Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | February 2, 2011

Perils of Weekday Liturgies

Okay. Today’s or possibly tonight’s weather made liturgy for many something of a whether for many folks. “Folks, you’re not helping.” Ah… but helping with what? That’s a good question.

After many years of straddling and pondering, I’ve finally begun a transition toward the Eastern liturgy. No surprises and no hiding? Well, I’ve been won over. An Orthodox journey that began in the Western Rite some five years ago this May is still inching along. Only now it’s inching toward the Liturgy of St. John… and all that music that strained my ears five years ago somehow seems at home (and a preference). Seems as well that the mystery of the Rite has overcome the unfamiliarity to win me over as well. The mystery of just what the heck is going on… and where are we now… just seems rather appropriate. Kind of like a liturgical stammer. One of my buddies who’s served in both calls the ER “chaos” (from an acolyte’s point of view), but I find it refreshing.

Stay long in a Western Rite parish, and you end up doing so many things and serving in so many places, first thing you know you’re bound to think you’re important. I don’t need that here. And it’s not that I want to be anonymous, it’s that I don’t want to see myself. I can do that at home. I come to Church to see and to worship the one in three persons, to love Christ and his people. The rest gets in the way.

There’ll be time to be doing things again, but in a different way perhaps. Something offered invisibly if I’m lucky enough to have more Life in my parish life. Please understand that my WR parish is a beautiful and wonderful place and that I love my priest and I have had more life there than in all my other years in worship prior to becoming Orthodox. Pulling away remains something that will transpire over many, many months. I have been very happy there, and I still have my duties… and they are still needed. I would worry what will happen, but I also know that God will provide. He always does.  But for now, it’s only the evening and odd services that I’m blessed to experience in the Liturgies of St. John and St. Basil… but you gotta start somewhere. It makes my wife happy that I’m no longer in a bad section of town late at night… and making her happy as well as enjoying a liturgy I love makes me happy, too. It was a New Year’s resolution… and I have the blessing of both priests. And in truth, no one likes these things… but they are what they are. Sheep move sheepishly from time to time.

Maybe what happens is simply like those ghostwritten letters from the Captain that Priscilla finally turns and says, “Speak for yourself, John.” Ah… maybe. And there does come a time when city parking, parking tickets, police “activity”, a long commute, and the sense that what you want folks to “Come and See” is elsewhere… leads you to wonder how can you not put these pieces together and follow your heart? Duty still beckons, and loyalty as well. There is joy and sadness at the same time. But the time will and is coming.

And yet tonight, alone with about ten other souls braving what turned out to be the non-weather (at least through the end of the service), I found the downside of these things: No place to hide either. Yep. As the Deacon does his thing, I realized that all those East versus West differences… without all those folks around me to provide cover, reminders, etc. I’d better work my way to the back of the line. Of course the problem at the back is that you can’t see what the folks up front are doing. So I did it wrong! Actually… I liked that. No, not being wrong… but the “not knowing” bit. Somehow, it does just seems right. And it gives me something to work on without having to make it up. I’ve got the basics I think… it’s just I do all the little things wrong: WR – crossing your arms means you don’t want to take communion but want a blessing; ER – it’s the reverse, though I’m not sure whether the priest can actually put down all the gear and do a blessing quite as easily. And then there’s the veneration of the cross: Kiss the cross then the hand… I think… or maybe it’s the reverse.

Well, standards in my house being rather on the low side, if no one died, then you did okay. I’m still here, and no one died, but I can still do better. 🙂

And then just to parallel the ambiguities and differences bit, we watched an old “Henry VIII” movie on TCM. That a good fat Henry makes you really appreciate democracy warts and all is “DUH”. More amusing was the way Henry queries his subjects on whether he should marry again after the latest Missus offs herself.

“Should I marry again? What do my people want?”
“The people believe you should marry again to a man.”

To which I say I guess the Dixie Chicks had it right: “There’s your trouble!” No wonder he killed so many women! What can I say? These English… I mean who else could come up with a language where neither inflection nor phrasing can change the meaning as much as time and context.


  1. It is scary when the ER becomes second nature… but whenever I think that has happened we get a visiting priest or a Bishop’s visit and everything is new. Definitely keeps you on your toes… er, feet.

  2. “Stay long in a Western Rite parish, and you end up doing so many things and serving in so many places, first thing you know you’re bound to think you’re important.”


    “and the sense that what you want folks to “Come and See” is elsewhere leads you to wonder how can you not put these pieces together and follow your heart? Duty still beckons, and loyalty as well….”

    especially would like to hear more about these; and did I fall asleep at the wheel, miss a few beats somewhere-has this been simmering for awhile; even when you are at your most obtuse… I don’t remember or didn’t discern a struggling with the rites anywhere.

    btw, thanks for keeping the link up to my blog;despite it’s lack of activity, ‘activity’ is really off the charts…something’s always on the tip of my tongue, almost like a Word, but it’s not any language that I understand right now. It may be I wil write no more forever, but that’s not my current intention.

    • Isabel: Thank you for your comment. Nah you didn’t fall asleep. I’ve tried to keep these things under the radar screen. Why share the confusion? Let me rephrase that: Why share this particular sort of confusion prior to reaching a point of resolve? That said, I abhor the chauvinism that seems to characterize much discussion between the merits of one and another of our Rites. Some of it is inescapable because we don’t take the care we should with language and short-cut our way through to our points without allowance that the issues may be more internal and more with the way God speaks to us in particular than something more general. I’m not sure that no matter how carefully I can approach it, that I can manage it either. I’ll surely overstate or miss something and hurt someone unnecessarily.

      Let me add that I’m sure thousands of bloggers empathize with “my lack of (posting) activity doesn’t reflect my intent…” and “there’s always something on the tip of my tongue”. Fortunately blogging isn’t an essay test on a novel we haven’t read… present examples notwithstanding ! Over the past few months, I’ve written and NOT posted about 90% of the comments I’ve started to make on other people’s blogs…. thinking… nah, I’m not really adding here. And so on rare ocassions, I am able to knock the old ego back sometimes… not enough, but sometimes. It’s hard slogging to change from “my comment on your stuff” to “my encouragement of what you’re about”. Sometimes I feel the Orthodox blogosphere has become so poisonously infected with “right worship” that we actually drop the second word… and I don’t want to be part of that.. but find my reactions too often amount to giving me pause as well: “So how does my desire for the sweetness of Orthodoxy as opposed to some of the stronger views differ from imposing my view?” Probably not much. So it becomes something of a puzzle. I think this causes many a hiatus. But yes, I did revise my “links” to eliminate the ones that aren’t there anymore… and of course I kept yours!! I love your photos! and miss your posts. From your post on Bishop Mark, I imagine you are simply revising your objectives and approach. I think as we change within to conform our spirits, this is only natural… and consistent with why we’re here.

  3. These types of transitions are always awkward at the best of times. I’m thankful for your sake that you have the blessing of both priests.

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