Monday, March 28, 2016

The Grace in Orthodox Worship

While at a retreat for college students this past weekend, I witnessed the power and grace of Orthodox Worship. Following the service of the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos (sung the first five Fridays in Great Lent) a young woman approached to receive Holy Confession. She had an urgent look on her face, but we couldn’t go just then as the next activity for the retreat was about to begin. Calmly (she REALLY wanted to confess right then!) I told her we could go as soon as this activity was completed. She agreed.

As promised, as soon as the activity was completed, we went into the Chapel for her confession. Of course I can’t and won’t tell you what she confessed, but that isn’t really what is important for this particular blog post. You see the woman isn’t even Orthodox. In fact she hasn’t been to Church ANYWHERE for more than three years. Her friend, who is Orthodox, invited her to attend this weekend retreat for college students, so she came not know what to expect.

Anyone who has been Orthodox Christian since birth cannot truly appreciate what this young woman experienced. Orthodox worship can be overwhelming even for members of the Church. Incense, standing a long time (especially for the Akathist Hymn – the service is actually named “Non-Seated” for goodness sake), strange melodies, pictures of unknown people on the wall, people kissing this strange pictures; you get the picture. Nothing about this young woman’s first Orthodox worship experience was familiar to her.

But there she was, face to face with Orthodox Christian worship and the Holy Icon of the All Holy Mother of God, and she was moved (I suspect) forever, at least enough that she felt the need to confess right then and there. Looking back, I think it must have been similar to the stories in the Holy Scriptures. “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’... Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” (Acts 2.37, 41)

This young woman didn’t ask for Holy Baptism. I doubt I would have consented if she did, at these in the middle of a retreat, but I am confident the Holy Spirit spoke to her heart. For that I am thankful and personally strengthened. The power of our worship is something we should never ignore. Do you have a friend like this young woman who hasn’t been to Church in years? Invite her to Church the next chance you get. The Holy Spirit might speak to her too, because there is grace in Orthodox worship.

By the way, since the young woman is not Orthodox Christian,  I listened to her confess to God, but was unable to offer the prayer of forgiveness as I am limited to only offering the prayer for Orthodox Christians.

No comments: