Serving in the altar is not something you learn from a book. It doesn’t hurt to have a cheat-sheet, like the one you see above. But, like dancing, serving just requires developing a sense for what’s going on, which takes time.
Unfortunately, I’m a singer, which means that I am more required on kliros than in the altar. Indeed, here at Jordanville there is a division of labor among the seminarians between those who serve and those who sing. Those who do both usually do one better than the other, and represent that exception that proves the rule.
I don’t expect to be able to serve blindfolded, like some of my classmates. But I do hope to know the basics. This week, I was supposed to serve with one of the more experienced monks. But, a last-minute change made me the senior to an incoming seminarian. Being forced to be the “responsible” one for a change, I had to really start watching what was going on, and learned a thing or two.
Case in point: one does not use regular candles during a hierarchical service, but just the dikiri and trikiri. I learned that yesterday, when Metropolitan Hilarion, our First Hierarch, came to serve Liturgy for Ss. Florus and Laurus, the namesday for one of our elder monks (Fr. Flor) and late Metropolitan Laurus of blessed memory. I was guided here and there, and moved around like an action figure. But it was magnificent. The service, I mean.
As I enter my second year as a seminarian, I guess I have to raise my standards a bit higher, beyond “not setting self on fire.” Yes, serving in the altar can’t be learned in a book. Just like life.