Showing posts from March, 2020

What to Do in Place of Liturgy

I have never used Typica so much as I am now, that is, now that we are quarantined away from church due to the CoronaVirus. The Typica service, in the same way as Small Compline is more appropriate for use at home than Vespers , is not a Liturgy replacement. It developed as its own service to be celebrated by those who are distant from clergy, without a choir, and without any additional resources to do a service. Not only it is the appropriate service to serve when you cannot go to Liturgy, it is perfect for our self-quarantined, isolated situation. So, if you would have normally gone to Liturgy on a Sunday morning or a feast, but are not able (like if you were quarantined at home due to a pandemic or something), this is what is usually used. It is formatted so that you can print it out, two-sided, and fold it into your own Typica booklet. If you want to take it a step further, you could staple it (but only if you have a really long stapler) or sew/tie it together. I sewed it.

Bp Alexis Clarifies the Call of the CoronaVirus

This is the full reflection from His Grace Bishop Alexis, recently posted on the OCA website. Just like with Father Zacharias's word of consolation , I will post the full text with highlights of the major points. My hope is to whet your appetite enough to read the full text. Some Thoughts on the Crisis and the Call of the Corona Virus: A Reflection by His Grace Bishop Alexis of Bethesda The Bishops of the Holy Orthodox Church love their flocks and ever strive to lead them to well-watered and rich pastures. They care for them, body and soul. In so doing, they are following their Master Christ who not only “cast out unclean spirits,” but also healed “all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” (Matthew 10:1). In the Gospels, we see that Christ sometimes treated the soul first and the body second; at other times, the body first and the soul second. In the presence of the highly contagious and potentially lethal corona virus, the Bishops’ concern is for

Liturgy Is a Prayer for the Whole World

I received an e-mail from my parish back in Oregon with information from Archbishop Benjamin about how to proceed in these days of quarantine as we move ever closer to the pinnacle of the entire Church year: Great and Holy Pascha. One of the most important aspects of this letter is the fact that the diocese has a plan in place; that face, in itself, is reassuring, especially in these times of ever-changing situations. However, what I would like to focus on is a spiritual reminder he gives us all. On Behalf of All, and for All " The Sunday Liturgies will be offered, behind locked doors, 'on behalf of all, and for all.'" That is no trite reference to Liturgy. Truly, the Holy Eucharist is consecrated for all of us. From the beginning of this quarantine, when many churches were forced to close their doors, I noticed bishops allowing monastic communities to continue services. Not only was that partially necessary because the monastic communities live at the monastery, b

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 e

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 quar ters in a dollar, four quar ts 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 duri

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

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

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

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

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,

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

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 d

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

How to Pray an Akathist or Canon at Home

I will admit it: I want to pray something at home to "replace" a service at church that I cannot attend, but it is hard. I am scared of how long it will take. It is harder to think about 45 minutes of prayer at home than it is to go to church and pray for that same 45 minutes. If it is any encouragement, I offer this... First, it does not have to be 45 minutes. Second, if it is, all the more grace you receive for toughing it out. Here are some examples of what can be done, probably only needing your prayer book: A Vespers service that you usually attend at church can very appropriately be replaced with Small Compline, since that is also an evening service, and that is easy to just read straight through in the prayer book. You could also read one of the akathists or canons available in the back of your prayer book. Those can be prayed by themselves, if you are not too liturgically adventurous, and that is fine. It is prayer! If you want to put a canon or akathist into

Orthodox Prayers when We Can't Go to Church

How do I adjust my prayers when I cannot attend church like normal? Here is how we have adjusted our "prayer rule" here in my house, at least, for now. Our normal prayer rule as a family remains unchanged. And, for us, that is basically a shortened version of the morning and evening prayers, but that could be whatever is normal for you. Then, all the times we would have gone to church, we replace with something "extra" at home.  That "extra" could be just about anything, but I would suggest something simple that you could read straight out of the prayer book. That is what we have done, for the most part. If you want more details, feel free to read the next post with more detailed information of how to do those "extra" prayer services at home . The basic idea of what we have done is to... Keep a regular, daily prayer rule. Replace a missed service at church with something at home. Ok...I do have one last thought:  keep the scheduled t

Spiritual Response to CoronaVirus Self-Quarantine

In these days of isolation, my family here, like many Orthodox Christians around the country, is more cut off from church, and we are still adjusting to what we should do in response. Our prayer rule is most certainly changing, and though I will speak more specifically about this in tomorrow's post, we are mainly trying to keep our normal church schedule (whenever we would normally be going to church) here at home. Here is mainly why I write, though: I received a note last night from our spiritual father addressing these days of no church gatherings, and hope you will find it as encouraging as I did: And dear Father, I know this is a time of difficulty for all the clergy. Like the Apostles, you now find yourself locked up, away from the broader community of the Church, just relying on Christ...but relying on Christ alone is always a good place to be . Your little home is your little your ark, your little Church, your little Jerusalem in a darkened world.   Do your best to profi

