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Thursday, April 27, 2006

I couldn't sleep last night...

After my evening prayers, I spent a couple hours tossing and turning last night, trying to get comfortable. I was really comfortable, but I couldn't sleep. For some reason, I was thinking about my vocation. What am I to do?

Priesthood? It's very tempting when thinking about all the woes that can hit a family. Nowadays a child can sue a parent or otherwise take them to court and break up the family. Early death of one of the spouses can leave the other one up the proverbial creek. Then comes the question: what in the world would my kid be like? I'd be in deep whale poop if they ended up like me...

Marriage? It's very tempting when thinking about the woes of the priesthood. Dealing with bad bishops, dealing with being forced to say the Novus Ordo and never the Tridentine, dealing with fellow priests who are driving people away from the church, dealing with diocesan politics, dealing with reading between the lines of the bishop's letters trying to catch errors before the liberals do, etc., etc., etc. It's enough to make my head spin. If only priests were as simple and innocent as they are in story books, like Father Brown...

What about being a priest is enticing? The authority, the power of blessing, the sacramental power, the consecrated hands -- all of these things are indeed benefits. I would be able to bring more people to Christ than I ever could as a layman. Something about the Roman collar, the cassock, and the biretta strike instant respect into the hearts of many. People are more inclined to listen to a priest. However, in modern times, when spiritual fervor and clinging to the traditions of the Church is punished like a crime, I can't say that I really want to be a priest. If I'm to be a priest, I want to have the ability to say any form of the Eastern or Western Rite: Tridentine, Anglican-use, and Novus Ordo.

One picture in my head which has been a recurring thought ever since it was put there is a picture of a small core of priests walking down the streets of a large city, like New York City. They would look into everything, and scatter blessings to everything and everyone. It would be simply amazing if we could incorporate both Eastern and Western Rite priests into this group, dressed in their traditional garb. We would carry our breviaries and stop inside any Catholic Church at all for the recitation (or chanting of) the hours. This, to me, is what a priest should do in some of his spare time. Connecting with the world in an open manner is necessary to let the world know that the Church is not dying, like everyone believes, but is alive and growing.

Would this kind of thing bring about any converts, or any interest at all in the Church? I really don't know.

In Rome, when the clergy walks from one place to another, people flock to them. I'm sure that this is also the case in many other nations. In America, there are very few priests who actually walk around in public in their cassocks. I wonder if the majority do not wear their cassock because of the simple fact that it draws too much attention. Is this why they invented clericals, and even why some priests wear sweats or khakies and a polo? I do know that there is often no sign of office, no marks to show that they are a priest. If you talk to them, you may never know if they are a priest. Such is not the case in the image in my head. Everyone would know that these men are priests, and that they are Catholic.

Now, what about marriage is enticing? The ability to assist in bringing children up in the Faith, and the idea of supporting and protecting a family are both just very cool ideas to me. Whenever I see A.J. or Anya, and I help them with something, even something simple, seeing the look of joy in their eyes when they see that this thing is indeed solvable is enough to melt down any ice barriers I may have towards kids. I can understand why parents are willing to put up with the terrible twos and threes not just once or twice, but in rare cases, nineteen or twenty times. Those families are indeed blessed by the Lord. As much as it goes against the grain of what the modern world believes, the more kids you have, the easier some things in life become, assuming that you raised them correctly. If you didn't, you'll have a band of rebels on your hands. But if you mix the right amount of love and the right amount of discipline, if you let kids be kids but all the while be there for them to guide them along the way and be a bastion of virtue and a model for adult life, they should be all right to face the world.

Of course, this is all spoken as an outsider. I'm not good at judging what is good for kids, nor am I good at judging what is good for winning souls over to Christ in the Roman collar. I know that I'm very idealistic, but I do hope that I'm somehow close...

Addendum to Tuesday, April 18, 2006, "At home"

I meant to mention one thing. After I got my boarding pass for the ATA jet in Chicago, everything seemed to go fine. I got seat 20F, a window seat. After they let me through the line, and I walked all the way to the end of the ramp, the lady called me and ran after me: "Mr. Smith? Mr. Smith!" The second time, I knew she was trying to get my attention. I turned around, and walked up to her. They had apparently double-booked a seat. I came back up to the front, wondering if things were going to be as bad as I thought they were. Turns out that no, they weren't. I got moved from 20F to 3F. I'm movin' up in the world.

After I got settled into the plane, a young lady looked at me, and her ticket stub, and asked me if I was supposed to be in 3A. I looked around, and said that, no, I was supposed to be in 3F. How embarrassing! I had taken the poor girl's seat by mistake! I quickly apologized and moved my stuff to across the aisle.

Shortly after that, a security guard came on board the plane, accompanying another man. She asked for a show of hands for all Anthony Smith's. I was going to raise my hand, because it's what my ticket read. But another hand went up. The man she was accompanying was also named Anthony Smith. I never knew that my name was so popular! In any case, it turned out that she was accompanying was actually named "Howard Smith", so there was only one true Anthony Smith on the plane, and an Anthony Smitha. How honored! :)

My Fair Lady

Last night, Mom, Dad and I watched My Fair Lady together. Once again, another classic. Expertly done. Henry Higgins has always been one of my favorite characters. I'm quite surprised that one of his lines isn't, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." It's overall a very fun movie, one of my all-time favorites.

The Shaggy Dog

Liz and I watched the Shaggy Dog yesterday. It was actually a very clever movie. It was a mix of the classic the Shaggy Dog and the Shaggy D.A.. In spite of all the bad reviews of the movie, I wanted to see it anyway. In my humble opinion, forget the reviews. It was actually a very good movie. It's fun, it's innocent, and there's no pointless sex scene to detract from the movie. :-D

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Music Man

I watched The Music Man with my parents last night. It's been a while since I've seen that movie. I should add it to my collection.

