I recently quit the choir, primarily because I realized that I was having trouble praying while singing. It took me a long time to make this decision since I couldn’t understand how it is that I could sing the liturgy and not be praying. I am not sure I have ever regularly attended a church and not been in the choir. Any number of factors probably contributed to the problem: concentrating on timing, the music, singing in a language I do not actually speak. All of these things can distract from actually praying rather than just mouthing the words I sing in (thought not always) tune. At other times in my life, these elements were not distracting, but they were now for whatever reason. It was just time for a break.
My first Sunday standing in the congregation was, well, surprising. I must admit, I sang virtually everything I would have sung had I been in the choir. I am not sure I am able to participate in liturgy without singing. At various points though, I didn’t sing. Sometimes, I read the translation (if it was in Greek). A number of times, I read the prayers along with the priest. And it was wonderful, reading these prayers.
I had ample opportunity to read scripture this past Holy Week, as close as I get any more to “preaching the good news.” During Holy Week, significant sections of the Psalter are read, and the otherwise too rare opportunity to read texts from the Hebrew scriptures is plentiful. As is my custom, I modify the language a bit.
This past Sunday celebrated the Myrrh-bearing Women: Mary Magdalene, Mary the Theotokos, Joanna, Salome, Mary the wife of Cleopas, Susanna, and Mary and Martha of Bethany. These women, according to the testimony of the Gospels, were the first witnesses to the resurrection, the first to deliver the good news to the followers of Jesus hiding away from the crucifying authorites. The Troparion of the day records the angel’s command to the women to go, cry “The Lord is risen, granting the world great mercy." The Kontakion declares them apostles commanded to preach the Resurrection: