Following from my last post, I arrived at the church yesterday (which is in the priest's house), at about 10 past 12 in the afternoon, just in time to catch the beginning of the Liturgy of S. Basil, which was absolutely amazing. There were only four of us plus the priest, but the wonder of it was overwhelming, with the strewing of flowers and the blessing of figs and dates. I was very nervous at first, having arrived later than planned and so not having been introduced to anybody first, but one of the ladies introduced herself to me during the liturgy and asked a few questions. We spoke later on. This liturgy finished at 10 minutes past 2 and then we prepared for the Baptism at 3, which was a wonderfully joyous occasion, with a remarkably well-behaved baby. There was a little get-together in the house afterwards, during which I got to talking with a few people. I helped Father to prepare the church for the evening, which provided a perfect opportunity for us to talk about my thoughts and his in more detail. I then had a look at some of the evening's music with Matushka (who is still adjusting to being called this).
The reading of the Acts of the Apostles began at 9.30, and was sung in English by the sub-deacon and a cantor, alternating chapters, with one chapter done in Slavonic by a member of the church. There was then Matins, which got about 25 people, and which I ended up helping the choir of two with, and then there was another service at about 11.30, which culminated with an outdoor, candlelit procession and proclamation of the Gospel. The Liturgy of S. John Chrysostom followed, which I also helped with the music for. At about 1.30, I had to sit down and by 1.45 I was falling asleep, and so gave up and retired to bed. I was fetched by Father's 8 yr old daughter at half past two, to be informed that I was missing the food, which news got me promptly out of bed and to the kitchen.
It was simply marvellous, even if I am now extremely tired. I think that if there were any doubts, these have been erased by my experience of last evening.
On top of all of the above was the warmth and love, and total lack of any sort of inhibition that was there. This was the place where, in one room, were Russians, Ukranians, Lithuanians, Romanians and Britons, all conversing and worshipping together, where a 16 yr old young man was quite happy to sit on his father's lap when there were no seats available, and to hug his father (not an embarrassed masculine "hug" with a pat on the back, but an actual loving embrace), in front of everyone, with no qualms whatsoever. There was no pretence, no obsession with how people interpreted others' actions. People just felt, and physically expressed what they felt. It was wonderful!
I can't wait to go back.