Monday, April 15, 2002

I mentioned Father Schmemann earlier. Here is a link to a homily on Forgiveness Sunday, at the beginning of Orthodox Lent, that sets a proper tone for the season.
The following was forwarded by a friend. Anyone in a church, Orthodox or not, or in any long-lived organization, church or not, has lived through a variation on this. In Orthodoxy, it takes on a particular piquancy. How many Orthodox does it take to change a light bulb? Change? What is this change you speak of?

What is the tradition?

In the village of Omsk all was not well in the local Pokrov Parish. Every
year, during Lent, at 'Blessed art Thou, O Lord, teach me Thy statutes', half
of the congregation would make a metany (bow) at the waist, and half would make a
full prostration. The little metanists would start whispering sharply, 'No!
No! From the waist!' To which the great metanists would hiss back even
louder, 'Wrong! Full prostration! Who are you following, the Devil?!' And
fistfights would break out and the service could not even be completed.

Finally the war-weary parishioners decided to ask their priest, Fr Veniamin.
'Batiushka, (Little Father) what is the tradition? In Lent, at "Blessed art Thou", do we make
a little metany, or a great metany?' Knowing the rancour attached to the
dispute, poor Fr Veniamin trembled, grew pale, then fainted dead away and
fell backwards.

So next they went to the Skete of the Forerunner, and asked Fr Onouphry:
'Batiushka, we want to know, we have a terrible argument at Omsk--what is the
tradition? Because half the people say to make small metanies at "Blessed art
Thou" now, and half say great metanies. And we start fighting, terrible,
terrible. So, tell us, what is the Tradition?' Seeing the ferocity in their
faces, poor Hieromonk Onouphry simply fainted dead away.

Then someone shouted, 'Let's go to Elder Ioann and ask him!' It was a
marvelous idea. Surely the elder's answer would bring peace, for he was
respected by all, a native of Omsk, and his hoary 94 years guaranteed a
knowledge of what the old tradition had been.

So a large crowd gathered at the elder's dacha on the outskirts of town.
Some 15 men from both sides entered the dacha, and found frail Elder Ioann
lying on his bed. As he struggled to draw himself up and offer tea, they cut
him off: 'Elder Ioann, you have to help us! What is the Tradition? Every year
in Lent, at "Blessed art Thou, O Lord", half of the people at Pokrov make
little metanies, and half the people great metanies, and we start to argue,
and the service doesn't even finish because of the fistfight!'

Then Elder Ioann said firmly, in his voice shaking with age, and with tears
streaming down his joyful face, 'THAT ... is ... the Tradition!'
Here is an interesting essay on the music of Arvo Part, one of my favorite contemporary composers, in Touchstone Magazine: Review - The Bright Sadness of Arvo Part The reviewer doesn't "get" Orthodoxy, for the most part, but he is exactly right in looking to Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann's work Great Lent to understand the heart of Part's music.