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.


Anonymous Jim N. said...

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.

Why does that have to be so true?!

I'm so very happy for you Virgil. Or is it Fr. Virgil now?

12:16 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

May God Grant You Many Years!

(Are you Deacon Virgil, or did you take another ordination name?)

8:27 AM  
Blogger Virgil Petrisor said...

Thank you, both. As far as I know, Dn. [name] is the common way to address a deacon, although I have seen both Fr. Dn. [name] and Fr. [name] used. OrthodoxWiki gives a discussion of this here.

There is no new name, so Dn. Virgil it is. Although I should mention that Metr. Iakovos said in a post-ordination discussion, that, when the time comes, I will be ordained specifically with my middle name (a derivative of Peter) for the priesthood, since that is the name day I have always celebrated and I have not been able to find a St. Virgil on an Orthodox calendar.

4:48 PM  
Blogger Lissa said...

Congratulation, Deacon Virgil! I am so glad that we were able to be there to witness your ordination and support you on your journey to serve God even more intimately. Why did you stand facing the image of Christ on the wall with a towel over your head for so long? There was certainly a lot going on (although I didn't understand most of it, really) that you didn't see, and the whole ceremony was for you!

10:30 PM  

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