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Posts Tagged 'holy apostles greek orthodox church indianapolis'

A chapter ends: 22 August 2003-1 August 2014

It’s the Barretts’ last night as residents of Bloomington, at least for the foreseeable future.

I got here 3 weeks shy of 11 years ago, coming here with the specific objectives of finishing an undergrad degree in voice, possibly going on to a Masters, all in the service of the overall goal of setting myself up to be A World Famous Operatic Tenor. Seattle was a place you could be from and do that, but not if you never left Seattle, and IU seemed like just the kind of place where I could get what I needed in terms of final polish and stage time. I figured we’d be here three years tops.

11 years is almost 30% of my life, over 80% of my marriage, 100% of my time as a father, 100% of my time as an Orthodox Christian, 100% of my time as a Byzantinist.

I arrived thinking, based on what I had been told in Seattle, that I had most of what I needed to put together a great operatic career, and I just needed to get the right opportunity onstage in front of the right people. I leave with such musical successes as I have had being elsewhere than the operatic stage, with the vast majority of my success being in the academic arena rather than in the performance arena, and with the platform I have had for that success being largely hard-won.

I arrived hoping I would get to learn French, Italian, and Russian. I leave with some competency in French and Italian, yes, but also having studied Greek, Latin, Syriac, and Arabic (and brushed up on my German).

I arrived thinking I’d be making my name as somebody who sang high notes down center onstage. I leave building a profession of lecturing at the front of a classroom.

I arrived thinking that maybe I’d get a Masters. I leave in the process of finishing a PhD.

I arrived thinking my wife is brilliant; I leave knowing that she is, and that that is only one of her many amazing qualities.

I arrived scared of fatherhood. I leave loving it, and wanting more.

I arrived having wanted the chance to travel really badly since I was a little kid. I leave having been to some pretty cool places like Greece, England, New York, Washington, D.C., and so on.

I want to wrap this up with a simplistic “I arrived a boy; I leave a man” but that’s false. I’m 37, married, with a toddler, and I’m still — as one person phrased it — in the U-Haul stage of life. Whenever it is we do wind up in a position to buy our own home, I expect that we will probably live in that first bought home for less time than the nine years we have spent in our little rental house. I hope and pray that I will have a real job before I’m 40; God knows. I had what would count as a “real job” from the time I was 21 to the time I was 26; I guess I’ve done some things in the wrong order. Oh well. For the last five years I’ve enjoyed the ride at least, which is more than I could say about big chunks of the previous six years, and I can look at the experience in its totality and see that nothing was lost, only that some things were transformed.

Two organizations/communities in particular have meant a great deal to me in my time here and have a special place in my heart — The Archives of Traditional Music, where I worked from April 2008-June 2009, and Holy Apostles Greek Orthodox Church of Indianapolis, where we have gone to church since January 2013. These were both places where warm welcome and appreciation were expressed at very key moments, and they both allowed the space for me both to do things I was able to do as well as to consider bigger possibilities I hadn’t thought of before. Another thing they have in common is that I got to spend far too little time at both places — just over a year for ATM, and about a year and two-thirds for Holy Apostles. Much gratitude to Alan R. Burdette, Marilyn Graf, and Susie Mudge at ATM, and another generous helping of thanks to Fr. John Koen, Debbie O’Reilley, Panos Niarchos, Angelo Kostarides, Dr. Thomas Kocoshis, Peter Americanos, and so, so many more at Holy Apostles. Special mention to Dean Maniakas and Fr. Bill Bartz of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Indianapolis, who have made us feel incredibly welcome and who have made it clear that we have friends at Holy Trinity.

I have not always enjoyed the experience of the last 11 years, as both of my longtime readers doubtless well know. Still, I am grateful to have had it, even if I still massage some literal and figurative scars that serve as reminders of certain lessons.

Time to go. Tomorrow we’re out of here. See everybody in Boston when we arrive. Glory to God for all things.

 

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A word about where we’ve wound up…

In January, we started attending Holy Apostles Greek Orthodox Church in Indianapolis. I had been there once before; they had hosted one of the Indianapolis-area Sunday Vespers services that occur during Lent two years ago, and I was invited to help chant by one of the people who helps coordinate those services. Everybody at the parish was very warm and welcoming, as well as seemingly appreciative of the chanting help, and I’ll tell you what, if the drive hadn’t been such a conceptual barrier at that point (and if Flesh of My Flesh hadn’t been in Germany for the year and therefore not able to participate in such decisions), I would have started going there regularly right there and then.

