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Why We Should Do Small Compline instead of Vespers at Home

We are so accustomed to going to Vespers at church, that most of us have never thought about why what service is done when. That is all we know. And now, when we cannot go to church, it would be natural to feel a need to do the same thing at home, to "go to church" home and do the same things we would have done in the church building.

But we can't do that! Almost nobody out there, besides the choir director and maybe a reader, knows how to put Vespers together. Could we learn? Sure. Are most people going to do that? No.

In the recesses of Church history, there is a point that could really help us out. There were two main avenues by which our services were developed. Keep your eye open for which of these two avenues sounds the most like our COVID-quarantined situation.

One avenue is the "cathedral rite", which primarily comes out of Constantinople and is based on the services as they were developed in the cathedral, that is, around the patriarch, near the empero…

The Meaning of Quarantine in the Lenten 40-Days

This starts out as a bit of trivia, but ends up as a timely piece of encouragement for us living in this time of quarantine. Stick with me to the end...

I found out in class today that the word quarantine comes from the word 40 in Italian (actually, I think it was first in the Venetian language, but those are both Romantic, so close enough). I checked the etymology of quarantine online, and numerous sources confirmed. But, it is obvious, if you think about it: four quarters in a dollar, four quarts in a gallon, right? You can see the 'four' in there. It comes from the days of the Bubonic Plague, where incoming ships would be quarantined, or 'do their forty-days', to help stop the spread of the Plague.

So, here is another connection to start to make this a bit more applicable to our daily lives. During Lent, almost every year (if not every year, I don't know), we celebrate the feast of the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste (9Mar). Their feast was intentionally placed during Len…

How to Celebrate Annunciation Vigil Tonight

It is the Eve of the Feast of Annunciation, the Archangel Gabriel announces to Ever-virgin Mary that she will bear a child, the Son of God. And we, restrained to our homes, will not be able to celebrate this beautiful feast in our local parish. What should we do at home?

As I have said before, there is no law or rule about how to celebrate the services at home. (At church, we should do it right, and there is great meaning in the liturgics.) Yes, there is such a thing as "readers services", and that is a great thing to do, if you have the resources to use and the experience and confidence to pull it off. For those folks: keep doin' your thing.

For the rest of us, I will propose two options: one with prayer book only, and two using the prayer book and one additional source found online.

Prayer Book Only:
Since this is the Feast of Annunciation, and the real cycle of services has additional elements to the normal Vigil, it would be fitting to add something appropriate in you…

Not Going to Kiss the Live-Streamed Icon

So, what about Orthodox services makes them incompatible with live-streaming? There are a few aspects to this, and I will not attempt to cover them all at once. So, in this article, I will focus solely on one particular reason: physical presence is essential.

I asked my kids about this, that is, I asked what would be the good and bad side of watching an Orthodox service online. Very practically, they said such things as, "you could not venerate the icons", "you could not be anointed with holy oil", and chief among them all, "you could not take the Body and Blood" of Christ at the Eucharist.

I actually gave them a bit of a hard time about all this: why could you not venerate your icons at home while watching a service on the computer? Why could you not receive anointing with some of the holy oil we have on the icon corner? And their answer makes so much sense: if you are going to venerate your own icons at home and stand in front of them and pray, why do y…

When Live-Streaming Can Work

In reading through responses to the question of whether we should live-stream Orthodox services, I was challenged by several of the questions posed to me in response. I am going to divert my attention briefly to Protestant reactions, not at all in a demeaning way, but rather to challenge Orthodox Christians to think through our decisions of how we "do church" in these days of self-quarantine and isolation, before we unwittingly miss the benefit from the struggle we have been handed.

If I asked myself, when I was a Protestant what I do when I go to church, the first answer out of my mouth would probably be "worship". If I pressed myself further and asked what else I did at church, what else is important in the service, I would have to say the sermon, so...learning or finding encouragement. And if I posed the trick question to myself, "Do you pray at church?", I would probably be taken aback and say, "Of course."

