Bringing Heaven Down To Earth

blog for the book by Nathan Bierma • > Heaven > Blog

Friday, January 18, 2008

Another report on DCM visit to St. Nicholas

Another report on our visit to St. Nicholas, this one by Rob VanderVennen.

For our DCM class, Bringing Heaven Down to Earth, we attended St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in order to learn more about their denomination and style of worship. This fit in with our class very much because for the Orthodox, worship is heaven on earth. Orthodox worship is done in a very different manner than what I am used to in the Christian Reformed Church. The service is much more formal and it is based much more on tradition. They still quote lines that are in Arabic and some Greek, referring to Mary as the Theotokos, or birth giver of God. Chanting is used very often by the leaders and congregation as a form of worship. There is also a choir in the back balcony that sings out lines such as “Lord have Mercy” after the priest has read Scripture. The purpose of having the choir in the back is so the people do not focus on the choir but the meaning of the words.

They also had icons all over the church of Jesus, Mary, the apostles, and various other people. According to Paul Meyendorff, “They intend to convey this: you stand in the presence of the living God, together with the Saints and the righteous of every age.” I appreciated these paintings but was not sure whether or not I liked them in the church. It seemed they belonged more in an art museum. I noticed that there were children involved in some of the worship service such as when the deacons would walk around with incense, there would be boys holding some poles with candles burning in them. I also noticed that all members of the Orthodox Church eat the bread and get a scoop of some powder. It seemed similar to our form of communion.

Visiting the church was quite an experience and I am glad that I attended the service. I thought it would be similar to a Catholic service and in some ways it was, but it was also very different than the Catholics. I felt a sense of deep reverence in the church and felt closer to God at St. Nicholas than my own church. It was easy to tell that the Orthodox tradition was being preserved in the church, whereas in my own church we are changing with the times and becoming more modern.

I liked the congregation participation during the service as they chanted things back to the priest. One thing that I did not like about the Orthodox service was the short sermon. I thought that it would actually be too long but it was too short in my opinion. I think a sermon should be at least fifteen minutes and that most of one’s spiritual growth comes from the sermon. I was not sure how I felt about the singing of the Scriptures. It was very poetic and pleasant but seemed out of place; I think reading the Scripture would give the same effect. Overall, I actually enjoyed the experience and I give a lot of respect to the Orthodox believers.


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