Saturday, August 11, 2007

New Kid on the Block

Over the past six or so years, all my readers have been very patient with me as I've done my "wandering Jew" act through various jurisdictions and parishes -- something I do truly deplore, but with my home parish having become something of a laboratory for the Orthodox/Catholic experiment, I didn't feel I had much choice. The ROCOR parish where I would have preferred to settle folded when its priest took up a new post; we tried going to that parish for a couple of years, but the distance proved to be too much, and we finally settled on a parish some 40 miles away, where at least I knew I could trust the priest not to do anything too Innovationist. At the same time, every other week we would attend Liturgy at a very small Greek parish nearby, which only has Liturgies every other week. It worked out well enough, though I never really felt at home in the 40-miles-away parish.

Well - my original parish is finally freed from the "Latin Yoke" ;-> and we have a new priest! This one's a corker: He's from Romania. He has his Bachelor's from Harvard, and his Ph.D. from CalTech in Theoretical Physics (!!!) - no idea where his Master's is from - and says he never had any real exposure to Christianity until he and some friends bicycled from CalTech to a Romanian parish about an hour away. The priest there gave a very powerful sermon about confession, and this guy decided then and there that he had to make some radical changes in his life. "Radical" is the word -- from Theoretical Physics to Metaphysics?! God love him!

Now, when Fr. Dean was in charge of this parish, I used to chant weekday Liturgies for him. When the "Latin" priest was in charge, I actually developed nodes on my vocal cords, so was unable to sing for three years, and by the time they cleared up, he had made other arrangements for a weekday chanter, so I was out of a job -- just as well, since over those three years it became obvious that this was not someone you could work with. (He has a "don't confuse me with facts" personality.) Since those "other arrangements" consisted of his oldest son, and that whole family is gone now, I thought, maybe this new priest would need a weekday chanter. So I introduced myself to him.

It turned out that my reputation had preceded me: The new priest had already talked to Fr. Dean! =:0 So we hit it off very well from the start, and I actually have had the chance to sing for him at Paraklesis, and on the Feast of the Transfiguration. He's also interested in my needlework.

Now for the rabbit punch: After Paraklesis on Monday, he was blowing off a little steam because the actual chanter of the parish, the guy who sings on Sundays, was supposed to be there, and wasn't. As Father said, it puts a tremendous strain on his own voice to have to sing everything, which he did because he's just been teaching the Paraklesis melodies to me. I forget now how we got on the topic, but I said something about, "I don't know what you've heard about me from the parish" - this is a parish that loves to gossip, and never puts a good light on anything when there's a possible bad explanation - and he said, "They tell me that you will turn against me."

With friends like these....

What bothers me about that is not that it's untrue - I can see why these wahoos would come up with that kind of explanation - but that someone was so eager to get his knife into me that he would disturb the peace of mind of a new young priest to do it. Okay, maybe he was just trying to prepare the priest for that eventuality; it certainly happened with the last priest, though there were actual reasons for my "turning against" him, and when I explained these to the new priest, he understood that he hadn't gotten the whole story. And I suspect, from comments passed over the past six years, that my not singing for the Latin priest was interpreted as leaving in a snit; as I said, why look for a real explanation when there's a bad spin to put on it?

Be that as it may, I like this new young fellow very much. He's enthusiastic without being pushy, he has a singing voice to die for, and frankly - I like that he's from an Eastern Bloc country. This says to me that he has really struggled for his faith, that he's not Orthodox "because Greeks are Orthodox," but understands the necessity for spiritual growth - actually, he's a lot like Fr. Dean. I can't wait to see what his Bible studies are like. His sermons are already a hoot, since he brings a lot of science into them - as one of the Jordanville monks once said to me, it's so interesting to see how priests bring their former lives into their sermons.

And meanwhile, I will also have to deal with the ill will of my former parish. But that I'm not too worried about, mostly because they seem to think their opinion actually should matter to me, and of course it doesn't - as long as the "new kid on the block" and I are able to communicate well. So far, so good!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

New Name

Back in February, I posted about the newest "member" of our family, my new red Toyota Matrix. At the time, she was Molly. She has a new name, "Minnie." (Which I don't especially care for -- makes me think of Minnie Mouse. I liked Mimi, but the hubster, loyal son of Das Vaterland that he is, says it's "too French." Sigh.)

