Sunday, May 31, 2009

Meanwhile in Russian Orthodoxy
After three long days in the newsroom I went to what was listed as Vigil for the Ascension expecting to stand/sit back and leave once Vespers was done. I thought things might change as the rector (my father confessor — BTW he’s preached at Clem’s) is unwell, and on that I was right. Just me and two others on the kliros and a congregation of one. If I’d known and been well rested I could have put together a credible and even edifying version of the reader’s service of this from my books at home complete with kathisma psalms. It wasn’t pretty at times but we got through it.

Last Sunday I worked with a supply priest (lovely old man) who doesn’t speak English; after 17 years I understand at worst half of what I hear in Russian*. This week was the other way round: an OCA priest with no Russian (BTW Fr Mark he’s retired Navy) so he served in English whilst our Russian deacon and the choir did their parts as usual in Slavonic. As Father started the hours in English I saw an opportunity: whipped out Hapgood from the kliros and the congregation got Terce and Sext in my native tradition’s idiom (think of it as a prayer for the repose of the old heretical Bishop of Exeter’s soul). The extent of ecclesiastical change including liturgical innovation here: sometimes we have services in English! Good.
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
— From today’s epistle (actually from Acts)

Slavonic inadvertently struck back: the reading was complicated, skipping a lot of lines, so once I finished the Slavonic I hestitated when repeating in English: ‘In those days’... silence as my eyes scanned the page. Fr Valery the Russian deacon bellowed ‘Премудрость!’ (‘Wisdommm!’) which I decided to interpret as a signal to jump to the Alleluia verses. So far no heresy trial for me.
Before the morning star thou wast begotten of the Father; before the ages thou wast conceived without a mother, even though Arius believed thee to be created and not God. He shamelessly confused the Creator with his creatures, thus deserving eternal punishment. Yet the Council of Nicæa proclaimed thee as the Son of God who is enthroned with the Father and the Spirit.

Having brought together all spiritual knowledge and having carefully pondered all things in the Holy Spirit, the noble fathers composed the Symbol of Faith in letters divinely inscribed. They clearly proclaim the Word to be co-eternal and consubstantial with the Father, unerringly following the apostolic faith.

You were the guardians of the apostolic teachings, O holy fathers, and as teachers of the true faith you professed the holy and consubstantial Trinity. Together in council you rejected the blasphemy of Arius; and with him you also refuted Macedonius who denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit. You condemned Nestorius, Eutyches and Dioscurus, together with Sabellius and Severus. Through your prayers, preserve us from all false doctrine and guard our lives blamelessly in the true faith.
— From tonight’s Vespers

BTW our resident nun, who doesn’t speak English, has been to Clem’s with our rector and loved all the relics.

*One of many great things about ‘Crime Story’: it’s set in Chicago and I can understand the occasional dialogue in Polish!

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