Last Sunday we had the rare occasion to have church canceled due to Fr. Greg's health. We enjoyed sleeping in a bit then went through the morning prayers together but it was a particularly disappointing occasion since we had been looking forward to our first celebration of the Triumph of Orthodoxy. We knew we were going to have to borrow some icons from church since we only have a small handful in the house but we wanted the children to at least experience processing with an icon and learning a bit of the Orthodox history. We had waffled a bit about going to a Pan-Orthodox Service in the evening but that was clinched when we found out we'd be missing out on our local celebration. So that evening we filled the van and drove about an hour south. We arrived a little late and ended up finding enough seats for all of us (sort of - we were still in two rows) right up front. This turned out to a be a real blessing since the children got an up-close look at the goings on.
There were about a dozen priests and a couple of deacons on the altar from many different jurisdictions. I didn't realize the import of this until afterwards when the hosting priest took the time to introduce each priest individually. There were representatives there from at least the Greek, Russian and Antiochian jurisdictions and others we can't remember. Of course, the Ukrainians would have been represented had Fr. Greg felt a bit better. The highlight was seeing each priest process around the perimeter of the church with their icons in hand. The procession was led by a couple of alter servers bearing candles and two altar servers carrying ornately decorated circular icons on poles - they looked quite a bit like iconopops to me but what do I know. I have to admit, though, that when I saw the back side of them as the procession climbed back up onto the altar I was literally left breathless at the cherubim pictured on the backs. The Orthodox think of everything.
One of these days I'm going to go to one of these services and not be either exhausted beyond myself or distracted by children for more than half the service so I'll eventually have a much better grasp of what is going on. But for this service I did gain a general sense of being surrounded by the great saints of the faith. When I saw those cherubim I knew something Heavenly and Holy was at play in the universe and I was awed and humbled to be a small part of it. The priests almost looked childlike as they carried their church's patron saints around in the procession. Their faces showed their love for the service and their gratitude that Orthodoxy and her icons have survived the trials of history.
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