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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hello. Did you miss me?

To all of the people who ever got a kick out of reading my blog, I need to apologize for not writing in here for ... well, several months, now. I've been a bad boy, and, in the words of a good friend of mine, Patrick (only a couple of you actually know him), "I deserve to be punished." At this point, Pat would go over to the liquor cabinet and grab the pisco, which is a rather strong brandy that is very popular in Chili and Peru, and made of Moscatel grapes. Yes, I just looked that up, because I forgot what it was.

"How's life been, my old friend?" you may inquire. I may then reply to such a query with, "Well, old chap, it's been right miserable," and then proceed to bore you with a three-hour tragedy of woes. If you're a lady, I'd never tell you tales of my adventures on the high seas and how I lost my leg to a minnow. I may instead say, "My dear lady, it's been simply marvellous," and then proceed to tell you tales of gallantry, and then, as you're wondering to yourself, "Did he really do all this?" out would walk a magnificent white horse the size of a Shire Horse with the speed of an Arabian, but every bit as wild as a Mustang, with the strength of a Shelby Mustang. I would then done my feathered helmet, hop on this magnificent beast and do battle with a dragon.

"And how's work?" you may then ask. Well, work has been busy. Times are going well, although times are also very busy. I've spent several nights at work one week, simply because I couldn't concentrate during the day -- too much pent-up energy, I guess. In any case, I had to be there during the day, but since I couldn't get much work done, I had to work at night, when the bright sunshine and the wonderful weather wasn't beckoning me with its siren call. Aside from that, work has been going well.

"Do you have a personal life at all anymore?" Well, that all depends upon what you mean when you say "personal life." If you mean to ask me if I do all the things I want to do ... well, frankly, no, I don't. I don't have the time. (Oh, do you mind if I call you frankly? Yes? OK, I'll stop.) What with two jobs, my workout routine and my choral commitments, all of my time outside of work is spent doing these things or sleeping. I don't have much time for the pleasantries of life anymore, aside from listening to music and keeping up with Facebook.

On the plus side, you know how people give up things for Lent this year, things that would be a sacrifice? Well, I used to think that giving up video games would be a sacrifice. I haven't played them in so long that it wouldn't be a sacrifice for me to do it anymore. There are only two things I could really give up for Lent (aside form the usual fasting): Facebook and music. Music is the only thing that keeps me going at times, so that leaves me with only one option.

And now for something completely different. Have you ever wondered if this would be fun? No? Seriously? Man, I must be weird or something. I saw this picture and I began looking for opportunities. It's not the same suspended under my car, because my car is kind of little (it's a Nissan Sentra -- I can't really fit comfortably under it). So, I'm a little weird, huh? That's OK. I've been told worse things. I'll take that as a compliment.

I'm in Texas again visiting family and friends. The last time I was here, I worked about 60 hours per week, and didn't get much visitation time. I felt kind of bad, because I was on the computer all day while Mom did her usual routine. I'd get up every once in while, but overall, it wasn't much of a vacation. This time, however, I've got several days off -- today being one of them. Sweet freedom. :)

In any case, I think that's it for me for today. I'll try to keep up with you all, but you are all very quick movers, and I'm just one shy lil' man.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Population Research Institute



Population Research Institute is a pro-life educational organization dedicated to protecting and defending human life, ending human rights abuses committed in the name of family planning, and dispelling the myth of overpopulation.

A buddy of mine who I went to college with works there and is the producer of these videos.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Life

Normally, I'd had things broken up by week, but since the beginning of August, I haven't had much time to think, much less to blog. So what else is new? Silly question, but here goes.

Work, for one, is new. I remember back in the day when I began at my current company. It seemed like there weren't enough hours in the day to handle my small workload. Now, I handle data on two of the biggest competitors in the telecom industry. Their data is top priority for me every day. No matter what happens, it is all high priority. Why? Because these two competitors are just that important. Our clients want to see their data accurate to the day, which means that if one of them changes everything, I've got my work cut out for me for the day. The problem with this is that I am not the most efficient worker known to exist. When I start experimenting with efficiency, I start taking short cuts. Short cuts are not efficient in my work -- they will only cause more problems later on, leading to a greater inefficiency.

It sounds fairly stressful, and at times, it is. This past few months have been one big fight to stay on top of things. Of these two high-priority competitors that I manage, I have owned the data for one in the past, and I've owned the data for the other since I began at the company. Thus, when I had to take on the one that I used to own, the learning curve was much less steep than it could have been.

In any case, outside of work, I've been busy with my workout routine -- well, that is, until I got home to Texas. After that, it fell apart. I work so much during the day that it's hard to take 30 minutes to go jogging. The most exercise I get is throwing my nephew and niece around every so often. No, not literally "throwing", but lifting them in the air to do things like walk on ceilings. Oh, I did push ups with each of them on my back, too.

I've also been busy with weddings. Ryan and Maria O. got married several weeks ago, as did Pat and Niki a couple weekends ago. Alex and Ashley are about to get married, and after them, Corey and Maria, and then MikeE and Carissa. I always have a lot of fun at people's weddings, whether I'm DJ'ing or not.

So, yeah, speaking of Texas, I'm there now, and it's more than half-way through my stay. I've been so busy with work and trying to visit people that I haven't had a chance to work on this blog yet either. For your entertainment value, though, here is a picture of three little buggers whom some of you are probably interested in seeing...

The weather is actually fairly nice here. I went up to visit Emma and her family last week, and this week, I saw Kelly. I fly out on Tuesday of next week, and I still haven't seen Jenny yet, so we'll see what happens there. I hope to be able to get a picture of everyone before leaving, but I don't think that will happen, either. I need to be more proactive in this little matter of taking pictures...

This is Mary Claire. She's cutting her teeth on religion. It's usually a choice between these or my medal around my neck if I'm holding her. She's just too cute. Seriously. I just look at her and say, "Hey, little girl! Why are you crying?" and all tears disappear and she is bright and sunshiny. If I ever have kids, I hope that they are like her when they are babies. She is so happy. The only reason she is looking less than thrilled in the camera is that chewing on a Rosary is hard work. If you have Facebook, I'll be posting more pictures there soon enough. Just keep your pants on. Unless you don't wear pants, in which case, keep your kilt on. Unless you don't wear a kilt, in which case, keep your skirt on. Unless you don't wear a skirt, in which case, keep your clothes on. Unless you don't wear clothes, in which case, I'll need either A) the name and number of your doctor to let him (or her) know that you're in need of mental care, or B) your exact address and what times of day you prefer to be in the buff so that I know to never come around then...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Transformers

Crazy crazy fun! Not much of a plot, but the special effects are simply fantastic! I'd definitely watch this movie again!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard (Die Hard 4.0)

I watched this last night with MikeE, Carissa, Eric W, Alex S, Ashley F, Pat MacD, Niki C, and Michael C. Holy mackerel, this was an awesome movie!!! I've not seen the other three Die Hard movies, but it was still awesome! There were references to the previous movies, but you didn't need to see the first three to enjoy this one. There was enough action to satisfy pretty much anyone. My jaw hit the floor several times with the scenes. Wow! Watch this movie!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Pursuit of Happyness

This is a new movie featuring the father/son combo of Will and Jaden Smith as a father and son in the early 80's. This story is about their struggle together to survive and get somewhere in the world when it seems like the everything has turned against them, even the world itself. It's a good movie. I'd recommend it to viewers who like Will Smith and who like a good story. It's got a very heavy feel for most of the movie. For the bulk of it, I felt very badly for Will Smith, because even his wife had no faith in him and walked out on him. The only person who stayed with him was his son, and even that relationship needed to be worked at.

It's a great movie in particular, because it demonstrates that all relationships need work, love and trust to last. It also shows the inherent weakness of just walking away from problems instead of trying to fix them.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Weekend

This was a great weekend. I slept in on Saturday until about 11:00 AM, worked on my blog, watched Desperado, and called Emma later on in the day. I wrapped up the day watching Returners, and went to bed about midnight.

On Sunday, Eric P. and I went to Old St. Mary's for the Tridentine High Mass at 9:00 AM, and then went to breakfast at Amphora's. After that, I changed into my regular clothes and took it easy all day.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Returner

This is a weird movie, and it's all in Japanese with subtitles. It's not a bad movie, it's just weird. About half-way through, I began to enjoy it. Until then, though, it was a very hard movie to make myself continue watching. The action sequences are beautifully done, the bad guy is so over-the-top that you just want to hate him, and the girl is ... well, really girly. Like 16-year-old really girly. Not a great combination with a bad guy who portrays the basest of men, and a good guy that you can only tell is the good guy because he's opposed to the bad guy. Anyway, so yeah. It finished up wonderfully. I predicted a good chuck of it, but the ending I did not predict. It finished strong, but began horribly...

Desperado

This was the second in the El Mariachi Trilogy, and a great movie. I recommend it as it is a fun movie, but it is not exactly a family movie...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Kiss Me Kate

This is a really fun movie! I very much recommend it for any fan of classic musical! My absolute favorite characters in the movie are the mobsters. They are hilarious!!

"Brush up your Shakespeare!
Start quoting him now!
Brush up your Shakespeare
and the women you will wow!"

...And speaking of this song, I found lyrics and chords for it here. I think that this is the original stage version, because the two middle verses aren't in the movie...

Although I love the costumes in the play, I'm so glad that they are not standard fare anymore.

I'm also really impressed by the dancing in the classic musicals. The pure talent and the hours of practicing -- wow...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Graduation Weekend

This was a bittersweet weekend, as graduation always is. I made plans to get down there early on Friday, circa 1:00 PM, but it didn't work out that way. I didn't manage to leave the office until 3:00 PM. Fortunately, it actually did work out, because Sylvia called me to ask for directions, and since I was still in the office at the time she called, I was able to pull up Google Maps and give her directions.

Anyway, so yeah, traffic was fun. I got to sit in "rush" hour traffic for about two hours. I made it to Christendom with only a few minutes to spare. The Mass was very nicely done, with several priests concelebrating. It was kind of odd seeing Emma, Lizzie, Laurel, Angela, Katherine, Emily, and Michael (I'm missing someone, aren't I?) all in graduation gowns. The reality of the situation came to smack me in the head. Soon, I would not see half of these people for a very long time, if not ever again...

That evening, I went to Sarah's apartment at Guardian Angel with Eric P., Draper, John E., Breanna, Chrissie, JD, Sarah (obviously), Freddo, Kyle, AJ (and I know I'm missing people in this list), and we all had dinner (thank you, Sarah!) and a general good time.

The next day, I saw many people (among whom I would classify several as my best friends) walk across the stage, receive their diplomas, and essentially cross over into a new life. They were no longer students. There was no more fun times to be had after Sunday brunch, singing, or beating out strange rhythms on tables (much to the chagrin of those surrounding us), or anything with these people. Some would indeed be around during the summer, but seeing them again as alumni is entirely different then seeing them as fellow students, even though we were only students together for two years.

After the graduation ceremony on Saturday, Emma F. and Claire O. held a music recital for their families. They both sang a few pieces that meant a lot to them and their families. It was a very nice thought -- very moving.

