Monday, August 1, 2011

sixty-eighth visit: Aug 4th 2011 Greek Orthodox (Great Paráklesis)

6:30pm thursday
Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral
Great Paráklesis (Eastern Orthodoxy)
419 S. Dithridge St, Pittsburgh PA 15213
north oakland

So much to learn.
I am here for the Services of the Great Supplicatory Canons to the Most Holy Theotokos, otherwise known as the Great Paráklesis. The Most Holy Theotokos is also known as the Mother of God, or Mary. Just in case any of my readers are as new to this as I am, here's some background info, below...

Observation of Dormition Fast: Aug 1-14. During which the Great and Small Parárakelses is chanted on alternate evenings. If Aug 1st falls on a weekday, the cycle begins with the Small Paráklesis. If not, the Great is first. Saturday evenings and on the night of the Transfiguration (August 5th), Paráklesis is omitted. On Sundays the Great is always chanted, except on Aug 5th. Many times rules frustrate me a bit. But these I find rather beautiful.

Transfiguration: considered a miracle. Happens when Jesus, Elijah and Moses gather on Mt Tabor. The Holy Spirit arrives in the form of a cloud. The figure of Jesus is illuminated. Did I completely forget this from my Sunday school years? Regardless, Father Demetrios Gardikes explains to me so patiently.

Dormition of Theotokos: the reason for this observance and of this Fast and Feast. Dormition refers to Mary's great falling asleep (her passing on), observed on Aug 15th. In Orthodoxy and Catholicism, the death is referred to as a "sleep."

In addition to Islam, how many other beliefs call for days of fasting in August?

And what I remember:
We stand throughout the service.
13 of us, including the Priest.
3 worshipers choose to pray prostrate, contacting the ground,
at the back of the sanctuary, in the aisles.
16 pages to turn.
3 voices chanting. At times it sounds as if there are 20.
1 Priest kisses the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos.
A million times the bells of swinging incense.

So there is kissing in Christian ceremony; I stand corrected. (see 2nd visit, 3rd paragraph)

Father Gardikes stops to speak to me after the service. My impression of him is that of extreme gentleness. He exudes calm. He points out the peacocks adorning the alter's center "Holy Door," through with only Priests and Deacons are permitted to pass, those who carry the Eucharist. Peacocks: the oldest, earliest-mentioned, symbolic animal of Christianity, he explains. Yearly feather molting and regrowth symbolizing re-birth, resurrection. Also a prominent symbol in Hinduism, with different meaning. I notice peacocks during my next visit, the 69th (Antiochian Orthodox) also on the Holy Door, and again at the 70th (Episcopal) this time in stained glass over the balcony at the back of the sanctuary.

Left and right alter doors, "Deacons Doors" (also used by alter boys or anyone with a specific reason to enter the alter—but a specific reason is required) display iconography of Archangel Michael and Archangel Gabriel. I ask for the story of Archangel Michael. Request fulfilled, along with a farewell of peaceful wishes. For several visits after this, my obsession with wings is re-awakened.

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