A Day with an Orthodox Priest

My name is Svyatoslav Shevchenko, I am an Orthodox priest. I serve in the cathedral church of the city of Blagoveshchensk (Amur region) and work as the head of the press service in the diocese of Blagoveshchensk.

We live on the western outpost of Russia, which borders with China. On the other bank of the Amur river (its width is about 800-1000 m) you can see the Chinese city Heihe, province Heilongjiang.

On February 23 I have spent the whole day with my camera to tell you about my average day as a priest.

On February 23, which is a Defender of the Fatherland Day in Russia, it was my turn to serve the liturgy. When I have to serve, I wake up quite early, as I should be in the church at 8 a.m.

Of course, I read morning prayers (How can a priest act without prayer?). I am not supposed to breakfast, as the Divine Liturgy is a shell for the Sacrament of the Communion. The communion is the meeting with God, and this is why Orthodox Christians take the communion on an empty stomach.

I start the engine of my “Niva” and warm it up.  I inherited this cherry-colored offroader from my father. 

In this cold morning looming (actually, it is not as cold as it may seem, it is only -20 C) you can see the lighting of  the Cathedral of the Annunciation.

However, the service will be held in another church, the Church in honor of St. Nicholas, which is not far from the Cathedral. This is not just a church, but a monument. Many years ago this church became the first building in the city. The emperor Nicholas II, who visited that area of Amur in the end of the 19th century, became the patron of the Church of St. Nicholas. After the revolution the church lost its dome. A post-office, a nursery and dermatovenerologic hospital were disposed in that building. Unfortunately, in 1980 the domeless church was destroyed entirely. In 2010 it was reconstructed.

The sun rose, when I parked near the church. Did I mention that the church has the shape of a ship? There is a symbolic meaning: churches are our ships, by which we sail across the sea of our life.

The wooden church welcomes us with its prayerful atmosphere.

I entered the altar, a room, which is separated from the rest of the church with the iconostasis (a wall consisting of icons). The altar  symbolizes the Heavens. Inside there is the the altar table and the table of oblation. On the altar table there is a Gospel, crosses, a seven branched candelabrum and a portable tabernacle, in which the holy sacraments for sick people are kept.

And here is the table of oblation, on which the proskomedia is held. It is the first phase of the Divine Liturgy, which symbolizes the Nativity of Christ and His preparation for crucifixion. During this phase bread and wine are prepared for the Eucharist. Small pieces of bread, which symbolize living and the deceased, are taken out of prosphora.

The deacon (the third position in the clergy) censes around the altar. Before the liturgy starts, he censes the whole church.

The Divine Liturgy begins. The Priest (your humble servant) stands in front of the altar table, and the deacon comes to the ambon (a small round hill in the church) and reads the litany (prayerful requests). Now it is 9:10 a.m.

After the priest cames out with the Gospel, which symbolizes Christ beginning His preaching, the priest and the deacon pray for the help of the living  and for the repose of the dead.

Now the Liturgy of the Faithful begins, which is the second phase of the Divine Liturgy. During the first centuries of Christianity, not only Christians could present at that liturgy, but pagans, who were going to be baptized as well. The priest opens the antimension – a piece of cloth with the image of crucified Christ. A piece of a saint’s holy relics is sewed in it, as ancient Christians served liturgy on the graves of Christians, who were executed for Christ.

The Cherubic Hymn sounds. This is one of the most important moments of the liturgy, symbolizing Christ voluntary going to the cross. During the Cherubikc Hymn the prepared sacraments (Blood and Body of Christ) are moved from the credence to the altar.

And now the crucified Christ is covered with a shroud.

The Anaphora. It is the most important moment of the liturgy. The priest is asking God that He bless the sacraments with the Holy Spirit, so that people can take the Communion. At this moment it is 10:00 a.m.

On this photo you can see me putting the Body of Christ into the Blood. The clergy in the altar are going to partake of the Holy Communion. After this the laity in the church will take the Communion as well.

As soon as the liturgy ended, the baptism began. It is usually held in the Church of St. Nicholas at 11 a.m. The picture was taken after the end of the sacrament.

 At 1:00 p.m. I have lunch in the Cathedral’s fratery – pea soup, and crushed potatoes with meat grease. At lunch I was accompanied by Father Alexander, one of the other priests.

When I was leaving, the sun was at the zenith. The smell of spring was in the air.

My two sons were waiting for me at home, as they wanted me to keep my promise – to bring them to the “snow town” for children, organized on the central square of the city. On the background you can see how unusual our home looks like. We live on the mansard, which was a workshop many years ago.  

We are in the city center. On the background there is a city administration building. Before the revolution it was the house of a rich merchant.

The boys rushed to the snow slides.

How little it takes to make a child happy!

At 5:00 p.m. I have to serve a bishop service in Cathedral of the Annunciation. This is how the  altar of the cathedral looks like.

Let me inroduce you our international clergy team in honor of Friendship of the nations: protodeacon John (Moldova), abbot Innocent (Ukraine), monk and subdeacon Martin (Ossetia). The all-night vigil is coming to an end. It is 6:45 p.m.

Bishop Lukian of Blagoveshchensk and Tynda has just anointed people in the church.

I come home. The boys are hanging on the bar. They wrestle and have already won several awards on the local wrestling contests. Tomorrow will be a big day for them, as they will take part in the regional contest.

Children have prayed, asked their father for a blessing and gone to bed. I take the last picture, because my camera is tired after such a full day and is about to shut down. My wife and I read the evening prayers and go to sleep too.

Translated from: http://maxpark.com/community/2883/content/1844148