The next day, after Mass, there was a tearful goodbye with Lizzie, and then she was gone shortly after that. I went to brunch with Emma, her family, John E., and Breanna. That was a very interesting time. It was fun, but I had never met a few of the people present, so I was quiet -- well, quiet in comparison to how I usually am.

After this, I helped Emma pack up her stuff and load up her family's suburban. i was reluctant to let her go also the same day as my other close friends, so since we were both going to Ken's house for a bonfire, we rode together. After leaving Ken's place, I said goodbye and dropped her off at Blessed Margaret's. I then went to St. Theresa's and hung out at their bonfire for about fifteen minutes, chatted lightly, sang a couple songs, and then drove back to the apartment.

There is something to be said about juniors and freshmen. When I was a junior and I saw this class come in, I wanted to be there for them since they were the newest underdogs, and I wasn't worried about establishing myself in the heirarchy. I got to know this class very well, and I will miss them.

One of my thoughts on graduation is something that Deacon David B. (shares the same last name as my good friend Lizzie) from Holy Transfiguration recently told me. He actually told me this in the context of Pascha, and how good things must end. Many years ago, he and his family were visiting a friend's house, as friends are often found doing. When it was time to leave, his wife told his children to get ready to go. His children asked, "Why do we have to go? Can't we stay here forever?" Mrs. B. replied, "But if we don't leave, we can never come back." The children responded well to this, and prepared to leave.

My thought on the matter is that graduation is a very joyful time, and yet a very hard time for everyone. It involves parting ways with your best friends -- in some cases, forever. But, Deacon David's story plays its part now: "If we don't leave, we can never come back." In the original context, he meant that unless you stop celebrating, you can never again celebrate. Unless there is a parting of ways between friends, there can never be the joy of reunion. With that in mind, I will definitely be offering up my prayers for the class of 2007, that they may quickly find comfort in their graduation and new lives, and that both the good and the bad times that they had together in Christendom will prepare them for an incredible joy upon their eventual reunion. May God bless each and every one of them, and may Our Lady hold them each individually as her favorite son or daughter.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Tuxedo

Jackie Chan's movie is a lot of fun, like most of his movies are. I actually really like it, but I know there are others that would disagree with me. I recommend watching it for yourself and making your own opinion.

Weird Al Yankovic, Live in concert!!!

 

Eric told me about this some time ago, and I had completely forgotten, but hey, I wouldn't miss Weird Al in concert if ... I dunno. I just wouldn't intentionally miss him in concert.

This concert was loads of fun. It was at the Rams Head Tavern in Baltimore. For the record, the acoustics there are absolutely horrible. I've been to a few concerts, but none of them have ever been this bad. When you can't understand a word that Weird Al is saying but you know the song because you've heard it so much, it's OK, but you still want to hear the song. And you couldn't, because the acoustics were simply atrocious. Now that my rant is over, I'll tell you why the concert was so much fun.

Weird Al Yankovic. What isn't fun about that? He parodies everything, and when he's not parodying something he's making fun of people, ideas or trends. It's awesome!

He opened with a few songs from his new album, Straight Outta Lynwood, beginning first with Polkarama!, and then going into You're Pitiful, Close But No Cigar, and I'll Sue Ya. He did more from his new album, but I can't recall what they were off the top of my head. He left the stage and came back on in his music video costumes for several of his music videos, such as the aforementioned You're Pitiful, It's All About The Pentiums, Fat, Couch Potato, White & Nerdy, Smells Like Nirvana and Amish Paradise. He did two long medleys of some of his older songs, mixing them with some of his new ones, including Headline News (which was redone for the concert, making fun of Britney Spears' recent episodes of life), Pretty Fly For A Rabbi, A Complicated Song, Eat It, Trapped In The Drive-Thru, Confessions Part III, and Ebay -- among others. He also sang White & Nerdy, Canadian Idiot, Weasel Stomping Day, Do I Creep You Out, and Wanna B Ur Lovr. Between sessions, there were short breaks where he showed his Weird Al TV interviews (which is basically him "interviewing" stars, and by "interviewing", I mean replacing the interviewer's questions with his own, and placing their answers after his random questions to make them look funny -- an instant classic one is him with Jessica Simpson, or him with Eminem, but he also reworked a number of others), and a few other videos that he modified. He also showed the opening of the music video to Fat before coming out to perform it in his fat suit. Meanwhile, the audience was going nuts, and singing along with everything and dancing appropriately to whatever song was being played. I was singing so loud and so much that I practically shouted my voice out, so towards the end of the concert, I quieted down to help save my voice.

He wrapped up the concert to thunderous applause, and he came back out and did a song about cell phones (which was awesome), and finished with Albuquerque. Yes, Pat S., I completely sang my voice out for you on that one, buddy!

Anyway, so at the end of the concert, I had no voice left. I was extremely hoarse, but it was so worth it. Today, I have my voice back -- kind of. It's not all the way there. My speaking range is there, but don't ask me to sing. That's gone. I'll be giving that a rest for the next couple of days. Hopefully, it'll be better by Friday for my voice lesson.
 

Monday, May 07, 2007

A rather long weekend -- kind of...

This weekend wasn't really all that long, it just felt it...

On Saturday, morning, I woke up bright and early to help one of Sarah H's sisters and her family unload a moving van. I got to Front Royal around 10:00 AM, just in time for some big stuff. Anyway, I worked with them until about noon, and then I went to Front Royal. I was scheduled to meet up with Dan D. to give him a haircut, but I didn't see him at brunch.

Alexandria C. was in town, so we went to breakfast in town and got caught up on life. I'm sure that there was more that could have been said, considering that it had been about two years since we'd seen each other, but a lot of stuff happens in two years, and it's hard to remember it all... :)

After that, I went back to Dan's room to see if he was there. Since he wasn't, I decided to go to Manassas. MikeE had invited me to go see Spider-Man 3 for Carissa's birthday. Originally, I didn't think that I could be there on time, but considering that I was done with everything early, I called them and let them know that I was on the way. However, they were in the theater, and the movie was about to start in 15 minutes, so I was going to miss it anyway. Since I missed part 1 of this 2-part get-together, I made tentative plans to meet up with them after the movie for dinner. I also made tentative plans to meet up with Emma in the evening. She had a Student Activities Council dinner to attend, so it probably wouldn't be until much later.

I went back to the apartment and worked for a little while. I had some classic cartoons going on in the background, mostly Popeye. At about 5:00 PM, I called MikeE back to see what the dinner plans were, but they were canceled. With this new change of plans, I went to Vespers at Holy Transfiguration, since I hadn't been there in a few weeks.

After Vespers, I came back to the apartment and watched Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Emma called me to let me know that she was on her way back from the dinner, but since I was still at the apartment, and it was nearing 10:30 PM, we decided to get together on Sunday.

Anyway, so on Sunday morning, bright and early, I drove to Front Royal, rather unlike what I had wanted to do (I was going to go there the day before so that I wouldn't have to make the drive in the morning). But I made it there. Emma's cold was getting better, and she sang with the choir at the Mass at Christendom.

Today was a big day for the Christendom College Choir because they were scheduled to sing at St. John's in town as well for the Tridentine Latin Mass at 12:30 PM. A couple choir members couldn't make it because of the cold that was going around, several choir members couldn't make it because of studying or other stuff that came up, so we had smaller numbers, but I think we did all right. After that, we went to Dean's Steak House in Front Royal for the choir dinner. Emma and I arm-wrestled. It's embarrassing to say that I won, because it's not cool for a guy to beat a girl in things of the sort, but it would still be embarrassing had I lost. In short, I'm a bad person... :-P

After the choir dinner, we all went back to campus, and I chatted with Emma, Lizzie, Laurel, M.C., Paul, and several other people for a little while. Emma said that she had some pictures for me, so before I left, I drove her back to her dorm and she showed me the pictures, and I got to pick a few. My favorite one is the last one on this post. Oh, and if you want to see bigger versions of the pictures, just click on them.

I went to Christine's house for a party that she was throwing for Josh and Leslie, to celebrate Josh's new beard and their new Corgi puppy, Sweat Pea. I'm fairly certain that she is a Pembroke Welsh Corgi -- I'm just guessing of course, because her tail was docked. All I know is that she was a Corgi and she was cute as a button, and she knew it...

So, after Christine's party, I went back to Christendom and met up with Emma again. We chatted for a little while -- I think until 12:30? I'm not sure, but Emma had a final in about 8 hours, and I was being rude keeping her, so I said my farewells and drove back to the apartment. And now, it's time for a very long and busy week at work...
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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

This is the first time that I've seen this movie all the way through. The first time I saw it, I fell asleep in the beginning, and woke up about 75% of the way through it.

This is a really excellent film. I love the music and the action in it! It's violent, and perhaps a bit over-the-top in a couple places for some people, but I think it is well worth watching. :)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Casino Royale

The latest in the Bond films has left me stunned. It was an excellent film. At first, I didn't think that I would enjoy it too much, mostly because the actor had changed, but when I saw the first chase of the movie (perhaps 10 minutes into it), I realized that I would enjoy it thoroughly.

As is standard for James Bond movies, there are some things which would scandalize the more innocent people of the world, but James Bond is well-known for seduction. Overall, though, this movie is, I think, the cleanest one yet.

It's also one of the sweetest ones. The action scenes in here are simply amazing. All the people involved put a lot of work into making the movie well, and I'd say that they succeeded quite nicely. It was a great film!

Monday, April 30, 2007

The rest of the weekend, post-Formal

So, yeah. Saturday morning was fun. Lizzie and Emma had to be up for Holy Rood, which began cleaning the church right after the 7:00 AM Mass (recall that I had driven Emma back to her dorm at about 4:00 AM). I had gone back to JD's place, and slept there -- quite soundly, I might add. I didn't wake up until about 10:00 AM, when JD asked me if I was going to get up for choir practice. I didn't really want to, but I did.

Anyway, so after choir practice, I sat around and talked with Lizzie, Emma, Dr. P, Draper, and a few other people about formal and other things. At about 11:15 AM, I headed out. I had to be at the gym at 1:00 PM, and it would probably take me about an hour to get back to the dorm.

The Charger handled extremely well for the trip back to the apartment. I ran my tux and other clothes inside, grabbed a sports drink, and headed out again, arriving at the gym a few minutes before 1:00 PM. I warmed up, and Emily T. (my personal trainer) set about slaughtering my upper body. I should say that as gruesome as that sounds, I felt really good after that workout. My arms felt like they had no strength left at all.

I went to Vespers at Holy Transfiguration, and then went back to Front Royal for the evening, since I had to be out for Sunday morning Mass anyway.

After Mass, I had brunch at Sarah's, then to choir practice. Then, I went to watch the faculty vs. students football game. I had the game pegged the wrong way: the faculty had a lot of really strong-looking guys on their team whereas the students didn't. However, I wasn't thinking correctly: in flag football, strength is good, but speed and agility are better. The students had the faster players -- they did have some competition in that field, but it just wasn't enough.