So, when it became clear that a change of air was inevitable and necessary, my first thought was Holy Apostles. It wasn’t the shortest drive (~1:10), but it also wasn’t the longest, and the memory of them being as nice to me as they had been had really stuck with me in the intervening year and a half. We decided to go after the New Year, on a more or less non-committal basis; however, it’s not stretching things too far to say that that first Sunday, they rather insistently adopted us, and we’ve been there ever since, missing only a Sunday in February when all three of us were sick as dogs.

This community has extended us a lot of hospitality, and has been such a wonderful counterexample to the trope of “unwelcoming cradle parishes”. These people have bent over backwards to make us feel welcome; they have fawned over Theodore, they have taken a lot of time to get to know us, they have opened their homes to us, and really have done more than I would have ever expected based on previous experiences to make us feel like part of the family. Some of the interactions with Theodore have been particularly touching; for example, a yiayia yesterday suddenly came up to him and said in Greek, “Come on, little one, come with me,” and just whisked him off to the front of the nave. “We’re going to see Christ,” she said, taking him up to the icon. “Kiss Christ,” she said, holding him up to it. “He loves you very much!”

As regards chanting, they talked to me about it our first Sunday there, and I was actually planning on just standing in the congregation with my wife and child for a month or so, but when we came back the second Sunday, let’s just say that I found myself unambiguously summoned. At any rate, I have been able to contribute what makes sense to me to contribute, and it has worked well. The other couple of cantors, a couple of Greek gentlemen who belong to the previous couple of generations, have been very generous and just as hospitable as everybody else; they want me to sing what I’ve been trained to sing, be it in Greek or English, and it seems to have been received well thus far. Others in the congregation have been very helpful in terms of helping Megan with Theodore, and that’s also been very much appreciated.

I also have to say, acoustically, it’s a nice little church in which to sing — that is to say, while it’s not a resonant cathedral, I also don’t feel like I have to push at 200% every time I open my mouth to be heard. It’s a favorable enough acoustic that it’s pleasant to sing and I can still talk at the end of the morning. Holy Apostles meets in the freestanding side chapel of a large Disciples of Christ congregation in central Indianapolis; it is a really lovely building, and they have been able to do a lot with it. While it’s not exactly spacious, it’s basically everything they need, and it works just fine for the most part. The cantors wind up standing in the sanctuary, but that’s a practice with ample historical precedent, I suppose, and it works well enough with the space considerations.

Right now, Holy Apostles only meets every other Sunday — as a small community getting established in a rented space, it’s what they feel is the most practical thing for them to do right now, plus they are only serving Divine Liturgy on the Sundays they do meet, not Orthros (another practical necessity, since the host congregation uses the chapel for an early morning service). That has its upsides and downsides for us — it’s meant we haven’t felt like we’ve missed much by commuting, certainly, and we have a relatively easy Sunday morning when we go, but it’s also been hard to feel like a rhythm has gotten established, and it underscores that, as wonderful and embracing as everybody has been, we’re at some distance from the community.

holy trinity frescoing2The lemonade-from-lemons that I’m trying to make from that is chanting at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church on Holy Apostles’ off-Sundays; that’s been harder, because while they do Orthros, it starts at 8:15, so I’ve got to leave here around 6:45am. There are a couple of other couples/families in our peer group who are also driving up there semi-regularly, so how we’re trying to work it for now is I go up for Orthros, while Megan and Theodore come up with one of the other families. Holy Trinity has also been very welcoming to us, and their protopsaltis has been extraordinarily gracious in letting me help, given the irregular basis that I’m there. They’ve also just completed the first major stage of frescoing their new building; iconographer Dr. George Kordis and his team were in residence for a few weeks, painting the dome, the cornices, and the sanctuary. When we were there last he had just finished, and he gave a fascinating talk about the work they had done; the talk alone was worth the drive for the morning.

