They sang the Beatitudes in the First Tone. I was excited; I know the Beatitudes in the First Tone, but I didn’t know that it was called the First Tone. It’s the tune to which my old choir sang the Beatitudes sometimes, during Lent. I sang along in the Alto part. I got the strange sensation that the icons were singing to me. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.
Lord, have Mercy.
The gospel this week was the parable of the servant who owed a large debt. He fell on his knees before the Master, and the Master forgave him all. Then he found another servant who owed him a small debt, and began to strangle him, demanding to be paid. The Master was angry, and threw the unmerciful servant into prison until he had paid the last denarius.
Lord, have mercy.
I noticed Christ, hanging on a Crucifix on the north and south sides of the iconostasis, dying for the East and West, worshiped by the East and West, torn apart by the East and West, by all for each. His feet were secured with two nails instead of one; the bar on which His feet were resting was tilted. Those on the right side ascend, those on the left descend. The right to Heaven, the left to Hell. Sheep to Heaven, goats to Hell. Those who do the works of Mercy to Heaven, those who will not have Mercy to Hell. Not because the Master wishes Hell, but because Heaven is Mercy, and the servants who show no Mercy cannot ascend to Mercy. Christ’s body is bleeding and torn. Huge patches of flesh are missing from His back and sides, where they scourged Him. His side is ripped open. He ought to be whole, but He’s not. The Body of Christ ought to be one Body, diverse members but all One Flesh, but we’re not. We’re torn. There are schisms and divisions scourging His body, tearing off living flesh. We did this to Him through the hardness of our hearts. You and I are one in Christ, and we did this to Him.
Lord, have mercy.The priest came through the Deacon Door with the Gifts; it looked as though the Archangel Gabriel was standing aside to let him through. There wasn’t a deacon to open the door; the priest had to stop it with his foot twice. For a moment, it looked as though the Archangel Gabriel was stepping back and forth– teasing the priest, perhaps, or dancing for joy. Let us who mystically represent the cherubim and sing the thrice-holy hymn to the life-creating Trinity, now set aside all earthly cares.
The Holy Anaphora was said silently, behind the closed doors. I didn’t know it was happening until it was over.
The congregation rose for Holy Communion. Receive with the napkin under your chin, kiss the foot of the chalice, return to the tiny benches in the tiny little nave. The servant of God receives the body and blood of Christ, for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. The priest knew every member of the little congregation by name.
My husband and I didn’t receive Communion, because we weren’t Orthodox. We remained in our seats and prayed for unity.
Lord, have mercy.
We left. I didn’t want to leave. I was hungry, and I wanted to be fed. I wanted to stay staring at those icons forever, for as long as it took until the doors opened and I saw the Holy Trinity one in Essence Undivided– until I saw Christ at the Right Hand of the Father, healed and whole, with no more East or West to be found in Him.
But I had to go home.
I’m sneaking back to their Vespers this week, if I can. I want to sit in that church, and pray for unity. His house is too beautiful to be divided. His body is too glorious to be torn to the East and West.
Lord, have mercy.