Based on my extremely limited experience as an actor, I watched this movie, keeping an eye out for all the little things that make this movie great. Before the movie, the actors were talking about how the director did an entire sections in one take. If you recall the dance in Madison Park ("Shipoopy!"), this was the part. And if you recall how many shots this scene consisted of, I was shocked at how well everything was done. The precision, the timing. My gosh! If Mike P. had a troupe of actors who were able to flow as easily as thee guys, he would be in heaven. At least, I think he would be...

In any case, looking at the dancing, at the singing, at the entire performance, I realize that an actor's life is not all being pampered. At least, these actors really had to work hard to make such a masterpiece. Not all the scenes were at the level of difficulty of the "Shipoopy" scene, but still. It's really amazing.

In any event, if you haven't seen this movie, I bequeath unto thee a smack, and thy penance is to watch this movie. Not much of a penance, because you'll really enjoy it. Unless you're a nutcase...

Monday, April 24, 2006

Sunday @ home

I hung out with Kelly P., Teresa McG., and Jenny D. last night. Jenny came and picked me up at home, and we went out to Dallas. 'Twas fun. The four of us met up at the Blue Mesa Grill for a bite to eat, a couple drinks, and just to chat for a while.

Jenny had to leave after about an hour or so, leaving Kelly, Teresa and me together. We talked about Teresa's papers and classes. After that, we went to go see Ice Age 2. It was really funny! I won't spoil it for anyone, but I enjoyed it immensely. :)

Of course, I love most animated films...

After the movie, Kelly drove Teresa back to U.D., and then me home. I was back at home by midnight.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Saturday @ Home

Mom invited my twin sister, her husband and kids (James, Elizabeth, A.J. and Anya F.), and my older sister, her husband and their family (Gilbert, Jane and Hannah V., with Kathy and a friend) over for dinner. (Lost yet?) {grins evilly} Dinner stated about 5:00PM, and we all just acted like family. It was loads of fun.

A.J. is really growing up. He's become a lot more polite and considerate since the last time I saw him, whereas Anya is going through the terrible threes. She knows she's cute, and it trying to use it to get away with murder. A.J. also knows he's cute, too, but isn't trying to get away with murder anymore. He's such a cool kid!

We got a few pictures of the entire family. I hope to get a copy of it. I'll post it here, if I get a copy. Not "here" here, but on this blog.

After Liz & the family left, the Jane and her family stuck around for a little bit. But as it was getting quite late, they packed up to head out shortly thereafter.

And, for the record, I still can't dance, but I remember a little bit. I remembered the tango steps as Jane and I got into a couple dancing positions in the den...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Musings at home

Dad is amazingly well. On Tuesday, he had as much life in him as he did back when I was at home for Christmas. I was really shocked. I expected to see him clinging on to life quite literally for dear life, but such was not the case. He seemed to be well-grounded in it, and did not have any plans to go anywhere. He was up and about, eating almost as much as I do, maintaining his normal attitude.

Gotta love that fighting spirit. :)

In spite of all the good news, I always remember that his time is limited, perhaps extremely so. There are good and bad days. I'm sure that Tuesday was just a really good day for him.

All of a sudden, the words "Good-bye" and "I love you" carry a whole lot more weight then they ever did. I'm sure you've had this experience before. These words were really heavy when I went to college, but now they are more so. They carry so much weight now, much more than ever.

The thought that tomorrow I might wake up but Dad may not makes me want to say them more often.

Before I went to college, Dad and I rarely had any real discussions. Usually, I just couldn't wait for him to get done talking so I could leave. Sounds cruel, no? Not anymore. The thought that I may never talk to him again, that this conversation here and now could be our last strikes fear into any heart. The last thing I want to do is to have a final conversation between Dad and me end in grief. I'd be stuck with that forever. The only thing I want to do now is re-live life and correct all of my mistakes towards my Dad when I was growing up. I'm sure I'd be a much better person if I could do so.

Sadly, we are all only given one chance at this life. No one gets a second chance. When you die, that's it. It's heaven/purgatory or hell. Making the last conversation you'll ever had with a person end on a bad note is not the way to go at all.

I'm not saying that you need to go blubbering back to every person you know now, recalling and apologizing for each and every time that you've ever crossed swords. That would most likely open more wounds than repair them. However, you do need to make darn sure to never end a conversation on a bad note.

As Our Lord said, "If you are bringing your gift to the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift at the altar, and go first to be reconciled with your brother." These words carry a meaning with them that goes far deeper than just, "Don't go to Mass unless you're clean with everyone." Your entire life should be an offering to God. Don't offer your life to God if you have unfinished business with your brother. It shows your brother no respect, and God will make you pay all your dues to the last farthing, not just the last penny.

Anyway, my ramblings here are starting to lose focus, so I should probably stop while I'm ahead. I hope I haven't bored you...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

At home

Well, I flew home yeterday. I asked Alex S. to drive me to BWI. We got there at about 3:00PM. I got up to the desk in no time flat, and was booked in even less time. However, I got booked as an "Ingrid". I didn't notice this, up until I was stopped by security. That's the first time I've ever heard, "This isn't you". I made it back through the line in record time, and got rebooked as me. but as I was about to go through security, I missed something. The ticket was for an "Anthony Smith", not "Anthony Smitha." This always happens. The security guard let me through this time, though. Thank goodness.

Then came the nice LONG wait. I sat around until about 5:30 PM, waiting to board the plane, a Southwest Airlines jet.

From here, I called Elizabeth F. (my twin sister) and talked with her for a little bit. The plane finally boarded, and I drifted off to sleep. The plan landed in Chicago. I had an hour layover here. At this point, I called Kelly P. We chatted for a bit until it was time to board, and then I got onboard an ATA jet.

In DFW, I landed a few minutes early, and got my bags. Just minutes before I got my bags, Elizabeth drove up downstairs waiting for me to show up. It was about now that I found out that she is pregnant, about three months along. But she told me rather non-chalantly, just kind of rattling it off, like, "...blah, blah, blah, and, oh, yeah, I'm pregnant again, and, blah, blah, blah..." Well, since she told me non-chalantly, I had to return the emotion: "...Blah, blah, blah, and that's cool, congratulations, and blah, blah, blah..." To quote an old cartoon character, "Ain't I a stinker?"

We met up with met up with Kelly P. and Teresa McG. and had dinner at Taco Cabana. It was fun catching up with them, although I think that Liz was having more fun. She was laughing hysterically at basically everything.

After this, Liz took me home, and I went right to bed.

Sleeeeeeeeeeeeep......

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Ten Commandments

Now I'll rant about the movie. I didn't miss anything with the movie. I should have, because I wouldn't have been cringing through a good chunk of it if I had.

For once, I felt like Colin and Nick M. While I was watching the movie, I was analyzing it all. Normally, I just watch movies for what they are, a movie--for the pure entertainment of it. I could not do that this time! I was criticizing everything! The beginning of the movie was OK. In fact, the first half of the movie, I only looked quizzically at the screen once, and that was because the Egyptian princess was a young widow. It's possible--I can't deny that--but I'd never heard that before. I'm no expert, so I just let it go.

Moses's entire young life as an Egyptian prince was also believable, and even as a righteous pagan, because Scripture does not talk much about his life before he killed the Egyptian. He was almost made Pharaoh himself. It was an amazing piece of history that I never knew, assuming that it is actual, and not just a Hollywoodization of Moses. The discovery of his heritage and acceptance of it was also believable. However, from this point on, I started cringing more and more. First of all, Moses caught an Egyptian striking a Hebrew, killed him, and hid his body in the sand. The movie portrayed that all right. However, the movie does not portray the next day, where he saw to Hebrews fighting, and they reveal his crime. Instead, the murder is revealed to Pharoah's son, who captures Moses and has him exiled.

Moses also does NOT easily accept his mission from the Lord. If you recall, the Lord gets angry with Moses, because he keeps making up excuses for why he shouldn't go to Egypt, and He finally tells Moses to bring his brother Aaron with him. Aaron, meanwhile was coming to find Moses. The movie portrayed Joshua as having found Moses out in the middle of nowhere, and Aaron still back in Egypt. (I was practically banging my head against the table at this point.) The miracles were fairly accurate. Aaron was the one who should have been doing the speaking, instead of Moses, although Moses was telling him what to say.

The plagues were portrayed pretty well, as was Pharaoh's stubbornness. I don't recall Pharaoh having any say in his plagues: by this, I mean that he decreed that the firstborn of the Israelites would die because of Moses, and it is this decree that God exercised on him, first. It was a very interesting portrayal. I'm not saying it's wrong: it's just interesting.

The flight from Egypt was rather odd, but I guess it gave the sense of how many Israelites followed Moses out of Egypt.

The Red Sea was very well done -- except that Pharaoh sent all of his men, chariots, and horses through the sea, but did not go himself. The Bible very expressly states that Pharaoh led the men through the Red Sea and died in it himself. !!!!!!!!!!!! But, it allowed for a resolution to Pharaoh's wife, I guess...

Moses receiving the Ten Commandments from God was good for it's time. The fire effect was cool. But Moses rolling around on the rock, in an attempt to shield his eyes was ... well, very ... um ... well ... old-fashioned? I can't think of what I want to call it. But if you've seen the scene, I think you know what I want to say about it.

The portrayal of the golden calf was actually really good. I liked the portrayal of fallen humanity -- inasmuch as one can like such portrayals.

The end of the movie was ... well, it could have been better. Moses died. Very simply. He saw the Promised Land far ahead of him before he died. God decreed that he would not live to enter into it. He did not that Moses would see it, but could not enter it because he was forbidden to do so. The only man who survived the flight from Egypt to the Promised Land was Joshua, as I'm sure you remember. There is no movie reference to the fact that Joshua was the only survivor to make it into the Promised Land, but I guess I shouldn't expect it.

In spite of a potentially sore head, I recommend this movie as a movie for purely entertainment purposes. If someone is trying to learn some basics about Moses, then this is a really good movie. For non-theology majors, the movie is less painful. But to anyone who has read Exodus (and the rest of the Pentateuch, something I'm working on), they will find this movie lacking in many ways -- unless they can turn off their part of their brain marked "be critical".

Prayers in the East

By the wayside, if you're interested, a better list of the prayers and services of Holy Week for the Eastern Rite can be found at http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article8432.asp. I usd thsi as my source in the description of the prayers for the Holy Week services, because I couldn't remember the names of all the parts of the services.

Anywho, take care, and God Bless!

What do you do if...

...someone comes up to you and says, "Christ is risen!"?

You respond in kind: "Indeed, He is risen!"

If they say, "Christos anesti!" you say, "Alithos anesti!"

What about if they say, "Al-Massihu qam!"? You respond with, "Hakkan Kam!"

Is that so hard?

OK, yes, it is. But it's worth it. Sometimes after you have this series of responses, Easter kisses are exchanged.

:)

Say no more.

Easter/Pascha

On Easter morning, I woke up to a sharp rapping on the door. Jonathan D. was pounding on it to wake us up. It was 07:30, one-and-a-half hours later than I intended to wake up. I was not pleased. Mike P. and I piled into the car as quickly as we could, and took off to pick up Lizzie and Emily.

All this because I left my cell phone in the M.'s van.

I raced to Old St. Mary's. I do hope that I didn't cause anyone to wet themselves, but I was so worried that two of the people in the car would not get to Mass on time. Emily and I were set for Mass, because of Holy Transfiguration, but Lizzie and Mike were not set. If they showed up too late, they'd miss Mass, and it would be my fault. I had a little less than an hour to drive about 75 miles, complete with all the stoplights on Constitution Blvd.

