Posted by: anna | October 24, 2007

Vespers

Last evening I went to Vespers at the Orthodox Church of the Annunciation in Canterbury Road in Oxford. The building used to be a dairy, and instead of taking it down and building a more usual Orthodox church shape, the parish decided to keep the dairy’s basic round structure. I think it works beautifully. The church was lit only by candles and one electric light over the readers’ desk; ikons all around the walls reminded us of the great ‘cloud of witnesses’ throughout time and eternity. It was barely dusk when we started at 6, and during the service twilight slowly fell until outside was entirely dark and a nearly-full moon shone out like polished silver. There was no priest and no sermon; readers recited the psalms and prayers. Little Maria, 13 months, was asleep when the service started; her Papa, who was reading, parked her stroller in a quiet corner next to me and was busy across the room. Partway through she woke up. I could see her drifting in and out of a snooze; every time her father started reading, her eyes snapped open at the familiar voice. When the readers’ singing turned to two-part harmony, she let out a few little musical squeaks and waved her hands, obviously enjoying the music. Most of the time, she watched the flickering candle flames with a serious little face.
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