Friday, June 09, 2006

The Story of an Ordination - Part II

So then the time came. I was led to the middle of the royal doors and the bowl and pitcher were taken away from me. Metr. Iakovos asked if I had anything to say. I had decided that I would not read anything, so I tried to remember what I had thought about. I realized as soon as I finished speaking and Metr. Iakovos started that I had forgotten a few things, but, God willing, I'll have one more chance.

My memory of the next few minutes is somewhat fuzzy, as things all of a sudden went from a crawl to what seemed to be a frantic pace. Fr. George, Fr. Dean, Fr. Alexios and Dn. Vasilios then took turns leading me around the table, to kiss the corners of the altar table, the bishop's hand and his epigonation. The prayer followed and I cannot quite describe the mix of feelings that went through my heart and head. I felt happy, I felt unworthy, and I felt at home. Before I knew it, I was up, my vestments were cast upon me, I had the Liturgikon in my hand and...

Well, here there was a glitch. The Greek/English Liturgikon I have does not have the full set of petitions that come right after the ordination; rather it has the abbreviated set that is usually done on a Sunday in the Greek Archdiocese. So I had put together a sheet of papers with the petitions in both Greek and English (using Dn. Athanasios' cards and the Antiochian Liturgikon), and left the sheet of paper in the vicinity of said Antiochian Liturgikon. Unfortunately, I found myself holding the Antiochian Liturgikon without the sheet, which meant that I had no Greek text to go by. Thankfully, Fr. Alexios was ever alert and ran 'backstage' to hand me the paper with the petitions.

Two points to note at this moment. Metr. Iakovos prefers his deacons to enter and exit the altar through the royal gates at this point in the liturgy, so that was an unexpected element. However, this, and the rest of the liturgy - including the final preparations for the Eucharist - were made much simpler and less stressful by the clear directions of Dn. Vasilios. Needless to say, I was grateful.

I read a fair amount of Greek at first sight and I think I did alright. Then it was time for Communion. Metr. Iakovos allowed me to give communion. The first person to come was Magda. I said "The servant of God, Magdalene...", Dn. Vasilios, who was holding the cloth, completed my words: "diakonissa," and I finished "...receives the Body and Blood of Christ unto remission of sins and life everlasting." I found myself smiling almost despite myself. Needless to say, that is not something I will soon forget.

The Liturgy was soon over and Fr. Alexios greeted me with a smile: "Welcome to the ministry." All I could do was smile and give him a hug. Hristos, one of the chanters, came into the altar with one of the biggest smiles that I have ever seen, said "Axios" and hugged me before I could even say anything.

As people received the antidoron, Metr. Iakovos sent Magda and me to the middle of the church so people could greet us as they went out. We knew most of them and it was a great blessing to see them again and to have them share in our joy. Catherine was glowing, Mary was almost in tears and all I could do was thank God for these people with whom I had shared five and a half years.

And there it is, the story of my ordination to the diaconate. May our great God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, allow me to serve Him worthily and may He keep and bless the many people who have helped me get here.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Story of an Ordination - Part I

Sunday June 4, I woke up around 7am, read a few prayers by myself and a few with my wife and prepared to go to church. We left our koumbaroi's house around 8:20, picked up my in-laws and headed to St. Andrew in South Bend. I felt a couple of butterflies around the time I entered the church, but by and large, everything felt normal. The three priests who were in town that day were there early and we began Orthros. I had been undecided on whether or not I should chant for Orthros, but on the spot I decided that I would.

Metropolitan Iakovos came early, as well - he was there around the end of the six psalms and he told me to go out and continue chanting until the time came, when the priests and the deacon would call me into the altar. So Magda and I stayed and chanted for Orthros (she did a wonderful job). I chanted the Doxastikon and I should have had a pretty good idea right then that it was going to be a truly blessed day. I have improvised the melody for many hymns in my years of chanting, but I have never felt the melody flowing quite the way it did on Sunday.

At the end of the Doxastikon I was called in the altar, where I put on the hetona and waited while the metropolitan went to the bishop's throne. It was a brief time, but it was long enough to think about the past ten years and the path my life had taken. It could have been so different. I could have failed at so many points; I could have continued to refuse to come to the seminary; I could have been in so many other places. For a minute or two I was overwhelmed and nervous, just thinking about all that. Then they came to get me (I do not remember which of the clergy), they put the crystal bowl and pitcher in my hands and took me to the bishop's throne. And everything stopped.

I could barely contain a smile as I stood in front of Metropolitan Iakovos, dressed in a white cloth and holding a fairly heavy container of water. This thing that had terrified me in the past, which I had tried to avoid as I studied computer science, had come to be the only thing that would make sense. The journey on which God had taken me brought me here - not because I deserved it but because He chose me, the unworthy sinner, to serve His Church - and I felt at peace. I washed the bishop's hands, he placed the towel over my head, and I was taken to the icon of Christ.

There were many thoughts in that time - from the mundane ones that kept trying to intrude (holding a *breakable* and relatively heavy pitcher of water while under a towel will, under the best of circumstances, slow down the perceived speed of the chanters at least three times) to the sobering (with a towel overhead, most of what I saw was feet - the clergy in the altar and, most importantly, Christ's feet in the icon in front of me - the feet whose shoelaces St. John the Baptist said he was unworthy to untie, and yet, in a little while, I would be holding the body of Christ in my hand).

After the great entrance I was led to the icon of the Theotokos. On his way in, Fr. Dean - who was a picture of calm and joy throughout the entire Liturgy - made sure to ask whether I was okay. I replied in the affirmative, disregarding the one incident where I almost had the pitcher fall out of the bowl (I think the bottom of the bowl was not quite as flat on the inside as it was on the outside). The rest of the time between my transition to the icon of the Theotokos and the ordination is mostly a blur. I remember stretching my fingers to regain circulation and moving my arms which, by then, were beginning to hurt, but not much else.