Just about 8:45, we pulled up to the front of Old St. Mary's. I dropped everyone off, and the hundredth prayer that we make it there on time escaped my mind. I went parking space hunting, and found a pretty good one. I walked into the Church, dreading that I would walk in just in time for the end of the homily.

Nope. Much to my surprise, Father had just walked up to the altar after the prayers at the foot of the altar. Apparently, Lizzie, Emily and Mike made it inside just after the Vidi Aquam; they probably walked in almost at the beginning of the prayers at the foot of the altar. Quite literally, my jaw hung loose for a second, and I just had to say a prayer of gratitude.

I joined the schola upstairs, but they were about to begin singing the Gradual, Alleluia and Sequence, so I didn't actually join them yet. I put on the cassock and surplice before the Credo, and joined them for the rest.

After Mass, we went outside, and met with Tom and Andy C. and their parents, as well as TJ and a few other Christendom students. After chatting with them for a while, I noticed that the screw on my eyeglasses' left nosepad was gone. I noticed this because I pulled off my glasses, and the nosepiece stayed on my nose, while the rest was in my hands...

I scoured the ground looking for the extremely tiny screw, and soon, I had the entire crowd doing this. I'm sure that, as someone said, it looked to everyone else like a "weird ritual" where all of use placed our heads on the ground for a short period of time...

After that, Lizzie and Emily and I left. We stopped at Christendom to pick up food stuff from Blessed Margaret's and Campion, then went to Dr. M.'s house to retrieve my cell phone from their van. I called Emma to see if she and Sarah were coming out to join the fun at Christine's, and sure enough, she was coming.

We all went to Christine's, and shortly after that, it really hit me that I was really tired. I could tell because I was still upset about being late in the morning. I went downstairs and plinked around on the synthesizer for a while. After not feeling too much better, I decided that now was a good time to leave.

I stopped back at Guardian Angel to pick up my tie clip, then headed back to Herndon. I stopped at Trader Joe's and picked up some food (because I hadn't had anything to eat yet), and then went back to the apartment and chilled for a while.

I fired up the Ten Commandments and watched that. While that was going on, I had my laundry running. I was flying home the next day, and I had a lot of stuff to wash and pack.

After getting the laundry all done, and the movie was finished, I went to bed at midnight.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Great Saturday

On Great Saturday morning, I went to the morning liturgy. I had arranged to meet the Dr. William H. M. and his wife out there and then follow them back to their house.

I went to Holy Transfiguration, not really knowing what to expect. The Liturgy was pretty much a normal Divine Liturgy, except that they brought two men into the Church. While the beginning of the Liturgy was going on, the two men were being baptized. After all the candles were lit (which I helped with! {excited grin}), and the Gospel antiphons had been sung, the doors to the church were thrown open and Father Joseph and a number of acolytes and people in procession came in with the two Neophytes. The Neophytes and their sponsors (one of whom was Dr. M.) stood up at the front of the church for the Gospel, the homily, and the rest of Mass. This was the first Mass that they had been allowed to attend. When they first became Catechumens, they were never allowed to stay past a certain part of the Mass -- in fact, they were dismissed with the words: "All Catechumens depart, all Catechumens depart, let no Catechumen remain." After which "The doors, the doors!" were closed to them while the Great Mysteries of the Liturgy were going on. This time, "The doors, the doors!" were closed, but they remained inside.

Ahhh, the symbolism... I love the East!!! :-D

After the Liturgy, I realized that it was April 15th, and I had to hit "send" on my taxes. I had them prepared for a few days (really!), but I hadn't e-filed them yet.

Remind me to never e-file state taxes. $19.99 through turbo tax online. Grr...

After this, I wanted to get a suit for Easter and for home. I got a charcoal, blue-and-white pinstripe, two-button, which was configured for me while I was there. (I've still got the techie side of me -- what would it be? Hemmed? Suspender-button-sewn-on'ed? Whatever you call it, it as extremely quick service! I was really amazed! Go, Men's Wearhouse!

After getting out of there, I went to the apartment, and relaxed for a bit. I took a shower and got ready to go to Front Royal. I called the good Dr. M. and family to let him know my E.T.A., and he said that they'd be ready. At this point, I was talking to Mrs. M., who had been the one to ask me about taking their girls to Holy Transfiguration. She informed me that I told her that I had developed a small dilemma. I was taking not just Emma, but also Sarah. Including the three of us plus the two M. girls, my Acura would not be big enough for the five of us. I felt weird asking, but I knew that they had a van, so I asked if it was possible to borrow that. We concluded that it was all right.

I was informed shortly thereafter that the M. girls were taking one of their friends with them. And shortly after that, Emily G. asked if she could go. Thus the seven passenger van was filled, and I took over Sabbatino's role of being the official "take girls to Holy Transfiguration" person, at least for one night...

I got to Front Royal about 6:30. I spent some time at Dane's, then headed over to Dr. M.'s house. I arrived at his place about 7:45 or so, half-expecting to find them waiting on the doorstep, drumming their fingers. As it turns out, I was half-wrong. I was invited inside, and Mrs. M. and one of her girls were making food for the Pascha festivities, so Dr. M. and I went out back onto his screened deck, and we sat and chatted for a while.

I finally told him the story about how I did my thesis. He seemed to enjoy the story. After that, we discussed how his classes were going. Listening to him talk made me want to go back to Christendom again. His classes were so awesome!

Finally, about 8:30 or so, the three girls were ready. They wanted a picture of this momentous occasion, so they joined me on the couch, just as Emma called. There are, somewhere in this world, two pictures of me on the phone surrounded by three women-folk, and a third picture of us, with me playing up the "stud" role, probably rather poorly. My excuse was that I was asked to play the role of "stud" with no time to prepare at all...