This is probably where I would go …

Sit Still in One Place

In reading some of the context surrounding St. Lupicinus of Jura's life, who was commemorated yesterday, I read an excellent passage written by Father Seraphim Rose in the introduction to Vita Patrum. In these days when we are, more or less, forced to sit still and stay in one place, this is a word from Fr. Seraphim that we can find of encouragement.
"With modern means of communication, the very ideal of losing oneself from the eyes of the world has been all but forgotten, and to live in one place for one's whole life is almost unheard of. ... If we are helpless to imitate such stability today, let us at least understand its importance: Christianity in practice, and monasticism above all, is a matter of staying in one place and struggling with all one's heart for the Kingdom of Heaven. One may be called to do the work of God elsewhere, or may be moved about by unavoidable circumstances; but without the basic and profound desire to endure everything for God in one pla…

Perfect Ending to a Downer Week

This Third Sunday of Lent is the Sunday of the Cross. I did not remember, until doing our Saturday evening "Vigil" here at home, that there is a beautiful glimpse forward to Pascha! When I picture this service, I picture prostrations; I picture almost a burial procession with the cross on a bed of flowers. There is one thing I had forgotten: in Matins, we sing the hymns from the Paschal canon... This is the day of Resurrection. Let us be illumined, O people. Pascha, the Pascha of the Lord. For from death to life and from earth to heaven has Christ our God led us, as we sing a song of victory! For "Vigil" tonight, here at home, we read Small Compline inserting the appropriate canon from the Triodion. Using Compline was a choice to stay simple, since it can be read from the prayer book with no extra resources (way easier than trying to put together Vespers). Inserting material from the Triodion is more "fancy", but I was only intending to read the canon, w…

A Case of the CoronaVirus Blues

I was just reading through some of the reactions, on Facebook, to the question I posed about live-streaming Orthodox services. I am not trying to be provocative. I am genuinely trying to struggle my way through that issue to try to figure out what about it strikes me as so wrong.

I think, in the end, what we are really suffering from is a case of the ol' CoronaVirus Blues. We are lonely. We are used to interacting with people, being out in the world, and being connected, and quite suddenly, and quite against our will, we are isolated an quarantined off. That is tough.

Of course, with the internet at our fingertips, we can easily entertain our way through this, and though we know that is not generally a great idea, it is probably the first reaction of most of us: watch a show, two movies instead of one, gaming as long as I want because there is no school tomorrow, or even endless reading of CoronaVirus news.

I know, I should pray more. This is a great opportunity to pick up my pray…

Should We Live-Stream Orthodox Services?

My first reaction to hearing of Protestant family and friends live-streaming services was somewhat emotionally detached. "I guess that is ok for them, but you could not digitally commune of the body and blood of Christ." Then, within a day or two, I started hearing of Orthodox churches streaming their services, and it has thrown me through a series of questions and thoughts about what the implications might be.

We already have all these barriers between us and God...and to be clear, the barrier is us, not him. He is everywhere present; we are rarely fully present anywhere. It is already too easy to go to church where everything is set up for prayer and for my thoughts to be everywhere but prayer.

Now, not being able to go to church, we are praying at home. Praying at home is usually going to be much more potentially distracting, if for no other reason than the church is designed to draw us into worship in every way: sight, sound, smell, touch, and even taste. Most homes do n…

Father Zacharias’s Word of Consolation for the Pandemic

Father Zacharias was supposed to speak here at St. Tikhon's tonight. So, in lieu of listening to him, I will share this recent epistle of his concerning the CoronaVirus. This is a good word. It took me a few days to finally sit down an read it, though, since I saw how long it was. So, I have bolded certain passages to help you skim a few highlights and decide if you want to read all of it.

Archimandrite Zacharias
St. John the Baptist Monastery in Essex, England

Written on 17 March 2020
St. Patrick, Bishop of Armagh, Enlightener of Ireland
St. Nicholai of Zhicha, the New Chrysostom

Part I Many people are in confusion and others panic because of the threat of the Coronavirus epidemic that spread in the whole world. I think, however, that this should not happen, for whatever God does with us, He does it out of love. The God of Christians is a good God, a God of mercy and lovingkindness, ‘Who loveth mankind’. God created us out of His goodness in order to share His life and even His glory wi…