Monday, February 2, 2015

A Blessed Visit

Yesterday my daughter and I did something I've wanted to do for several years now -- we finally made a visit to St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Beckley, WV.  What joy!   Except for the beautiful gold onion dome and cross, it is an inconspicuous brick building tucked between other brick and stone buildings in the older section of Beckley, near the courthouse/ historic district.

St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church, Beckley, WV
Photo from www.orthodoxbeckley.org


We arrived just before the 10:30 am Divine Liturgy and upon entering the front door, the lovely waft of incense filled our senses.  I am home  I thought as I took a slow breath to inhale that familiar fragrance. We walked up the steps toward the sanctuary and became aware of melodic voices chanting in English, both male and female.    I stopped at the narthex to light a candle, say a prayer and venerate the icon of Christ and the Blessed Theotokos. This is the area of quiet preparation for entering the nave, the place where the faithful gather to worship God.  Joining the congregation, we found the space full of peace and the walls graced with numerous icons.  A soft visible blanket of incense hung in the air, making the iconostasis with its vigil lamps seem otherworldly.   It truly is heaven on earth.


St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church, nave
Photo from www.orthodoxbeckley.org


As we stood at our pew, I took in the numerous icons on each wall and large stained glass windows- some of which were donated by people I knew from our St. George family.  A sense of warm welcoming came over me as I noticed many familiar icons, such as St. Mary of Egypt , St. George the Trophy-bearer  and the enormous Christ Pantocrator adorning the ceiling.   Kind of like peering into a photo album and seeing familiar faces, it gives a sense of belonging - of knowing- that I too am part of the family of Christ.

I had met Fr. Samuel Haddad on several occasions in years past, but never had the pleasure of hearing his homily until yesterday.  It was the Sunday of the Pharisee and Publican and Fr. Samuel spoke about these two men and their prayers as found in Luke 18:10-14.  Interestingly, he pointed out their prayers from the viewpoint of God... Is God pleased with one prayer over the other?  Is it a matter of behaving in a certain way so as to appease our Father in heaven?  The reality is, as Fr. Samuel went on to say, is that God knows exactly what we need -- humility that begets repentance.  A "heart cleaning" in other words.   When we pray, and ask forgiveness, it is not that we are trying to please God by our actions, it is that our inner sin and darkness needs to be swept clean to allow humility, forgiveness and love to take root and grow.  

The choir gathered in front, on the right side of the church and we were blessed to hear their sweet voices praising God and offering responses during the Liturgy.  There were children, teenagers, young adults and some older adults too completing this dedicated group.  I quietly sang along with them a few times.

The people at St. Nicholas' could not have been more welcoming to us.  It was a perfect way to usher in the Feast of St. Brigid, my patron saint.   Radiant faces and pleasant greetings met us upon dismissal and we both knew with certainty that we would be back to visit again very soon.    If you are in the area and interested in the Orthodox Church, please stop for a visit sometime;  I'm sure Fr. Samuel would be delighted to meet you.   You can read more about the church and their service schedule here:  St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church


Glory to God for all things †






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