Monday, July 20, 2009

Afternoon Devotional

This is Opus 37 "Vespers" of Sergei Rakhmaninov


Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

I remember how entranced I was as a college student listening for the first time to Orthodox music, recorded on the Nonesuch label, from an album called Music from the Russian Cathedral. I don't think this piece was included, but the music was very much like it, awesome in its slow-moving grandeur. I was an eclectic New Age seeker back then.

I never forgot that encounter, and the subject came up again when, as a newly-married still non-Christian I witnessed for the first time an Orthodox liturgy, Ukrainian, in a rural octagonal church, Holy Apostles, in Bellis, Alberta. Watching Father Ihor, who was just a few years my senior, carry the holy gifts through the small flock of kneeling and prostrating peasants, while softly singing in unintelligible Slavonic, I said to myself, "If Christianity is true, then this is it." The iconostasis in that little church was made of whitewashed garden trellis, the icons were primitive paint-by-number style pastel holy cards in jumbo size, the antidoron (I didn't know what it was called then, but the edibles that are distributed to all after the liturgy) was a basket of mixed country fruit (apples and pears) and off-the-shelf candy bars (kit-kats were the ones I remember), and folks just reached in and grabbed a treat as they passed Father Ihor and kissed his hand.

All this was very bizarre but unrelentingly beautiful in its modesty, simplicity and naïveté. As we left the church building and headed over to the parish hall, I said to myself again, "If Christ is real, this must be his church."

Starting from Russian music, then discovering ikons, then enjoying the Greek Festival after we moved to Portland, Oregon, I found myself drawing closer and closer to home.

You never know where following a song will lead you.

A bit of history…

The Archer of the Forest said...

I have a soft spot in my heart for the Ukrainian Orthodox church. There was one near where my wife and I lived in Lincoln that had a Wednesday night Compline service that we went to on occasion. Not because there were big crowds or it was a grandiose liturgy. In fact, if 6 people showed up, it was a good night and not a one of us could sing exactly on key.

But we went often because of exactly what you said, "unrelentingly beautiful in its modesty, simplicity and naïveté." Just down to earth folks who went out to dinner afterward. Those were some of the best memories we had of Lincoln.

Nuevacantora said...

I sang parts of the Vespers with the university choral union this spring... its really difficult stuff, but this was my favorite piece.