Friday, June 27, 2008

2008 Orthodox Conference, Erie, Pennsylvania, Part 2

The Iconostasis of the Church of the Nativity, during a Vigil

Before I move on to talk about other aspects of the conference, I should make a few additional comments about the practices of the parish in Erie which are different from the more common Russian practice.

In the Old Rite, prostrations are made at very specific points in the service, and are unfailingly done by everyone at those points, and are not done at other points. Everyone makes them together. They have a small prayer mat that is about the size of a large pot holder, and is called a podruchnik. When they make a prostration, they toss this mat to the floor, with the decorated side up, plant their hands on it, and make the prostration with their forehead touching the mat. This keeps their hand, with which they make the sign of the cross, from touching the floor. As they rise, they pick up the mat, fold it, and set it aside, or tuck it into their belt. They do all this with such a smooth flowing motion, that I was hesitant to even try it at first, but parishioners would offer me a podruchnik, and so eventually I did use it, though not with the grace of those more use to it.

Also, while standing during the services, the Old Rite practice is to cross your arms across your chest, with your hands tucked under your arms. This is another one of those things you have to see, but you can see a picture of it here.

A lestovka, which is an Old Rite form of the prayer rope

Another very positive thing you see in the services is the participation of the youth. You see small boys tending to the lamps, or serving in the altar. Young ladies reading the Psalter, or singing in the choir. There seems to be a very intentional plan of getting as many young people involved as possible. In fact the number of people in general you see actively involved in making the services happen in one way or another is very impressive. This is the way you keep a parish alive. Many bells went off for me during this conference, such as this one.

Click here to see the Pantocrator icon, with the surrounding icons on the ceiling.

Aside from Saturday evening, and Sunday morning, there was a daily cycle of services throughout the conference. At 5:45 a.m., they did Matins. At 8:15 a.m., the Hours and Divine Liturgy, and then at 4:30 p.m., they did Vespers. These services had a way of drawing the conference attendees into the life of the parish, unlike any conference I have previously attended.

To be continued