Tuesday, July 31, 2012

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.

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