Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Paschal Picture Post

Way too much has been going on with me lately. I haven't been able to keep up, let alone reflect on it. I've had a few moments over the past few weeks where I needed to take a step back from my figurative "plate" (which is overfull at the moment), so as to avoid burnout. I'm at that point in the academic year where I'm aiming longingly and determinedly toward The End Of The Semester. (3 weeks...just 3 more weeks...)

So, in lieu of a detailed post about the content of my work and/or home life, I am going to share pictures and a video (!!!--big deal for me, that.) which document this Paschal season for me. I posted last on Great and Holy Friday, with pictures of our just-then-blooming tulips. The next day, which was Holy Saturday, our tulips finally opened up! Well, a few of them anyway...

Ready to greet Christ's Resurrection...

Opening up toward the sun.

That same morning, I sang at Vesperal Divine Liturgy for Holy Saturday, where the plashchanitsa was still out from the night before, and remained so until that evening at Paschal Nocturnes. Parishes traditionally decorate the plashchanitsa (epitaphios in the Greek tradition, and referring to the shroud that has depicted on it an icon of Christ asleep in death) with flowers--the result is meant to bring to mind Christ laid in the tomb. Here is ours:

All Saints Orthodox Church, Olyphant, PA,
Holy Saturday 2012 --
I love how vibrant the flowers were this year :)

I also attempted to capture some audio (via video) of our church choir singing the absolutely beautiful Paschal hymns. For any readers who are unfamiliar with Orthodox Christian worship, in Orthodoxy the choir helps pray the service with the clergy (on behalf of the people), and all of the music is traditionally sung a cappella. Being an Orthodox choir singer is one of the things that is fundamental to who I am--it is that important to me--the role it plays for me is bigger than I can adequately describe, in terms of keeping my sanity in this life. 

Today, I managed to upload one of the videos (which again is really just audio, as the video's image is of our choir loft ceiling) to my YouTube account--an account which until now I only had by virtue of being a user of Google products. On the tech side of things, I feel very accomplished! This is my first video upload ever to the interwebs...long overdue, no doubt. The piece in the video is the 9th Ode of the Canon for Matins of Holy Saturday...I know, that's a mouthful! Put more simply, it's one of the brief but utterly beautiful hymns that captures the Paschal spirit so well. It is a hymn to the Mother of God, written from the perspective of her Son who is now (at this point in Holy Week) laid in the tomb. Anyway, I'll let the words speak for themselves, but here is a video containing audio of my church choir singing this piece, often referred to by its first line, "Do not lament me, O Mother" (I am singing soprano/melody in this was a small group that morning, so it may just be me on soprano, I can't quite remember now. The words of the piece are typed out in this post just below the video.):

Do not lament me, O Mother, 
seeing me in the tomb, 
thy son conceived in the womb without seed, 
for I shall arise 
and be glorified with eternal glory as God. 
I shall exalt all who magnify you in faith and in love.

So, that was Holy Saturday. Then came Pascha! Yay! I have no pictures of that celebration, but suffice it to say, it was a beautiful occasion.

Bright Week (the week immediately following Pascha) was truly bright in that the sun came out and stayed out for most of it! Which meant the entire tulip bed woke up, their little heads lifting themselves up to the sunlight (fitting, no?).

Bright Thursday: click on it to see it enlarged--it's worth it :)

And they've been open ever since, though my husband tells me their time may be coming to an end, as early spring transitions into mid/late spring in our neck of the woods (God willing this week, in terms of temps at least!). This afternoon I did get two more pretty shots of our other tulip bed--this one devoted to red lovelies, right by our flag pole. The afternoon light lit them up so beautifully today...

My husband has a good eye--these are so picturesque placed like this.
And note the other tulip bed in the background on the left--
bright happy blooms, even in the shade.

I didn't edit this photo at all. They really are this vibrant, even more so if
you click to enlarge. :)

So, even if these tulips go soon, for now they somehow help me participate more fully in the Paschal season, which lasts for 40 days after the great feast itself (which for us this year fell on April 15th). 