After that, I went to find Joe P. He told me about the band playing at 6:00 that evening, and I wanted to attend, but Ken and Alaina had invited me to their place for dinner. I usually can't refuse good food, so I accepted. After dinner, Sarah came over, and we all played the Game of Life. I won the first game, but it was through pure, disgusting, wonderful luck. I happened to get the highest salary available, $100K. The second game was more balanced -- I actually got the lowest salary of the salaries selected, $60K. In the first game, Alaina got the lowest selected, $40K. In the second game, she got the highest, $100K.

The last thing i did that night before heading back was birthday singing for Jen P. Happy birthday, Jen!

On a final note, everyone that I took for a spin in the Charger (Emma, Christine, Sarah, and Alex) enjoyed it, or at least told me that they did. My one "complaint" is that it sounded like a Honda when fired up. Anyway, so the Charger is back at Hertz. I'd love to get one, but I wouldn't get the V6 version. If I do get one, it would be the Hemi -- and that's a really big "if". They are fairly expensive cars...

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Formal 2007

I had requested a half-day off from work on Friday, so I only planned on working until about noon. With this in mind, I got up at 5:00 AM with the intention of going to the gym early, but, when I saw how clear the tollway was, I headed to work instead. I was there by 6:00 AM, and planned to leave at 10. However, two minutes before I planned to head out, I got a project, and I had to work later than I intended, and thus, I didn't get to go to the gym. I went back to the apartment, showered, worked again, packed up, and headed to Front Royal.

To backtrack just a bit, I asked Emma to formal on Monday and, after she accepted (obviously not before -- that would have been very egotistical of me), I began the process of renting a car from JD. I got her a corsage on Wednesday, but I asked them to modify it a little so that it matched her dress.

As regards the car, I was looking for a Chrysler 300, then a Ford Mustang. JD suggested a Dodge Charger or Dodge Magnum. Any of those options sounded good to me, so he did what he could.

Anyway, so, on Friday, I headed out of the apartment and over to Front Royal to pick up the car. JD had managed to get a silver 2007 Dodge Charger SXT. I picked it up at Shenandoah Ford, and, even after promising to not abuse it, I couldn't resist testing it out. The car looked and handled beautifully. It accelerated quite nicely, and took corners very well. I definitely didn't abuse it, but I put a bit more stress on it then I would normally have done so, had it been my own car.

So I drove over to Dane and JD's, and outside the apartment, I ran into Tambi. She and Dr. P were going to formal together, and she asked for some help with a pocket square. I gave her the red one that I had brought down for Dr. P just in case, and showed her a couple ways of folding it. Since I was running late, though, I excused myself, left her in the capable hands of Ed B., put on my tux (black tux, black shirt, cream vest, white tie), and headed out to pick up Emma. As luck would have it, I wasn't all that late. I was going with Sarah and Dan, Ashley and Dominick, Andy, Maggie, and Iona. It was set to be a fun group. :) Emma came out looking wonderful in her blue dress, and Nikole H. took a picture of us. If I get to see them before this post goes up, I'll post one here -- with permission, of course...

We went out to a little French chalet up in the mountains, somewhere between Front Royal and Harper's Ferry. (We actually got lost on the way up there, but I took it as more of a discovery of what the Charger is capable, and I also continue to be impressed by it's ability.) There were about thirty people at the dinner in all, most of whom were seniors, but there were a few alumni -- at least then, I didn't feel quite so out of place.

Peter K., Pate Q., and Bob T. seemed to be the student masterminds of the event. Peter was the announcer for most of the night, so when we got there, we greeted us, and when it was time to eat, he asked us to please be seated. Mr. Brown was the culinary genius of the evening. If you want to take a look at his menu, here it is:
  • Caramelized Bacon, Almond and Brie Crostini
  • Shrimp Spring Roll with and Apricot Chile Dipping Sauce
  • Grilled Chicken Sate with Peanut Sauce
  • Cream of Cauliflower Potato Soup
  • Tartlet Duo: Onion, Prosciutto
  • Orange Salad with Balsamic Drizzle
  • Seafood Risotto with Seared Scallop and Parmesan Crisp
  • Watermelon Intermezzo
  • Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Chipotle Chile Rum Sauce, Fresh Corn Fritters, and Shoestring Sweet Potatoes
  • Chilled White Chocolate Lemon Souffle
  • Flourless Chocolate Cake
It was a lot of food, even in the small portions that he served us. It was a good thing that the portions were so small, because my stomach has shrunk significantly since Christendom, so I can't pack away food like I could in college...

After the dinner, Pate wanted to get a group picture, so we all gathered at the stairs to get a picture. (Thanks to Dampi for letting me use her picture. YOU ROCK, DAMPI!!!) After that, Emma and I headed out, following our original group to formal. Emma and I got onto 81 and headed north. At first, I was really confused by the fact that we were supposed to go to exit 5. It took a few miles, but then it suddenly clicked that exit 5 was in West Virginia. I felt really silly when I realized that, because I was going fairly slowly, looking for telltale signs of an exit 5. To those of you who don't know, once you get on 81N from 66, the first exit number is over 300. I knew that exit 5 was all the way south on 81 in VA, and that it would take us several hours to get there -- and then it dawned on me that the dance was in WV. I'm a little bit slow...

Anyway, the formal dance was being held in the large hall of St. Leo's Catholic Church. It was a very large hall. We arrived just about 11:00 PM, with about two hours left of the dance. As usual, I saw someone I knew outside, and I had to stop and chat with them. Emma was very nice and sweet in letting me continue postponing dancing (although kind of unintentionally postponing it), but after the third person with whom I chatted, I began to catch on to the fact that she wanted to get inside to the dance. Like I said: not all the lights are on upstairs. :)

We danced a few slow dances, a couple swings, and a waltz. I'm definitely out of practice -- however, it's a good thing that I had TJ's help earlier on (as I related in a couple previous posts), because the moves were coming to me, although embarrassingly slowly. There was one dance that I missed with Emma though: Laurel put on a tango (I love tango), so I quickly searched the room, but couldn't find Emma. However, feeling the need to dance the tango, I danced with Sylvia S., and proved that I was even out of practice with the tango.

Over the course of the night, I danced with a few other girls as well: Bridget R., Jenne L. (who had dislocated her hip -- that was an interesting dance), Emily G., and Sarah M. (formerly S.). That is not all of them -- I am just getting old and can't remember all of them. My first "dance" after I danced with Emma was a disco train, though. That was fun. I yelled at several people to get in it. Lizzie chickened out, but Dr. P, Tambi, and Krebsie joined. There was even an alternate train forming on a separate track, and we both merged into one giant one. Later on in the evening, I also heard the Electric Slide. This is by far my favorite line dance. It's easy enough to do, even though it's also easy to mess up -- which I do quite often. Usually though, recovery is quick and practically painless...

Emma, Josepha and I got together and walked around for a bit. We were going to go into the chapel to check it out, but this turned into an "acoustics test", so we grabbed a few other choir members that we could find fairly quickly and went to go sing a couple motets. I have to admit that I rather enjoyed the acoustics of the church, even though it seemed oddly dead. It was harder to fill the church with sound, meaning that we all had to sing louder. :)

About then, the dance was wrapping up. I danced the last three dances with Emma, and then there was the concluding prayer. As people made their exits, I noticed Peachy -- I hadn't seen him in a few months, so we exchanged e-mail addresses so that we could keep in touch more frequently.

After that, Emma and I joined Lizzie, JD, Sylvia, Michael, Kathleen and Andy for discussions on what to do next. It was 1:00 AM, but we still had some energy left. Someone suggested ice cream, and after discussing this for a little while, we all headed out the door. Since Emma and I were the first to head out, we stopped by Martin's and picked some up. Then we went to JD's, where the rest of the folks were waiting, and socialized for a while. I drove Emma back to her dorm sometime between 3:30-4:00 AM.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Ocean's Eleven

I've seen this movie before, but it had been a while. I watched both the commentaries on the film, one by the director and screenwriter, and the second by three of the actors. When it was all done, then I watched the movie. It was actually quite fascinating to see all three versions of it. It's really cool to hear commentary on why the movie was made this way or that way, or pointing out an inside joke about a scene. After seeing the commentaries, I watched the regular film, and I caught so much more. This is a very well-made movie, and it's also quite fun. There are a few dancers early on which kind of ruin a couple scenes, but the rest of the movie is great.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Concert, the picnic, and the rest of the weekend

On Saturday, I drove out to Front Royal fairly early in the morning. I was actually quite pleased with myself. I rose early, showered and put on my suit, packed for the weekend, and was out the door in plenty of time for me to casually drive to Front Royal and arrive there in time for choir practice. It was a nice feeling -- no rushing, no "Darn-it-I-should-have-gotten-up-earlier"s, and no speeding. I liked that feeling. I'll have to try being responsible (i.e., not lazy) more often!

Anyway, I met up with the Palestrina Choir and we practiced for about an hour-and-a-half. Practice didn't seem to go too terribly well, but some of us were still a bit groggy (myself included), and thus our voices were not quite ready to cooperate. Dr. P seemed to be a little bit on edge, because we were performing these pieces in a concert in just a few hours, and, although we had them down, we were still messing up here and there, and we didn't quite sound like a unified whole...

Anyway, after practice, I went to Mass, and then into the Commons. John E. had come down from PA for the weekend, so I chatted with him for a little while, and then at 12:30 PM, we loaded up the vans and drove out to Bethesda, MD. We arrived around 2 PM, and practiced in the church. Once again, it was not one of our best practices. Normally, a bad practice doesn't phase me too much, because it's just a practice, but we were cutting it close, and even I was getting a bit worried.

After the choir and schola practiced, Jacinta W. practiced on the organ until about 4 PM, and then confessions began. While she was practicing, the bulk of us went outside and enjoyed the weather. I went back inside and to confession when they began, and then I did my best to avoid the pictures. (Call me what you will, I'm rather self-conscious about the fact that I'm not very photogenic.) Then I went to their 5:00 PM Mass.

This Mass was definitely sub-par in quality to any of the Masses that I attend, whether at Christendom, St. John's, St. Rita's, St. Andrew's -- they've all got them beat hands down. These other parishes that I mentioned do things by the book, whereas this church seemed to be making much more of a show about the Mass than anything else. It was kind of disturbing (the four altar girls didn't help matters either). I spent most of the time thinking to myself, "Just walk out. Leave. They won't mind. Look at the people around me. If they don't mind the way that they are dressed and the way that they are acting, then they certainly won't mind if a properly dressed man leaves because he's offended." But I couldn't bring myself to do it. There was a tinge of reverence for what was happening, and that tinge was enough to make me stay -- but only barely...

Anyway, the choir was supposed to sing the Communion meditation, so I went upstairs with them. Just about that time, the soloist began singing. Sounds rather counter-productive, but it's true. We went upstairs to the choir loft, and then waited through an entire hymn. When it was over, we sang the chant Tantum Ergo, followed by Maurice Duruflé's composition of Tantum Ergo. The congregation looked so shocked that another musical sound was playing in the church, instead of a piano and soloist, and most of them turned around and looked up at us. I saw more than half of those looking at us inquisitively, and the rest were smiling. The people who didn't look up looked frozen, either because they hadn't heard real music like this in some time, or else because they were uncertain about what to do, say, or think. When we were finished, silence reigned for about a second, and then the priest concluded Mass.

