I had read two books on Orthodox Christianity. That’s it. So obviously, I had no idea what to expect when I visited St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church for its Sixth Hour Prayer service. What I did know was that for some time now, I’d felt a deep desire to silence myself before the Lord, and felt led to do this mid-week in a local church. A faith tradition dating back almost 2,000 years ago, I figured Orthodoxy would have much to offer in the way of ancient worship practices.
A kind lady walked into the church with me and directed me to the chapel. Prayer services weren’t held in the Sanctuary, but in a smaller room filled with short, wooden pews and a variety of iconic images. In the center at the front, there was an open window with a drawn curtain in front of it. Off stage right, there was a rotating lectern displaying two or three older-looking books. I walked past the icon painting sitting on a wooden stand in the center of the small entrance and settled into an empty pew, two rows from the back. I wasn’t opposed to mingling with others that day, but more than anything, I’d come to sit in the fellowship of silence with our Father.
Right away, I noticed the room had a pleasant aroma. I observed several glass containers, about the size of a votive candle holder, suspended in front of more paintings on the wall. In these days of essential oils, I felt myself relaxing as I deeply inhaled the scent of burning incense. Slowly, I exhaled and felt stress releasing some of its tight grip on my shoulders. I sat in the very silence I’d been craving and waited for the service to begin.
Forty-some years on this earth, and this was the first time I’d ever experienced prayer with my Orthodox brothers and sisters...
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