Sunday, December 27, 2009
Late Festal Greeings and an Update
A few days late, but nonetheless: Christ is Born! Glorify Him! Christos razhdaetsya! Slavite! Christos gennatai! Doxasate!
Life at SVS has been blissfully relaxed in the sense of being able to do some increased devotional exercises and leisure reading, but one should hardly think that life here is free from activities during the break. Services, of course, leading up to the blessed feast of our Lord's Nativity in the flesh have been a preoccupation (in a good way) over the past few weeks, with nightly vespers and little compline/Nativity kanon permeating the start of each night. A beautiful SVS tradition, and a blessed way to enter into the feast.
My mother has come up from Ft. Worth to visit for the holidays; she and Audra and the girls are currently at our apartment playing with Christmas toys; I am at the apartment of another seminary family who, having gone home for the holidays, has graciously offered us a much larger space in which we all can sleep and relax. God bless the Coxes. So good to have "Gammie" up here; the girls, of course, are so excited they could explode.
Was blessed to sing "God is with Us" during the Nativity Eve Great Compline service here. This is especially so because, in my house, I am known as something of a grinch when it comes to holiday music. I will not stand for anything after Thanksgiving, and even St. Nicholas Day is far too early (though I can understand those who see this as a launching off point), but around the 20th or 21st, the Church starts singing things such as "Let us celebrate the Nativity of our Lord in anticipation" during Vespers services, so at that point I really have no defense. Out come the stockings and Tchaikovsky. The SVS Hymns of Christmas CD, however, is one that is reserved for no earlier than Christmas morning. "God is with us" is our "cue" that Christmas has come, especially since we are, almost every year without exception, either in rural Texas or rural Kentucky with family and do not have occasion to attend Orthodox Nativity services. So the blessing to intone the triumphant words of Isaiah were quite meaningful.
Celebrations around campus have not disappointed. Those seminarian families who have hung around for some or even all of the holidays (many more than I had expected would stay) have all come together on more than one occasion already to lay out a festal spread. I have had the, erm, pleasure? (let's call it that because of the hospitible nature in which it was offered) to taste a Sam Adams Fizziwig's Ale. Fizzy is right. Much more to my liking was the Oban single malt whiskey, aged 14 years, courtesy of Fr. John Ballard, a fellow Texan, while over at another family's house. The libation tasted every bit its 14 years, leaving its delightful burn on the tip of the lips and full aftertaste in the back of the throat.
Grades, thank God, came back very satisfactory.
Church History, Liturgical Music, and Old Testament: A
Liturgical Theology, Patristics, and Liturgical Practica: A-
Integrating Seminar (P/F): P
GPA so far: 3.86. Glory to God.
It has been interesting to speak with other M.Div. candidates concerning attitudes towards course grades. The old joke gets passed around quite a lot: Q: What do you call an M.Div. student with C's and D-'s? A: A priest. Given that many are not looking to move any further in their studies beyond St. Vlad's -- I myself have vascillated on the point of persuing anything further barring necessity given my desire to go into parish life as fully as God would permit -- many have something of a ho-hum attitude regarding what their actual letter grades. Just enough to get me the degree, thanks. Throughout my time as a student I've been highly driven to do well in classes, regardless of the teacher or the "payoff" later. True, I'm a nerd. I embrace it fully. But it's served as a good reminder that no one is, in all probability, going to ask me to elaborate on Origen's teaching of the relation of the Son to the Father in everyday parish life. More important is my own becoming a man of prayer who can pray as the Church leads us to pray, shut up when he needs to (which is most of the time) and speak only when and as he should. Your prayers are coveted.
Am currently reading two quite different books which are both nonetheless enjoyable: Zorro: Una Novela por Isabela Allende and Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit by Protecting Veil press (H/T to our good Ochlophobist on the latter). The introduction to Precious Vessels can be found HERE. I cannot express how marvelous it has been to "stretch my linguistic legs" again, as it were, and read a book --no, a story -- in Spanish. Ms. Allende is at her best again, with vibrant descriptive battle scenes and an intriguing beginning to Señor De La Vega's existence and his later identification with the indígenas of Mexico. Also grateful for the devotional material in Precious Vessels; the general emphasis of the book can be summed up in a short quote which it lists in the counsels of Elder Joseph the Hesychast: "No sacrifice is more fragrant in the sight of God than purity of body, which is realized through blood and great struggles." Buy this book and read it often.
We were blessed by the goodhearted folks at St. Gregory Palamas Orthodox Church who participated in the St. Nicholas Program, a Christmas charity program done for the benefit of married-with-children seminarian families. Between their requesting and filling our Christmas requests and eager grandparents concerned for their desperately poor children and grandchildren, there was much squealing coming from our house on Christmas morning. Some even came from folks other than myself. ;) Kate, as you can see, was rather fond of her new rain boots.
Today is both a landmark and a rare occasion for me. To the side of this post I have posted an icon, the hymns, and the information from oca.org regarding today's commemoration of the King and Prophet David, my heavenly patron. The Sunday after the Nativity is his commemoration, together with the Righteous Joseph the Betrothed and James, the Brother of the Lord. On years when Christmas falls on a Friday, however, it also happens to be my birthday. That this particular alignment happened to fall on the 30th anniversary of my birth, however, seems to make it all the more significant to me. I'm so thankful to God for His many blessings to me over these three decades. May He continue to show His mercy towards me in the coming time I have left.
A blessed festal period to all!