We had something a little different tonight at the Cathedral for a Lenten Friday. Today was the feast of the Annunciation, and so tonight we celebrated the vespers for the synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel, which is celebrated on March 26. So we did a vespers service and, towards the end before the trisagion prayers and after the hymn of Symeon (Lord now let your servant depart in peace), we had the third stanza of salutations. There was no reading of the compline (Aspoile/Spotless) or chanting of the canon. The chanters and priests managed to put the service together between the skeleton form in the liturgicon as well as the special material sent to us by the Metropolitan. It was nice to do something different. Before church I started talking to the older women who come to every service – God bless them – and explaining the different service we were having. They all knew it already because they had watched a church broadcast from Greece several hours earlier. It dawned on me that these stalwart attendees not only come to every – every! – service but they also watch all of the ones from Greece on the Greek channel. What dedication!
They reminded me of the elders in my own family. My great-grandmother was from Naples, Italy and came here way back in the day. We have her wedding photo, where she was probably all of 15 years old, hanging at my ‘rents’ house. She would go to daily mass and then amble over to the rectory to get the key to let herself into the church every afternoon to pray. She did this every day for decades! She was a very sweet woman, although she never hesitated to raise a fist in warning – the equivalent to the wooden spoon – koutala – of Greek grandmothers. Ma, as we all called her, was the first person I mentioned in my “statement of intent” when I was ordained. This is the moment in the ordination where you thank everyone from along the way and talk about what you hope to do and find in ministry. I gave Ma the honored first position because, well, she certainly deserved it. I was blessed to have her in my life until my second year of college, and I thank God for even that limited amount of time.