Saturday, May 8, 2010

Earthen Vessels

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
2 Corinthians 4:7

This Sunday our new bishop will be installed. I sing in the choir and earlier this week as we rehearsed for the service I was reminded by St. Paul's words. We have some very good musicians among us but most of us are just "well-meaning amaterurs". And no matter what our level, we all have our own stumbling blocks, be it language issues, becoming frazzled, pitch problems, or (my personal favorite) standing like a deer in headlights with no clue what we are supposed to be doing. When we rehearse there is a point when it seems that no way will we manage to turn our efforts into music.  But some how it ends up coming together for the service (most of the time). Orhodox services rely heavily on the choir and despite all of our individual weaknesses and stumbling blocks, people keep showing up. Sometimes because of, sometimes despite of, and sometimes irrespective of our singing. No room for either pride or self-flagellation. Earthen Vessels.

As I was thinking about this topic, our priest send us this email:

This e-mail was sparked by the following comment in today's "daily devotion" on the Portland, Maine, TV station, Channel 6:

"We could take a cue from Orthodoxy, whose priests stand with their backs to their congregation, leading a liturgy that is neither clever nor impassioned, but simply beautiful, like stone smoothed by centuries of rhythmic tides. It's an austere ritual, in the sense of - there's nothing new here; it's sublime, in the sense of - creating a clearer view into Heaven. The priest can be any priest. Who he is, what he looks like, how he speaks, and what he thinks matter little. He hasn't written the service that he officiates. It isn't about him or his prowess. He's an interchangeable functionary draped in brocaded robes, obscured by incense, and, as such, never points to himself, a flawed human, pointing ever and only to the Perfection of the Mysterious Divine. That is the role of every priest or preacher - invisibility, while making God seen."

While I certainly believe that having a good priest makes a huge difference for the parish (and Father Christopher is the best!) it is true that the services minimize the significance of the individual over the priestly role. Recognition of our nature as earthen vessels?

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