We left their house very soon after that. They asked me to stop at an Exxon, so I did, only to discover that they wanted to pick up cigarettes. Now, don't get me wrong: I don't necessarily care that people smoke if they want to smoke. It's their health, their choice, their responsibility -- besides, smoking affects different people different ways. I am usually surprised when women smoke, because it's a thing of mine that ladies do not smoke. I've seen enough women smoke, so it doesn't really bother me that much, but there's something in the back of my mind which still whispers that.

I think what really bothered me the most was that we were on our way to Divine Liturgy and they wanted to smoke on the way. In any event, that seemed to be my overarching thought as we went to pick up Emma, Sarah, and Emily at Christendom.

When we entered the girl's side, I was looking at Blessed Margaret's. There were no lights on, but I figured it was because Emma's room was in the back. I pulled up in front of the dorm, and called her to let her know that I was out front. She said that she was, too, and that I had gone tearing past her. Whoops. They were waiting for me at the rock. {grins sheepishly} I really should have seen them, because they were wearing light clothes, but that's what you get for focusing on the destination. I turned the van around, and, sure enough, there they were. Except now they were standing in the road, to make sure that I'd see them. I raced up to them, in an attempt to scare them (because I'm a jerk like that), but they didn't move in the least. Drat! Foiled again!

On the way into the church, everyone gets a candle. Emma, Sarah, Emily and I sat up in the front to get a good view. Evening liturgy consisted of the Lamentations, a procession, and evening liturgy. The Lamentations remind us that Christ is in the tomb. After this, the priests came out of the sanctuary with their candles lit. From these candles, the congregation lit all of their candles, and then proceeded outside. I held the door open for the congregation. This helped make sure that I would have a great spot to stand and see everything. (The girls stood at the front of the steps about ten feet away from me, so they also had a great view. See? I'm not that selfish!)

After going outside, everyone gathered at the door. The priests, deacons and the acolytes were the only ones left inside, and they came outside at the end of the congregation. Some antiphons were chanted, the Gospel that related the story of the angel telling the women that Christ is risen was read, and then Father Joseph began chanting in Greek:

"Christos anesti ek nekron, thanato thanaton patisas, ke tis en tis mnimasi, zoin charisamenos." ("Χριστος Ανεστη εκ νεκρων, θανατω θανατον πατησας, και τοις εν τοις μνημασι, ζωην χαρισαμενο!" Right, Greek scholars?)

To which the people responded in English,

"Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life."

The third response was in Aramaic (right?), which I still can barely pronounce and have most certainly not memorized:

"Al-Masihu qama min bayn ilamwat wa wati-al-mawta Bil-maut, wa wahab al-hayat liladina fil-qu-bour."

Generally, these were sung in the following order throughout Mass: English, then Greek, then Aramaic.

Anyway, back outside the church, Father called upon the tombs to open their doors and release the dead from their grip in obedience to their Lord and Master, Christ. The he then knocked on the doors loudly. This was repeated twice. After the third time, the doors were opened (I held them again!), and the priests, deacons, acolytes, choir, and congregation went inside. I was one of the last people inside. After that, I came up to the front of the church, I hadn't missed much. I did, however, miss the one thing that I was hoping to see. It's such a simple thing, but it's really awesome! When you walk back into the church, all the hanging candles are swinging, symbolic of the earthquake at the Resurrection. The first time I saw this, I could not help but find my place, while remaining awe-struck. It seems like such a simple thing, and most of you are probably asking, "Why in the world would swinging candles cause so much awe?" I can't explain it any better than the fact that the first time you see it, the symbolism really hits home. Couple this with the sadness of the Holy Friday burial liturgy, and it really is an amazing experience...

From here on, Liturgy was almost as normal, except the chant that I mentioned above was repeated over and over again through Mass. After the Gospel, Father gave the Paschal homily. This can be found on http://www.orthodoxwiki.org/Paschal_Homily Trust me, it's well worth the read, but it's even better listening to Father Joseph give it. The one that I heard on Pascha was modified slightly from the original, but the content is identical.

At the end of the Liturgy, I helped them move the chairs out of the church and into the dining hall for the celebration immediately following. After getting a couple things to eat, I went to help out Sabbatino and Co. with their service. I ended up refilling/replacing a lot of the food trays, and then took over washing the dishes for Christine.

It was about 01:30-02:00AM when we left. I drove us back to Front Royal with some lively mariachi music to keep me awake. I dropped Emily, Sarah, and Emma off at Christendom, drove the M. girls back to their house, and then spent the night at Eric's place. It was 03:00AM when I crashed. I realized in some panic that I did not have my cell phone on me at that point, and to go back to Dr. M's house was not ideal. I asked Mike P. to set an alarm to get up at 06:00 to get to Old St. Mary's.

Cool.

Zzzzzzzzzzz...................

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Great Friday

Old St. Mary's had their Holy Friday service at noon. I made sure that I would have some free time then, because I really wanted to go, and the schola leader asked for help anyway. I definitely wanted to help him out, so I made sure that I would have free time. I should have asked if it was Tridentine or Novus Ordo, because I was rather disappointed to discover that it was not Tridentine. Oh, well...

But to make up for it, I went to Holy Transfiguration at 7:30PM. When I first went to Holy Transfiguration for these services, I was told that the East does everything one day in advance. As true as it may be, its also wrong. The East's Great Friday liturgy is a burial liturgy. It's main focus is Christ in the tomb. Is that early for 7:30PM on Good Friday? No. It's timed perfectly. By this point of the day, Christ has descended from the Cross and was in the tomb. At 3:00PM, Holy Transfiguration had the Vespers of the Taking the Body of Jesus down from the Cross, once again, timed rather well. It was about the ninth hour when Jesus died on the cross. The removal of His Body and preparation for burial would have followed soon after.

