Sunday, April 25, 2010

Turning 50 at Seminary

On Thursday I reached the half-century milestone. In most ways this was a typical day at St. Vlad's for me, but it was special in some ways too. So I thought it might make for a good day-in-the-life post.

I got up at 6:30 and was in the chapel before 7:15. Since I was the morning reader this week, I had to arrive early to set up the Matins book and mark the Psalm verses and the Epistle reading, and then I looked over the readings until the bell rang at 7:30. Standing in the middle of the church, just behind the analogion, I intoned the Paschal Troparion three times, followed by the Trisagion Prayers. After the choir sang the Paschal Troparion three more times, I read Psalm 103. Then I stepped back to the congregation while the deacon and the men's choir did the Great Litany and the choir sang God is the Lord. During the third week of Easter season, we commemorate the Myrrh-bearing women and St. Joseph of Arimathea every day, so the choir sang their troparia at this point in the service. (Since the Arimathean is my patron saint, I enjoyed hearing hymns about him at every service this week!) After I read Psalms 27-29, I returned to the congregation until towards the end of Matins, when I read the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch from Acts 8. Following Matins, I had to help the student ecclesiarch put away the Matins books and set up the choir stands for Vespers.

I arrived late for breakfast in the refectory, which was the usual fare for a non-fasting weekday - scrambled eggs, pancakes, hash browns, fruit salad, assorted breads, and orange juice. After breakfast, we sang the last part "The Angel Cried," beginning with "Shine, shine," as we have after every meal since Pascha. After Father Stephen gave the blessing, he recognized my birthday and everyone sang "Many Years," the universal, all-purpose song for honoring people on their birthdays, name days, anniversaries, baptisms, chrismations, marriages, etc. in the Orthodox Church. Then I went to the kitchen and joined my meal crew in clearing tables, washing dishes, and putting things away. (My classmate Maggie, who normally works on another meal crew, had subbed for me for the pre-meal set-up since I was reading at Matins.) I had a few minutes left to go to the libarary and check my e-mail before class.

The Thursday morning class for first-year students is Pauline Epistles. We're currently on Romans, as we will be for the rest of the semester. Drawing a diagram on the board, Dr. Barnet reviewed the hermeneutic circle that produced the Gospels: early Christians, reflecting on Scripture (i.e., the Old Testament) in the light of the gospel (good news) of Christ's Passion and Resurrection, produced the written Gospels. He then returned to Romans, drawing on the work of Luke Timothy Johnson to examine the epistle in terms of the classical rhetorical form of diatribe.

My afternoon class, Integrating Seminar, is split into two sections. I am in the second section, which does not meet until 2:10. Until then, I continued my search for sources on the old Georgian Rite for my Church History paper. In Seminar we heard presentations from three students on the subject of self-control, drawing from the writings of St. John of Kronstadt and St. Gregory the Great. After class I made a cup of tea in the refectory and then walked back up the hill to North Dorm. I remotely accessed my desktop computer in my Maryland office, retrieved some files, and e-mailed them to myself. One file was a photo of myself for my application for the Albania mission (a hoop I have to jump through even though I have already been accepted). The other file was information on "the Rule of the Mother of God" - variations of the Rosary used by Eastern Christians - which I then e-mailed to another student for a project he is working on.

Then I hurried back to the chapel. I was to sing with the Byzantine Choir at Great Vespers for the eve of the Feast of St. George. Even though attendance is officially required of all students at daily Matins and Vespers, it is not enforced, so a lot of the OCA students skip the services when the Byzantine Choir, composed mostly of Antiochians, is scheduled to sing. But this day the chapel was packed for the feast. I got to free chant a sticheron for the Myrrh-bearers, a sticheron for St. George, and an aposticha verse. (Unfortunately, it had not occurred to me the request to chant the Troparion of St. Joseph of Arimathea. I made a mental note to do so at Liturgy the next morning.)

Back in the refectory at supper, I was pleased to see there would be ice cream for dessert! But that wasn't all. In the middle of supper, people suddenly started singing "Many Years," and my friend Tracy returned from the kitchen carrying a cake with five candles on it! I blew all the candles out, but one of them re-lit. Suspecting a trick, I blew again, and it stayed out. I was supposed to work the clean-up shift, in exchange for not having to do set-up at breakfast, but Maggie insisted on taking the rest of the supper shift for me so that I could enjoy my cake and ice cream without hurrying.

On Thursday evenings, I am auditing an Iconology class. We are learning to analyze Orthodox iconography in terms of its rhetorical content and its use by the church - a contrast to the more mystical and dogmatic approach popularized in recent decades by Ouspensky. We looked at innovation and development in iconography, focusing particularly on the introduction of pathos - the expression of emotion by the figures in icons. We then spent some time looking at icons that depict other icons, focusing on an elaborate icon of St. Luke painting the first icon of the Virgin Mary. It inserts the traditional icon of St. Luke writing the Gospel into the middle of the traditional icon of the Annunciation, resulting in an icon with a new narrative - Gabriel teaching Luke how to paint Mary. We concluded by looking at some strange icons and considering the limits of innovation in iconography.

After class I returned to the dorm, where my classmate Philip was waiting for me. We began learning how to play Starfleet Battles, a wargame set in the Star Trek universe. I was running a Federation starship against Philip's Klingon cruiser. It was 1 AM before we knew it, so we recorded our positions, intending to resume the game in the future.

But my day was not over yet. I knew the deadline was creeping up to send in my $100 deposit for the missiology class in Albania. The information about the class had trickled out in an un-systematic way, with a number of additions and corrections, and I had not yet collated it all in my mind. It was a good thing I checked - the deadline for sending in the full $500 cost of the class was only a week away!

I knew I would have to be in the chapel by 6:40 to prepare to read at the Liturgy for the feast of St. George, so I set my alarm for 6 AM and turned in.


Anonymous said...

Nice blog you got here... Just droppin' by to say hi!

Liza said...

Happy birthday!


Mari said...

I know this is late but
Happy B-day to you
Happy B-day to you
Happy Bird day to yoo-hoo
Happy B-day to you
...and now you're old [jazz hands]

Sara K. said...

Sounds like a great day! Best wishes to you! S

Anonymous said...