Sorry for getting this post up so terribly late. I try to get something written daily, but the many joys of traveling.
Today I had the distinct privilege of worshiping with a community while traveling. Being an Orthodox Christian, I can rejoice in that I can fully enter into the spirit of the Liturgy when I worship with other Orthodox Christians notwithstanding the particular local features that color the services. Most of the time, the differences between Orthodox communities tend to be merely cosmetic. Sometimes the differences can be significant, something I have encountered when I visit Western Rite Orthodox Christian parishes. Occasionally, I stumble across a difference that is truly an incredible witness of the character of the Church.
Today was one of those cases where I encountered the sublime. And today’s observation relates to the Gospel reading where we see Christ honor the faith of the centurion. The centurion was a man who understood authority, as one under an authority that placed others under the centurion’s authority. Moreover, the centurion recognized that Christ is the source of authority and, as such, is the supreme authority.
Authority requires submission and patience. And today at Liturgy I encountered an incredibly moving example owing to a local practice during the Great Entrance. Orthodox parishes always have local variation. Differences are just different. The Great Entrance is so named because during the Great Entrance the priests bring the bread and the wine in procession to the altar. Additionally, the Great Entrance maps in the story of the Gospel to Christ’s triumphal entry in Jerusalem. At the original triumphal entry, the people shouted “Hosanna!” and threw their coats before Christ to cover the ground where He was to walk. But today, I encountered a parish that featured submission, patience, and blessing.
The local practice of this parish is that people near the aisles will occasionally kneel while they wait for the procession to pass. I found myself a little bemused when I saw it because so few people knelt. Moreover the parish had pews that made kneeling difficult. But still the people knelt. When the procession reached me, I saw what was happening: the priest carrying the chalice that would soon play host to the Precious Body and Blood of Christ reached out with that chalice to bless the people who waited for Christ to pass by in prayerful, hopeful silence.
Needless to say, the Great Entrance took a little while longer than is typical. Moreover, you had to know of the practice to sit in the right place to stand a chance of being in the right place at the right time. But, nonetheless, it was an absolutely beautiful recollection of Christ our true God who always would tend to the needs of the crowd. Additionally, it provided a fantastic image of an attitude to steward in my own heart.