He who sings prays twice.
Saint Augustine

«— And the Word Becomes Flesh
—» Respect for the Dead?

Angels We Have Heard. O My!

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When I awoke this morning, I had taken only two hours of rest. I stumbled into the shower and did all that morning stuff—plus some, as I was preparing for a job interview. Imagine my surprise as I enter into my morning prayers, finding a note scribbled in gold lettering on parchment of purest white:

Kevin, Basil, Robert, Sinner:

Whatever you’re calling yourself these days. I can’t keep up anymore. I wanted encouragement to you. Sorry, Anglo is not easy for bodiless power. I am your guardian angel. My name is too long and is in language you could not speak. You may call me Cherumishaelohim.

Please post note this on your—what you call it?—well, that computer thingie.

This to all your detractors: You all say my ward foulmouths his priest. I can assure you this is not so. I have seen foulmouths. Arius was a foulmouth. I cheered when struck on the mouth he was by the holy bishop Nicholas. Cheered. I have seen my ward through much—he has much he could say in hurt, in anger, in sinfulness. He does not. He remains silent. There is much blackness in his heart that I pray for daily. But foulmouth his priest he has not to do yet.

Prick his conscience I do often, and I think silence may be good. I am fond of technology not so much; I still like chisel and stone myself. The Almighty One preferred intercourse with your kind in the flesh to words, as words and technology no power to save have they.

So, leave him alone, I say. For I am Cherumishaelohim. I almost had a speaking part in the Scriptures, you know. But, at the last minute, Gabriel was relieved from his previous mission and sent to Zacharias and Mary instead. And what did I get? Third row in the choir at Christmas! Foulmouthing? Talk to me not of foulmouthing.

But I will prick him more about the silence.

As it turned out, I did not get to interview today. It was a total washout.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 3:04 pm

«— Slight Course Correction
—» Angels We Have Heard. O My!

And the Word Becomes Flesh

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In response to a question on the OrthodoxPSALM mailing list from a priest in California. He wonders if he should dispense with service books entirely.

Father, bless.

As another said in response to this question, far be it for me to advise a priest. Yet, you did ask for input, so I again venture where bodiless powers fear to tread.

I relate the example of a poor mission and my own feeble experience in humility, with no expecatation that my many words will be useful. But, asking for God’s mercy to me, I hope that perhaps one thing may be helpful to you.

In our parish, we really encourage first-time visitors not to pick up a service book. The Orthodox Liturgy can be overwhelming for someone who has never been to one before. Trying to follow along in a service book usuallly means that their nose is in the book the whole time. They miss the processions, the torch-lights, the censing, the significance of the icons, the way other worshippers conduct themselves. Orthodox worship appeals to all five senses, and from the beginning we want newbies to get a sense of the whole and see the place of words in that whole.

We typically invite them to read the tract by Khouria Frederica Mathewes-Green, “First Visit to an Orthodox Church—Twelve Things I Wish I’d Known.” If you are not familiar with this article, it is excellent for first-time visitors coming from Roman Catholic or Protestant backgrounds, and it is available as a tract from Conciliar Press.

As for regular members and Orthodox who visit, well-made service books are not necessarily a distraction, though my humble opinion is that the goal is participation on a level where the words are in our blood and the written page is cast aside. I think a metaphor of Wittgenstein is apt here: We climb the ladder to get to the roof, but once we reach the roof, we don’t think about the ladder as it is no longer needed. It has served its purpose of bringing us to that higher plane. This metaphor of Wittgenstein always reminds me of the stylites, the pillar-dwelllers, for they desired God enough to climb the ladder and never come back down.

It has been a liberation for our mothers and fathers, laden with the burdens of parenthood, to discover that The Almighty Service Book is not necessary to full participation. The phrase we use to communicate this is, “Pray as you can, not as you can’t.”

Including the propers in the bullletin is essential if you want your people to participate in that part of the service. If you do not, if you want them to listen to the choir or a reader—which is your call as their pastor—then obviously you can dispense with that at your discretion.

In either case, though, by putting the propers in the bulletin you allow your people to meditate on the text during the week. I think this has the most direct impact on your psycholinguistic and anthropological question: Some people take their bulletins home and, especially when it has liturgical texts, quotes, and schedule information, post them on their refrigerators and in their office spaces.

In my experience, most people only scan the bulletin during church. But a certain portion of them look at it more closely after they get home. As an example, just this evening a dear brother was asking father about last Sunday’s bulletin, which mentioned the upcoming candle blessing at Sunday’s Liturgy. He had read it at home, and wanted to know more. By putting salient quotes—whether liturgical, scriptural, or hagiographical—in your bulletin, you enrich the spirituality of that portion that reads them at home.

