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Sunday, June 27, 2010

A liturgical occurrence

I am visiting the family back in upstate New York for a little bit and today went off to the 9:30 AM divine liturgy at one of the eight(!) local Orthodox parishes that are within a convenient drive of my father's house. The liturgy was reasonably well attended for midsummer and was unremarkable until the time came for the last major censing by the deacon. The priest was at the altar with the doors open when suddenly a small boy, not more than four or five years old, broke loose from his parents and ran up towards the altar and... charged right through the doors and started tugging on the priests vestments.

I can now relate that the sudden and simultaneous intake of breath on the part of a hundred or more people creates a very distinctive sound. But the silence that followed was almost painful. The parents... visibly horrified seemed not sure of whether or not to rush up and add to the chaos in the sanctuary. This was coupled with a deep silence from everyone else frantically trying to avert their eyes from what was at the least surely going to prove a terrible embarrassment if not a major catastrophe.

Then in a few seconds the crisis was ended. The priest looked over his shoulder and after a moment of visible (and understandable) shock, smiled and I thought he was going to laugh. With a quick motion of his hand he called over the deacon who had been in the process of censing and calmly relieved the deacon of his censor. He then bent over and handed the censor to the little boy, showing him how to hold it and swing it, and then directed him to finish censing the iconostasis and assorted icon stands.

Off went the overjoyed little boy, with the deacon hot on his trail, happily censing everything that looked even remotely like an icon. OK OK he almost knocked over a candle stand but the deacon saved the day. After he was done the deacon relieved him of the censor and quietly guided the happiest child in the city back to his parents.

I have no idea how many church canons or liturgical rubrics were violated today. But I can tell you that there was not a dry eye in the church.

16 comments:

Teena Blackburn said...

Bet he grows up to be a priest. :)

Liza Gay said...

My first thought too.

Carlos Antonio Palad said...

Two thoughts:

1) You were worshiping in your Father's house. I couldn't imagine something like this happening in a Traditional Latin Mass, but in an Eastern liturgy it seems natural (to my mind's eye).

You have a future deacon there!

Ed said...

Good priest. :-)

Anonymous said...

Beautiful!!!!

Sophocles said...

Great story. The law of love was fulfilled which no canons forbid.

The Byzantine Rambler said...

Undoubtedly, this child will go to Hell for violating so many canons. And once he is there, he will witness to the numerous bishops and other sinners before returning to Paradise and the House of the Father.

Anonymous said...

Is outrage!

Was it little boys censing in 19th century Russia?

- Fr. Vasily

Anonymous said...

What an incredible display of love and wisdom! As I grandmother who takes her very active grandchildren to church, I've had several heart-stopping moments through the years, but I trusted that my priest also would have behaved in a like manner! I do wonder what he would have done if it had been a girl, though!

Your Intrepid Editor said...

If I had written a story like this I would have been hided! What a wise priest.

Matt said...

Who is this priest? If he's not married he should be made a bishop!

solzemli said...

Wonderful story!

Tripp Hudgins said...

What Teena said. Amen. Lovely.

Susan in PA said...

Our priest in San Diego wanted our son to be an altar boy when he was 4-5 years old (25 years ago). On some level of faith, not understanding, this boy wanted to PARTICIPATE in the Liturgy and not just stand there and watch. God's blessing to the priest who understood the law of love.

Anonymous said...

I am not Orthodox but can so appreciate how beautiful this situation was. Bravo to the Priest for truly recognizing this and showing Gods love to this child and also being a great example of His love to the entire congrigation.

I'm only sorry that I didn't get to wittness this myself!

mike said...

nice story