Immediately after Mass, we went out a side door of the church, and formed a line to assume our positions. Our concert began immediately after Mass. The priest invited the congregation to stay and listen, but most of them fled (in their defense, the weather outside was simply magnificent). The concert was being offered as part of a Sacred Music series that the church was putting on. I think that we were the fourth choir on their list (they were offering a concert a week), but I could very well be wrong about that. Anyway, whatever the situation was, we arranged themselves in order, and said a quick prayer. We were introduced, and when we came out, we all did a genuflection towards the tabernacle before we began (fortunately, the tabernacle was in the middle of the sanctuary, and not hidden away).

The music we did consisted of the following:After this, Jacinta W. played her three organ pieces:After her three pieces, the choir got back up to finish the concert with:The concert went, in my humble opinion, extremely well. I only heard one glitch, and that was very minor and corrected immediately. But then again, I was so focused on singing my part and blending with the girls next to me (Bridget R. and Christine C.) that I was only watching my music and Dr. P. I also made frequent eye contact with JD, because he's a fellow bass who was standing right across from me, and eye cues are very important. It makes things much easier for me if I can see a fellow section member while I'm singing. Hearing is good, but seeing is a big plus, too.

After the concert, Paul, MC and I packed up the stuff and brought it out to the van. We left the church just before 8:00 PM, and made it back to Christendom just after 9:00 PM. That night, Coffee House was going on at Christendom, but I didn't go. I was a bit tired, so I went to JD's place for a while, where John E. and Breanna H. were, and Emma soon joined us. I was also rather hungry. I sing better on an empty stomach then when I'm full, so I hadn't eaten anything all day. I went to Giant and picked up a sandwich for me, Dr. Pepper for JD, and some Starburst for John. I also grabbed some Doritos, since they were priced 2-for-1. :)

Truth be told, I guess that it took a second trip for the Starburst -- I had completely forgotten about them when I went into the store the first time, and I was almost back to JD's when I remembered them, so I turned around and went back to the store. I'm so ridiculously forgetful sometimes.

After eating and visiting for a while, I drove Emma back to her dorm, and then went back to JD's where Josepha had just arrived. I was pretty tired, so I completely zonked out while she was there. I had no intention of being rude; my spirit was willing to visit, but my eyes said, "I think not..."

The next morning, I woke up to JD asking me if I was going to go to choir practice. It had already started, and I was late.

After choir practice and Mass, I went to LD's in town and had breakfast with JD, Josepha, John E., Brenna H. and another girl whom I should know, but cannot remember her name. We had a good time there, and then headed back to Christendom for the Palestrina choir practice. Following this, I went outside with Lizzie, Christine, and MC to play catch with a water bottle. We ended up having a bit of a water fight, because the cap on the bottle got loose and splashed all over some people. Out of all of us, I think Christine was the driest and Lizzie was the wettest. The poor girl had the worst luck when it came to catching the water bottle when the cap was the loosest. Nevertheless, it was still pretty funny. :)

I was invited to St. Theresa's dorm for an outdoor picnic in the afternoon, so at about 2:30 PM, I headed over there after changing from my suit into jeans and a T-shirt. There were a lot of people over there: Emma and Sarah F., Lizzie, Andy C., Andrew T., Beth F., MC, Laurel M. -- it was a rather large group of people. JD brought along Breanna H. and John E., and a few minutes later, Larry H. showed up as well, bringing the total up to about 18 people, I think. I helped out a little bit with what needed to be done, but for the most part I was there for the entertainment. Mrs. Mary Alice R. (a professor at Christendom, and a good friend of all of ours) came over for a little while and chatted with Laurel, Lizzie, Emma, and me. When the croquet game ended, the football throwing began, and Mrs. R. decided that it was a good time to make her exit before she got hit.

I joined in the tossing of the pigskin, even though I had the worst throwing arm out there -- yes, even more so than the girls. The group changed around a little bit, and it became a game of keep away, with MC being the piggy in the middle, and then eventually died out. I think it had pretty much reached the end of the game when MC and Andy C practiced their climbing on the back porch. Although they put up a gallant effort, they were pretty slow in climbing up the back porch to rescue the fair damsels in distress. I poked fun at them for that. As expected, they challenged me to do better and climb up. I told them that there was no way that I could do it -- I'm not strong enough to act like a monkey.

This ended, and somehow or another, it led to John and MC leaping over Lizzie and Emma where they were lying (completely unsuspecting) on the ground. Screams erupted from them as they saw the two men jump over them, and guffaws erupted from the guys. Then, JD and I joined the girls on the ground, and gave John and MC a bigger challenge (JD and I were on the ends), and they both cleared us just fine. It was highly amusing, although I'm sure that the guys got a bigger kick out of it than the girls. Anyway, it was getting to that point of the evening, so I headed back to the apartment. I wanted to get there before it got too late...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Catholic Relationship Survey

A friend of mine has asked for people to fill out a survey to assist her friend in the completion of her dissertation. Since I've got a few readers, I thought I'd pass the info along. Her blog address is http://dissertationsurvey.blogspot.com, and the survey link is http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=149393467057.

Die Walküre (The Valkyrie)

I saw this Wagner opera last night with Dr. P., Tambi, Lizzie, and Emma. The character of Seigmund was played by Plácido Domingo, which made it all that much cooler for me. I was late to the Kennedy Center Opera House, so I missed all of Act 1, but I caught the last two. Overall, the opera was very good. I was very impressed by the cast. I kept hearing Looney Tunes themes in the opera, though, especially in the Valkyries battle cry...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Curious George

This was a very cute movie. I don't really know what else to say about it, aside from the fact that it was cute. :) The DVD I borrowed to watch it was rather scratched up, so I missed a little bit of it, but there was nothing that I couldn't figure out. I'd definitely recommend this movie to people of all ages. It's really cute and it had a lot of very innocent humor.

Makes me want a pet monkey...

Utopia (Atoll K)

This was Laurel and Hardy's last movie together. It had a few problems, but I don't really see why it was their last. Any fan of Laurel and Hardy could easily overlook the glitches in the film and laugh at it for the comedy that it is.

I say this, and it's only the second Laurel and Hardy movie that I've ever seen. This doesn't make me a big fan of theirs, but it makes me a big enough fan...

The Flying Deuces

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are the stars of this 1939 film. It's slapstick and it's quite good. I was expecting it to be a silent film, but I was definitely glad that it wasn't.

Perhaps it's just me, but I saw some very similar mannerisms from a certain Dr. W.H.M. from Christendom in the way that Hardy played with his tie when he was around the French lady that he was wooing...

Sunday and the Baptism

Well, little Kenny Jr. is no longer a catechumen (or innocent heathen, depending upon how you look at the situation). He was baptized yesterday, making him one of the youngest official members of the Church.

After Mass and Palestrina choir practice, JD, Justin, Emma and I went out to Jalisco's for a late lunch before the baptism at 3:45 PM. Emma and I hurried over to the church, and were there about ten minutes before the Baptism, so I helped Ken and Andy C. set up for it. Little Kenny was not too pleased with being bathed twice in one day, so he was a little cranky for the rest of the day...

After the Baptism, we were socializing in the foyer of the church. I saw both Ken's and Alaina's parents, whom I haven't seen in quite some time. At one point, I felt a hand playing with my hair to see how long it was. I snapped back quickly and grabbed it to catch the person in the act, only to be embarrassed by the fact that it was Alaina's mother. It was very embarrassing, but I think that she took it well.

All of us then went over to Ken and Alaina's house and had a bit of cake and more socializing to celebrate the newest addition to the Church. After a little while, Emma, Sarah and I took off. We went back to St. John's to pick up Sarah's car, and then Emma drove back to campus, where I got my car from M.C. After that, I met up with Sarah, Dane, and Pat & Laura S. at Jalisco's. The same waiter that served the table I was at the first time served us again.

After my second meal of the day at Jalisco's, I went back to the apartment, and to sleep.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Bryan and Christina's wedding

I arrived in Front Royal about 12:45 PM, 15 minutes after when I meant to get there. The wedding was supposed to begin at 1:00 PM, so I was cutting it really close. However, it didn't actually begin until about 1:40 PM, so I actually had plenty of time. I was singing with Alaina and Kathy R. (formerly, Z.) for the wedding with Jacinta W. on the organ. I think it went over pretty well.

Rumor has it that Bryan and Christina missed the wedding rehearsal -- if that was the case, that would explain a few things, like why, at the presentation of the flowers to Our Lady, Christina went to Our Lady, but Bryan went to St. Joseph.

I booked it out of the church after Mass to get to the reception hall. As I passed the church, I saw the General Lee, which Mr. S. had rented for his son's wedding. It looked really sweet. I didn't see what happened, so I won't say for sure, but rumor has it that it didn't perform really well.

When I got to the reception hall, MikeE and Carissa helped me carry in all the equipment -- which I really appreciated, because otherwise I would have had to make multiple trips and it was raining outside, so if you guys are reading, Thank You!. We were some of the first people there. There was a CD going with some older swing. I fired up the computers, got them working with the sound system, and and began playing music
  • Otis Redding - Sitting On The Dock of A Bay (2:45)
  • Bing Crosby - True Love (3:03)
  • Righteous Brothers - Unchained Melody (3:36)
  • Roger Williams - Autumn Leaves (3:03)
  • Simon & Garfunkel - Scarborough Fair/Canticle (3:10)
  • Turtles - So Happy Together (2:55)
  • Frankie Valli - You're Just Too Good To Be True (3:19)
  • Simon & Garfunkel - The Boxer (5:10)
  • Mamas & Papas - California Dreaming (2:41)
  • Eagles - Hotel California (6:31)
  • Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody (5:56)
By this point, the bridal party was there, and I was to announce them. I had prepared clips from songs that they wanted to enter. In order, the bridal party and their entrance themes:
  • Geoffrey S. and Anna C. - Tim McGraw - Last Dollar (Fly Away) (3:33)
  • Grant C. and Olivia S. - Strawberry Shortcake - Cuppycake (0:42)
  • Jamie S. and Logan H. - Deep Purple - Smoke on the Water (2:41)
  • Alex S. and Beth T. - Frank Miller's 300 - Returns A King, composed by Tyler Bates (0:54)
  • Nate S. and Angela H. - Kenny Chesney - She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy (3:21)
  • Ben S. and Erin M.E. - Vanilla Ice - Ice, Ice Baby (4:18)
  • Robert T. and Holly K. - Carl Orff - Camina Burana Cantiones Profane: O Fortuna (2:34)
  • Alex K. and Melissa M. - Shakira - La Tortura (ft. Alejandro Sanz) (3:36)
  • The best man, Richard S. and the maid of honor, Jessica R. - Will Smith - Miami (2:24)
  • The groom, Bryan Thomas Anthony S. and his new bride Christina Maria S. - Guns N' Roses - Sweet Child o' Mine (5:56)
I let their entrance theme play all the way through, and then launched into the dinner music.
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd - Tuesday's Gone (7:29)
  • Metallica - Turn The Page (6:06)
  • Steppenwolf - Magic Carpet Ride (4:28)
  • Dropkick Murphys - The Gang's All Here (2:06)
  • Hank Snow - I've Been Everywhere (2:47)
  • Johnny Cash - Ring Of Fire (2:37)
  • Alabama - Five O'clock 500 (3:38)
  • Montgomery Gentry - Speed (4:01)
  • Asleep At The Wheel - Hot Rod Lincoln (2:55)
  • John Denver - Country Roads (3:09)
  • Billy Dean - Thank God I'm A Country Boy (2:55)
  • John Michael Montgomery - Letters From Home (4:29)
  • Montgomery Gentry - I Ain't Got It All That Bad (f. Hank Williams, Jr.) (3:23)
The bride and her father's dance was to Es Mi Niña Bonita, and the bride and groom's first dance was Walt Disney's So This Is Love, from Cinderella. I followed that up with Walt Disney's Once Upon A Dream from Sleeping Beauty. At this point, DJ Insomniak from Miami took over and DJ'ed the rest of the dance, so in transition from me to him, I played Jennifer Lopez's If You Had My Love. Judging by the dancing, the people loved the music assortment -- DJ Insomniak played a lot of their requests and mixed in current Latino hits. It made for one heck of a party.

