7 Jan 2023

An Orthodox Christmas eve

Yesterday was December 24 in the Orthodox calendar. And Zoe was brought up as a communicant of the Serbian Orthodox church.

Having a Serbian girlfriend must seem rather exotic to people of British traditions and it certainly is different. Zoe and I went to one (Holy Annunciation) of the two Russian Orthodox churches in my neighbourhood last night. And an Orthodox service is MOST unlike anything familiar to an old Protestant like me

The thing I cannot get over is how everyone STANDS during the service. Only decrepit oldies like me are allowed to sit down -- on the sidelines. A Protestant service is mostly absorbed with everyone sitting down for most of the time. Standing must promoke good stamina among adherents of Orthodox churches. And they did a lot of bowing so that must have helped their stamina too.

And again there was no singing. A recent Seventh Day Adventist service Zoe and I attended featured about six hymns. I enjoyed that

So the service consisted of over an hour of chanting of devotional texts. The service was in fact in English but the chanted delivery combined with my poor hearing meant that it might as well have been in Russian for all I knew.

One thing I liked was that almost all the women wore head coverings -- as the apostle Paul commanded in 1 Corinthians 11. I remember the time when women in Western churches did the same but that seems to have completely fallen by the wayside over the years.

And the Orthodox service was accompanied by extensive use of "bells and smells". The censer was vigorously and often deployed. Catholics and High Anglicans do that too but it seemed pointless to an old Presbyterian like me, rather pagan in fact.

And there was a rude screen which was opened and closed at various times during the service. The Priest and his assistants were behind it most of the time and came out of there only during the communion part of the service. The actual consumption of the tokens presumably happened there. The congregation got only a view of the bread and wine, not an invitation to share it. At least they probably had real wine. Our Puritan Presbyterian practice of using unfermented grape juice is a bit of a disgrace

Anyway it was an experience. Let everyone find their own way to their God. I am merely an onlooker these days.

The service was attended by old friends of Zoe, Ana and Robert. Both are very nice people. So Zoe asked them back to my place after the service -- where she had party food ready for them. We mostly discussed religious differences between Western and Orthodox Christianity but it was a pretty jolly party anyway. Zoe kept referring to me as "him", but in a jolly way. Robert is of Catholic background but is making an heroic attempt to adapt to the Orthodox faith of his gorgeous Serbian wife. I was at their wedding a few months back.

Below is a picture of the happy couple from that time

We arrived at the church around 6pm and Zoe left my place for home at about 10pm

Late update:

Today was pretty good too. I had my usual morning with Anne wherein we varied our routine a little. I took her to the Gold Leaf cafe for brekky instead of our more usual haunts -- receiving an enthusiastic welcome from our little Vietnamese hostess. Anne had a Canadian breakfast and I had one of their very substantial cheeseburgers.

After breakfast we watched on YouTube a good Italian performance of Mozart's Zauberflöte opera sung in German with both Italian and English subtitles. I was struck by how much more elegant than the other two languages the Italian subtitles were.

Zoe had also asked to come over today so arrived at about 2pm in a very happy mood. It was her Orthodox Christmas day but I think her good mood was mostly traceable to our good Christmas eve party last night.

We went to Buranda for iced coffee and also had a Borek: Serbian food. We then did outings to Vinnies and Cashies. A Borek is totally aginst Zoe's dietary ideas so when I later challenged her about that, she quoted Oscar Wilde: "I can resist everything except temptation". As I am an Oscar Wilde fan she once again pleased me with her high cultural level

Saturday afternoon is not a routine time for Zoe and me to meet but we enjoyed it greatly anyway. She sometimes says things that I find memorable and she did that again today. As we were walking to the Buranda shops, she referred to the fact that we are both still enrolled without much effect on dating sites. She put her arm around me and cheerfully said: "John, we have one big thing in common: Nobody else wants us". Which is in a perverse way rather romantic. But we did have lots of laughs. She left for her home at about 5pm.

Then just after 6pm Jenny arrived with some good sandwiches to toast for my dinner. We had a long chat about various things over a cup of tea.

So how lucky can you get? I saw all three of my lady-friends in the one day!