Winter Services at Holy Protection Orthodox Church in the Kansas City Area
Holy Protection Orthodox Church in the Kansas City area is celebrating its first winter with a resident priest, thus marking an end to a long podvig of readers’ services interrupted occasionally by travel for hours on snowy and windy highways. The ordination to the priesthood of Father Zachary Rose this past July by Metropolitan Hilarion in Oklahoma City has changed church life in this mission considerably.
For St. Nicholas’ day, after crafts for the children, they were led unshod into the church where Father Zachary read aloud the life of the saint and taught them a song about this great bishop. Meanwhile small shoes were being filled with treats. Delightful discovery soon followed. “Dark chocolate,” 5-year-old Jonathan was overheard saying very deliberately. “It’s fasting. Today is a fasting day.”
Services for the Feast of the Nativity began with Matins on Thursday evening, followed by Royal Hours and Vesperal Liturgy on Friday, and later by Great Compline and Matins on Friday evening. The chapel was decorated with pine boughs and beribboned holly, plus vases of red and white roses in addition to the traditional poinsettias. For the Feast itself on Saturday, more than forty people, coming from near and far, gathered in prayer for the Divine Liturgy, with many communicants. Given the presence of nineteen children aged ten and under, the calm beauty of the service was now and again punctuated by a joyful noise.
The festive trapeza in the large Fellowship Hall so kindly made available to us by the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection featured a honey-baked ham, cheesy potatoes, salads, and a wonder-cake, the latter all rolled with raspberry and custard, covered with chocolate, and embellished with the Nativity scene piped in frosting in the “cave” at one end. There was convivial conversation for the adults and more crafts for busy young fingers. Towards the end of trapeza, a quick decision was made to eschew temptation by starting the Vigil for Sunday right away. Tired children were taken home at the end of Vespers.
The next morning at Liturgy, we celebrated Sts. Joseph the Betrothed, David the King, and James, the brother of the Lord. Trapeza afterwards featured kholodetz with horseradish, plus the ever-popular string cheese. Commenting on the events of the last four days, Father Zachary remarked, “That’s a lot of church when you’re only ten years old.” Other voices immediately chimed in, “or 26,” “or 37,” “or 65!”
Cleanup interspersed with spontaneous Christmas caroling left us tired, joyful, and grateful: grateful for the Feast and the unspeakable gift of Christ’s Incarnation, grateful for the services of the Church, grateful for the presence of our priest, and grateful for each other.
Having now celebrated the Circumcision of Christ and given greetings to St. Basil’s church in St. Louis, we sing the Forefeast of the Theophany of Christ. Step by gentle step, the hymnography of the Church teaches us and leads us from feast to feast. From the Missouri-Kansas border, we send festal greetings across the plains and up and down the great rivers to the sister parishes of our diocese.