Tuesday, 1 November 2016

All Saints day with Catholic and Orthodox flavours

Another mild autumnal morning, awake before dawn again and on the terrace doing Chi Gung exercises once the sun had risen - it's just warm enough. As no Eucharist was planned to be celebrated in the chaplaincy today, I took extra time over Morning Prayer, adding in the lectionary readings for the Mass of All Saints. In the course of checking my various internet accounts, I came across the Facebook page of a former colleague who converted to Orthodoxy when he retired. One of the articles he posted was on the history of the minority Orthodox church in China at the turn of the twentieth century, and how over two hundred faithful and clergy were martyred during the Boxer rebellion. That was a timely thing to read about on All Saints' Day. 

He also posted the text of an Orthodox hymn known as the Akathist of Thanksgiving. It was, I quote; "found among the effects of Protopresbyter Gregory Petrov upon his death in a prison camp in 1940. The title is from the words of Saint John Chrysostom as he was dying in exile. It is a song of praise from amidst the most terrible sufferings attributed to Metropolitan Tryphon of Turkestan."

Metropolitan Tryphon was a son of Georgian nobility. He was a Bishop for 33 years, before and after the Russian revolution, so his entire ministry was conducted in violent troubled times. He is said to have written this hymn not long before his death in 1934. It's long, as are others in this unique liturgical genre, including some repeats nearly 3,200 words long, and would take half an hour to read aloud, and much longer to sing prayerfully using the Russian version of Byzantine chant. It is nonetheless a poetic work of great beauty, expressing heartfelt thanks for an entire life, for its joys and sorrows and for the grace of God at work through them all, and written by someone reflecting in faith on a life full of trial and suffering, lived in faith without regret or resentment or remorse. 

It's a faithful old man's prayer, one that any retired person might well read, mark learn and inwardly digest. The words can be found here - just one small section for a taster, there's lots more.

Glory to Thee for calling me into being
Glory to Thee, showing me the beauty of the universe
Glory to Thee, spreading out before me heaven and earth
Like the pages in a book of eternal wisdom
Glory to Thee for Thine eternity in this fleeting world
Glory to Thee for Thy mercies, seen and unseen
Glory to Thee through every sigh of my sorrow
Glory to Thee for every step of my life's journey
For every moment of glory
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age.

I decided to go out for a walk around ten in the Garrucha direction, with no real aim in mind apart from checking which of the big bulk carriers was in port today. It turned out that the 'Kure Harbour' had left and been replaced overnight by the 'Pisti', although the latter had been due to dock before the former if the marine traffic website was to believed. Anyway, when I'd taken more photographs, on impulse, I headed up the hill so see if the Parish Church of San Joachin was open on this fiesta day. Indeed it was, but better still a Mass was due to be celebrated at midday. I was delighted. There were forty minutes to wait, but it meant I could have a good look around the church before the faithful were first summoned by bells at half past eleven.

The priest came in to get ready, and put on some background religious musak, which did nothing to stop people being chatty when they came in. By the time the Mass began the church was a third full, sixty mostly older people. A few hymns were sung, the priest preached what felt like a lengthy homily but may not have been so long as it felt. His voice sounded gravelly, and I think he was complaining of a sore throat. He spoke conversationally, but to my ear unintelligibly, although I understood many key words, I couldn't discern sentence structure, which was frustrating. I heard on the radio a few days ago that after Japanese, Spanish the second fastest spoken language in the world. I guess that means on an everyday basis, as I find I can decipher a fair amount of what broadcasters have to say.

We were out of church by a quarter to one, and I was back home preparing lunch by half past two, largely thanks to the brevity of Roman Catholic liturgical hymnody, editable to suit the occasion. So different from the rites of Byzantium, Moscow, Jerusalem or Antioch.

I went out for another walk just before sunset, first along the beach, and then inland up one of the side streets away from the beach in search of a clear view of the spectacular orange and grey sky which had developed once the sun had dipped behind Mojacar pueblo. This took me along the Calle Camino del Palmeral, along which several urbanizacions are strung out. It ends over the hill where it meets with a roundabout below the pueblo, another short cut when walking up there which I've now found.

In the evening I found I'd received a couple of verification code notifications from Gmail regarding my sister's account, which I set up for her years ago, with my address as the emergency point of reference in the event of needing to reset a password. As she doesn't use the mobile phone she persuaded me to buy for her, I couldn't just text it to her to use, so I had to ask Clare to call her and check if this had truly happened (and wasn't a hacker's effort), and then pass on the code via WhatApp (usefully encrypted) so she can read it out to my sister over the phone. Unforeseen consequences of trying to be helpful!

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