Friday, July 14, 2006

A Beautiful Church

My mind drifts back to the days when Dad was the lay reader for the Russian Orthodox Church in Old Harbor. The church services were so beautiful. The singing still stills my heart with awe as my mind goes back to the times that church was a part of my life there. I even wish I still was a part of the rituals that put some order into our yearly lives.

There is a stability in having a structure that people can find in the RO church that I have not found anywhere else. The reverence that people give to the Priest is just one aspect of this structure. He has a God-like presence to many. There is no room for questions of his sinful man-ness in his presence, at least when I was a child. How could I even think that he was a man when I looked up at him in his golden robes? Yet, he is a man.

Another is the special church services held throughout the year to mark different occasions that I can't even name any more. Christmas and Easter services are the most vivid. Beautiful singing from home to home announcing the birth of Jesus Christ. I miss the closeness that we felt in the village when we all would follow the Starrer's from house to house and then go inside and sing. After we sang the last joyous song the owners of the home would share candy with all the children and on we would go to the next home until every house heard the Story of the birth of Jesus Christ. That is a beautiful memory.

Easter was another joyful occasion in the life of Russian Orthodox believers. The weeks leading up to Kulich, unending pies, and yummy duck soup was Lent. No treats, no frivolous enjoyment of anything.

"You are chewing bubble gum????", said my cousin. "It's Lent! Spit it out!"

Then Easter weekend out came the bright, beautiful new clothes. The shiny new shoes and in our hands we carried a perfectly boiled egg tied in a pretty hankerchief or setting in a white purse. After church we would go from house to house and exchange eggs saying:



My spelling is probably incorrect.

"Christ is risen... INDEED He is risen!"

All afternoon we would hear the bells of the church ringing and ringing and ringing as children were allowed into the bellfry to ring the bells! Men even shot off their guns on the beaches.

These happy events all ended when Dad read in the Bible that God is a jealous God. He does not want us to "reverence" anything else but Him alone, even if it is an image of holy things. I read the story of the Israelite's as they waited for Moses to come down out of the mountain where he spoke with God. They got tired of waiting and they built a statue which they said represented God. They worshipped God in their own way. The end result was disasterous. God does not want images, or statues or anything that we set our affections on as if they too are part of God.

I love the music of the Russian Orthodox worship and I love the happy occasions and the stability of having a leader that should lead us to God and if there were not so much importance put on the icons ...I could still be a part of this worship.

Being in Kenai this past week and being there with this man Targonsky, I was reminded that this beautiful church could never be a part of my life again matter how much I might miss it. My heart cannot worship God, holy men or icons equally, my heart must worship only God.

I don't hold ill feelings towards anyone that worships in the Russian Orthodox way. Who am I to "judge another man's servants", only God has that right. I encourage all to learn about God. He teaches all those who seek Him through His word, the Bible. Read it.

I read online that Targonsky and his wife Yvette, who work mainly in Kenai and Nilnilchik now, celebrated 50 years of marriage two years ago. Congratulations to them both! That is a major milestone, especially in our world today where there seems to be less dedication to long term families.


Kerri said...

I didn't even know, until he died a few years ago, that one of my favorite uncles was raised in the Russian Orthodox church. He grew up somewhere in the north...I don't know where. Had I known, I would have liked to ask him questions about it. He became a part of my aunt's church (Presbyterian)when they married.

Constance said...

That was really intersting! I have no knowledge whatsoever of the RO church so that was enlightening. Being raised Catholic back in the 1960's, I can remember the Mass being sung in Latin and the nuns wearing the long habits and the smelly incense the priests would swing around on a chain. In one sense, I love hearing that sing-song "chanting", it just strikes a familiar chord with me, one of those childhood memories. Like you, I could not and would not, ever go back. I think religion has done a lot of damage to people throughout the years. Being a Christian, a Christ follower is what we are called to be and to do. What a wonderful legacy your family has because your Dad drew his line in the sand and made his stand!