After singing many antiphons, psalms, and hymns, we processed outside, and walked around the parish in procession. The main thing chanted was the Trisagion:

"Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us."

That was the only thing that I knew, and it was chanted over and over again. In the melancholic tone that is used, you can hear the sorrow of those who bore the Body of Christ to Its resting place in the sepulcher, and as the crowd moves slowly in procession to this chant, the reality of the Death of Christ sinks in. In the West, the primary focus is the Passion and Death of Our Lord. Although the East does not forget that service as shown in the reading of the 12 Gospels on Great Thursday and the Vespers of the same day, they also commemorate the actual burial in a separate service.

The best way to explain it is to recall a painful experience, if you will bear with me. Recall the death of a loved one, or if you have been blessed to not have a loved one pass on from this world to the nest, try to put yourself in the shoes of someone who has lost a loved one. Yes, their actual death hurts, terribly so. But somewhere, something inside of you thinks, "They'll be back. What if they are not dead?" Even seeing them in the coffin is not final. It is when the coffin is closed and placed in the ground that it adds a certain finality to the situation. Everything comes to an end when they are buried.

This same sense comes to those who have been living out Lent with this image in mind. Christ has been crucified and has died for my sins. But He'll be back. In the East, the image of the burial enhances the fact of His death so much more than just the Liturgy of His Passion and Death. I know I'm falling short, but I can't seem to explain it any better...

At the end of the prayers, a Gospel is sung, and the congregation is dismissed.

I had taken Alex S. with me to Holy Transfiguration. He seemed to like it. He said he did. After the service was over, we found Dr. William H. M. and chatted with him for a bit. It turned out that he needed someone to take his girls in to Holy Transfiguration the next day for the evening Liturgy. Christine C. was going to, but for some reason or another, she couldn't anymore, so I offered. I could do it. I was coming down to Christendom anyway to pick up Emma for the same Liturgy, so that left two seats available in my car...

Friday, April 14, 2006

Great Thursday

Yesterday, I went to Holy Transfiguration for the Great Thursday Liturgy, which was called "The Reading of the 12 Gospels". It is exactly what it says it is.

When I walked in, I saw the large cross standing there. This cross is over seven feet tall, and about five feet wide. Behind it, there was a row of twelve tapers (tall, thin candles about half-an-inch wide, and about a foot tall) lined up in a wooden support. There were also twelve votive candles set in holes alongside these tapers. The candle pattern was votive on the outside, taper next to it, votive, taper, and so on.in the center, between tapers six and seven, there was no votive, keeping the total number of candles 24. (From left to right: votive, taper; votive, taper; votive, taper; votive, taper; votive, taper; votive, taper; {space} taper, votive; taper, votive; taper, votive; taper, votive; taper, votive; taper, votive.)

I came and stood near the front of the church, not at the very front, because I wasn't sure exactly what I was supposed to do. This way, I had someone next to me, and if I forgot something I would see them do it, and I would follow suit...

The service begins with a psalm and a prayer. Father Joseph came out from the closed sanctuary doors (the single left door) while these were going on, stood in front of the double center doors, and at the end, he went back into the sanctuary via the single right door. The center doors were opened, and the deacon announced the reading of the Gospel. Father Joseph came out with the book containing the Gospels, and the congregation came forward to the front of the church. Holding the book in his hands, Father Joseph chanted the first Gospel, which was about Our Lord's last sermon to His disciples, before His bitter agony in the Garden. In it, He prophesies His death and His resurrection.

At the end of the Gospel, Father Joseph closed the book, and blessed the people with it, and we all went back to our places. The outside left taper was extinguished. A psalm was chanted, and the deacon announced the reading of the second Gospel. Once again, the people came to the front of the church, and Father read the second Gospel, about Our Lord's Agony in the Garden as told by one of the Evangelists.

At the end of the second Gospel, he closed the book and blessed us with it, and we went back to our places. The outside right taper was extinguished. A psalm was chanted, and the deacon announced the reading of the third Gospel.

This pattern continued like so until the end of the fifth Gospel. At this point in the Gospels, Jesus has been condemned to death, and has received His cross. After the fifth Gospel was finished and the fifth taper extinguished, the lights in the church were turned off. Father Joseph picked up the large icon of the Corpus, and goes to the left sanctuary door.

At this point, everyone able to do so in the church prostrates. The Eastern prostration is not like the West's. In the East, you kneel down, fold up, and place your forehead on the floor, whereas in the West, you lay out on the floor, face down. While we were prostrated, Father Joseph processed completely around the outside of the congregation, counter-clockwise. When he reached the front of the front of the church, he went around again, but at the center-back of the church, the procession came forward on the middle aisle to the front. When he got to the front of the Church, he nailed the Corpus to the cross.

Meanwhile, I was prostrated the entire time. I knew what was going on, because I had been here for this before, but at the same time, I had never actually seen it. It's hard to see when your face is on the ground. In any event, I was right next to the middle aisle, so I heard the acolytes, the deacon, and the priests passing by. While we were still prostrated, you could hear the slight jingle of metal rods, and then this metal-on-metal "tap-tap-tap" four times. When you finally get up, there is the cross, but this time, the Corpus is on it, with nails through the hands and feet.

Father Joseph began a chant. I know a version of this chant from "Thy Passion" by the Boston Byzantine Choir, which is why I recognized it immediately (I actually suspected that Father would sing this Antiphon here). The words were along these lines:

"Today is hung upon the Tree, He Who did hang the land in the midst of the waters. A Crown of thorns crowns Him Who is King of Angels. He is wrapped about with the purple of mockery Who wrapped the Heavens with clouds. He received buffetings Who freed Adam in Jordan. He was transfixed with nails Who is the Bridegroom of the Church. He was pierced with a spear Who is the Son of the Virgin. We worship Thy Passion, O Christ. Show also unto us thy glorious Resurrection."

