Thursday, March 23, 2006


One of the great blessings of this year's cultural trip (and there were many) was attending worship, and leading it a few times, in churches where we don't normally get to worship. The most different from our normal venue was a Russian Orthodox Cathedral, which took place half in English, half in Church Slovanic, and lasted an hour and one half. Did I mention that the Orthodox stand for their whole service? Except when they are prostrating themselves on the ground, that is. Even though I felt like I knew a bit more what heaven would be like --continually praising God in a setting completely not like mundane life -- I certainly was thankful for Thomas Cranmer and his wise "trimming" of the services so that congregations could also participate. For, as beautiful this Orthodox service was in its own way (a certain faculty member might disagree here!), it was anything but participator-friendly. And I don't think they mean for it to be especially participator-friendly. I mentioned its length already. They also spoke remarkably quickly, and had no time factored in for congregational responses. I suppose either of these being changed would lead to a service twice as long (this was vespers, compline and mattins all in one -- eep!). People walked around the back of the... nave?.. during the whole liturgy, offering their own private prayers, a few pausing for a while to hear the service, between where we the congregation sat and the choir area. Then, of course, the entire chancel area was blocked off from congregants, with no altar visible. Aside from the theology of it, I found this set up to be visually disorienting, giving no place for the eye to rest.
I supposed I would get used to it if I had need to, and I still think I have more in common theologically with the East than with Rome. But it would really be a loss to do away wtih congregational participation, and a service in a known language, since in this service at least, they spoke so quickly that even the English I could pick out didn't qualify as a known tongue to me except about two words out of ten.
But the music was amazing. Haunting and eastern, to western ears, but with resolution and some measure of tonic rest at the conclusion of the phrases which (I think) we don't find in other eastern music. The heightened tension, if I can speak as one with little music training, seemed to show how far above us God is, and then the resolution at the end said, "You can still come near." I'd like to hear that again.
And of course, never forget the hats of the Orthodox bishops, which only sort of conceal the long ponytails that go with their long beards. We met a very gracious bishop from the Orthodox Church of America, the Bishop of Berkeley, Bishop Benjamin, who showed us around Holy Trinity Cathedral for as long as he could until he had to leave to do a funeral. We appreciated it very much.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Saint Patrick's Breastplate

(For those who are always requesting hymn 268)

Fáed Fíada - The Cry of the Deer

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the
Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession
of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

I arise today through the strength of Christ with His Baptism,
through the strength of His Crucifixion with His Burial
through the strength of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
through the strength of His descent for the Judgment of Doom.

I arise today through the strength of the love of Cherubim
in obedience of Angels, in the service of the Archangels,
in hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
in prayers of Patriarchs, in predictions of Prophets,
in preachings of Apostles, in faiths of Confessors,
in innocence of Holy Virgins, in deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through the strength of Heaven:
light of Sun, brilliance of Moon, splendour of Fire,
speed of Lightning, swiftness of Wind, depth of Sea,
stability of Earth, firmness of Rock.

I arise today, through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me,
God's host to secure me:
against snares of devils, against temptations of vices,
against inclinations of nature, against everyone who
shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in a crowd.
I summon today all these powers between me (and these evils):
against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose
my body and my soul,
against incantations of false prophets,
against black laws of heathenry,
against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry,
against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
against every knowledge that endangers man's body and soul.
Christ to protect me today
against poison, against burning, against drowning,
against wounding, so that there may come abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right,
Christ on my left, Christ in breadth, Christ in length,
Christ in height, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the
Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the
Oneness of the Creator of creation.
Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of Christ. May Thy Salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.