Clean week varia

I have finally posted the notes and answer key for Hansen & Quinn unit II. Click on the “Greek resources” tab and check it out. As always, e-mail me at rrbarret (AT) with any questions, comments, errata, etc. I hope it is useful. Unfortunately, it is likely to not be until after the semester is over before I can even think about unit III, but I should have a decent amount of time over the summer to devote to this project on an ongoing basis.

So, it’s the first week of Great Lent. This means, plainly, a lot of church.

At our parish, Great Compline with the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete is served Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday of Clean Week. This service is, shall we say, a commitment. The Great Canon is a leisurely stroll through the Old Testament; Great Compline could be thought of as the Orthodox Workout Plan. Because, you see, we make prostrations. A lot of them.

A lot of them. Want to know what it sounds like when the cantor has had to make so many prostrations he can’t catch his breath anymore but has to continue singing regardless? Come to All Saints this Thursday evening. There is a very practical reason why the rubrics of these services call for a left choir and a right choir — it’s called survival. We, alas, don’t have that, so Fr. Peter sings responsorially with me where he can, but he has enough to do as it is as well. There are moments where I can’t catch my breath and am drooling on my cassock because I don’t even have a chance to swallow — the service has to go on, and the congregation is so conditioned to get its cues aurally that if I stop in the middle of the Trisagion to swallow, a good three quarters of the congregation stops with me.

Starting tonight and throughout the fast, we celebrate the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. This is the highlight of the week for me throughout Lent — it’s a beautiful service, and having an additional opportunity to receive Holy Communion throughout the week when our earthly food changes so drastically is something for which I’m always thankful. It is a Liturgy attributed to Pope St. Gregory the Great (and we commemorate him as “the Pope of Rome” during the service), but it is unclear exactly how that is to be understood — that is, did he write it himself (the traditional understanding)? Was it a service he witnessed in Constantinople and wrote down later (the modern understanding)? Either way, it’s a witness to the existence of the pre-schismatic undivided East and West, particularly since those in the Roman Rite also serve a form of it on Good Friday.

Friday evening we start serving the Akathist to the Theotokos. Saturday and Sunday we have the typical Vespers/Matins/Divine Liturgy cycle (although this Sunday begins the use of the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great throughout Lent), and then this Sunday evening, Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers will be served up at St. George in Indianapolis.

So, from last Saturday starting with Cheesefare Vespers through this Sunday, we’ve got at least one, if not two, services a day. In some ways it’s a nice symmetry with Holy Week; from Friday before Holy Week through Pascha there will be more like at least two services every day, so we will finish the way we started… just with more of it. (“More of what?” you ask. “Everything,” I reply.)

At its best, from a liturgical standpoint anyway, Orthodox Christianity does not gather as a community to worship on a Sunday-morning-only basis. This is, to be sure, not practical for some parishes and missions, particularly those who might not have their own building or a fulltime priest. Some parishes which do have their own building and a fulltime priest still nonetheless only serve the Divine Liturgy on Sunday mornings and hold no services at any other time; I’m not sure I understand this, but I say that as somebody who from the first time he ever heard the word “Vespers” (at age 16) asked “What is it and why don’t we do it anymore?”

It being the first week of Lent also means I’m a bit on the grumpy side. “Where’s all my protein?” my body wants to know right about now. The adjustment, at least for me, usually is made by about the second week or so.

I am lucky in many respects that this is Spring Break week. Things are very quiet in general, and I don’t have to worry about schoolwork or whatnot conflicting with services… that, unfortunately, will be Holy Week, since Pascha is the day before finals begin.


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