After the reception, I helped clean up, and then a few of us went to Ken and Alaina's house to sit around and talk. When I left there, it was close to midnight, and it was time to go to bed...

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Pascha

I arrived at Holy Transfiguration for the feast of Pascha just before 9:00 PM. Everything began at 10:00 PM. I brought the two pans of the pasta concoction, my apron (the white one that I got after Dad passed away), and my coat, because I heard it was going to be cold. I reviewed all the music, and was about as ready as I'd ever be.

The Hajmat began at 10:00 PM. It was chilly outside, but I wasn't going to let that get in the way. The people all gathered outside, and the priest read the Gospel proclaiming the resurrection of Christ. Then he knocked on the doors of the church, the doors were opened, and he went inside, followed by the clergy, acolytes, choir and congregation. Normally, I'm always taken in by seeing the church brightly lit up with all the lights swinging as a symbol of the earthquake and the Resurrection, but this time it didn't even occur to me. I was just in a hurry to return to the front of the church with the choir.

We burned through all the Orthros prayers for which I had prepared. I had not practiced them fast enough at all. I need to remember this, so that next year I will be able to keep up cleanly, instead of fumbling every other note...

After Liturgy, I got out of the church fairly quickly, grabbed my apron and headed straight into the kitchen. I spent a little bit of time preparing food for service or other small miscellaneous tasks, then more time cutting up ham, but the rest of the evening was spent doing dishes. I've very glad that I had my apron...

After the party was over and the cleanup was done, I drove Hugh back to his place. We arrived there at about 3:30 AM. I slept there in his guest room, and at 7:15 AM, I was awake, because at 7:30, I had to head out to go to Old St. Mary's to be at the 8:00 AM schola practice. Mass there was at 9:00 AM. I was glad to be there, because I got to sing all the chant pieces with a schola that I knew well before going to St. John's and singing them again with their new schola for the 12:30 PM Tridentine.

I arrived at St. John's in time to hear their choir sing Sicut Cervus during Communion for the 10:30 AM Mass. I was very impressed to hear it done outside of Christendom, and these guys also did not have the usual "church choir" sound. Being a bit biased, I would say that they are not on par with Christendom's choir, but they are definitely one of the best church choirs that I've ever heard. It also helps that they had Christendom choir members in the choir (Julianna K., Draper W., and Ryan O.), and that they were being conducted by a music professional, Julia A., who is going to C.U.A., I believe...

After that Mass, Draper and I got together and practiced the Gradual, Haec Dies. Fortunately, it was the second time that I'd sung it that day, so I wasn't too worried about it. When Draper and I actually sang it, I did make one mistake, but I caught it one note later and corrected it. Thank goodness for schola experience. The rest of Mass was pretty much normal, except that I also sang the Solemn Tone Regina Coeli for Communion.

After all this, I saw Ken and Alaina, as well as Theresa McG., who I haven't seen in quite a while. I then went to Christine C.'s house and met up with her, Michael, Emily, Lizzie, and Katherine to help prepare dinner. Jonathan D. and Dr. P. showed up later on, and we had a fun time, but then the toll of my liturgical triple header caught up with me, and I decided that now would be a good time to head back to the apartment. I swung by Sarah's long enough to wish her Happy Easter again (as well as Draper, Dane W. and Pat and Laura S.) and to pick up my leftovers from Holy Transfiguration.

Oh, and out of two large pans, about 1/3 of the concoction was left.

Have a most Happy and Blessed Pascha, everyone! Christ Is Risen! Christos Anesti! Christus Surrexit!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Great Saturday

I have been very busy today. I attended the morning Liturgy at Holy Transfiguration, which was the Vespers, Blessing the new light, Procession of Triumph, the first proclamation of the Resurrection, and Divine Liturgy of Our Father among the St. Basil. Essentially, it is the same service as what is the Easter Vigil in the West, but this service focuses more on death's realization that it the apparently simply Carpenter from Nazareth that it has taken in is no ordinary man, but is God. It bewails the loss of its power over those whom it has taken in, but has no choice except to surrender the Chosen to the Divine Son of God, while the Chosen rejoice in the triumph over death by God and their release from the captivity of Limbo to heaven.

After the morning Liturgy, I had brunch at Holy Transfiguration. After that, I took Hugh M. to the store to get some food, and then went back to the apartment.

I've spent a lot of time cooking for the Pascha celebration -- good old mac and cheese. I made it using a self-modified recipe given to me by Christine C. It's more of a casserole: a layer of farfalle on the bottom, layered over with slices of sharp cheddar, then a layer of shells, then a layer of mozzarella, then a layer of meat (bacon in one pan, ground beef in the other), then a layer of riccoli, then Colby Jack, then elbows, then alternating rows of extra sharp cheddar and muenster. Top that off with several pats of butter and a drizzling of milk on it, and a enough Parmesan to mostly cover the top, but not enough to permeate the whole thing. The style of layered noodles and cheese came from the original recipe. The end was just the result of my thinking, "What might be good?" I honestly have no idea how it tastes, because I've never made it before -- I just hope that someone likes it. I'll let you know how much is left...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Great Friday

Today at 3:00 PM, Holy Transfiguration had Vespers with the Descent from the Cross. This service consisted of Vespers, and towards the end of Vespers, the image of Christ that had been affixed with nails to the cross last night was removed and brought into the sanctuary. At least, I think that is what happened. I couldn't really tell because I was with the choir on the front left of the church, and this was happening on the front left. Unfortunately, I didn't get a clear view because the priests, deacon, acolytes and the tomb were all in my line of vision.

At the end of the service, there was a second procession, in which Father Joseph was under a small canopy carried by Father Ephraim and Father Charles, and he carried the gilt book of the Gospels. This was carried around the church and around the tomb, after which it was placed in the tomb. After this, the faithful came to the resting place and venerated the Word of God with the customary prostrations as they were able.

In the evening at 7:30, I attended the service of Matins and the burial of Jesus, or the Epitaphios Service. In this service, the focus is on Christ in the tomb, as the faithful look forward to His Resurrection. But until He rises, we continue the fast, abstinence and the solemnities.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Great Thursday

I attended the Vesperal Liturgy this morning at Holy Transfiguration. I've never been before. It was essentially Vespers with the Divine Liturgy immediately after. At the end, there was a little bit of bread, wine, and a dessert. The bread and wine were not consecrated, but they were blessed, with the dessert symbolizing the sweetness of the final victory.

In the evening was the Matins Service of the Twelve Gospels (or Passion Gospels or Crucifixion Service). I've attended this service before, and I'm caught up in the significance of the service every time, although sometimes more than others. The first time, I was really caught up in it, but I did admittedly spend a lot of time wondering how much longer the first Gospel was going to take. The second and third times, I knew how long the Gospels were, so I could concentrate more on what was being said, and actually listen to the Passion.

After the fifth Gospel, everyone prostrates and stays prostrated. During this time, the priest (and the rest of the altar party) walks around the church three times, and on the third time, they process up the center aisle towards a large wooden cross there, and an image of Our Lord is nailed there. All you hear is the sound of a procession, followed by the sound of a (small) hammer hitting (small) nails. You don't need to be familiar with the service at all to know what is going on. You just have to be Catholic.

This is easily one of the most beautiful services ever. It's long, but the twelve Gospels are read in such a way that they tell the entire story of the Passion of Christ as told by all the Evangelists. Simply beautiful, and if you've never been to this service before, it will bring a tear to your eye, unless your heart is made of ice. However, if it is, you've got other problems to worry about -- ice doesn't pump blood that well...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Great Wednesday

This evening, there was Presanctified Liturgy followed by the Anointing Service. I was uncertain about this service, because there were seven Epistle readings and seven Gospel readings before the Anointing Service. I wasn't really sure what to make of it, but eventually it all came together. Father Joseph explained a lot of it in his homily. Then it made sense: this is the service in which the faithful are anointed as Our Lord was in preparation for His Passion. We do this out of repentance for our sins. I'll need to study more about the service to be able to explain it better...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Palm Sunday weekend

On Friday evening, I went to Holy Transfiguration for the Presanctified Liturgy, and then drove out to Christendom. I got there just about 1:00 AM -- I would have driven there first thing in the morning, but I had to be there for choir practice at 9:00 AM, and I knew that I would never be able to get up on time, so I chose to go drive there and sleep in Front Royal instead.

Before practice, Michael and I practiced the gradual, Christus Factus Est. After that, choir practice went well -- at least, I thought it did, but I've been proven wrong many many times. We practiced the responses for the Passion Gospel by St. Luke, and then we were done.

After this, I had choir practice in town from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM. It was with a different set of guys, some of whom I have sung alongside before. I think that one also went well. Draper and M.C. will be singing with that group on Easter as well, but they were unable to attend that practice.

After that, I went back to Christendom on my way out of town. I had to pick up some vestments to take to the dry cleaners. I only found one next to some directions, so I grabbed it and headed out. On my way there, I called the cleaners -- it's a good thing that I did, because they were closed, and they were all the way out in Arlington.

I then went to Vespers at Holy Transfiguration, and after that, went back to Front Royal, because of Palm Sunday -- I could not be late on Sunday, and if I slept at the apartment, I would do just that: be late on Palm Sunday.

That night, the guys went to sing at Bridget R.'s window for her birthday. Being a little paranoid about April Fool's Day, I checked to make sure that it actually was her birthday. I called TJ and Matt, and I also checked on Facebook. All three of them agreed that it was her birthday, so I took it that she wasn't trying to pull an early April Fool's Day joke on me and joined the guys to sing for her.

Palm Sunday Mass went well -- or, so I think. I guess that I should say that I don't remember anything bad about the music. There was only one spot that I recall sounding a little odd, but I don't think it was all that noticeable...

After Mass, I was invited to Sarah H.'s house for brunch, so I joined Christine, M.C., Emma, and J.D. at her place. Following this, we had to go back to campus for the Palestrina Choir practice.