I hope you do not find me presumptuous in responding so thoroughly to your question, father. Kissing your right hand, I remain

Your unworthy servant,
Basil, a sinner

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Filed under: — Basil @ 2:29 am

«— Wait! Wait!
—» And the Word Becomes Flesh

Slight Course Correction

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In my morning prayers, I try to read the lectionary for the day. I am experimenting with supplementing my use of the the OCA website with Dynamis, a daily devotional produced by St. George Orthodox Cathedral (Antiochian) in Wichita, Kansas. In addition to having readings from the lectionary, Dynamis has devotional reflections on the readings.

Apparently, when the database on the OCA site was created, the lectionary was tied to the calendar day —the “fixed date” — which has caused the readings to be incorrect for subsequent years. I am quite disappointed in the lack of foresight in this design choice.

The lectionary is the cycle of Scripture readings for each day. Until now, I have been using the lectionary as posted on the OCA website (see my earlier post discussing a bookmarklet for getting these pages for the current date). Its accuracy has a been a nagging question in my mind, and today I finally determined that the OCA site is off by two weeks. This year, at least.

This is because the lectionary is based on Pentecost, which is in turn based on Pascha (Orthodox Easter). In other words, the readings for any given day will be different each year, based on how many weeks have passed since Pentecost. For example, today is the 32nd Tuesday after Pentecost. However, last year January 28 was a Monday, and it was not the 32nd after Pentecost.

In contrast, saints are commemorated on fixed dates every year. Readings for the saints are usually taken from a list of general readings for the various ranks of saints: bishops, priests, monks, confessors, martyrs, and so on. Occasionally, important commemorations will have specific readings.

I’m hoping that Dynamis will keep me on track with the correct readings from the lectionary, while helping me to understand the Scriptures with an Orthodox mind.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 5:11 pm

«— Sadness….
—» Slight Course Correction

Wait! Wait!

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Oh, no! Las Vegas is far more dangerous than we previously suspected! After all of the joking about the obvious “evils” of Las Vegas while Fr. David prepared to attend the Department of Evangelism committee meetings there, we missed a real danger that was lurking right in plain sight. Look at the website for St. Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church in Las Vegas, where the meetings will be held. You can see quite clearly that they have a church-sponsored email list!

Hopefully, we will receive Fr. David back whole after his encounter with this dangerous technology.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 5:11 pm

«— Sounds Like…?
—» Wait! Wait!

Sadness….

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WorldTimZone flies the black flag. The Supreme Court of the United States has decided that Congress should be allowed to continually violate the Constitution by extending copyright indefinitely, so long as the soft contributions from Disney et al. keep flowing. The Court decided that the Sony Bono Copyright Extension Act was constitutional, which means that Congress can continue to extending copyright indefinitely, so long as the time remains “limited,” for some definition of “limited.” The relevant portion of the Consitution provides that the Congress has the power, “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” The key phrase here is “limited times.” Apparently, the Founders believed that the public should eventually get access to creative works. Disney, however, doesn’t like this idea and ever lines the pockets of Congressional leaders to keep Steamboat Willie and other Mickey Mouse works from going into the public domain.

I predict that, in response, “piracy” will rise, as the public reacts to the inherent injustice of current copyright legislation, in a wave that will eventually overtake the government’s ability to check. When laws become irrelevant, and selectively enforced, freedom is jeoardized.

Sorry, that was quite a rant. I’m sure it was not entirely coherent, either.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 5:27 pm

«— Direction for the Director
—» Sadness….

Sounds Like…?

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In reading the archives of OrthodoxPSALM, I came across this document: Acoustical Guidelines for Orthodox Churches, a PDF file that outlines important acoustic considerations for Orthodox churches. It is written by Reader David Nelson, an architect at St. John the Forerunner parish (Antiochian) in Austin, Texas.

In part, it confirms what I learned from Why Catholics Can’t Sing, by Thomas Day. The acoustics of a church must be such that they encourage people to sing. This document provides words to talk about what Day knows intuitively.

Envelopment: the sensation of sound coming from other locations in the room and from all directions. For congregational singing, this is an important factor. If parishioners hear other people singing at least as loudly as themselves, they tend to sing with more confidence. If people only hear themselves, they generally sing more tentatively if at all. Envelopment is generally supported by a higher degree of reverberation.

This document also places into a very humane acoustical context the divergent demands of leaders of the church, who need to be heard and understood, choir directors and musicians, who want beauty and congregational participation, and mothers, who don’t want their children’s shuffling and whispering to be broadcast to every other worshipper.