At this point, a soloist begins singing. I'm not sure, what, because I don't know the language -- perhaps the same thing, but in Hebrew. While she was singing, the priests and deacon in succession prostrate twice, kiss the Corpus, and prostrate a third time before going back up into the sanctuary. At the end of her chant, she left the front of the Church and went back to her seat.

At some point earlier in the evening comes another of the chants from the Boston Byzantine Choir CD, "Thy Passion".

The other seven Gospels resumed; the sixth is the first Gospel to tell about Our Lord's crucifixion and death. At the end of the twelfth Gospel, Our Lord was in the tomb, and the women have looked and remembered where it is, so that they may come back to it...

At the end of the twelfth Gospel, Father Joseph asked everyone to come to the front of the Church and reverence the cross as he, the other priests, and the deacon did before. The acolytes lines up in the front with the choir behind them, and the congregation behind them. The priests heard confessions, and those wishing to remain in the Church for a while were invited to do so.

Monday, April 10, 2006

I found these great pictures today...


The first one is hust a generic bunny picture, but he's just a liddle cutie!!!

The second one was was mildly disturbing, but so funny!!!

And the third one was too darn cute to not post...

What can I say? I'm a sucker for cute things...

*Ahem!* STEAK!

Palm Sunday

On Sunday, Mass at Christendom was pretty normal, with the exception that today was Palm Sunday, and thus it was normal for Palm Sunday. The schola dressed up in cassocks and surplices (too bad they weren't choir surplices) and went outside for the blessing of the Palms. We sang a couple chants outside and then processed inside.

The only other difference was that I got to sing the Gradual verse by myself. That was scary. I kept expecting my voice to crack, but it didn't...

Dr. Poterack, Dr. Davidson, and Father Heisler chanted the Passion, and instead of having the chorus line for the second half of the Gospel, a select group of the choir sang the responses in polyphony. It was truly an amazing feeling. Chant and polyphony bouncing off each other like that...

After Mass and brunch, I got ready to go to Old St. Mary's. I didn't leave immediately, because I had some time, so I went over to the girl's side and chatted with Emma for a while. I asked if she was going to the play. She said that she wanted to, work permitting. I offered to pick her up, depending upon how long it took me to get out of D.C. It wasn't really out of the way, because the only way that I knew to get to the Theatre was to go through Front Royal. I had taken another way before, but that was with directions...

Mass at Old St. Mary's was actually really nice. Three schola members sang the Passion. It was really moving -- and really long. I wouldn't be complaining if I hadn't been so tired, but after a long Mass in the morning, a long drive to D.C., and the promise of a long way to go before the day was over, it was very tiring. When the schola sang out the responses, I was very tempted to sing out the bass line of the polyphony from the morning. I had to really look at the music to remember how it went. It was a stark contrast to the Passion of the morning. Where the Passion this morning resonated with beautiful polyphonic tones (they were potentially beautiful -- I don't know if we helped or hindered that beauty from coming out), these chant verses were deliberately sung with a sense of sneering, to add to the cruelty of the Passion. It only helped me see it all in my head as the Latin was being chanted...

After Mass, as I approached Constitution, I called Emma, and told her that I would be late, but I could still come pick her up. A surprise was waiting for me: Constitution had an accident on it, and it was backed up for blocks. I should have turned off, but I didn't...

After exiting D.C., I burned rubber back to Christendom. I picked up Emma, and tore off to Little Washington. I saw most of the play. I think the actors all knew when I showed up. I could not stop laughing practically throughout the entire performance.

Being the final performance, the actors almost always do something funny to spice up the play. The best line was when Sam P. quoted Rhett Butler from Gone With the Wind (the only good line in the entire movie), "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." It took several seconds for the place to die down from the cheers and the laughter that erupted from the audience after delivering that line. It was so perfect. He even had the look of Rhett Butler with the small mustache, and he sounded a lot like him too...

There were two other spots where I caught the actors adding lines. One was immediately after Sam's line. John J. yelled a line directed at Christina M., the same line he used on her in Hamlet: "Get thee to a nunnery!" The second was Julian A.'s all-famous Darth Vader impersonation. After Oberon realizes that Puck enchanted the wrong man and broke up a couple who were actually in love, Julian (Oberon) got the look in his eyes, raised his right hand, and made a force-like motion towards Josepha B. (Puck), and said the immortal line in the immortal voice, "You've failed me for the last time." Josepha played along perfectly, grabbing at her throat, choking, and when Julian "let her go", she dropped to the ground, and took a few deeps breaths. It was great. :)

Peter S. (Peach) was great as Bottom. He held the audience in the palm of his hand. If he wanted them to laugh, they would do so. Fortunately, that's all he had to do was get them to laugh. After he changed and grew the head of a donkey, it was all over for any sense of sanity that I had left. I could not stop laughing. It was so perfect. He played the role of the ass remarkably well. No offense, buddy... :-D

And Greg M., a HUGE freshman, played the part of the guy who has to act to be a girl for Bottom's troupe. It was simply amazing. He also played the audience very well. When he hit the "wall" (played by Grant, another freshman) in frustration, he broke Grant's "wall" costume in half. Fortunately, he warned Grant ahead of schedule that he was going to hit him as hard as he could, so Grant took it really well. The impact of the blow resonated all over the theatre, and the board Grant was wearing snapped in half. Both Peach and Grant looked absolutely stunned as they picked up the board from the ground. Needless to say, the strength and the deep bass voice of Greg really helped enhance the needed effect, namely that the actor in the play did not want to play the role of the woman, and is only doing so rather grudgingly, after Bottom took all the other roles.

Anyway, after the play was over, I had to go congratulate everyone on a magnificent job. Mad props to the director, too! Poor Donna S. looked so frazzled...

