Thursday, June 9, 2011

How to mangle an Epistle

Well, we had no liturgy this morning, so here's what happened Last Thursday at the 7:00 am liturgy.

I arrived at about 6:40 am and Fr. Justin was lighting the oil lamps as I approached the icons to venerate them.  "Hello Elias," he said.  "Morning Fr. Justin," I replied.  At that moment I realized that I had reacted completely naturally to being called Elias.  I reveled in the wonder of it for a while, and then I asked Fr. Justin if anyone was supposed to read, since there was nobody else there at the time.  I told him that I would read if nobody else showed up, so he agreed and suggested that I should.  While Fr. Justin was getting the altar ready, he explained to me which parts of the Epistle to read and how to read the Prokeimenon and Kentucky Fried Kontakion for the hours, after which he paused from what he was doing and met my eye, seeking my confirmation that I understood.  I stood there with an expression on my face which was two parts 'duh' and one part upset stomach.  Fr. Justin started bustling around again, doing busy things, and suggested that I should go look at the Epistle book and see if I could figure it out, and that he'd be out in a minute to go over it with me.

So, I did that.  I looked at the pages which were marked in the Epistle book and discovered post-its stuck here and there, with pencil scribblings and arrows pointing to heaven knows where.  I tried to make sense of it; I really did, but my brain started to hurt so I decided to just wait for Fr. Justin.  About ten minutes later he emerged from the altar and came over, flipped open the Epistle book, and repeated what he had said to me earlier.  This time he was flipping to different pages and pointed to passages I was supposed to read.  Here's how it sounded to me: "Forward to that page, skip over to the part between the two post its, sing the verse (what verse?), go back 164 pages and read the part above the post it, but replace the first sentence with (whatever it was I was supposed to replace it with, it wasn't written down anywhere) and be sure to say Alleluia!  Got it?"  I had to admit that no, I hadn't gotten it, and that I was perfectly befuddled.  Fr. Justin nodded and said "that's ok, you know how it goes."  Uh... no I didn't.

Anywho, at that moment I realized that the Epistle reading was likely going to be injurious to all those present for it, and I suspect that Fr. Justin had come to the same conclusion.  By that time two other people had shown up for the choir... Michael, who sings bass, and someone I didn't know who was dressed in a black readers robes.  I wasn't sure which part I was going to sing, so I asked him what part he usually sang.  He said that he normally sang bass, so I decided to sing the main melody.  So, the liturgy started and we sang, and stumbled pretty good here and there, and Mystery Reader directed us some.  I found myself speeding up several times almost involuntarily because I thought we were going too slow, but Mystery Reader kept the tempo nice and adagio, and I finally was able to just go with it.

Now we come to the fun part.  Time to read the Epistles!  So, I picked up the Epistle book and walked into the altar and approached Fr. Justin.  "Shut the door," he whispered.  I turned hurriedly and shut the door and then stood there holding the book exactly the way Mike Rodgers told me to, because last week he said I'd been doing it wrong.  Fr Justin blessed the book and I walked around him and out through the other door, then I stood between the icons and... just kept standing there.  I had no idea what to do.  I didn't want to look up to meet Fr. Justin's gaze, but I finally did.  He was just standing there too, looking at me.  Finally he whispered, "And to thy spirit!"  "And to thy spirit," I dutifully repeated.  Then I stood there some more.  After about five more seconds of that, Fr. Justin said, "The reading from the Prokeimenon in the 7th tone!" "The reading from the Prokeimenon in the 7th tone," I again dutifully repeated.  That's when it hit me like an epistlepiphany, and I heard myself thinking furiously... read the Epistle now, you retarded mongoloid!  Hurry, before you get struck by lightning!  So, I started thumbing through the Epistle book, looking here and there and pretty much everywhere, but I had no idea where to start reading.  This went on for... oh, say... about 30 seconds before Fr. Justin finally swooped down from the Altar, opened it to the right page, and pointed to the spot between two post its.  At least I recognized the post its, I thought.  So I started reading, and everything was going along fine until I heard Fr. Justin go "TSSST!" from up on the altar.  That means I screwed up, so I stopped in mid syllable and then the choir sang the verse Fr. Justin mentioned earlier.  After they finished, about 10 more seconds of silence went by while I tried to remember exactly what I'd been doing 5 seconds earlier, and with a splutter I managed to keep reading.  This went on for a while until something else confusing happened, which resulted in pretty much the same thing I just described, happening all over again, but with a different passage from the Epistle book.  As I was slogging through it, I finally just got frustrated with being completely clueless so I walked over to Mystery Reader, who obviously knew more about what was going on than I did, and I proffered the book to him, the look on my face communicating my dire situation.  At this unexpected development, Fr. Justin swooped down from the altar again and over to the choir nook where he once again located the correct passage for me, after which I was then instructed to read.  I waited for Fr. Justin to return to his place at the altar, and when he had, I walked back out there to face the fire and read that last part.  When it was over, I mumbled alleluia three times or something and slunk back to the choir.  I'm pretty sure that what I mumbled wasn't how the last part went, but by that time I just wanted to escape, so escape I did.

