Last Sunday I went to Holy Apostles Greek Orthodox Church in Indianapolis. I would go there for every liturgy if I could. As it is, they don’t have church every single Sunday yet, because they are a fledgling congregation started by a handful of Greeks who are trying to maintain their faith in a different way. I respect it. Though I can read Greek (not well), I cannot speak a lick of it. What keeps me interested in the Orthodox Church, particularly in which the liturgy is delivered predominantly in Greek? What keeps me coming back is the very old tradition, the way link it provides to the early church, and the way the ceremony of it relates to what I imagine Jewish culture to have contributed to my faith.
Sunday, I noticed a few new facets of the service that speak to me. One is the fact that even if you don’t understand what is being said, you can understand what is being said. I don’t know what the priest intones over the Eucharistic elements, but I can tell by the actions he makes that the moment is sacred and should be revered. I can tell that he is giving great respect to the wine and bread, while also making them holy. How can I tell? He bows his head and covers them with incense before proceeding with any words.
Nothing is done without incense, which brings me to another new thing I learned.Incense is very important. So important that the priest would not even mix the wine and water or bring out the bread until the incense worked. He had to light the charcoal himself because the altar helper couldn’t get it to light. Once the incense got going, the priest, Fr. John, returned to the table of elements and fragranced them in order to continue the liturgy.
The incense difficulty made me think of Saturday night when Adam and I went to Mounds State Park to a summer solstice celebration. We didn’t know when we decided to go to it that the point of the evening was to learn about the Miami Indian culture and to be spectators for their personal tribal summer solstice ceremony, which was held on the Great Mound, an ancient ceremonial mound. Before the ceremony could begin, the mound had to be fragranced with sage. The sage served two purposes: to cleanse the area and to provide a sweet smell to welcome the ancestors. I am still trying to understand the connections between sweet smells and the way they affect our ability to worship and contemplate. I do know that certain smells can instantly transport me to memories, to ideas, to experiences I have had. The smell of Greek Church is a familiar and likable place.
I love Holy Apostles because it is new and is held in the back chapel of another church. It’s young and things get messed up. Fr. John intoned that the readings came from the Gospel of Mark and they really came form Matthew. Those of you that know the liturgy know that the second most important part of the service is when the gospel enters and then is read, so messing up right there is kind of a big deal. However, Fr. John said at the beginning of his homily that sometimes mistakes happen in liturgy, because it is performed by humans. We mess up. “What is important is to keep the peace in the face of mistakes,” he said. Yeah, I agree. It’s important to keep the peace.
I am giving this vegan thing another whirl, but I am trying not to be an ass about it. I did make a fantastic pasta dish the other night: whole wheat pasta, acorn squash, tofu, a teeny bit of maple syrup, Italian spices, salt and pepper, and a teeny bit of cinnamon and clove. It was delicious. I am hoping to lose a little bit of weight by cutting back on fats and calories through not eating cheese and eggs. We’ll see how long it lasts.
I ran two miles today and it went well. My heel hurts, but I am still not sure what’s wrong with it. I don’t think it’s an achilles injury, but it could be. I can tell you that as soon as I get health insurance, I am going to get it checked out. For now, though, I am trying a new style of running that seems to help.
Food: banana, juice, smoothie (tofu, soy milk, strawberries, blueberries, wheat germ), two baby bagels with soy peanut butter, chick pea patty frozen dinner, naked PK breadsticks with pizza sauce, mango smoothie
Hey Corby, I just happened on your blog about the Greek church you are attending. Did you know that church is the one that Chris attends? Northwood Christian?
Your Mom and I discovered that awhile back when she told me she was going to Indy to a Greek church that met in the chapel of another church.
Small world huh? 🙂
Very interesting! So far, I haven’t bumped into him, though I would like to. 🙂
you should try reading A Natural History of the Senses. among other things, in her “Smell” section, i think she goes into incense…if i recall…