I attended the service of Great and Holy Thursday Evening by myself. If ever there was a question of the Orthodox church being "bible believing" this service should settle it once and for all. I don't think I've ever been as immersed in scripture in one sitting as I was this evening during the chanting of the twelve Gospel readings of the Holy Passion of Jesus Christ. And if its fundamental bible truths you want, well then, look no further. It doesn't get more fundamental than the Gospel proclaimed loudly and long. The Orthodox Holy Week is proving to be one beautiful service after another, leading the believer right through the passion of Christ, the betrayal of Christ by Judas, the mourning and comforting of Mary - it's all packed in there complete with incense and processions and enough personal reflection to keep a mind mulling things over until the next Great Lent.
After the service, Fr. Greg was busied with taking down the altar and the iconostasis to stash it away in our closet and the rest of us were sitting at the table chatting. More specifically, I was getting some more last minute instructions on the packing of a Pascha basket. Suddenly, Fr. Greg stopped what he was doing, strode over to the table and stared off in my direction in what Tad terms as his Rasputin-esque look (not all that familiar with Russian history, I will just say that he can appear to have a startlingly piercing look in his eyes at times - this being one of those times). The he announced in a loud voice "Mary!" to which we all stopped and looked wonderingly at each other, not sure of what vice or ignorance I was about to be cured. He continued on with an explanation of the Levitical priesthood and the priest's duties during the high holy feast of Yom Kippur during which time the priest would enter the holy of holies to sprinkle the altar with the blood of atonement. Should he do anything wrong, he would be immediately struck dead and so a string was tied to him in order to pull him out from behind the curtain of the temple without anyone else needlessly entering the holy of holies. None of this was new information to me and I wondered what in the world made this all so important that he had to stop everything and tell me about it. Then he went on to say, "And so, in order for those outside the curtain to tell if the priest was still alive and performing his duties, bells would be sewn to his vestments...Thus, the bells on Vladyka's vestments."
It all suddenly came clear that he was simply responding to my earlier blog post about the bishop's visits and one of the many questions I had raised in that post. Fr. Greg then went on to explain further, "I spoke with the bishop and he said to me, 'You be sure to answer all her questions.'" So not only did the bishop read my blog before his visit, but apparently he's continuing to check up on me....No pressure here on this catechumen...so, bishop, rest assured that Fr. Greg is taking good care of us and our questions!