Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hard-core unreformed religion
Today in Eastern Orthodoxy is the Saturday of the Akathist Hymn to the Mother of God. Last night I went to a Russian service expecting just the akathist, about half an hour, and instead got a double-barrelled blast of old-school, two hours’ worth: Matins (really the equivalent of Roman Rite Lauds), complete with the two opening psalms (besides the six that start it in a Vigil service) and kathismata (assigned psalmody, when the congregation, if there is one, often go out for a smoke... see this and Brother Stephen on real old-school Catholicism), with its Canon (nine parts), part of another canon and the akathist (13 parts — the Litany of Loretto on steroids so it’s the size of a fully grown Russian), with the usual short form of Prime tacked onto the end. An enthusiastic choir of two American-born young people who grew up with the stuff. (This church is Russian not annoying anti-Western überfromm convert.) Not a word of English. Slavonic. As a longtime amateur Russian speaker I understand at least half of it, including reading the book well enough to know some hard-to-find parts were skipped (liturgical books often give just the first words of a verse and not necessarily with a page number to find it — it’s assumed you’ve memorised the verse!) and see/hear a few other goofs.

There was so much content, and a variety of it, that it wasn’t boring, and as there were several censings, in one of the parts where the lights in the church were on, the priest looked like he was standing on a cloud.

A big congregation wouldn’t necessarily stay for the whole thing, following part of it or just coming into the church to light a candle to one’s favourite saint.

By the way in 1746 Pope Benedict XIV granted an indulgence of 50 days to Roman Rite and Greek Rite Catholics for each recitation of this akathist.

Rejoice, O bride unwedded! (The Slavonic around Our Lady’s halo on the icon says this.)

Looking forward to all of Catholic Christendom celebrating Easter together.

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