Friday, April 25, 2008

Let Us Attend!

There's nothing quite like a good Maundy Thursday service to remind me just how out of shape I am.

Last night's service of Matins with the Twelve Passion Gospels was truly an exercise. In anticipation of her parish's service, one blogger noted, "we respectfully stand for all of the readings." At our parish, we respectfully kneel for them, which creates a tiny bit of anticipatory anxiety for this Christian with bad knees.

I remembered from last year that the first reading in this service was very long, and that the readings got progressively shorter from there. So I mustered all of my fortitude as I knelt for the first reading. "Crack, crack, crack, click, click, click," complained my knees. But once I was down and kneeling, I thought, "OK, whew - I'm down - that wasn't so bad...and it's all downhill after this one" (knowing that the readings would get shorter after this one). For about the next 20 minutes I remained kneeling during the first reading.

"Let us attend!" the Deacon exclaimed before each of the readings. Pay attention! Listen up! he was saying - and I did attend, for about the first 5 minutes. But then my mind wandered - not only during the first long reading, but also during most of the subsequent shorter ones. I found myself grateful that each of the 12 Gospel readings last night began with these important words, helping to direct my thoughts back to worship and to the business at hand.

When the first reading was over and it was time to get up, I made the sign of the cross and leaned forward to touch my forehead to the floor. And I realized just then that my whole body was sort of locked up - my back, my shoulders, my hips, and my legs. But I managed ever so slowly to touch my forehead to the floor and stand up. And as I looked around, I noticed that lots of people alot older than I am are able to do this with apparent ease. It was evident that they spend a little more time on their knees than I do, a sad and very obvious truth about my own spiritual condition.

And so it went for each of the next several readings, until the seventh reading. As I knelt for the seventh reading, amidst the cracking and clicking racket of complaining knees, a searing pain shot from my left knee right to the core of my very being and fairly took my breath away. I have no idea what the seventh reading was, I could not attend. I just remember thinking during the whole reading that once I got up from this one, that's it. I'm done kneeling for the evening. And I was. And I respectfully stood for the last five readings.

All of Lent is meant to be an exercise for us - and I was made painfully aware last night just how out of shape I am, both physically and spiritually. I have no more fortitude now than I did before this Lent began. What have I been doing with the past 40 days?

As I woke DearHusband this morning, I said, "What a wuss I am - I'm a mess this morning! My legs are like noodles and I'm creaking and gimping around here like some sort of a crippled old woman." He just laughed and made no comment to either support or contradict my self-indictment (he is a wise man).

But it's Good Friday, and I'm grateful that the opportunity for me to attend is not yet past.

I'm a worker in the vineyard who has come at the 11th hour.

(Photo respectfully nabbed from the website of St. Elizabeth Orthodox Mission)


DebD said...

between last night's service and the one Bridegroom service I was able to attend I felt like I have wasted my 40 days in slothfulness. I so feel unprepared.

Mimi said...

I've been told it is a little t tradition to kneel, and while I do it, it is also very much ok to stand respectfully.

I have a Holy Thursday service book, and I like it because I can kind of read along. Although, I found I didn't too much last night, just closed my eyes and listened.

Prayers for his Holy Friday.

-C said...

Deb - I know the feeling, completely. Yet how can one truly adequately prepare? I'm not sure.

Mimi - It likely is a little tradition to kneel, yet it is one that my parish observes as best they can. I was able to borrow a Holy Thursday book from someone who brought a coulple of extras. I only glanced at it a couple of times, yet it was helpful and I was grateful to borrow it.

Prayers for both of you and for all Orthodox Christians on this holy day.

Orthodox Inquirer said...

At the parish I've been attending, some knelt and many stood, in fact, I did through the whole service. We also have the entirety of Holy Week Services in a single book that Fr. John Matusiak (our priest) as arranged for congregational singing. We don't have a choir, our choir is the congregation.