Anyway, what occasioned the name change was meeting an actual person named Molly at the Summer School. Charity forbids my saying very much about this, umm, interesting person, except to note that she was a third-year student this year, and is the only person I have ever seen conduct a choir with a hula motion. Most of us conduct with the "opposable thumbs" approach, i.e., we move our arms in opposite directions from each other. Molly conducted by moving her arms in the same direction at once. She did get her certificate -- I'm not sure if it was because she didn't fall apart altogether during the final exam, or because they would do anything to make sure she didn't come back.

She had other idiosyncrasies. Let's just leave it at that. But I knew that if I ever referred to "Molly" again, it wouldn't be my little red car I'd be thinking of. Hence, the name change.

And, just before we left for Jordanville, we got another Toyota Matrix. This one's pure white, and its name is "Snoopy." It started out life as "E. B." (the hubster being an admirer of E. B. White), but "Snoopy" fits it much better. Its purchase was occasioned by a broken tie rod, followed by the discovery that all the other tie rods on the car were also in shaky condition, and fixing one of these puppies, in this neck of the woods, costs upwards of $400. Plus, the car was a 1994 Escort -- hard to find parts for it, at this point. Plus, the floor was rusting out altogether, and in NH, your car doesn't pass the state inspection if the floor is rusted. (Doesn't matter if the headlights are out of balance, or even if the tie rods are about to fall apart -- as I learned one September, after a state inspection the previous month -- but that floor had better be good and solid. Go figure.)

Fortunately, we paid cash for the first car, so we only have one car payment to handle. But the hubster was considering retirement, before this latest discovery. Now - well, who knows?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

He can't have been really 20, but...

...he looked it, the young man standing in church four Sundays ago, up there in Jordanville. Very Russian-looking, short blond hair, slight build, looking very solemn and serious -- with three children clustered around him, two little girls about 7 or 8, and a little boy about 3. In the more conservative ROCOR churches, men stand on the right-hand side of the church, and women stand on the left, and usually, the children stand with the women, so this young man was all the more noticeable with his three little children clustered around him, each little girl holding a hand, and the little boy smack up against his front. And they just stood there, from about the Gospel onwards.

Now, because Jordanville is a hierarchical seat, services there take a long time. A Sunday Liturgy can take three hours. People wander in and out throughout; you get to a point where you need a "seventh-inning stretch," as my Church Slavonic instructor once put it, so you drift outside and sit for awhile, get some fresh air, then wander back in and find a place to stand. Not this family. They just stayed put the whole time, and let me tell you, those kids didn't move an inch. Yet there was no question of the affection between father and children; he let them do pretty much anything they liked with his hands, and when one of the little girls let go, his son (looked just like him!) promptly picked up the hand and put it on top of his head.

Then, just before Communion, the dad leaned down and whispered to one of the girls, who nodded, and then he took off, leaving the three children behind. I saw them craning their necks to watch him go, and wondered what that was all about. A few minutes he reappeared--with an infant in his arms. And shepherded the three other children up for Communion, along with the infant.

This guy has four children.

I saw him for all the Sundays I was in Jordanville. The second Sunday, the kids stayed with him, and I was interested to see his method of "discipline": When the little boy put his hands into his pockets, the dad just reached down and gently removed the hands, then put them at the boy's side. And they stayed there. The third Sunday, I saw the same children, but this time with a sweet-looking young woman who actually let them sit down on one of the stools placed around the cathedral. It was amusing to note that they were actually a little wigglier with her around! At Communion time, dad reappeared--apparently, this time he had "infant duty"--and after Communion, those kids just moved to his side and stayed there, although mom was still in church.

When church let out, those kids reverted to being kids--not that they were remotely whiney, but just racing around all over the place, blowing off steam--and the parents just stood there talking, with the dad swinging the infant back and forth in its car seat, chatting easily with his wife and smiling. He certainly didn't come across as some kind of disciplinarian fanatic, but somehow, he had gotten across to his kids how to behave in church, and they did.

I couldn't help contrasting their behavior with the American kids I know, who are so rambunctious and make their presence such an ordeal for everyone around them--not necessarily at Liturgy, more like in the public sphere (like grocery stores), but even at church, kids raised by American parents are much more disruptive than these kids were. What is it about Russian parents and children? I mean, these weren't the only kids in church, but the only thing that made them noticeable was their father, who really did look about 20 years old. The other kids in church were just as well-behaved. As my husband said (he was there for the third Sunday, and I pointed out the family), they knew that church was a special place, and that they were supposed to have "church manners."

I wish I knew how Russians do it. And I wish they'd share the secret with today's parents.