The Petitions.  I liked the different phrases of The Petitions and especially the way it concluded with The Crede.  Finally being able to understand what was being said made me realize how remarkably similar the wording of the prayer time (and really the whole service) was to that of the Protestant services I am used to.  Then was the Holy Anaphora which included justification of the people and the Priest blessing the elements.  This was followed by the Lord's Prayer and then by Communion. The Communion process was interesting because at this particular church the Children were the first to partake, so it was good to see a younger generation being included in the deep-rooted tradition of Orthodoxy.  After Communion was a Prayer of Thanksgiving and finally the Dismissal which included phrases like "May the blessing of the Lord and His mercy come upon you through His divine grace and love always, now and forever and to the ages of ages".  Reading along with what the Priest was saying at times like this refocused my idea of what Orthodoxy by reminding me that it is not some abstract idea completely different from my own ideologies but is rather reverent and sincere religion founded in the same triune God that I have worshiped in North America.
Through our experiences with Orthodox Church here in Romania, I have also acquired a better understanding of the iconography used in Orthodoxy.  Through our talks with Priests, I have come to realize better that the kissing and use of icons is more a way for the people to show love and respect to the Saint depicted in the icon and is not as close the heresy of idolatry that I so often used to view it as.  I believe that by keeping and open mind and seeking to understand Christianity from a viewpoint different from my usual one, my faith, my appreciation for other religions, and my theological background/foundation as a whole have been fortified.  

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