If you remember my previous post I discussed a dream I had which preceded my visitation to the Russian Orthodox Church in Dublin. If you remember anything from that post was that part of the content of such a dream I’m late for the Liturgy. Well this morning it kinda came true because I was late for Liturgy by 15-20 minutes.
I did not know what to expect but I thought attendance would be quiet. However upon arrival I found there to be no parking spaces left for me and so I had to park directly in front of the church. I went in through a narrow door ( just like in my dream although I left that detail out in previous post ) and it opened up into a big church with no pews all standing. I shuffled my way through the crowd and found myself standing in the narthex where ancient tradition has it that it is where those not yet baptised in the faith would stand. It is also where Orthodox Christians would stand who had separated themselves from the faith somehow through sin.
Even though it is just an ancient tradition no longer strictly adhered to, I found myself standing there and unable to move forward. I wanted to be among the body of believers and to get closer but I really couldn’t do it I just had this block.
What of my experience ? Well straight away my sight, smell and and ears were engaged. The choir made up of female singers were just excellent. After 1 hour and half or thereabouts, of standing I began to feel some back pain. I noticed so many people coming and going. They would come, stand for a little bit and go outside for some air and a walk only to return and do some more worship. A lot of people lifted the burden of standing for so long by shuffling around buying candles and lighting them as well as taking a tour of the icons. You could also hear people just chatting away to each other and socialising right there in church in the midst of the Divine Liturgy. It was so relaxed yet there was also the appropriate level of decorum and discipline.
On this I decided myself to take a walk outside but listen to this and let’s admire how God orchestrates everything. I was told by other Orthodox Christians that ancient tradition was that when the Holy Gifts were presented, all Non Orthodox Christians must leave the church and return afterwards. They told me that if I do not leave when the priest makes the announcement in Russian nobody will be offended because I don’t understand Russian and that things are more relaxed these days. However having returned to the church, I peered through the narrow door before seeing Fr.Mikhail administering Holy Communion and suddenly that ancient tradition came to my mind and so I stayed put and wondered at Gods awesome ability to orchestrate that I had left and come back in when only Holy communion was finished.
What of my time in this hallway before going back in? What was I feeling? Well it was cold and lonely but I was kept warm by having a good laugh at a young boy who, having received Holy Communion rushed outside and sitting on some steps, tucked into his pastry. The Orthodox fast from midnight you see before they receive Holy Communion so this little boy obviously wasn’t waiting until he got home.
Holy communion had finished and as I peered through the narrow door and saw the priest return through the Royal doors I knew ( or at least assume ) it was ok for me to return. I didn’t feel like I was in a church but has a sense I was in someone’s home. Yes it looked like a church to my physical eyes but it felt like I was meeting at someone’s home in the spiritual sense. The Liturgy was over 2 hours long, and you would think that not knowing Russian would make attendance quite boring but I was kept entertained throughout as the singing, although in Russian, was something my soul understood, even though my intellect could not. Therefore my inability to understand Russian did not serve as a hindrance.
After the Liturgy ended I moved into the nave and began to venerate the icon of St.Seraphim of sarov. From here I moved further until I saw an icon of Christ surrounded by candles. His eyes pierced mine and I suddenly found myself becoming very emotional and tears began to stream. I wasn’t in control of it but I quickly steadied myself and then met with Fr.Mikhail. We agreed that If I continue to attend services then I could be Chrismated at Easter.
Today was the feast of the prodigal son. The reading was about the story of the boy who, having left his fathers embrace and experienced the horrible world around him, returned home to his Father.
Today I felt that embrace of my Father who, having given me this warm welcome also gave me a warm meal afterwards as Fr.Mikhails wife had made some great food for me. 😉
Fr.Mikhail took me to his library and he left me to decide books I would want to borrow. Fr.deacon Sergei came in and recommended I read “My life in Christ” by St.John of Kronstadt and “The Orthodox Church” by Timothy Ware. I have a lot of reading to do and so I will have to leave it there.
God bless and thank you for your patience.