Friday, April 25, 2008

1 day - Holy Wednesday + Holy Thursday

This will be quick. Things have shifted gears to being even more nuts, so I'm grabbing a few minutes to type this at 1:15 in the morning after coming home from Church.

Wednesday. Well... I slept, Wednesday morning rather than going to Progeismena, which I really needed, but I didn't sleep enough. Most of Wednesday I just hung around the house, except for buying a new recipe magazine and making up a bag of dried fruit and nuts to snack on because there's practically nothing else around (that's reasonably healthy) that I can eat. I dozed for an awful lot of it, having lit the candle by my bedside in front of the icons. I've been so tired recently, I could use all the help I can get. That evening I got all dressed up, bought a bottle of olive oil, and caught the train into the city to meet Troy and Jeremy - and went to Church. The service Wednesday night is the sacrament of Holy Unction - healing of both soul and body, and was one of the more beautiful services to just listen to I've been to. Something I've really appreciated during Holy Week is that we have no real need for sermons, there is so much theology in the hymns which elaborate on the Gospel/epistle readings. We sometimes get homilies as well though :) Long story short, it's a very long, beautiful service with several Gospel and epistle readings (after each other), and with each of the sets of readings a new...well, they're like little metal discs with a wick in them that float - a new one got added to the bowl that the priest had poured a little oil from each persons' bottle into. It was a very cool lamp! Eventually there were 7 (I think) and it glowed! At the end, we all lined up, kissed the book of the Gospels and the Cross, and then had a cross marked in oil on our forehead, hands and throat with a blessing from the priest.
We took Troy home, and then I slept at Jeremy's so I could get up in the morning for church, and actually got to sleep quite early.

Church this morning... well, it started at 6. So I got up at 5:30. Ugh. It was worth it though - a weird service, for the Mystical Supper (aka the Lord's/Last Supper), a combination of Vespers (evening service - yes we were doing it in the morning, yes I know that's weird) and the Divine Liturgy (mass). Lots of the once a year people came - just in time for Communion, having stayed home for the rest of the service, and then left as soon as they had taken it. Sigh. If you can't say anything nice.... so I'm not going to say any more about that.
Jeremy had to work, but was working from home, so we went back to his place and he worked while I pulled out my arabic textbook and started trying to learn it a bit. It's not as hard as it looked when I first saw it, but it's not easy either. Writing it is fun! Lots of sweeping curves, like writing cursive. I got a few exercises done - most of the first chapter, and my vocab list now has five words on it. Now to try and LEARN them!
After that experience. Troy met us at the Church and we talked to Father about stuff - mostly, our backgrounds and he asked us a lot of questions to make sure we actually knew stuff before we got baptised. Apparently we answered well enough :) And then... well, it's hard to explain, and I'm not going to go into it because I can't find a way to do it. But we had Confession for the first time (though strictly speaking it's not the sacrament as we're not baptised...complicated) and whatever I thought Confession would be like, it's not. Very hard to explain, but very beautiful, and I felt much lighter. Everyone's told me 'you know, you don't confess to the priest', and I never understood that until now. You don't even look at the priest - you're staring at the carpet or at the icon of Christ that you're kneeling before. He's just a witness. Beyond that, I'll not say more. Some things are just too private to talk about.
We spent the afternoon just being blobs at Troy's house while Jeremy did some more work at his, and we had the usual drama with busses and Troy not having the internet so not being able to check the train timetable and trying to get in contact with his housemate and her not answering her phone and... in the end, we got to Church - we got lost in the process, and we were technically late, but the service started half an hour late anyway so not an issue. Tonight's service was for the Crucifixion and hoo boy. There is no honest way of describing this service.
Twelve Gospel readings, and you stand for all of them - and they're LONG. In between, the hymns explore the themes and events of the Gospel that was just read, and they go from the Mystical Supper all the way to the soldiers guarding the tomb. Very long service, very beautiful one, including a very memorable procession - and an icon...well, it's kind of like a 2D statue. Th Cross is one 'statue', but it's wooden and flat, painted. Hanging on it is a 'statue' of Christ - cut the shape, but flat, and then painted. Hard to explain, but you can't look at it and not be moved. The cross is taller than I am when it's in its stand in the centre of the Church. This was carried out by the priest in procession a couple times, completely in the dark except for candles...haunting.
Again, the 'countdown' - each of the candlestands at the front had the normal candles lit, but around each of them there were 6 tapers, and one was lit after every Gospel until they were all lit. These things are just...wonderful.

Not-Greek-Church ends up finishing early a LOT, so we went from there with Daniel (Jeremy had choir practice) to Greek-Church where it was standing room only so we went into the hall that had a live video screen of inside the Church. We sat with Jo, and stood for the Gospels and anything we understood - and I must confess, we talked a bit during the long hymns and readings that we couldn't understand. Usually on spiritual things...but we were talking. So was everyone else in the hall though, so...

We hung around, talked, laughed, ate bread and oreos (totally vegan and oil free, woohoo) and watched the first part of the Passion of the Christ, which none of us liked. So we turned it off, and came home!

I'm going to go pass out now. I don't think I'll have a chance to write before Sunday - so I'll see you then, if not before.

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