*Side Note*
Donna, if you're reading this, I don't think that I ever told you what an honor it was working with you in Hamlet. I hope that if you continue directing, you'll let me know?
*End Side Note*

After all the congratulations had been given, we left and I got Emma back to campus before midnight. I got back home at 1:00 AM.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Saturday

After Mass, I had some time to kill before Choir practice. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of people up on Saturday mornings.

Later that evening, I went with Dr. Poterack, Lizzie, and Emma to the opera Das Rheingold, by Wilhelm Richard Wagner. It was at the Kennedy Center in D.C. It was done really well, in my humble opinion, and we all know that my opinion is very humble. I have to admit, I'm becoming more of an opera fan with every opera that I listen to.

On the way back from D.C., I successfully got us lost. I need to stop being a backseat driver and saying, "I know that this way will get us to Constitution." I don't know anything in D.C., except for how to get lost.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Super Stations & Adoration

Last night was "Super" Stations of the Cross at Christendom. As such, I began work early in the interest of getting to Front Royal on time to attend, and hopefully, to make it in time to join the choir...

I made it with about five minutes to spare before choir practice began.

I love Super Stations. We sing some of my all time favorite polyphonic hymns. Among them is "Vere Languores" by Tomás Luis de Victoria. He is an amazing polyphic music writer. He, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, and William Byrd are the three of the composers whose pieces we do the most. I'd love to get some Claudio Monteverdi in there. His pieces are also some of the most beautiful that I've ever heard...

Last night was also all-night Adoration, because it was first Friday. I wanted to come to Christendom for this reason in particular, because I don't get too many chances to go to adoration away from Christendom. I wanted to spend all night in the chapel, but I've tried it in the past, and the same thing always happens: my eyes start getting heavy, my mind starts wandering, and things always just seem to end up out of focus. In anticipation of this, I asked Jonathan D. if I could borrow his Bible. He handed me his Douay-Rheims, and I went to the chapel.

I began reading Isaiah. It's an incredibly powerful book. The first few chapters are incredibly moving. You know that the words from God are directed right at you, and you feel about 2" tall, if even that. Isaiah 1:16-7 is one such place where you feel like you've been reprimanded by God Himself. Of course, you have been. Perfectly put in context, you really take them to heart, especially if you have read the first few chapters before.

Anyway, I read chapters 1-6 to myself in the very back of the chapel, after which I said a rosary. At the end of the rosary, I was drifting. I came back to Isaiah, with every intention of at least getting through chapter 10 before saying another rosary. I didn't make it through chapter 7. I compromised with myself, and my erect position in the pew, glasses off, reading the Bible (about three inches from my face because my vision really is that bad), arms suspended, slowly gave way to the elbows resting on my knees, allowing for a slight slouch, which slowly gave way to resting my forearms on my thighs, allowing for an even greater bend, and so forth, until I put the Bible down. My excuse? I was going to "meditate" on the words of Scripture. I got about this far: "Repent, oh ye *yawn* ye heavens and {rubs eyes} ye heavens and {adjust seating on hardwood pew} ye heavenzzzzzzz..."

"What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." --Matthew 26:40-1

These words echoed in my head as I knew that I could not stay awake...

I got up and left the chapel. I was only causing distraction by my sleeping in the back...

I went birthday singing with the guys in an attempt to wake up, but I was fighting sleep even standing there. As I walked back to the car, I decided that I would go get some sleep and be up early (6 A.M.) for Benediction and reposition...

I didn't get up until almost 7:30, just barely in time to catch Mass. Needless to say, I missed Benediction and reposition...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Nothing much here...

Work is really, really busy now. I've been working on reports for the better part of a month, and I'm still not done...

I got one of my deadlines pushed back a couple days. That's awesome for me, because it gave me some more breathing room...

I called home last night and talked to Mom for a few minutes. Everything's OK for now over there, so my plans to go home for Easter are still a go...

Sarah H. pointed out the fact that I promised Christine C. that I would sing at a wedding on the Saturday after Easter. You now what I had to say about that? "I did it again. I double-booked myself..." Well, I didn't say exactly that, but what I said conveyed that...

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Not-quite-so-busy weekend

This weekend was a lot slower. John E., Michael C. and I did some chanting immediately before choir practice on Saturday. At the very least, it helped my voice warm up for choir practice.

At work, we have a new contract in the works with one of our clients. I spent a decent amount of time working on getting the information that they wanted. It's going to take a while. I started on it on Friday, but I had so much to do on it that I e-mailed it to myself to handle over the weekend.

Emma and I went to the Mystery Dinner Theatre on Saturday. At 4PM, I went to the Commons and paid for the tickets, so that at 6PM, when the doors opened, we could just go right in. At 6PM, I expected a rush, but there was no one there. In any event, Emma and I were the first people inside, so we got seats right up front. After all, it would be bad form to miss anything, especially when we're trying to solve the mystery...

After the first act, the actors mingled with people for a while, just talking to them so that people could get an idea of their personalities. After the second act was the murder, and it was up to us to question the remaining people and figure out what happened.

Mom, you would really enjoy this. I'm sure you could have solved it. :)

We were the first people to turn in a solution, but we were, unfortunately, wrong. We chose the obvious person, who was pointed at by the evidence. We missed a couple things, though, that led us to not be able to solve the mystery accurately. However, the nice thing is that we guessed the second-to-last culprit, so we stayed in the running for a while...

On Sunday, we had the regular routine: choir practice, Mass, brunch and another choir practice. Palm Sunday is one week away, and we need to make sure that we have the choral Passion down pat...

I headed back to the apartment, and Alex and I went to dinner at an Indian cuisine place. It was really good! I was really impressed. I'll definitely be going there again...

In any event, I am developing some eeeeeeevil plans. I'll tell you later, once my plans come to fruition...