In the process of preparing text to be sung in our services, I often run across questions about the meaning. I try my best to reword unclear passages so they will make sense to the hearer, who, in almost all cases, will only get one chance to hear that particular text, and that, sung by the choir, no less. It is a bit of a musical, poetic, biblical, historical puzzle.
Sometimes the unclear passage is a reference to something in the saint’s life: “thou didst offer an incense of sweet savor with thy martyr’s hand” (Barlaam, 19Nov). We understand the words, but it raises questions in our minds. Sometimes, it is an unclear combination of the saint’s life and and a particular scripture passage; the irmos portions of Matins do this fairly often.
This coming Sunday, we will be celebrating the prophet Zephaniah. Something about the kontakion hymn for him, and the quote from the prophecy included in it, caught my eye and I looked it up. I just copied the words into the search engine, and was a bit surprised to find the results listed as Zechariah…a different Z-prophet. This is a problem I have not seen before.
Continue reading “Zephaniah – Zechariah – same difference”
We prepare to celebrate All Saints of North America this Sunday. The hymnography is mostly fine, but needs two major updates. One, relatively easy to fix: it is quite limited in the names it mentions, probably a product of when the service was written. That is fairly easy to fix, and not necessitating a mention of every name, for that would also soon be out of date, but to focus on more prominent or categorical additions.
The second issue needing an update is that that the wording of the service in its current form has in mind only immigrant saints, and we need to see that this is a living faith which has produced and continues to produce saints among the native-born people of the Americas. Within that issue, it is also a problem that though “men and women” is mentioned in various places, it still sounds past-tense, speaking of the immigrants; though we do not have canonized women saints in America, yet, we must intentionally commemorate the women among the all-saints of our lands, for All Saints is all about the saints we do not know about. Just think Matushka Olga.
Continue reading “Updating Hymnography for the American Saints”
“If you are called to be in the monastery, you better not go [into missions], and if you are called to go, you better not be in the monastery.” How these words came from the mouth of an Orthodox Christian deeply involved in missions, I cannot understand.
In context, it was clear that this viewpoint came from someone who sees monasteries as merely a place to provide spiritual health to parishioners in the world, maybe something like a retreat center. Even if that was all monasteries were, then we should we not start monasteries wherever we are involved in mission so that the host people can also have the benefit of that spiritual guidance? But it is not a well thought out viewpoint; it is (as a best case scenario) an accidental misunderstanding of monasticism and the various vocations of the Christian faith, likely from a leftover Protestant, Romo-phobic viewpoint.
Continue reading “A Problematic Viewpoint of Monks in Missions”
Even in our modern understanding of Saint Nicholas, that is, in all the movies and stories about Santa Claus, we have not forgotten one of the most important things about St. Nicholas, something that he did so much and so often, that it helps us know why he is such a shining star and saint of the Church: he gave to the poor. All the stories of Santa Claus are rooted in the way that St. Nicholas gave, especially giving alms. The idea of stockings hanging on the fireplace or filling shoes with coins, go back to one specific time that St. Nicholas gave to the poor.
In the city where St. Nicholas lived, there also lived a man who once had been rich, but had fallen into poverty. This man had three daughters. At that time, a woman could not marry unless her family was able to give a dowry, that is, money and gifts, to the family of the man she hoped to marry. This man was so poor that he had lost all hope of being able to marry off his daughters.
In his despair, an evil idea came to him: for his family to have the money to survive, he decided to sell his daughters into a kind of slavery. The girls would have been forced to do ugly and awful things.
Continue reading “The Secret Gifts of St. Nicholas”
Here are some stories of what happens beyond the death of this body, and not mere stories, but ones passed down to us from the experience of the saints.
A great place to start is to read the life of St. Theodora of Constantinople. But there are several more which are well worth mentioning…
Continue reading “A Few Glimpses beyond Death”