The rest of the liturgy went ok, with only the usual flubs from the choir, and I actually remembered Fr. Justin's homily this time, which was about prayer.  The gist of it, I think, was that we should consistently ask God through prayer for the things that we want.  However, we should only ask for things that are 'good for the soul and body'.  He said that the reason why we may not get what we pray for is because it might not necessarily be good for us at that particular time.  Like... well, lets say that this guy really REALLY wants a puppy dog, just his own cute widdle pupply wupply dupply, but he doesn't have a yard for ta puppity to run around in and there's no way he can afford shots and heart worm medicine and neutering for ta puppy.  Also, he's deathly allergic to dogs, and if he even gets near one, he'll die instantly.  Anywho, he prays and prays and prays, but every time he hears about a wittle cutey patootey something happens so that his plans are thwarted.  He never ever EVER gets ta puppy, and instead this beaten up skinny three legged cat with half an ear chewed off and a bald tail shows up on his doorstep one day, so he adopted the kiki meow instead of the puppy.  See, the guy couldn't afford a puppy and he didn't have a big enough yard for it anyway, plus a puppy would have killed him, so God kept ta puppy away from him and gave him a 'lil bitty poor kiki meow instead.  I'm sure that's a pretty rotten example, but I think it suffices to communicate the gist.  Also, I got the feeling after the homily that praying for inconsequential or selfish or material things, such as hockey teams and longer fingernails, are a definite no-no.

I managed to take communion without spilling the Body of Christ all over the communion napkin this time, and before I knew it I was reading the prayers of thanksgiving and we were wrapping up the whole shebang.   As I was waiting in line to venerate the icons, Louise came up behind me and whispered in my ear, "While you're learning to read those Epistles, it's better to get all those flubs out of the way at these morning services, when nobody is here!  Don't you think?"  Yup, I did think.  Then she told me how she admired my standing there in front of everybody in full retard mode, and that she was glad that women weren't readers because she'd never have been able to do it.  Nonsense, said I.  I told her that the only requirement was that you had to be completely clueless, and that I was sorry she'd never be able to experience it.

Afterward several people congregated in the little bookstore-foyer area, and I joined them.  Sam was there talking to Mystery Reader, and  I turned to him and thanked him for helping me with the Prokeimenon and the Kentucky Fried Kontakion, and for directing us when we needed it.  I thought about introducing myself and asking Mystery Reader what his name was, but for some reason I just didn't.  I dunno why, I'm weird that way (I later found out that his name is... aw heck, I don't remember, something Russian or Slavic).  Anywho, we all talked for a bit, and I said that I was going to miss the small size of the church when the new cathedral was finally built.  Sam looked at me like I was a newborn mongoloid, fresh off the turnip truck, and said, "We can't have a cathedral without a bishop, you retard!"  What I should have said was " I don't give a flying monkeys behind what they call it," but the best I could come up with was "Yeah.  Church then, whatever."  So what.  A church is a church is a cathedral.  Anywho, the drawings look like a cathedral.  Ptthhhbbt.  Oh, and Sam didn't actually call me a retard... that doesn't diminish the fact that I'm retarded, however.

Soon after that I announced my departure and started hoofing it home.  I had gotten about a block down Bernard St. when I realized I didn't have my phone on me, so I went back.  After I'd retrieved it from where I'd left it on a choir stand, Fr. Justin said to me, "Well, the Epistle was pretty rocky."  I said, "Yup, it sure was.  I really screwed it up royally."  Fr. Justin nodded.  Yup, you sure did, I thought to myself, thinking what I imagined Fr. Justin to be thinking.  However, he then said that he was pleasantly surprised with my singing, and that I did well to lead the choir the way I did, and that surprised me.  I didn't really lead the choir... at least that's what I thought.  I just sang Dax's part and started everybody else off by singing first, I guess.  Fr. Justin thought it was pretty cool though, so that made me feel really good.  He said that since I was reading and singing, we'd be able to do more morning services with fewer people if we had to.  I left the church that morning feeling really good... just really, really good.


  1. This had me cracking up. Funny! But is part of it missing on here?

  2. Yeah, part is missing. I dunno why. Prolly something to do with this phone. Had to rewrite it. For FB.