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Sunday celebrated one of my favorite ecumenical councils: the one which defined the use of images within the Church. But, because St Gregory’s liturgy was tied to when a choir of seminarians from Uzhorod could arrive and participate with us, service was later in the day (2 pm). This made for a rather unusual Sunday schedule.

In the morning, I began doing some grading of papers ( I decided my TA and I would do 1/2 of the grading each, and we will switch who we grade each time, so everyone will get a chance to be graded by both of us). It’s always difficult for me to know how to grade projects like this, but I think I am being fair. I always hope I am.  

The liturgy itself was done completely in Slavonic, and it was done in the fashion where the choir did the responses for the people. That sometimes happens; I prefer when the people join in with the choir and sing together, but I can understand why it didn’t happen: people wanted to hear them since it will be the only time they were with us, and also they were not sure how they would sing the tunes and so didn’t want to get things messed up. I would have tried with the Slavonic if people joined in (I’ve engaged liturgies completely in Slavonic before, though I am never great at it — some of the prayers are real tongue twisters for me!). After liturgy, I went home, and watched some tv.

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The biggest surprise of Sunday was when I saw an old student of mine going to St Gregory’s for church. I was a TA in his World Religions class a few years ago, and so, to find him showing up was more than a little unexpected — but it turns out he is now married, and his wife is Byzantine. St Gregory’s is the closest Byzantine parish from where they live (sometimes, it is hard to find one). So they will come from time to time now.

The rest of Sunday I used to rest, watch some television, read, and prepare some ideas for the class I will be teaching on Tuesday (often doing all those at once). I still have more to do with that today, but I will think of something. It looks like it might be a good day to catch up on elements of Hinduism I’ve not established too well yet (the reading material was on religiosity, so it opens up to many themes).

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Predictions

Since it is Labor Day weekend, the annual Byzantine Catholic pilgrimage is going on in Uniontown, PA. Fr Michael went this year, and we had a substitute priest, Fr. Leonard Martin, celebrating liturgy with us at St Gregory’s. One thing I noticed is how much quicker the liturgy was; I got home about 30 mins earlier than normal.

A couple weeks ago, when I was talking with the cantor at St Gregory’s, I told him the best choice for McCain’s Vice Presidential nomination would be Sarah Palin. He had not heard of her. He was more than surprised that I had called it, and was joking that I needed to see if I can call horse races. While I didn’t think McCain would choose Sarah, it is clear someone (I don’t think McCain himself) told him to do so, but I don’t think they did so for the right reasons. They just want her for the image and nothing else. If they were interested in her political views, they would have helped her get some in areas which she didn’t have, and before she was declared to be McCain’s running mate. The McCain team should have sent someone to her, to talk to her, to help her know McCain’s positions and views, and to give her an introductory lesson on foreign policy; the words she spoke before being selected (like she did not know what a Vice President does) I think is going to haunt the McCain ticket. It’s not her fault, but the McCain team’s; they could have gotten her up to speed, but they didn’t. It’s quite sad they did not. I’m afraid she is going to be used as a lamb thrown into the slaughter.

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Where Is Everyone Going?

Sunday morning, before Divine Liturgy, I talked to George (he travels about fifty miles to get to church, and sometimes doesn’t show up because of it). He’s one of the original members of the parish, and he said he has seen people slowly moving away and not coming back. He thinks one of the main problems is that the parish does not know what it needs to do to keep people coming back. His biggest complaint is that we use way too much Slavonic. It’s not because he doesn’t like Slavonic, but he understands how confusing it must be for visitors. Indeed, he said he sits in the back of the parish, and has seen guests come in and leave during the liturgy because of it. I think he is right on this — and like him, it’s not because I don’t appreciate the Slavonic. We have new liturgical books which don’t have the Slavonic next to it. So when the parish suddenly switches to it, it must be an extra point of confusion for an otherwise difficult pewbook to follow. That really won’t attract return visits by guests. But I told him at the end, I think we also have too many extra services attached to the main liturgy, which makes the whole service too long for guests, detouring those who stayed the whole time from coming back. It seems more than half of the time, we end liturgy with a Panachida service now. While I can understand the good being done praying for the needs of the dead, I constantly have to remind myself that when I find yet another week we will have a longer service because of it. But I can’t help but think of how excessive this must seem for a visitor. George agreed.

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Old Priests At Mass

Since it was the Feast of the Dormition (Assumption), I went in to CUA, and to go to the Shrine for my liturgical celebration of the feast. I went in to the first mass they had (7 am). The priest at that service was old, with some really bad posture (I’m sure pained with arthritis), and difficult to hear when he gave his homily. Nonetheless, I also got a sense that he wasn’t just going through the motions, but he was putting himself out there for Christ; that he probably could have retired and didn’t says something about his faith and desire. I’ve known many people complain about old priests at mass; while I can understand how it makes the liturgical celebration not as smooth, one thing they should consider: that priest up there is probably going through a lot of pain to be there for you; respect him for it.

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Blessed Car

One of the benefits of being a Byzantine Catholic: each year, I get my car blessed. I’m sure it’s helped me and saved me in more ways than I know. All those close calls which I catch so I’m not sure, but shouldn’t have (it’s not a usual thing, but it does happen). All those days where I get on the road at just the right time to be ahead of all traffic hazards. All those days I travel long, far, and make great time. How much of it was skill on my part? Probably less than I would like to admit. How much of it was luck? Hopefully none.

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The Pauline Year

Yesterday was another hot, humid day which ended in a severe thunderstorm watch. Typical summer weather. When I went to bed, the watch was still on, but I didn’t see any of those storms, and I doubt we got any.

The Feast of St Peter and Paul, being on a Sunday this year, meant we had a mixed liturgical service. Liturgy had to serve both the Sunday Feast (every Sunday participates in Pascha) and as the calendar feast (since Peter and Paul is a solemn feast). This meant readings and tropars were taken from both.

I’m always surprised at what texts are chosen for such feasts. Some are ones I would also choose. Indeed, some just make perfect sense to use them, that when they are not used, I assume there must be a reason which I do not know. For the epistle reading yesterday, I would have chosen St Paul talking about knowing a man (himself) who had been “caught up in Christ,” because I think it is Paul’s best description of himself and highlights the mystical side of his faith. The Gospel reading was exactly the one I would have chosen, Matthew 16 and Christ giving Peter his new name, so I know I am not entirely off.

St Peter and Paul also served as the first day of the new Pauline year, for it is believed he was born 2000 years ago. That would have made him in his early 20s when he was persecuting the Church. That sounds just about right.

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