Using Your Prayer Book to Survive CoronaVirus

As restrictions on attending church continue to rise, the faithful will be increasingly reliant on their own prayer at home. Having limited or no access to Holy Communion is a huge blow to suffer, but there is a precedent to which we can look to gain inspiration as to how we should proceed from here. It is a little early, yet, to be speaking of St. Mary of Egypt; her Sunday of Lent is still three weeks away. However, her life is commonly read at Vigil the preceding night, and thus, many of us are well-acquainted with her story. In particular, we should notice how the two saints mentioned in the life, St. Mary herself and Abba Zosimas, both had "restrictions" on their access to Holy Communion, too. St. Mary's was quite extreme, for having gone off into the desert, she lived forty-seven years outside of all communion any another person—excepting the persons of angels and the person of Christ himself. Abba Zosimas and the monks of his monastery are probably a better exa

Iconoclasm in Modern America

Could we say that iconoclasm is alive and well in modern America? Are there Catholics or Protestants in a rush to root out inappropriate images of saints and destroy them? Not really—though we could certainly get that impression from slightly-too-zealous anti-Protestant Orthodox Christians. And if I found myself making a case that my Protestant or Catholics friends and family were actually iconoclasts, I would lay most of the blame on myself for trying to make myself out as a victim and martyr. Now, I must say that most of the Protestants I know certainly are not comfortable with icons; they would not even dream of using icons in any way beyond possibly just religious decoration. Catholics? Well, I know a lot less, but I can say that one of my Catholic friends gave me an icon, which he bought at a Catholic retreat. He did not have a problem with icons, and evidently having an icon vender at a diocesan-sanctioned retreat was acceptable. Uncomfortableness or lack of use does not make

Context Surrounding the Rise of Iconoclasm

This past Sunday, the first Sunday of Great Lent, we celebrated the Triumph of Orthodoxy, which (to state in an overly simplified way) is the restoration of the use of icons. With that in mind, I will post a couple of articles about the Iconoclasm movement which brought about the controversy. “History makes no sharp turns.” That is what my history professor back in college would say over and over. Just as with everything else in the quest to understand history, the story of the struggle over the use of icons in the Church is wrapped up in a tangled web of issues which delve into the spiritual, practical, political, monetary, military, cultural, linguistic, and class issues of the time. Though I will not treat of these issues at any depth, and you will undoubtedly be able to question some of the statements I make, a few of the issues involved in the Iconoclasm crisis of the 8th century in the Christian east have have some overarching themes which will help us to understand the strug

The Psalter in Clean Week Services Here

Clean Week is quite an adventure here at St. Tikhon's. The intention of Clean Week is to start Great Lent well, with your utmost effort. Part of that adventure here at St. Tikhon's is the full cycle of services, including the reading of all the kathismas (or the "sections") of the Psalter. That means, we heard the whole Psalter twice through, with extra doses of Psalm 119 (118), since it is read, in its entirety, during Midnight Office. I was surprised by the Psalter we used. We used an in-house, monastery-use-only version. It is in a draft form, so much so that many of the psalms had never been used in church before this past week. And it got me to thinking about Psalter translations all over again. There are not a lot of English Psalters using the Septuagint (LXX) out there. The one from Holy Transfiguration Monastery (HTM) is the most common to see used in Orthodox churches, in my experience. I know there is also one from Holy Trinity Publications in Jordanvill

How David Sought God's Will

How did David so clearly discern God's will? We might assume an audible voice, but there seems to be a clue into a slightly different manner of communication with God that we might not have thought of. In 1 Kingdoms 23 (1 Samuel), Saul had just wiped out the family of Abimelech for giving David the showbread, that is, aiding the "enemy". Abimelech's son, Abiathar, escapes and finds refuge with David, with an ephod. The writer makes clear that Abiathar, a Levite, a priest, had the ephod. We read of David discerning, early in the chapter, whether he should go attack the Philistines to save the city of Keilah. Soon afterward, David finds out Saul is coming for him, and David needs to know what to do. He says to Abiathar: "Bring the ephod of the Lord ." I wondered if it was the ephod which held the Urim and Thummim, the lots used in the Temple to find the Lord's will or judgment in a matter. I had to look it up, but the Urim and Thummim are actually