Immediately after the Palestrina choir practice, I went to the gym, and TJ D. and Lisa H. once again went through the basics of dancing with me, while I acted like a monkey and generally fumbled through the entire lesson. I have such a hard time remembering dance moves, most especially how they start...

I then headed back to the apartment. Eric invited me to his place for WrestleMania 23, and this is one sporting event that I did not want to miss. Alex came along, and it looked like he was enjoying himself, even though he wasn't as much into wrestling as the rest of us were. I guess it's like me at a football game though. I'm there for the company and the fun times, not so much for the game.

We got back to the apartment about 11:30, and I went right to bed. I meant to get up early (like 6:00 AM) the next morning to go to the gym, but I was unable to. Call me lazy, but I was exhausted. I think it was all the sleeping on couches over the weekend...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

St. Mary of Egypt

At Holy Transfiguration today, they celebrated the feast of St. Mary of Egypt. This entire reading was read during the Liturgy. I very highly recommend reading it all, as it is simply an amazing read. However, it is very long, so if you can't, that's OK, too.

Oh, and if you click on the title of this link, you'll get directed to the place where I got this story from. It also includes icons to assist in the telling of the story.

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"It is good to hide the secret of a king, but it is glorious to reveal and preach the works of God" (Tobit 12.7) So said the Archangel Raphael to Tobit when he performed the wonderful healing of his blindness. Actually, not to keep the secret of a king is perilous and a terrible risk, but to be silent about the works of God is a great loss for the soul. And I (says St. Sophronius), in writing the life of St. Mary of Egypt, am afraid to hide the works of God by silence. Remembering the misfortune threatened to the servant who hid his God-given talent in the earth (Matt 25.18-25), I am bound to pass on the holy account that has reached me. And let no one think (continues St. Sophronius) that I have had the audacity to write untruth or doubt this great marvel --may I never lie about holy things! If there do happen to be people who, after reading this record, do not believe it, may the Lord have mercy on them because, reflecting on the weakness of human nature, they consider impossible these wonderful things accomplished by holy people. But now we must begin to tell this most amazing story, which has taken place in our generation.

There was a certain elder in one of the monasteries of Palestine, a priest of the holy life and speech, who from childhood had been brought up in monastic ways and customs. This elder's name was Zosimas. He had been through the whole course of the ascetic life and in everything he adhered to the rule once given to him by his tutors as regard spiritual labours. he had also added a good deal himself whilst labouring to subject his flesh to the will of the spirit. And he had not failed in his aim. He was so renowned for his spiritual life that many came to him from neighboring monasteries and some even from afar. While doing all this, he never ceased to study the Divine Scriptures. Whether resting, standing, working or eating food (if the scraps he nibbled could be called food), he incessantly and constantly had a single aim: always to sing of God, and to practice the teaching of the Divine Scriptures. Zosimas used to relate how, as soon as he was taken from his mother's breast, he was handed over to the monastery where he went through his training as an ascetic till he reached the age of 53. After that, he began to be tormented with the thought that he was perfect in everything and needed no instruction from anyone, saying to himself mentally, "Is there a monk on earth who can be of use to me and show me a kind of asceticism that I have not accomplished? Is there a man to be found in the desert who has surpassed me?"

Thus thought the elder, when suddenly an angel appeared to him and said:

"Zosimas, valiantly have you struggled, as far as this is within the power of man, valiantly have you gone through the ascetic course. But there is no man who has attained perfection. Before you lie unknown struggles greater than those you have already accomplished. That you may know how many other ways lead to salvation, leave your native land like the renowned patriarch Abraham and go to the monastery by the River Jordan."

Zosimas did as he was told. he left the monastery in which he had lived from childhood, and went to the River Jordan. At last he reached the community to which God had sent him. Having knocked at the door of the monastery, he told the monk who was the porter who he was; and the porter told the abbot. On being admitted to the abbot's presence, Zosimas made the usual monastic prostration and prayer. Seeing that he was a monk the abbot asked:

"Where do you come from, brother, and why have you come to us poor old men?"

Zosimas replied:

"There is no need to speak about where I have come from, but I have come, father, seeking spiritual profit, for I have heard great things about your skill in leading souls to God."

"Brother," the abbot said to him, "Only God can heal the infirmity of the soul. May He teach you and us His divine ways and guide us. But as it is the love of Christ that has moved you to visit us poor old men, then stay with us, if that is why you have come. May the Good Shepherd Who laid down His life for our salvation fill us all with the grace of the Holy Spirit."

After this, Zosimas bowed to the abbot, asked for his prayers and blessing, and stayed in the monastery. There he saw elders proficient both in action and the contemplation of God, aflame in spirit, working for the Lord. They sang incessantly, they stood in prayer all night, work was ever in their hands and psalms on their lips. Never an idle word was heard among them, they know nothing about acquiring temporal goods or the cares of life. But they had one desire -- to become in body like corpses. Their constant food was the Word of God, and they sustained their bodies on bread and water, as much as their love for God allowed them Seeing this, Zosimas was greatly edified and prepared for the struggle that lay before him.

Many days passed and the time drew near when all Christians fast and prepare themselves to worship the Divine Passion and Ressurection of Christ. The monastery gates were kept always locked and only opened when one of the community was sent out on some errand. It was a desert place, not only unvisited by people of the world but even unknown to them.

There was a rule in that monastery which was the reason why God brought Zosimas there. At the beginning of the Great Fast [on Forgiveness Sunday] the priest celebrated the holy Liturgy and all partook of the holy body and blood of Christ. After the Liturgy they went to the refectory and would eat a little lenten food.

Then all gathered in church, and after praying earnestly with prostrations, the elders kissed one another and asked forgiveness. And each made a prostration to the abbot and asked his blessing and prayers for the struggle that lay before them. After this, the gates of the monastery were thrown open, and singing, "The Lord is my light and my Savior; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defender of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 26.1) and the rest of that psalm, all went out into the desert and crossed the River Jordan. Only one or two brothers were left in the monastery, not to guard the property (for there was nothing to rob), but so as not to leave the church without Divine Service. Each took with him as much as he could or wanted in the way of food, according to the needs of his body: one would take a little bread, another some figs, another dates or wheat soaked in water. And some took nothing but their own body covered with rags and fed when nature forced them to it on the plants that grew in the desert.

After crossing the Jordan, they all scattered far and wide in different directions. And this was the rule of life they had, and which they all observed -- neither to talk to one another, nor to know how each one lived and fasted. If they did happen to catch sight of one another, they went to another part of the country, living alone and always singing to God, and at a definite time eating a very small quantity of food. In this way they spent the whole of the fast and used to return to the monastery a week before the Resurrection of Christ, on Palm Sunday. Each one returned having his own conscience as the witness of his labour, and no one asked another how he had spent his time in the desert. Such were rules of the monastery. Everyone of them whilst in the desert struggled with himself before the Judge of the struggle -- God -- not seeking to please men and fast before the eyes of all. For what is done for the sake of men, to win praise and honour, is not only useless to the one who does it but sometimes the cause of great punishment.

Zosimas did the same as all. And he went far, far into the desert with a secret hope of finding some father who might be living there and who might be able to satisfy his thirst and longing. And he wandered on tireless, as if hurrying on to some definite place. He had already waled for 20 days and when the 6th hour came he stopped and, turning to the East, he began to sing the sixth Hour and recite the customary prayers. He used to break his journey thus at fixed hours of the day to rest a little, to chant psalms standing and to pray on bent knees.

And as he sang thus without turning his eyes from the heavens, he suddenly saw to the right of the hillock on which he stood the semblance of a human body. At first he was confused thinking he beheld a vision of the devil, and even started with fear. But, having guarded himself with he sign of the Cross and banished all fear, he turned his gaze in that direction and in truth saw some form gliding southwards. It was naked, the skin dark as if burned up by the heat of the sun; the hair on its head was white as a fleece, and not long, falling just below its neck. Zosimas was so overjoyed at beholding a human form that he ran after it in pursuit, but the form fled from him. He followed. At length, when he was near enough to be heard, he shouted:

"Why do you run from an old man and a sinner? Slave of the True God, wait for me, whoever you are, in God's name I tell you, for the love of God for Whose sake you are living in the desert."

"Forgive me for God's sake, but I cannot turn towards you and show you my face, Abba Zosimas. For I am a woman and naked as you see with the uncovered shame of my body. But if you would like to fulfil one wish of a sinful woman, throw me your cloak so that I can cover my body and can turn to you and ask for your blessing."

Here terror seized Zosimas, for he heard that she called him by name. But he realized that she could not have done so without knowing anything of him if she had not had the power of spiritual insight.

He at once did as he was asked. He took off his old, tattered cloak and threw it to her, turning away as he did so. She picked it up and was able to cover at least a part of her body. The she turned to Zosimas and said:

"Why did you wish, Abba Zosimas, to see a sinful woman? What do you wish to hear or learn from me, you who have not shrunk from such great struggles?"

Zosimas threw himself on the ground and asked for her blessing. She likewise bowed down before him. And thus they lay on the ground prostrate asking for each other's blessing. And one word alone could be heard from both: "Bless me!" After a long while the woman said to Zosimas:

"Abba Zosimas, it is you who must give blessing and pray. You are dignified by the order of priesthood and for many years you have been standing before the holy altar and offering the sacrifice of the Divine Mysteries."

This flung Zosimas into even greater terror. At length with tears he said to her:

"O mother, filled with the spirit, by your mode of life it is evident that you live with God and have died to the world. The Grace granted to you is apparent -- for you have called me by name and recognized that I am a priest, though you have never seen me before. Grace is recognized not by one's orders, but by gifts of the Spirit, so give me your blessing for God's sake, for I need your prayers."

Then, giving way before the wish of the elder, the woman said:

"Blessed is God Who cares for the salvation of men and their souls."

Zosimas answered:

"Amen."

And both rose to their feet. Then the woman asked the elder:

"Why have you come, man of God, to me who am so sinful? Why do you wish to see a woman naked and devoid of every virtue? Though I know one thing -- the Grace of the Holy Spirit has brought you to render me a service in time. Tell me, father, how are the Christian peoples living? And the kings? How is the Church guided?"

Zosimas said:

"By your prayers, mother, Christ has granted lasting peace to all. But fulfill the unworthy petition of an old man and pray for the whole world and for me who am a sinner, so that my wanderings in the desert may not be fruitless."

She answered:

"You who are a priest, Abba Zosimas, it is you who must pray for me and for all -- for this is your calling. But as we must all be obedient, I will gladly do what you ask."

And with these words she turned to the East, and raising her eyes to heaven and stretching out her hands, she began to pray in a whisper. One could not hear separate words, so that Zosimas could not understand anything that she said in her prayers. Meanwhile he stood, according to his own word, all in a flutter, looking at the ground without saying a word. And he swore, calling God to witness, that when at length he thought that her prayer was very long, he took his eyes off the ground and saw that she was raised bout a forearm's distance from the ground and stood praying in the air. When he saw this, even greater terror seized him and he fell on the ground weeping and repeating may times, "Lord have mercy."

