Seminarians Speak

A Song of Truth and Worship

Sandy Hermansen

O Lord, open Thou My lips and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise.

How many times have I heard this phrase, spoken by the priest at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy, and missed how bold and vulnerable a prayer it truly is? After all, if "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks," then asking God to open my mouth is to lay bare my heart before him. And this, indeed, gives me pause. When the floodgates are opened, what will spill out of the innermost parts of my being? Will it be selfishness, bitterness, and fear, or faith, hope, and love? How, really, do the words of my mouth—streaming from the meditations of my heart—become pleasing in the sight of God? How do I fill my heart so that my mouth sings praise?

My first month at seminary brought all of this to the forefront for me when I found myself having to readjust my sense of a daily schedule to not only include academic classes, but morning and evening chapel services as well. Having come from a decade in the workforce as a school administrator and teacher, going to church twice a day was definitely a change for me. And—just to clarify—it was hard. It was hard to not skip Matins and sleep in. It was hard to pause my work to go to Vespers in the evening. But even harder than making time in my day, it was harder to make room in my heart for this daily cycle of services.

Like a new rule of prayer or a spiritual discipline, I found that the struggle was ultimately an internal one. I had come to seminary to learn about the Church. How could I expect to learn about it if I wasn't also participating in its life? If I believed it was valuable enough for me to pause my career to come here to study, could I also believe it was valuable enough for me to pause my day, to go to chapel to worship?

Then one day at the end of the first month of school, I was standing in the kitchen, washing dishes and singing to myself, when I suddenly realized something. I was singing a hymn from Matins! When had I learned it, exactly? How long had I been singing it? When did it become the first song on my heart like that? My heart filled with joy. Today—this moment at least—when my mouth opened, it had brought forth praise. These services had indeed been forming me unaware, filling my kardia and nous with a song of truth and worship. Perhaps this was just as important as all the good and meaningful things I was learning in my classes. Perhaps even more!

Fast forward to Lent and Holy Week here at St. Vladimir's, and this lesson was amplified again. Lenten services were longer and multiplied. During Holy Week, we spent 5–7 hours in services, way more than I had ever had opportunity to do when I was working back home. My feet hurt, my voice came and went, and my eyes grew heavy during a few of the Scripture readings. This was indeed a new kind of spiritual (and physical!) work for me. Yet, it is no accident that the context of the verse "Open Thou my lips" is within the penitential Psalm 50/51, for in the context of that Lenten preparation I similarly found myself struggling between being laid bare before God and begging Him to fill me with His mercy. And of course, when we began to sing the Paschal hymns—"Let God Arise," "The Angel Cried," and "Christ is Risen from the dead trampling down death by death!"—how could my heart not burst forth with praise.

Sandy Hermansen is a first year Master of Arts student from Oklahoma. She holds a Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction and a Bachelor's degree in English Literature. Sandy is a professional educator who has worked as a school teacher and administrator. As such, she is interested in the intersection of the worlds of education and Orthodoxy, and desires to have her studies here at the seminary inform her work in education after she finishes her degree.

Previous Seminarians Speak articles:

Title Author Datesort icon
St. Vladimir’s Seminary and the Upward Call Fr. Lucas Rice July 19, 2010
"I (used to) Play in a Rock Band" Jamey Bozeman September 15, 2010
"It's Worth It": Reflection on "Ed Day" Andrew Boyd October 29, 2010
Feasting before the Fast, Thanksgiving at SVOTS Sarah Bracey-Johnson November 22, 2010
Bless These Waters: Theophany at SVOTS David Wooten January 14, 2011
"I was in prison, and you visited me." (Matt 25:37) Adam Horstman March 14, 2011
Marching Peaceably, Praying Mightily Seminarian Dn. David Wooten January 26, 2012
Embracing All Who Suffer Loss: Seminarians Train for Post-Abortion Counseling Seminarian Dn. David Wooten March 8, 2012
For a Monastic, Seminary Life Seems "Ideal" Monk James March 13, 2012
A Life in Christ Under Guard Harrison Basil Russin September 25, 2012
Serving with His Beatitude Ignatius IV, Patriarch of Antioch Richard Ajalat October 29, 2012
We Are Being Formed Daily Jabra Tannous November 26, 2012
Our Common Love Gabrielle Kushlan March 19, 2013
Reflections on a New Academic Year Sandro Margheritino September 24, 2013
Oregon and New York, Farm and Seminary Ashli Moore October 23, 2013
How Many are Your Works, O Lord! Bogdan Neacsiu December 5, 2013
The Road to Hospital Chaplaincy Beryl Knudsen February 4, 2014
The Festival of Young Preachers, 2014 Fr. Gabreil Alemayehu February 14, 2014
A Unique Orthodox Community Experience Dn. Shiryl Mathai March 10, 2014
The Vocation of Fatherhood Joshua Trant April 2, 2014
"Delicately Perched": An Armenian Student's End-of-year Insights Kathryn Ashbahian May 7, 2014
Restoring the Western Rite Ian Abodeely August 14, 2014
What I Did This Summer Dn. Theodor Svane September 23, 2014
Transfiguration Seraphim Long October 16, 2014
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall... Lijin Raju November 19, 2014
The Saints John Mikitish December 16, 2014
At the National Festival of Young Preachers Tristan Gall January 9, 2015
To Lead, We Must Learn How to Serve Fr. Mark Vair February 10, 2015
In Pursuit of a Focusing of the Faith Nikita Andrejev March 16, 2015
"Glory be to Thee who hast shown us the light..." Rami Dahdal May 14, 2015
Sowing Seeds, Reaping Blessings: A Mission Trip to Kenya Shawn Thomas May 21, 2015
The Way of a Pilgrim Abraam Mikhail June 22, 2015
Four Things I’ve Learned (So Far) Fr. Theophan Whitfield September 28, 2015
Pursuing an Infinite God: a journey of the mind and the heart Peter Mansour October 23, 2015
A Whole New World Alex Mackoul December 15, 2015
Article Profiles Seminarian and Iconographer Seraphim O'Keefe Alan Pell Crawford December 30, 2015
Changed by His Grace Thomas Totonchy January 18, 2016
From Gulu, Uganda to Yonkers, New York: Seminarian Simon Menya's Report Simon Menya February 4, 2016
Led by God's Hand Lauren Pulley February 16, 2016
Go to Seminary Now? Christopher Moore March 2, 2016
Living the Gospel: Seminarian, Alumnus Join IOCC New Orleans Project Team Erik Potter March 7, 2016
Romanian Student Discovers New Horizons at St. Vladimir's Alexandru Popovici March 27, 2016
Through the Cross, Joy Andrew and Melissa Cannon April 5, 2016
A Song of Truth and Worship Sandy Hermansen May 5, 2016
Syndicate content Subscribe