So, that’s how things have shaken out for us for the time being. We’re members at Holy Apostles, while also floating to Holy Trinity semi-regularly on Holy Apostles’ off-Sundays. I may also float to St. George every so often after this summer; I’m doing an intensive first-year Arabic program, and while I have scholarly applications for that, I’m also doing it, at least in part, to gain some facility with it as a liturgical language. So, we’ll see.

If I may — twice-monthly service schedule aside, if you’re looking for an Orthodox parish in the Indianapolis area, Holy Apostles really is a lovely, warm, and welcoming group of people, and their priest, Fr. John Koen, is a very kind and soft-spoken man who’s got a lot to say of substance, but he won’t beat you over the head with it. By all means come visit, and please find me and say hi if you do. (You can find them on the web as well as on Facebook; in both cases the presence is still developing, but the core details are there.)

In which St. John Chrysostom shows up on another digital bumper sticker

This has been one of the more stressful semesters of my college career. Not quite the most stressful, but there has definitely been plenty of pressure.

I started off with my Latin exam. Then I was going to have a relatively nice and easy semester preparing for my quals, for which I sit on 29 March. Flesh of My Flesh had a cushy-ish research assistantship that could be done from home, so there was supposed to be very little going on to distract from what we needed to do to get through the term.

Er, well, no.

Megan got a last-minute teaching assignment right after I took my Latin exam; one of her faculty members had a personal concern that took him out of the classroom on literally a couple of hours’ notice, and she got handed his class — a 400-level content course in German. It meets an hour before the class I’m assisting with on Monday and Wednesday, and then at the same time as one of my lecture sections on Friday. This means every day is a juggling act with Theodore Harvey Barrett The Second The Bouncing Baby Boy, and has effectively meant that for either of us to get anything done, we either have to have a babysitter or the other person has to get nothing done. In a way, this really has turned out to be an ideal semester to give up having four services a week to chant (although I am chanting at Holy Apostles now, which has been really nice on several levels), but it’s still been, shall we say, less than restful.

I’m also in full-blown “Hi, I’m a professional late antique Roman historian” mode, which means that when I see quotes that purport to be from somebody I study but with no citation, I instinctively start asking questions, as I’ve done before.

So, yesterday, I see a few people start to post this on Facebook:

“A young husband should say to his bride: ‘I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us.’” — St. John Chrysostom

That’s a lovely sentiment, it truly is, and it is one that I would never want to slap down, exactly. If Chrysostom said it, that’s fantastic. Still, something about it felt “off”, and without the citation, it seemed like it would be worth seeing if I could track it down. Part of it was that I’m sure my previous effort likely struck some as an ideological project; I tried to make it clear that it wasn’t an ideological project at all, but rather an accuracy project. If that “quote” about how the rich “will joyfully share their wealth” isn’t legitimate (and so far nobody has come up with anything substantial to indicate that it is), then it doesn’t help anybody’s side to continue to circulate it under Chrysostom’s name. (No, I’m not going to tell you which side I agree with on that — i.e., whether or not I wish it were authentic. My politics are my own business, and current politics are actually among the things in the world in which I am least interested.) So, anyway, if that wasn’t ideological, then I should be willing to do that kind of work even when it’s a greeting-card sentiment that surely everybody should unambiguously approve of, right? Exactly.

Off to Google I went. I couldn’t come up with anything searching on that text except for, well, the quote presented as the quote. A TLG search on Greek keywords like νύμφη (bride) and ὄνειρος (dream) came up with nothing that looked anything like it. I also didn’t find anything in Chrysostom on Marriage and Family Life that resembled the passage in question. None of this necessarily meant anything except that I hadn’t found the right keywords, of course.

Finally, somebody pointed me to this page, which presented the text this way:

The words of one of the greatest-ever preachers, St John Chyrsostom, might deepen the question. He said that a young husband should say to his bride: “I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us” (Homilies on Ephesians, 20,8).

There are a couple of useful bits of information there. There is the citation, of course. There’s also the incipit of the quote as it appears on Facebook, “…a young husband should say to his bride”, except it’s not actually in the quoted text. It’s the introduction to the quote, not part of the quote itself. By the time it gets to Facebook, however, it’s part of the quote. Someday, I’m sure, textual criticism of the Internet will be its own scholarly field. Things like this will be among the phenomena to study, I’m sure.

