Start wondering now

This evening a dear friend and I reunited in Toronto and spontaneously decided to attend Vespers at St. Moses & St. Katherine Coptic Orthodox Church.

The evening prayer and raising of incense was set to begin at 7:00 p.m.

Aside from the priest, two young men chanting liturgical responses, and one woman from the community, my friend and I were the only ones there.

Before beginning vespers, Fr. John Boutros came over to give us a brief explanation of the prayer.

“The purpose of vespers is start wondering now: where has my life gone? It’s a journey toward reconciliation in preparation for the liturgy the following day. Accordingly, people will usually go to confession after Vespers and during the Midnight Praises on the vigil of the Divine Liturgy. As the sun sets, you are invited to ponder: What am I doing? Where did the light go? Where did my life go?”

Fr. John also gave the analogy of working on a paper or a project into the late hours of the night saying, “When you’re working late at night, you can lose sense of the time. The purpose of these evening liturgies is partly to enter into the timelessness of eternity.”

This is the structure of Vespers in the Coptic Orthodox Church:

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Marking Time: Do you remember where you were when… ?

“So teach us to number our days
that we may gain a wise heart.”
– Psalm 90:12

I remember seeing the news of Palm Sunday church bombings in Egypt on my phone while I was in Poland.

I had not been to Egypt before but of course the photos gripped me.

That was a year that the Western and Orthodox calendars synced up and so Christians worldwide were commemorating on the same day Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem before his Passion.

That suicide bombers charged into two Alexandria churches on this date and in this way indicates that their intent was to wreak not only destruction but desecration.

What was the impact of looking at the those photos on my phone in a small Polish church?

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