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
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.