The citation allowed me to look up the Greek text on TLG. I have to say, at best, the quote is a rather, uh, free paraphrase of the Greek, and it’s also somewhat out of context. Here it is with some context (translation mine):

“For if Paul did not refrain from saying, ‘Do not deceive each other,’ and he was speaking the words of a bridesmaid, or rather not of a bridesmaid but a spiritual soul, by much more we will not refrain from saying [the same thing]. What, then, is it necessary to say to her? With great grace indeed [it is necessary] to be saying to her: ‘I took you, child, as a sharer of life, and I led you in to the most serious and necessary things as one sharing them with me, [namely] in the begetting of children and the leadership [or protection — the word is προστασία, the same word we call the Mother of God in the usual Sunday kontakion — “Protection of Christians that cannot be put to shame…” etc.] of the household. How, then, will I encourage you?’ Rather, before this, speak of the matters of love [ἀγάπη]. For there is nothing that thus avails to persuade the ones hearing to welcome the things said [to persuade one to listen to what you’re saying] than to learn that it is spoken with much love [ἀγάπη]. How then do you show love [ἀγάπη]? If you say, ‘Being able to take many women, both more well-provided-for and of clear lineage, I didn’t choose [them], but I was longing for you, and your conduct, your propriety, your graciousness, your prudence.’ Then immediately from these things prepare a way of words concerning philosophy, and in a roundabout way [lit. ‘with a way around’] denounce wealth. For, on the one hand, if you simply prolong your speech against wealth, you will be burdensome; but on the other hand, if the subject is taken up, you will finish quickly. For you will seem to do this thing in the manner of explanation, not as somebody strict and graceless and of small account. But when you take up this subject in a way related to her [lit. ‘from her things’], it will even be enjoyable.

You, then, will say (for again it is necessary to take up the speech)…”

Here I must pause to note that everything up to this point is what the Facebook quote glosses as “A young husband should say to his bride…”, and we’ve still got some other stuff to go:

“…’it was possible and easily done to marry a rich woman [or, “it was was possible to marry a rich and well-provided for woman”], but I did not suffer it. Why, do you suppose? Not simply, or haphazardly, but I was educated well, that wealth is no possession but a contemptible thing, belonging to thieves and prostitutes and grave-robbers. On which account giving up these things, I came upon the virtue of your soul, which I value above all gold. For an intelligent and free young woman cultivating the fear of God is worthy of the entire known world [οἰκουμένη, which strikes me as also being something of a pun on the idea of the household]. On account of these things…”

…and now we finally get to what the quoted passage says:

“I embraced you for my own, and I am giving you affection [φιλῶ], and I am setting you over my own soul [προτίθημι is the same word used to denote a liturgical offering to God, so Chrysostom may be suggesting something of the sacramental nature of marriage here]. For the present life is nothing, and I pray and I request and I do everything so that we are counted worthy to stand this present life, and to be able to be with each other there in the age to come with much freedom from fear.”

And that’s the end of the quotation. As I said, what’s on Facebook is a rather free paraphrase that shades it more towards notions of romantic love that, while not necessarily wrong, aren’t really what Chrysostom is talking about. The next little bit also seems quite relevant:

“For on the one hand this time [χρόνος, earthly time] is short and perishable; on the other hand, if we, being pleasing to God, are counted worthy to change this life for that one, we will be always both with Christ and with each other with the fullness of pleasure. I set your love [ἀγάπη] before everything, and nothing is thus difficult or burdensome to me as when I quarrel with you. Even if it should be necessary that I lose everything, that I become poorer than Irus [a beggar in The Odyssey], that I endure extreme dangers, that I suffer anything whatsoever, to me everything is tolerable and bearable, as long as matters for you are well-ordered for me. And children will then be desirable for me, as long as you are favorably disposed towards me. But it will be necessary that you do these things too.'”

The whole homily is very much worth reading, but again, it’s pretty clear to me that what Chrysostom is saying is very different than what the short paraphrase suggests. The old Schaff Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers translation can be found here; if you read Greek, you can find it in TLG (PG 62.146-147).

So, yeah. Don’t trust greeting-card-style quotes that are attributed to Chrysostom, I guess. He was a pretty grumpy saint for such quotes to be reliably authentic.

Back to exams…


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