Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Clothed in humility and repentance

We are approaching one of the most beautiful and challenging days of the Church Year-- the Sunday of Forgiveness. 

Immediately after lunch this Sunday Feb. 26th, we will return to the church to do the service of vespers with the rite of mutual forgiveness. If you have not experienced this service before, I can tell you it is a little like the exchange of the Peace-- but on overdrive!

There are some practical logistics to note. If you have any mobility issues, please don't worry about making the prostrations 'correctly'; like everything in the Orthodox faith, the outward forms are meant to reflect inward reality, and the inward reality takes priority. If you are out of breath after a few prostrations, don't push yourself too hard.

Of particular note is the issue of clothing, which you may not have thought about. Our parish does not have, and hopes never to have, anything resembling a 'dress code'. All are welcome in this holy temple and community, regardless of their appearance.

However, it is important that we dress modestly so as not to disrespect the reverent atmosphere of the liturgy or to cause distress or stumbling to our fellow worshippers. In the Lenten services we perform prostrations to the ground, and this needs to be taken into account when dressing for church. Hemlines at knee length may be perfectly modest while standing in the service, but some styles may ride up when making a prostration, or even sometimes when making a poklon (bow from the waist) while venerating the icons. Get a friend or family to help you make sure your outfit can handle these positions. (I have also found that skirts that are -too- long can be very awkward when trying to get up again from a prostration, so for practical reasons I tend to prefer a mid-calf length).

The same goes for gaps between the shirt and belt of the pants-- they may be unremarkable when standing, but bowing or prostrating can create an unbecoming gap that is inappropriate on men and women alike. To avoid this, be sure your shirt tail tucks in securely.

I'm afraid I may have left it too late to suggest you 'practice up' on your prostrations, I will just warn you that if you are a touch out of shape like me, your legs will definitely know it in the couple of days after the service! :-)

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