The Monday after...

The next several weeks should be a blur as the preparation for, and celebration of, Holy Week services begins. It's all about staying on the move and one step ahead and this can be a problem.

There is no equivalent in the Eastern Church to the "low" or spoken Mass found in the Western Rite of Orthodoxy and the Roman Church. Most Eastern liturgies seem to be a blend of the sheer duration of monasticism with the pomp of Byzantine court life and assume a Parish with all the resources to make that real even if most don't. In a large church with several Priests or Deacons and a competently staffed and led choir there is little that rivals the sheer numinous quality of the Eastern liturgies, especially at Holy Week. In a small church with no assistants and everyone just trying to hang on for the ride the usual liturgies are sometimes problematic and Holy Week moves beyond exhausting.

This coming Holy Week I will stand at the altar largely alone and through the valiant efforts of my wife and a few very dedicated lay people we will get through as best we can and make the careful adjustments needed to celebrate faithfully with the resources at hand. But I guarantee you they and I will be tired for days after Pascha. And there's a sadness in that.

One of the hardest parts about being a Priest is the lack of worship. That may seem puzzling to people who see a Priest stand at what appears to be the very center of the Liturgy. But that place is all about making sure things flow smoothly, sweating out the details, handling the glitches, and perpetually working under the master's lash of time. With assistance it may be possible to snatch moments of the holy from the flow of things but without it its mostly about rubrics. When I was learning to dance I remember missing the whole point of the dance because I was whispering the steps under my breath and I often feel that way about the Liturgy. I would like to feast on the words and have even a moment or two where I understood not just in my head but in my heart that heaven and earth were joined but there's a prayer I have to say because I don't have a Deacon and a couple of things I need to do and an altar boy jumping up and down because he forgot to go to the bathroom before the service and so any moment of transcendence, if it comes at all, rarely lasts for more than a passing moment.

Of course I can always hope for better and perhaps with time and experience I will be less tied to the rubrics and more tied to the larger picture. But roughly this time next week the services will be beginning in earnest and people, even those for whom this is the only time of year they will be in church, will have expectations. And I want them to know the resurrection and perhaps be changed as they walk with Jesus through His Passion. It really does matter, perhaps even more now than ever.

It's just kind of sad that when I was first Orthodox I couldn't wait for Pascha and now that I'm a Priest part of me can't wait for the Monday after.

1 comment:

Mimi said...

Father, bless,

It is true, we don't think of the burden on the preist. Thank you.