This past Saturday, our church choir went up to the Eparchy of Parma’s 40th anniversary celebration to sing during the Slavonic Divine Liturgy service. Other members of our congregation were there as well. This is only the second Byzantine church that I have ever been in. I made my way upstairs to the balcony where the choir was going to be sitting. No one else from the choir had made their way up there yet. The balcony and most of the church were not lit. I got out my camera, and took this picture of the iconostasis.
As I waited for the other choir members to arrive, I looked around at all the icons, and wondered what the liturgy would be like. While I am learning the songs in Old Slavonic, I don’t yet know the liturgical responses, especially without having a book to follow along with. So after the liturgy started I listened and took in as much as I could. The singing of the choirs and the congregation reverberated off the walls of the church and into my soul.
While I know that many of those who were there Saturday were raised in this tradition and that this is second nature to them, it still amazed me how everyone knew the proper responses. I thought of how little the tradition has changed over the centuries, and how I am now a part of that tradition, which is a miracle and a story in itself to be told in due time.
There were multitudes of bishops, deacons, and priests in attendance. An orthodox bishop was bestowing blessings on the sick that he happened upon. Many of the churches within the eparchy were there with booths representing their respective parishes. There were many religious services and seminars going on throughout the day, as well as Slovakian dancers, and a polka band. People spontaneously danced while the band played, and I enjoyed watching the various priests who would take to the floor with a dance partner. Everyone had a great time.
Although I am new to learning the Byzantine faith, yesterday had the feel of a family reunion. I watched as members became reacquainted with old friends they hadn’t seen for a while. Father Miron had told Jim and me when we first started coming to St. Nicholas how the church is like a family.
This is the family I choose, God’s family.