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Reflections On Worship
By Alexandria Lukashonak

It's Sunday afternoon, church bells are ringing, my mother holds my hand as we walk along to "vecherna" (vespers). Our Ukrainian Orthodox Church on Staten Island is two blocks away; we live in a pleasant neighborhood with tree-lined streets and clean, well-kept homes inhabited mostly by "Ukes." Therefore, we know everyone in church and everyone knows us - it's truly a community, a place where I feel safe. I don't understand most of the service (even though I join the choir with my sister and go to practice every Friday evening), but the "feeling" in church is good - very good. There's a white and gold tabernacle on the altar and I can remember thinking it represented the place where Jesus lived. This, then, is my earliest experience of "worship."

It's Theophany ("Yordan" my father says). He takes me via bus, ferryboat and another bus to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection in New York City for Divine Liturgy and the Great Blessing of the Water - he carries several bottles to fill! This is a BIG day - no school - a very long church service and then another mini Christmas dinner. The church is packed with people: young, old, many priests and altar servers; there is a feeling of joy and during the blessing of water, a feeling of excitement when a white dove is released in the church during the reading of the Gospel. The service is in Slavonic but my father has explained most of it to me and has related the Gospel reading to me. I thrill at the memory and love the beauty and majesty of the service.

It's a Saturday afternoon during the '50s. My father has read in his Russian newspaper that an all-English Liturgy will be served at St. Innocent's Chapel (in the above-mentioned Cathedral). He says "You must go - this is history." I go. It is the first time I have heard the Liturgy in English - like a veil being lifted from my eyes. I love it. It seems I never cease to be amazed at the vast richness of worship in the Orthodox Church. I start to read more to better understand what is happening, to come to a deeper understanding of my faith.

It is September 1963, my husband is a new student at St. Vladimir's Seminary. We go to the Divine Liturgy. Most of the students come from traditional Orthodox backgrounds, but wait - there is Black student; there is a Coptic student; there is a student from France; there is an Irishman.. Once again, I feel joy - we are many; our faith transcends borders. Strangers can become Orthodox Christians and we can worship together as a family in Christ! Now the words truly have meaning.

Worship we are told is not just during Divine Services but it is often there that, if we can forget our petty concerns and "lay aside all earthly cares," we find the One we were created to love and serve. We realize that we are the ones doing the worshipping. It isn't He who needs it, it is us - and worship changes us and helps us to grow and come closer to God.

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