And whilst lying prostrate on the ground he was tempted by a thought: Is it not a spirit, and perhaps her prayer is hypocrisy. But at the very same moment the woman turned round, raised the elder from the ground and said:

"Why do thoughts confuse you, Abba, and tempt you about me, as if I were a spirit and a dissember in prayer? Know, holy father, that I am only a sinful woman, though I am guarded by Holy baptism. And I am no spirit but earth and ashes, and flesh alone."

And with these words she guarded herself with the sign of the Cross on her forehead, eyes, mouth and breast, saying:

"May God defend us from the evil one and from his designs, for fierce is his struggle against us."

Hearing and seeing this, the elder fell to the ground and, embracing her feet, he said with tears:

"I beg you, by the Name of Christ our God, Who was born of a Virgin, for Whose sake you have stripped yourself, for Whose sake you have exhausted your flesh, do not hide from your slave, who you are and whence and how you came into this desert. Tell me everything so that the marvellous works of God may become known. A hidden wisdom and a secret treasure -- what profit is there in them? Tell me all, I implore you. for not out of vanity or for self-display will you speak but to reveal the truth to me, an unworthy sinner. I believe in God, for whom you live and whom you serve. I believe that He led me into this desert so as to show me His ways in regard to you. It is not in our power to resist the plans of God. If it were not the will of God that you and your life would be known, He would not have allowed be to see you and would not have strengthened me to undertake this journey, one like me who never before dared to leave his cell."

Much more said Abba Zosimas. But the woman raised him and said:

"I am ashamed, Abba, to speak to you of my disgraceful life, forgive me for God's sake! But as you have already seen my naked body I shall likewise lay bare before you my work, so that you may know with what shame and obscenity my soul is filled. I was not running away out of vanity, as you thought, for what have I to be proud of -- I who was the chosen vessel of the devil? But when I start my story you will run from me, as from a snake, for your ears will not be able to bear the vileness of my actions. But I shall tell you all without hiding anything, only imploring you first of all to pray incessantly for me, so that I may find mercy on the day of Judgment."

The elder wept and the woman began her story.

"My native land, holy father, was Egypt. Already during the lifetime of my parents, when I was twelve years old, I renounced their love and went to Alexandria. I am ashamed to recall how there I at first ruined my maidenhood and then unrestrainedly and insatiably gave myself up to sensuality. It is more becoming to speak of this briefly, so that you may just know my passion and my lechery. for about seventeen years, forgive me, I lived like that. I was like a fire of public debauch. And it was not for the sake of gain -- here I speak the pure truth. Often when they wished to pay me, I refused the money. I acted in this way so as to make as many men as possible to try to obtain me, doing free of charge what gave me pleasure. do not think that I was rich and that was the reason why I did not take money. I lived by begging, often by spinning flax, but I had an insatiable desire and an irrepressible passion for lying in filth. This was life to me. Every kind of abuse of nature I regarded as life.

That is how I lived. Then one summer I saw a large crowd of Lybians and Egyptians running towards the sea. I asked one of them, `Where are these men hurrying to?' He replied, `They are all going to Jerusalem for the Exaltation of the Precious and Lifegiving Cross, which takes place in a few days.' I said to him, `Will they take me with them if I wish to go?' `No one will hinder you if you have money to pay for the journey and for food.' And I said to him, `To tell you truth, I have no money, neither have I food. But I shall go with them and shall go aboard. And they shall feed me, whether they want to or not. I have a body -- they shall take it instead of pay for the journey.' I was suddenly filled with a desire to go, Abba, to have more lovers who could satisfy my passion. I told you, Abba Zosimas, not to force me to tell you of my disgrace. God is my witness, I am afraid of defiling you and the very air with my words."


Zosimas, weeping, replied to her:

"Speak on for God's sake, mother, speak and do not break the thread of such an edifying tale."

And, resuming her story, she went on:

"That youth, on hearing my shameless words, laughed and went off. While I, throwing away my spinning wheel, ran off towards the sea in the direction which everyone seemed to be taking. and, seeing some young men standing on the shore, about ten or more of them, full of vigour and alert in their movements, I decided that they would do for my purpose (it seemed that some of them were waiting for more travellers whilst others had gone ashore). Shamelessly, as usual, I mixed with the crowd, saying, `Take me with you to the place you are going to; you will not find me superfluous.' I also added a few more words calling forth general laughter. Seeing my readiness to be shameless, they readily took me aboard the boat. Those who were expected came also, and we set sail at once.

How shall I relate to you what happened after this? Whose tongue can tell, whose ears can take in all that took place on the boat during that voyage! And to all this I frequently forced those miserable youths even against their own will. There is no mentionable or unmentionable depravity of which I was not their teacher. I am amazed, Abba, how the sea stood our licentiousness, how the earth did not open its jaws, and how it was that hell did not swallow me alive, when I had entangled in my net so many souls. But I think God was seeking my repentance. For He does not desire the death of a sinner but magnanimously awaits his return to Him. At last we arrived in Jerusalem. I spent the days before the festival in the town, living the same kind of life, perhaps even worse. I was not content with the youths I had seduced at sea and who had helped be to get to Jerusalem; many others -- citizens of the town and foreigners -- I also seduced.

The holy day of the Exaltation of the Cross dawned while I was still flying about -- hunting for youths. At daybreak I saw that everyone was hurrying to the church, so I ran with the rest. When the hour for the holy elevation approached, I was trying to make my way in with the crowd which was struggling to get through the church doors. I had at last squeezed through with great difficulty almost to the entrance of the temple, from which the lifegiving Tree of the Cross was being shown to the people. But when I trod on the doorstep which everyone passed, I was stopped by some force which prevented my entering. Meanwhile I was brushed aside by the crowd and found myself standing alone in the porch. Thinking that this had happened because of my woman's weakness, I again began to work my way into the crowd, trying to elbow myself forward. But in vain I struggled. Again my feet trod on the doorstep over which others were entering the church without encountering any obstacle. I alone seemed to remain unaccepted by the church. It was as if there was a detachment of soldiers standing there to oppose my entrance. Once again I was excluded by the same mighty force and again I stood in the porch.

Having repeated my attempt three or four times, at last I felt exhausted and had no more strength to push and to be pushed, so I went aside and stood in a corner of the porch. And only then with great difficulty it began to dawn on me, and I began to understand the reason why I was prevented from being admitted to see the life-giving Cross. The word of salvation gently touched the eyes of my heart and revealed to me that it was my unclean life which barred the entrance to me. I began to weep and lament and beat my breast, and to sigh from the depths of my heart. And so I stood weeping when I saw above me the ikon of the most holy Mother of God. And turning to her my bodily and spiritual eyes I said:

'O Lady, Mother of God, who gave birth in the flesh to God the Word, I know, O how well I know, that it is no honour or praise to thee when one so impure and depraved as I look up to thy ikon, O ever-virgin, who didst keep thy body and soul in purity. Rightly do I inspire hatred and disgust before thy virginal purity. But I have heard that God Who was born of thee became man on purpose to call sinners to repentance. Then help me, for I have no other help. Order the entrance of the church to be opened to me. Allow me to see the venerable Tree on which He Who was born of thee suffered in the flesh and on which He shed His holy Blood for the redemption of sinners and for me, unworthy as I am. Be my faithful witness before thy Son that I will never again defile my body by the impurity of fornication, but as soon as I have seen the Tree of the Cross I will renounce the world and its temptations and will go wherever thou wilt lead me.'

Thus I spoke and as if acquiring some hope in firm faith and feeling some confidence in the mercy of the Mother of God, I left the place where I stood praying. And I went again and mingled with the crowd that was pushing its way into the temple. And no one seemed to thwart me, no one hindered my entering the church. I was possessed with trembling, and was almost in delirium. Having got as far as the doors which I could not reach before -- as if the same force which had hindered me cleared the way for me -- I now entered without difficulty and found myself within the holy place. And so it was I saw the lifegiving Cross. I saw too the Mysteries of God and how the Lord accepts repentance. Throwing myself on the ground, I worshipped that holy earth and kissed it with trembling. Then I came out of the church and went to her who had promised to be my security, to the place where I had sealed my vow. And bending my knees before the Virgin Mother of God, I addressed to her such words as these:

'O loving Lady, thou hast shown me thy great love for all men. glory to God Who receives the repentance of sinners through thee. What more can I recollect or say, I who am so sinful? It is time for me, O Lady to fulfil my vow, according to thy witness. Now lead me by the hand along the path of repentance!' And at these words I heard a voice from on high:

`If you cross the Jordan you will find glorious rest.'

Hearing this voice and having faith that it was for me, I cried to the Mother of God:

'O Lady, Lady, do not forsake me!'

With these words I left the porch of the church and set off on my journey. As I was leaving the church a stranger glanced at me and gave me three coins, saying:

'Sister, take these.'

And, taking the money, I bought three loaves and took them with me on my journey, as a blessed gift. I asked the person who sold the bread:
'Which is the way to the Jordan?' I was directed to the city gate which led that way. Running on I passed the gates and still weeping went on my journey. Those I met I asked the way, and after walking for the rest of that day (I think it was nine o'clock when I saw the Cross) I at length reached at sunset the Church of St. John the Baptist which stood on the banks of the Jordan. After praying in the temple, I went down to the Jordan and rinsed my face and hands in its holy waters. I partook of the holy and life-giving Mysteries in the Church of the Forerunner and ate half of one of my loaves. Then, after drinking some water from Jordan, I lay down and passed the night on the ground. In the morning I found a small boat and crossed to the opposite bank. I again prayed to Our Lady to lead me whither she wished. Then I found myself in this desert and since then up to this very day I am estranged from all, keeping away from people and running away from everyone. And I live here clinging to my God Who saves all who turn to Him from faintheartedness and storms."

Zosimas asked her:

"How many years have gone by since you began to live in this desert?"

She replied:

"Forty-seven years have already gone by, I think, since I left the holy city."

Zosimas asked:

"But what food do you find?"

The woman said:

"I had two and a half loaves when I crossed the Jordan. Soon they dried up and became hard as rock. Eating a little I gradually finished them after a few years."

Zosimas asked.

"Can it be that without getting ill you have lived so many years thus, without suffering in any way from such a complete change?"

The woman answered:

"You remind me, Zosimas, of what I dare not speak of. For when I recall all the dangers which I overcame, and all the violent thoughts which confused me, I am again afraid that they will take possession of me."

Zosimas said:

"Do not hide from me anything; speak to me without concealing anything."

And she said to him:

"Believe me, Abba, seventeen years I passed in this desert fighting wild beasts -- mad desires and passions. When I was about to partake of food, I used to begin to regret the meat and fish of which I had so much in Egypt. I regretted also not having wine which I loved so much, for I drank a lot of wine when I lived in the world, while here I had not even water. I used to burn and succumb with thirst. The mad desire for profligate songs also entered me and confused me greatly, edging me on to sing satanic songs which I had learned once. But when such desires entered me I struck myself on the breast and reminded myself of the vow which I had made, when going into the desert. In my thoughts I returned to the ikon of the Mother of God which had received me and to her I cried in prayer. I implored her to chase away the thoughts to which my miserable soul was succumbing. And after weeping for long and beating my breast I used to see light at last which seemed to shine on me from everywhere. And after the violent storm, lasting calm descended.

