My dear readers,
Forgive the incoherence that follows; hopefully it explains itself.
We celebrated Epiphany a day early for various reasons. I botched the early part of the Liturgy; all the changeables threw me off and I grew more and more flustered and kicked a stack of offering plates accidentally and also knocked over a stool by backing into it during one of the Litanies. Both incidents caused a loud crash. At last I stood on the slight platform in the back of the room that is the choir director’s stand, utterly bewildered by the question of where to put the Kontakion. After a long silence, Fr. G began singing the service from memory. The choir followed him until I knew where I was again, and from there it went quite well. Fr. G says not to worry, this is my learning year.
We had a new tenor who has perfect pitch. I sang to his voice whenever I could hear it and it was a great pleasure. People who sing perfectly in pitch have a certain resonance to their voices, however quiet, that is denied to those of us who know not wither we tend, musically speaking. It’s as if the pitches recognized by musical theory are more friendly to our terranian air than are the pitches in between.
The second part of the service, although it was completely different from anything I’d done before, went very well and it was quite beautiful although, tragically, I missed actually seeing the part where the cross is dipped in the holy water, symbolizing the baptism of Christ. I think I am going to have to talk to the choir about rearranging the choir platform so that everyone is at a ninety-degree angle to the altar instead of them facing it and me standing with my back to it. I don’t dare do it on my own authority as I am the youngest and newest member of the choir despite being the director. Actual authority is more important than positional authority.
I also want to put the men on one side and the women on the other, which is normal I believe, instead of having the men in back. But first I have to have a few choir seminars and teach them to sing as a choir instead of as individuals, and to not be afraid of one another’s voices. A choir is not really a choir as long as the members are afraid of the other parts “throwing them off.” When I was in Scott Brier’s choir, he mixed us up so that I was standing with only one other alto, and I had two basses behind me and two sopranos on one side and tenors on the other. All fifty of us were arranged in this way. I learned to harmonize with and not against the other voices. It is, as I mentioned, one of life’s great pleasures.
The Epiphany Liturgy had a number of Old Testament readings about water, some of which are favorites of mine (“Ho! Everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters, and you who have no money, come buy and eat without money and without price…”) and I realized how much I have missed hearing the Old Testament scriptures. They are technically a part of the Liturgy, I believe, but because of the length of the service they have been left out of parish Sundays in actual practice. At least, I read that somewhere but I don’t remember my source so I may be wrong. Maybe if I went to other services I would hear them, but the half hour drive somehow seems to make it impossible to do so in actual practice.
My poor Scottie was out doing snow removal from about 5:00 last night until about noon today. He did sleep from 12:30am to 3:30am, though, so that’s one sleep cycle and he won’t be completely depleted. But definitely he’s tired. And yet I’m feeling more tired than he is. I slept this afternoon until Johnny woke me up with a series of loud booms produced by kicking his bedroom wall, meanwhile screaming something he obviously considered quite informative but which I have forgotten. Scottie stumbled out of bed to let him out because I, strangely enough, was incapacitated by exhaustion and shock and I couldn’t seem to get up or even see clearly. Johnny gathered his bunny, bear, and two blankets, and leapt upon our bed, his tiny lean body vibrating with joy. “Good night, Mama, Good night Daddy!” he said, and laid down for all of a second and a half before leaping up and shouting “Good Morning!” Scottie told him to be soft with his Mama, so Johnny put his nose right against mine and murmurred “Nana, Nana, Nana, I want food-ah!” Until I laughed in spite of myself. Then he began leaping on me in triumph and Scottie pulled him off and then Johnny began asking Scottie for food. Eventually we got up but it took me about an hour to become functional. I write this because it’s not normal; it makes me curious.
Why I should be so tired I don’t know. I was talking all month about whether Johnny needs a sibling and maybe my body took that as permission to get pregnant, although all the signs say no. Or maybe my guardian Angel is telling me I don’t need any of that. The mysteries of the feminine physique are deep indeed.
Right now Johnny is taking a rock for a walk around the living room in his stroller. I’m picturing his imaginary sibling in the rock’s place and wondering whether the benefits of Johnny having someone to play with would actually outweigh the devestation of giving birth, nursing, trying to take care of two small children at once, and the possibility of Johnny’s maiming said sibling for life before he was two years old.
Have I mentioned lately how adorable Johnny is? The more he terrorizes me, the more I dote on him. It’s pathetic. I just had more portraits taken of him, without his baby curls this time.
He’s really a good sweet kid, and as he is now sitting naked on the sofa experimenting with a clutch of D batteries, I figure I should go. There really wasn’t any point to the this post and for that I aplogize. Thanks for sharing my life for a few moments, and may God enrich yours with his grace and with every blessing. He’s a good God, and despite the failings of the flesh I seem to see that more clearly these days. As Fr. G says, the point of Orthodoxy is not to feel but to be. I don’t think it’s possible to change in one’s being without “feeling”, that is, sensing, something. But I think I know what he means. You cannot evaluate your spiritual progress on the basis of your emotions. The raging of the old man will part like the waters of the Red Sea before the least command of the Savior, and to someone who is seeking him that command seems to come just in time. And suddenly you find yourself doing the thing you thought you couldn’t and you wonder, “Where did that come from?”
Someday, as I promised Selena, I am going to do a video about chanting. I still don’t know that much about it but I think I’ve found out just enough to get someone started.
In the meantime, try singing the words of Psalm 23 all on one note. Except, at the end of a phrase go up one note or down one note, depending on the feeling that you sense in the phrase. (If you get used to this, you can try going up two notes or down two notes at the end of the phrase, this sounds much prettier.) Then return to the starting note and use it for the next phrase. Keep repeating this all the way through the Psalm. Sing without bellowing or pushing – just softly and gently let the sound come out. Use the normal rythms of speech. Stand before your icon or if you are not Orthodox and do not have an icon, stand anyways and look out the window or at a cross or something that will remind you who you are singing to. That is enough to start, and it is a much better way of reading the Psalms than simply sitting with your Bible on your knee. You can chant your daily prayers as well. Fair fortune!