That's it for flower images from me, for the time being. Before I end this post, it occurred to me, as I was describing earlier how important to me church choir singing is, that today is also my 7th (liturgical) anniversary since joining the Orthodox Church. I was Chrismated into the Orthodox Church on the Feast of the Holy Myrrhbearers in 2005. As I posted to Facebook today, that moment was a paradigm shift in my little corner of the universe if there ever was one. And, in the spirit of this post, here's a picture from that day 7 years ago:

Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection, NYC
(my first parish home)
Feast of the Holy Myrrhbearers 2005

Now I need to go and get mentally ready to face the week. (3 more weeks...just 3 more weeks...)

But, as it's still Pascha (yay for feasts that last 40 days!), and I need to remember this as I face the stress of another over-crammed week (Aside: I will likely reread this post throughout the week as a reminder of beautiful, green, vibrant, melodic, uplifting things.), the only appropriate way to end this post is to say, again:

Christ is Risen!!!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Tulips for Pascha

This week is Holy Week in the Orthodox Church, which makes today Holy Friday. I only worked two days this week (Tuesday and Wednesday), but they were doozies. My "To Do" list did not shrink but grew during those two days...

But then it was Wednesday night, and Thursday would be my first day this week of getting to attend the church services leading up to Pascha (aka Easter), and I decided to leave (almost)* all of my work. Two days later, on Holy Friday, I know I made the right decision.

So, rather than attempt to post about the exciting (though exhausting) things happening professionally for me, I'm posting a picture I took in honor of the feast.

My husband's tulips are blooming :)

A few weeks ago my husband had to protect these lovelies from a frost that hit us (by covering them with a sheet), and apparently he was successful as they are finally opening up. Just in time for the Feast of the Resurrection--couldn't be more perfect, and with the promise of warmer temperatures later this weekend, my guess is they will open up even more by Sunday.

Since I am quite sure I won't manage to post again until at least sometime next week, I'll go ahead and anticipate this Sunday now by saying:

Christ is Risen!!! 

A blessed Pascha to those who celebrate this week!!!


*The only work I brought home is some research-reading I need to digest for my Old Testament class, in order to write a 1.5 page summary of what I plan to include in my final paper for the course. So far, though, I haven't been able to bring myself to pull the reading out and do anything with it. Other things seem more important right now (like two theology-filled church services per day). Perhaps later this weekend....

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cosmos in Chaos

...being the first installment in a series of stories about the stars and me, which I first introduced several weeks ago.

(At the moment there's a lot percolating in my mind about information literacy, in response to a handful of things I've read/encountered recently, but it needs to marinate a bit longer before I'm ready to post on it. So for now, travel with me back to my star-filled childhood...)


In elementary school, my favorite time of year was when the Star Lab visited my school. This was a giant tent-like contraption, held aloft by a powerful fan which blew chilly air into its interior--making it feel much like the outdoors, or so I told myself. We'd crawl into this dark artificial cave, lie on our backs, and have an expert from the planetarium conduct a star show for us. We learned to identify the North Star (brightest star in the sky!), and how to find the Big and Little Dippers in relation to it. The other constellations would soon follow, and we watched as they rotated across the ceiling of the Star Lab, a (relatively) top-speed reenactment of how they move through the night sky throughout the year.

Image courtesy of Flickr user nd-nʎ via a CC license

To my young eyes, this was magic: having one picture after another appear before my eyes, as soon as each relational key was identified. These pictures revealed meaning to me: cosmos in chaos. It did my young heart good.

Perhaps as a result of the magic I encountered in the Star Lab, for my first ever science fair project I decided to create a large star chart, mapping all of the constellations in our region. For stars, I used the stickers that teachers use to award gold stars to students, and traced out the constellations as best as I could in relation to one another on a big piece of poster board. The project didn't win any prizes in the science fair, but I kept it on display in my bedroom for quite a number of years. It comforted me to look at it across my room when I'd settle into bed at night because it represented to me a map by which I could see the world around me more clearly--by it I could see meaning where otherwise there would be just darkness.

In honor of this, I also decorated my bedroom door frame with glow-in-the-dark stars: my mom preferred that I didn't stick them on the ceiling. This archway of stars crowned the entry to my childhood bedroom, and kept me company in the dark.

Project 366: December 16th, Day 351
Image courtesy of Flickr user Coldspire via a CC license

As a child I wanted to be surrounded by the stars--to live among them if I could. These were my attempts to make that happen.