Sunday, April 28, 2002

Here is an interesting article in the Wilson Quarterly on the decline into incoherence of contemporary academic writing. The link comes from the indispensable Arts and Letters Daily.
I will be posting for the next two weeks from Venice, Florida, on the Gulf Coast. Quite a change from springtime in the mountains. Packing for the trip, I had to raid the back drawers of the dresser for clothing that would normally be in storage until late June. As I type, the neighbor's palm trees are rustling in the 80+ degree breeze. This seems appropriate, as earlier today I attended services for Orthodox Palm Sunday. Here at my parents' house I go to Holy Spirit Orthodox Church , just a block away. Holy Spirit is a small congregation, mostly retirees, from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. The church building is a converted bank. The roof of the drive-thru still projects from the side. The vault is still in place, visible behind the altar. Like much of Orthodoxy in this country it has a improvised, home-made quality about it. The great strength of a living tradition is the ability to adapt without discarding the good that came before. The palm branches we held were bundled with pussy-willows; the willows an earlier improvisation coming from Slavic tradition in regions where palm trees are unknown .

The ad-hoc nature of our celebration yesterday fit with the original biblical scene. Jesus' triumphal entry was itself an ad-hoc affair. No trumpeters, no chariots, no flags or banners. Just people using what was at hand, fronds stripped from trees, garments thrown down in the streets to praise a coming King. In the same way, we raised our voices, some old and wavering, to sing the words of the ancient liturgy in a space salvaged out of the modern age, using what was at hand to praise that same King.