I pray that none will take offense at this post. It is the way of some (like the hobbits and the English) to make light of serious matters and to give light matters excessive dignity. This is a case of the former. – Fr. Anthony
Like all priests, I love the Divine Liturgy. Not just the Mystery that is at its core. Not just its role in affirming and spreading order in the midst of chaos. Not just the way its rituals train and perfect our guts. Not just the beauty of its music and fellowship. I love all these things and more, but today I want to talk about how much I love its words. No, not the way they perfectly describe the Deeper Magic that is evoked through its communal recitation…
No, today I want to share my love of the bits of it that make the child in me smile.
I have no doubt that most priests are so self-disciplined that such things do not even register with them. I’m not. I notice these things and allow them to distract a small part of mind for the moment it takes to acknowledge them … and smile.
What sorts of things?
I’ll start with one of the most obvious. It’s one that Khouria Frederica Mathews-Green noted in her wonderful “12 Things I’d Wish I’d Known“. It’s when we say; “Let us complete our prayer to the Lord” in the Litany that comes after after the Great Entrance (you know, the Litany that happens when the service still has another good 30 minutes left!). It makes me smile because of the way it witnesses to the way time works differently in the presence of our Lord, the way it tempts people to look at their phones, and the way the Liturgy defies attempts to be shortened to accommodate our decreased attention spans (and commitment to anything but our own entertainment).
The next smiley bit actually comes a few minutes before that one, but it is very similar. It’s when (at least in traditions that have not removed them) we have just gone through the Triple Litany (Fervent Supplication), the Litany of the Departed (although I don’t pray do this one on Sundays), the Litany of the Catechumens, and the First Litany of the Faithful, and then we say; “again and again” … again! If I weren’t such a strong-willed priest, it would crack me up every time. As it is, it just makes me smile. Again and again (i.e. it never gets old).
I’ll skip quickly over praying for a specific ancestral homeland, Ukraine, that neither I nor half of the people I serve have any familial ties to (don’t worry this – like all of them – makes me smile in a a good way; I am reminded how we are all one nation in Christ and how the Ukrainians have opened their hearts and church home to me, my family, and so many others who were in search of a spiritual home).
Ditto for the many times I get to offer and receive blessings etc. while facing the people I love and serve (my favorite is “Let us love one another so that with one mind we may confess (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…)” I’m sure I have a goofy grin on my face when I face the people during these times (yes, I know; “IS OUTRAGE!”). Even if I don’t, my mind – to include my heart, my brain, and my reigns – certainly does.
And ditto for how strange it seemed when I lived in Rhode Island to pray for “seasonable weather” in the middle of the winter (especially in the winter of 2014-2015 when our prayers were particularly effective!).
Let me finish with the one that I (despite my superficial goofiness) barely allow to register; the time is just too sacred to allow for frivolities, even for the least disciplined. It’s during the first part of the anaphora when we say; “For You, O God, are ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, existing forever, forever the same, You and Your only-begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit.” Perhaps when I am older and wiser and have more self control, it will no longer be Vizzini’s voice that says “Inconceivable”, and perhaps I’ll be able to avoid going down the rabbit trail where Inigo Montoya actually defends the word and points out that its apophatic prefix moves us up the mountain of understanding … and wonders (again in Inigo Montoya’s voice) whether any of the early Church Father’s actually used a silent anaphora before the current anaphoras were made the inviolable norm (and for good reason, it would seem!).
Yes, I love the Divine Liturgy.
Marco Giorgi says
A liturgy with Vizzini as first priest should be amazing. Our italian dubbing made Vizzini a Sicilian, with a strong “mafia” accent. Incomparable
Deacon Nicholas says
Amen and amen, Father Anthony. When intoning the litanies as the deacon, I have to keep stray thoughts out, like the difference between “seasonable” and “favorable” weather–as you note, they ain’t the same in many parts.
Another incongruity, at least in the way we serve in our parish (OCA – Romanian), occurs after the reader and choir complete the prokeimenon. I say “Wisdom,” the reader announces the reading (epistle or Acts), then I say “Let us attend!” You know, time to pay attention! So then I proceed to often a distraction to everyone as I cense the altar, then the iconostasis, trying to cense in “silent mode” so the bells don’t chime (very much) while the reading is still going on. I know this censing is for the proclaiming of the Gospel to follow, and why (because of the historical shortening of the Psalm verses before the alleluia), there’s not time to do it other than during the Epistle, but it still makes me smile. “Pay attention,” while I swing this hot coal on a chain with bells while walking around.
Wouldn’t you say, though, that most of the smiles come from the altar boys and their antics? Perhaps a whole ‘nother discussion….
Deacon Nicholas says
sorry, should be “to offer a distraction”–unintentionally, of course…..
Fr. Anthony Perkins says
Ooooh – that is a good one. Now I’ll be smiling then, too!