And how can I tell you about the thoughts which urged me on to fornication, how can I express them to you, Abba? A fire was kindled in my miserable heart which seemed to burn me up completely and to awake in me a thirst for embraces. As soon as this craving came to me, I flung myself on the earth and watered it with my tears, as if I saw before me my witness, who had appeared to me in my disobedience, and who seemed to threaten punishment for the crime. And I did not rise from the ground (sometimes I lay thus prostrate for a day and a night) until a calm and sweet light descended and enlightened me and chased away the thoughts that possessed me. But always I turned to the eyes of my mind to my Protectress, asking her to extend help to one who was sinking fast in the waves of the desert. And I always had her as my Helper and the Accepter of my repentance. And thus I lived for seventeen years amid constant dangers. And since then even till now the Mother of God helps me in everything and leads me as it were by the hand."


Zosimas asked:

"Can it be that you did not need food and clothing?"

She answered:

"After finishing the loaves I had, of which I spoke, for seventeen years I have fed on herbs and all that can be found in the desert. The clothes I had when I crossed the Jordan became torn and worn out. I suffered greatly from the cold and greatly from the extreme heat. At times the sun burned me up and at other times I shivered from the frost, and frequently falling to the ground I lay without breath and without motion. I struggled with many afflictions and with terrible temptations. But from that time till now the power of God in numerous ways had guarded my sinful soul and my humble body. When I only reflect on the evils from which Our Lord has delivered me I have imperishable food for hope of salvation. I am fed and clothed by the all-powerful Word of God, the Lord of all. For it is not by bread alone that man lives. And those who have stripped off the rags of sin have no refuge, hiding themselves in the clefts of the rocks (Job 24; Heb 11.38)."

Hearing that she cited words of Scripture, from Moses and Job, Zosimas asked her:

"And so you have read the psalms and other books?"

She smiled at this and said to the elder:

"Believe be, I have not seen a human face ever since I crossed the Jordan, except yours today. I have not seen a beast or a living being ever since I came into the desert. I never learned from books. I have never even heard anyone who sang and read from them. But the word of God which is alive and active, by itself teaches a man knowledge. And so this is the end of my tale. But, as I asked you in the beginning, so even now I implore you for the sake of the Incarnate word of God, to pray to the Lord for me who am such a sinner."

Thus concluding here tale she bowed down before him. And with tears the elder exclaimed:

"Blessed is God Who creates the great and wondrous, the glorious and marvellous without end. Blessed is God Who has shown me how He rewards those who fear Him. Truly, O Lord, Thou dost not forsake those who seek Thee!"

And the woman, not allowing the elder to bow down before her, said:

"I beg you, holy father, for the sake of Jesus Christ our God and Savior, tell no one what you have heard, until God delivers me of this earth. And now depart in peace and again next year you shall see me, and I you, if God will preserve us in His great mercy. But for God's sake, do as I ask you. Next year during Lent do not cross the Jordan, as is your custom in the monastery."

Zosimas was amazed to hear that she know the rules of the monastery and could only say:

"Glory to God Who bestows great gifts on those who love Him."

She continued:

"Remain, Abba, in the monastery. And even if you wish to depart, you will not be to do so. And at sunset of the holy day of the Last super, put some of the lifegiving Body and Blood of Christ into a holy vessel worthy to hold such Mysteries for me, and bring it. And wait for me on the banks of the Jordan adjoining the inhabited parts of the land, so that I can come and partake of the lifegiving Gifts. For, since the time I communicated in the temple of the Forerunner before crossing the Jordan even to this day I have not approached the Holy Mysteries. And I thirst for them with irrepressible love and longing. And therefore I ask and implore you to grant me my wish, bring me the lifegiving Mysteries at the very hour when Our Lord made His disciples partake of His Divine Supper. Tell John the Abbot of the monastery where you live. Look to yourself and to your brothers, for there is much that needs correction. Only do not say this now, but when God guides you. Pray for me!"

With these words she vanished in the depths of the desert. And Zosimas, falling down on his knees and bowing down to the ground on which she had stood, sent up glory and thanks to God. And, after wandering thorough the desert, he returned to the monastery on the day all the brothers returned.

For the whole year he kept silent, not daring to tell anyone of what he had seen. But he prayed to God to give him another chance of seeing the ascetic's dear face. And when at length the first Sunday of the Great Fast came, all went out into the desert with the customary prayers and the singing of psalms. Only Zosimas was held back by illness -- he lay in a fever. And then he remembered what the saint had said to him: "and even if you wish to depart, you will not be able to do so."

Many days passed and at last recovering from his illness he remained in the monastery. And when attain the monks returned and the day of the Last Supper dawned, he did as he had been ordered, and placing some of the most pure Body and Blood into a small chalice and putting some figs and dates and lentils soaked in water into a small basket, he departed for the desert and reached the banks of the Jordan and sat down to wait for the saint. He waited for a long while and then began to doubt. Then, raising his eyes to heaven, he began to pray:

"Grant me, O Lord, to behold that which Thou hast allowed me to behold once. Do not let me depart in vain, being the burden of my sins."

And then another thought struck him:

"And what if she does come? There is no boat; how will she cross the Jordan to come to me who am so unworthy?"

And as he was pondering thus he saw the holy woman appear and stand on the other side of the river. Zosimas got up rejoicing and glorifying and thanking God. And again the thought came to him that she could not cross the Jordan. Then he saw that she made the sign of the Cross over the waters of the Jordan (and the night was a moonlight one, as he related afterwards) and then she at once stepped on to the waters and began walking across the surface towards him. And when he wanted to prostrate himself, she cried to him while still walking on the water:

"What are you doing, Abba, you are a priest and carrying the Divine Gifts!"

He obeyed her and on reaching the shore she said to the elder:

"Bless, father, bless me!"

He answered her trembling, for a state of confusion had overcome him at the sight of the miracle:

"Truly God did not lie when He promised that when we purify ourselves we shall be like Him. Glory to Thee, Christ our God, Who has shown me through this Thy slave how far away I stand from perfection."

Here the woman asked him to say the Creed and Our Father. He began, she finished the prayer and according to the custom of that time gave him the kiss of peace on the lips. Having partaken of the Holy Mysteries, she raised her hands to heaven and sighed with tears in her eyes, exclaiming:

"Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, O Lord, according to Thy word; for my eyes have seen Thy salvation."

Then she said to the elder:

"Forgive me, Abba, for asking you, but fulfil another wish of mine. Go now to the monastery and let God's grace guard you, and next year come again to the same place where I first met you. Come for God's sake, for you shall again see me, for such is the will of God."

He said to her:

"From this day on I would like to follow you and always see your holy face. But now fulfil the one and only wish of an old man and take a little of the food I have brought for you."

And he showed her the basket, while she just touched the lentils with the tips of her fingers, and taking three grains said that the Holy spirit guards the substance of the soul unpolluted. Then she said:

"Pray, for God's sake pray for me and remember a miserable wretch."

Touching the saint's feet and asking for her prayers for the Church, the kingdom and himself, he let her depart with tears, while he went off sighing and sorrowful, for he could not hope to vanquish the invincible. Meanwhile she again made the sign of the Cross over the Jordan, and stepped on to the waters and crossed over as before. And the elder returned filled with joy and terror, accusing himself of not having asked the saint her name. But he decided to do so next year.

And when another year had passed, he again went into the desert. He reached the same spot but could see no sign of anyone. So, raising his eyes to heaven as before, he prayed:

"Show me, O Lord, Thy pure treasure, which Thou hast concealed in the desert. Show me, I pray Thee, the angel in the flesh, of which the world is not worthy."

Then on the opposite bank of the river, her face turned towards the rising sun, he saw the saint lying dead. Her hands were crossed according to custom and her face was turned to the East. Running up he shed tears over the saint's feet and kissed them, not daring to touch anything else.

For a long time he wept. Then reciting the appointed psalms, he said the burial prayers and thought to himself: "Must I bury the body of a saint? Or will this be contrary to her wishes?" And then he saw words traced on the ground by her head:

"Abba Zosimas, bury on this spot the body of humble Mary. Return to dust that which is dust and pray to the Lord for me, who departed in the month of Fermoutin of Egypt, called April by the Romans, on the first day, on the very night of our Lord's Passion, after having partaken of the Divine Mysteries." [St. Mary died in AD 522]

Reading this the elder was glad to know the saint's name. He understood too that as soon as she had partaken of the Divine Mysteries on the shore of the Jordan she was at once transported to the place where she died. The distance which Zosimas had taken twenty days to cover, Mary had evidently traversed in an hour and had at once surrendered her soul to God.

Then Zosimas thought: "It is time to do as she wished. But how am I to dig a grave with nothing in my hands?"

And then he saw nearby a small piece of wood left by some traveller in the desert. Picking it up he began to dig the ground. But the earth was hard and dry and did not yield to the efforts of the elder. He grew tired and covered with sweat. He sighed from the depths of his soul and lifting up his eyes he saw a big lion standing close to the saint's body and licking her feet. At the sight of the lion he trembled with fear, especially when he called to mind Mary's words that she had never seen wild beasts in the desert. But guarding himself with the sign of the cross, the thought came to him that the power of the one lying there would protect him and keep him unharmed. Meanwhile the lion drew nearer to him, expressing affection by every movement.

Zosimas said to the lion:

"The Great One ordered that her body was to be buried. But I am old and have not the strength to dig the grave, for I have no spade and it would take too long to go and get one. So can you carry out the work with your claws? Then we can commit to the earth the mortal temple of the saint."

While he was still speaking the lion with his front paws began to dig a hole deep enough to bury the body.

Again the elder washed the feet of the saint with his tears and calling on her to pray for all, covered the body with earth in the presence of the lion. It was as it had been, naked and uncovered by anything but the tattered cloak which had been given to her by Zosimas and with which Mary, turning away, had managed to cover part of her body. Then both departed. The lion went off into the depth of the desert like a lamb, while Zosimas returned to the monastery glorifying and blessing Christ our Lord. And on reaching the monastery he told all the brothers about everything, and all marvelled on hearing of God's miracles. And with fear and love they kept the memory of the saint.

Abbot John, as St. Mary had previously told Abba Zosimas, found a number of things wrong in the monastery and got rid of them with God's help. And Saint Zosimas died in the same monastery, almost attaining the age of a hundred, and passed to eternal life. The monks kept this story without writing it down and passed it on by word of mouth to one another.

But I (adds Sophronius) as soon as I heard it, wrote it down. Perhaps someone else, better informed, has already written the life of the Saint, but as far as I could, I have recorded everything, putting truth above all else. May God Who works amazing miracles and generously bestows gifts on those who turn to Him with faith, reward those who seek light for themselves in this story, who hear, read and are zealous to write it, and may He grant them the lot of blessed Mary together with all who at different times have pleased God by their pious thoughts and labours.

And let us also give glory to God, the eternal King, that He may grant us too His mercy in the day of judgment for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord, to Whom belongs all glory, honour, dominion and adoration with the Eternal Father and the Most Holy and Life-giving Spirit, now and always, and throughout all ages. Amen.

The End, and Glory Be to God!