Monday, April 20, 2009

Holy Wedesday and Holy Thursday

Holy Wednesday

Did you know there is a fourth Bridgegroom service, for Wednesday evening of Holy Week? I didn’t! The Greek Archdiocese in America doesn’t use it. But tonight, after the service of Holy Unction, it was served. It wasn’t even printed in my book, published by the Greek Archdiocese, so I couldn’t follow it entirely. Now I really do feel deprived!

Furthermore, not all the prayers for the first three Bridegroom services are printed, either. The services have been somewhat abbreviated. It only takes another 10 minutes to include them all. We in the Greek jurisdiction in America are cheated of these prayers for the sake of ten minutes?

We went to the Metropolitan church for these services, the church of St. Gregory Palamas. What a great champion of Orthodoxy was he, defending theologically what we know in practice: that we can, and we do, experience God directly, IM-mediately (which means without mediation, without means), not as a concept but as Person here and everywhere present. What a catastrophe for us, were that not so!

Holy Thursday

We slept in late, as we have every day so far. In the afternoon, we walked down to the sea, where we sat at a table under a tree, and Demetrios drank a double espresso while I sipped cherry juice (from black cherries, a big favorite here). I knitted, while he worked on the last ten pages of Descarte’s *Meditations.

It will take him another couple of days to finish the book, because every paragraph makes him stop and think, and prompts him (eventually, after much thought) to make copious notes in the margins. I told him I couldn’t understand why he was wasting his time on Descartes, whose philosophizing makes me dizzy and seems totally irrelevant to anything at all. I had enough of Descartes in college, and it drives me crazy. (Ditto for all the other philosophers, always learning, never understanding, coming up with very odd ideas indeed.) But Demetrios says that the book is giving him a chance to do some further thinking of his own.

“But who wants to think about all that stuff?”

“Oh, I’m finding it terribly important! It’s true he says many things incorrectly, but once you see what he is trying to say, and you translate it into correct terms … why then it connects very well to science, to neurology, to physiology, and even to anatomy. Wrestling with what he writes has given me a good insight into how the human person is connected to the human brain.”

And since that’s what his book is all about, all this is highly valuable to Demetrios. Okay. Touché. I paused with my knitting every few minutes to bat around the resulting ideas with him. I still couldn’t care less why it is that darker colored objects appear to us smaller than lighter objects of the same size, but for him, it has to do with unraveling the neurological pathways in the brain, so I suspend my impatience and discuss it with him. Not that I have any answers, but the opinions and impressions of an ignorant layperson like me are sometimes useful to him, as well.

Around five o’clock, we got up from the table by the sea and walked along the promenade as far as Christos’ apartment, about a 10-minute walk.

His little apartment isn’t much; it’s kind of crummy, but at least it is well-placed, right by the sea. His windows don’t face the sea, but you can still have a side view it out one window and from the balcony. The balcony also features a plant we gave Christos.

The bathroom has just enough room for a person to stand in, provided he isn’t too overweight.

The ceilings are low, as in America.

In the kitchen, Christos has a microwave oven, the top surface of which features three electric burners: a large, a small, and a tiny, just right for brewing Greek coffee. (I’d like one of those, not only for the microwave, but also because the burners on my current stove don’t seem to regulate well; except for one, they’re all either very hot or off, no in between.)

Overall, though, the apartment has potential, and Christos, being the artsy type, is gradually making the most of it. He has bought some second-hand furniture from one of the gypsies that has some flair to it, and he is having the futon reupholstered, that he found a couple of says ago, set out by a dumpster near our house, and he and Demetrios carried it to his car, parked near us.

The man who had discarded the futon noticed them carrying it, from inside his own apartment. He followed them, and as they reached Christos’ car, he called, “Wait a moment! Here are the bolts and nuts to go with it!”

Christos drove us home in time to catch the bus for church. I made the mistake of lying down for a moment first and that’s the last thing I knew for the next three hours or so. Demetrios had to go to church by himself. I woke up just before he got home.


orrologion said...

On Orthros of Holy Thursday only one of the two typifying hymns of the Bridegroom Services are sung, the Exapostilarion: "Your bridal chamber, O my Saviour, I see all adorned, but I have no garment so that I may enter it. Make bright the mantle of my soul, O Giver of light, and save me!"

The other hymn is lacking on Thursday, the troparion: "Behold, the Bridegroom comes...".

I would bet that the icon is also usually changed to that of the Mystical Supper, which takes the focus from the Nimfiou to the Upper Room in the minds of the people.

The Orthros of Holy Thursday can be found here:

I remember reading somewhere that it is only a 'recent' custom to serve Holy Unction on every evening of Holy Wednesday. I wonder what the history of that is.

I think it is a rare thing indeed, unfortunately, to find the GOA as the standard of what 'should' be done, liturgically. Elder Ephraim's monasteries are strong medicine for the GOA; if the GOA were something different in the parishes, perhaps a different 'style' of monasticism - even from the Holy Mountain - would have been given to it.

s-p said...

The services done in various jurisdictions is kind of crazy. The OCA prescribes Presanctified on Monday, Tuesday and Wed. We came from the Antiochians and protested vigorously so now our priest serves Bridegroom on Sunday evening and Tuesday now, and the local OCA priests also succumbed to the Greek and Antiochian contingents in their parishes and serve Unction on Wed. instead of presantified now. It would be nice to have the time to do it all, but.....

orrologion said...

As much as I would like to have the services done the way 'I would like', I think it is immensely important for parishes and dioceses to wrestle with just these issues. It is essential for different Orthodox Christians to HAVE to interact with each other in America, to be exposed to different and venerable local traditions. It helps to understand and differentiate between Tradition and tradition, both venerable, but not of the same enduring value when a choice must be made between souls, evangelism and our local preferences. That is how unity will be found, that is how an American flavor of Orthodox will develop on its own - due to parish-level necessity and not from grand theories from the academy.

Of course, I wonder if the same flexibility would have been shown in a GOA parish with an influx of OCA, AOCA or other ethnic Orthodox. These are things that will be worked out in pastoral practice, we just need to start seeing everyone as our pastoral concern - all Orthodox, and all non-Orthodox between this parish and the next parish, regardless of jurisdiction.

s-p said...

Orr, Amen. Grassroots unity. Maybe the heirarchs will catch on some day to what's happening in their parishes that they visit once a year, if that.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

You're right, chrsitoher, about both the absence of the troparion, "Behold, the Bridegroom comes..." and the change of icons.