However, I think the most important thing for a young parish like St. Athanasius is this “Ha Ha Only Serious” quip at the beginning:

If an acoustical consultant is to be retained, this should be done at the earliest possible stage of building design. Early design decisions can lead to success or can be all but unrecoverable. I tell my clients, ‘If you’ve drawn a diagram on the back of a napkin, it’s almost too late to call….’

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Filed under: — Basil @ 9:41 pm

«— An API Interface for Bible Gateway
—» Sounds Like…?

Direction for the Director

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I have been in dialogue with Fr. Thomas Soroka of St. Nicholas parish in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, about various choir director thingies. I asked for mailing lists for choir directors, and he directed me to three of them:

  • OrthodoxPSALM, for discussion of excellence in liturgical music
  • Typikon, for discussion of the liturgical rules governing Orthodox worship (traditionally bound in a book called the Typikon)
  • Ustav, for the discussion of the Typikon as used in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (“ustav” means Typikon in Russian).

Though they are excellent resources, each of these has unique pitfalls, of course. Because OrthodoxPSALM is composed mostly of musicians who are primarily concerned with excellence, there can sometimes be too much of a desire to eschew old, boring settings (like the standard settings called the Obikhod) for newer, more accessible settings. The other two can also be havens for the “hyper-Orthodox” who want to be, as Fr. Ted says so eloquently, “more Orthodox than Jesus!”

As an aside, it’s very heartening to see that not everyone in Orthodoxy thinks technology is dangerous.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 9:37 pm

«— Surfing Safari
—» Direction for the Director

An API Interface for Bible Gateway

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“Mean” Dean Peters’ Heal Your Church Website is trying to get some interest going in a SOAP or XML-RPC interface for the Bible Gateway. I think it’s a great idea. Read my comments on Dean’s site to see more of what I think on the topic.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 11:51 am

«— Spam spam spam spam
—» An API Interface for Bible Gateway

Surfing Safari

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The new Apple web browser Safari wins high praise for speed, standards compliance, and usability. Unfortunately, a preference to disable link underlining is not exposed in the user interface. If you have refined typographical sensibilities, this might seem to be a deal breaker. But, because it is a CSS-compliant browser, there is a way to do it. CSS is a web standard that allows web developers and designers to write code that works in any browser. One of the core requirements of the CSS specification is that a compliant web browser must allow you to specify a “user-defined” stylesheet.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. If you do not already have a stylesheet, create one. I called mine “user.css” and put it in /Users/basil/Library/Safari/, but you can call it anything and put it anywhere.
  2. Put this text in that file:
    a:link, a:hover, a:visited, a:active { text-decoration:none }
  3. In your Safari menu, select Preferences and choose the Appearance panel. At the bottom, select Other for Style Sheet. You will get a file picker that will let you select the file you created.

Voila! Just like unchecking “Underline Links” in a browser that isn’t in beta. The code above will still allow a web author to override your preference (like blogs4God does). If you really want to exercise complete control, then add !important to the code above, before the closing brace (the } character).

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Filed under: — Basil @ 1:11 am

«— New Additions, Old Poetry
—» Surfing Safari

Spam spam spam spam

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The parish mailing list address (now defunct until further notice by order of the priest) just received its first two hits of spam, a mere six weeks after being publicly displayed on someone’s website. I’m surprised it took so long. Perhaps if the website in question saw more traffic, it would have been quickly inundated with the mangy hordes. It will be interesting to see how quickly it gets disseminated to the rest of spamdom and how fast my volume on that address rises.

So, now the question: When Fr. D. and the parish council are finally convinced that technology is not inherently “dangerous,” do I use the same address? Or do I use a new and different address, with the potential confusion and usability errors inherent in that solution?

I’m leaning towards a new address, with strict instructions not to post it on websites because of the spam factor.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 9:54 pm

«— More on Rules
—» Spam spam spam spam

New Additions, Old Poetry

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Many thanks to Chris for unearthing some old poetry I wrote for the Asbury Review so many years ago.

Good poetry is far more difficult than prose, though good prose is not easy. For this reason, I tend to be a sometime poet, treating poetry as an avocation. Many apologies to all true poets; your vocation deserves better than I give. Mea culpa.

This poem was written during my Roman Catholic period. In discussing with Chris whether I should revise it to be more Orthodox, he was adamant that I leave it as it was written, reflecting my faith and opinions from that period. I’m glad to have him as a friend.

My poetry can be found in my slim online portfolio. This new and old addition is entitled, “Our Lady of St. Monica Orphanage.” Give it a look.

I should write poetry more often.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 10:51 pm