Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Great Ultimate Pre-fast Fridge Purge

Tomorrow the Dormition Fast begins.  For fourteen days we engage in a spiritual struggle to purify our souls to achieve the understanding that the Holy Mother of God had of God, of wholesale dedication to the Lord's will.

In the average American Orthodox household, this typically involves the end of summer/pre-school deep freeze and refrigerator cleanse.  We have disposed of all kinds of fragrant, non-fasting foods this past weekend, and we have been on a veritable chicken breast and mashed potato binge.  Aside from cheese and butter, which will be fine for the next two weeks, we have just some plain, non-fat yogurt left, and I suspect that we will put a hefty dent in that today, for tomorrow, we fast!

Sitting in church

Before I began serving in the altar at Holy Trinity, when I was tired, I would sit, usually on the floor, during the Divine Liturgy.  After I began serving, Fr. Vladimir would not let me sit.  He told me something that I've never forgotten, and often heard repeated: "You cannot sit in church unless you are a bishop, or old, or sick, or pregnant."

Then he added "You are not a bishop, you are not old, and you are not pregnant.  If you are too sick to stand, you should not be in church."

Services at Holy Cross

Every Friday, more or less, we serve reader's vespers at the Holy Cross Mission in Hattiesburg.  Currently, we are blessed to use the chapel behind Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Hattiesburg for our services.

Thanks to the particular history of Christianity, liturgically our day begins with Vespers, so for purposes of the Typikon, Friday evening is actually Saturday, for the evening and the morning were the third day.  Saturday is the day of the week that the church commemorates the departed and the martyrs, and Vespers has a substantial amount of movable texts, so we take our movable texts from the Octoechos for the Holy Martyrs.

The Octoechos is also known as the Book of Eight Tones/Songs.  Each of the modal tones has a unique setting in the Russian rendering, which we use and which I grew up with.  The Tones change in ascending order from week to week, beginning with the Vesperal service on Saturday evening.  However, for convenience, the official Tones of Holy Cross are Tone Four and Tone Five.  These tones are the most melodic and the easiest to sing, and thus favored by choirs everywhere.

Most of our music comes from two sites:




On serving in the altar, part 1

In the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), boys age five are permitted to serve in the altar.  Part of this is practical self-defense; five year old boys are fidgety monsters who tug on their parents' hands and say "What's that?" way too often in church.  Additionally, if you don't get boys into the altar young, they become averse to wearing golden, white, green, blue, purple, red, or black dresses as they hit age 7 or 8.

Shortly after my fifth birthday, I found myself serving in the altar of Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at its old location near downtown.  Fr. Vladimir was the priest assigned to the parish.  He was the priest that baptized me and my sister.  He was an enormous, elderly, stereotypically Russian priest; bluff, bearded, bellicose, bellowing, beloved.  My first day in vestments, I nearly tripped him while he was censing the altar table before the Gospel.

It's not as if the area behind the iconostasis was small.  It measured about 14 feet by 32 feet.  I just didn't know yet where the priest traveled while censing.  But I learned quickly.  My cousin Paul, who together with his family still attends Holy Trinity, was serving that day as well.

Needless to say, my training became a little more intentional following that incident.

Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace...

Thank God for the tubes of the internets.  This is my first blog focused on my faith.  My name is Alexander Ignatiev, and I am an Orthodox Christian member of Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church in McComb, Mississippi.  I live in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, with Official Wife(TM) Tina, and Official Dogs(TM) Ozzie and  Birdie, and Official Cats(TM) Kitteh, Whisky, Trotsky, and Beansidhe.  Together with about a dozen regulars, we have a small mission church, Holy Cross, which serves Divine Liturgy one Saturday a month and Reader's Vespers every Friday.

We are blessed to have Fr. Benedict Crawford as the full-time priest at Christ the Saviour, and as our priest at Holy Cross.  In this blog I hope to discuss the state of the Orthodox Church in Mississippi and the Deep South, and speak about my personal Orthodox journey.  I have spent my entire life in the Church, and most of my youth I was an altar server, beginning at age five in a ROCOR parish in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

I have sung in the choirs of churches belonging to four different Orthodox jurisdictions in America, and served in the altars of those four jurisdictions.  I have served at hierarchical liturgies, and reader's vespers alone.  I have been taught to be a reader by Archbishop Alypy (Gamanovich) of Chicago (ROCOR) but have never been tonsured.  I am married to an American Christian woman whose faith is the faith of Oliver Cromwell, but who appreciates my spiritual discipline and the fasting and prayer rules of the Orthodox faith.

This is my blog.