Our little church group has been exploring Orthodox Christianity for more than a couple of years, and we’ve done our own priestless services for a while, with occasional visits to other communities, or by a priest when he was in the area. It’s only really been since the end of July (maybe even the beginning of August) where we’ve been able to go to the full priest-y service, a couple of times a month.
So between kid-wrangling, and trying to sing the right notes, there’s things I’m really starting to notice, in the experience.
Something that’s particularly struck me the last couple of times, has to do with the interplay between who’s doing what. And there’s a lot of what being done. There’s responsive prayers, there’s songs the choir sings, there’s a couple of declarations the people make. And the movements in and out of the altar area: with the gospel book, with the covered bread and wine.
There’s prayers said aloud, so that the congregation can give the Amen. And there’s some that are said quietly, that the congregation generally don’t hear, and perhaps the end of it might be said loudly. And some that the choir sings over.
The impression this has been reinforcing on me, is that, while the service is ultimately for our benefit (bringing us Jesus, particularly in the Gospel and the chalice), we’re not the focus. And while, in other Christian traditions I’ve been part of, or just visited, I wouldn’t have really considered the service or the songs to be “about me” (though, towards the end, some of the songs ended up feeling that way), the Orthodox service is radically and emphatically not about me.
And yet, “for us men and for our salvation”. Not about me, or to me, but still for me. A balance, an emphasis in one direction but not to the exclusion of another. And, like I said, interplay
Interesting. And something I’m liking.