A trip to Ohio

August 26, 2009

I returned this past weekend from a trip to Cleveland, Ohio, where I had gone to look into a teaching position at a place called the Lyceum School. It was perhaps not the best time of year to go there; classes are not in session, and I was unable to talk with any of the current teachers. But I spent many hours talking with the new headmaster, Luke Macik, whom I know from the Transfiguration College project, and for whom I have a deep respect; he is a very good man, the father of nine children, and I must think that the school has been placed in good hands. Luke and I agreed that I should come back there later in the year, when there are more people around; he suggested that I give a lecture there this fall on the subject of the Filioque debate.

I took fairly good records of expenditures on this trip. I traveled a total of 976 miles, spent $134.27 on gas and tolls, $7 on parking, $70.42 on food, and $37.53 on books; with other miscellaneous expenses, the total for the whole trip came to $300.98. The exact breakdown of expenses is as follows:

17.viii.09  gas, NJ: 337.5m/12.483g [86341m]           $      31.20
            gas, PA: 317.2m/11.492g [86658m]                  31.02
            toll, PA                                            .75
            toll, Ohio                                         1.25
            supper, Cleveland                                 11.00
18.viii.09  breakfast                                          3.50
            dinner                                            17.06
19.viii.09  tea, soup, 30¢ tip                                 5.25
            admission to Cleveland Botanical Garden            7.00
            2 used books                                       2.08
            book                                              13.95
            parking                                            6.00
            Ohio map book                                     21.50
            dinner                                            19.00
20.viii.09  breakfast, bread, tip                              5.75
            lunch, with tip                                    4.00
            gas, Cleveland Heights: 138.1m/6.791g [86796m]    17.38
            admission, Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage         7.00
            postcards, poster                                  5.39
            highway tolls (approximate)                        8.25
            parking, Pittsburgh, PA                            1.00
21.viii.09  AA batteries (for camera)                          4.23
            tea (Somerset, PA)                                 1.69
            juice, pretzels (Plainfield, PA)                   3.17
            toll, PA Turnpike, Harrisburg                     13.75
            loose tea, Bird-in-Hand, PA                        4.25
            jam, Bird-in-Hand                                  3.99
            salami (present for Eddie)                        12.90
            shoo-fly pie (present for Eddie)                   7.00

            mileage on return home  [87317m]
            total miles traveled       976
            total expenditures                               300.98

Note that, in calculating the costs of food, I do not include the $19.90 spent on a salami and a shoo-fly pie, purchased for my brother for his 60th birthday; nor the $8.24 spent on loose tea and jam, since these things were not consumed in the course of the trip, but were purchased for future use. I would, thus, not burden the American taxpayer by reporting these things to the government as business expenses; nor would I do so for the postcards etc. purchased at the Maltz Museum, nor for most of the books purchased on the trip, although I might do so for the Ohio map.

I would also call the readers’ attention to the exorbitant toll on the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Route 76) from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg. If you plan to drive through Pennsylvania, use Route 80 if at all possible.

I had hoped to spend some time in Lancaster County on my way back; but, because I had gotten little sleep the night before and was tired, I chose to take a nap while stopped at the travelers’ plaza in Plainfield, Pennsylvania; for this reason, although the traffic was not bad, I did not arrive at Bird-in-Hand, PA until late in the afternoon, and had little time to do anything but a bit of grocery shopping.

If I were to advise people where to go when visiting the United States of America, I would certainly tell them that, alongside cities like New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C., they ought to visit the Amish country. The Amish are Anabaptists; that is, they do not accept infant baptism, but consider baptism to be properly a choice to be made when a person has attained the age of reason, and they consider baptisms not so made to be invalid. As to how the Amish arrived at their peculiar attitude towards technology, so that, in strict observance, they reject the automobile, although they are willing to travel by train and, indeed, on any long-distance train ride through the northern and central parts of the country one is likely to encounter an Amish family, keeping close together and speaking English more as a second language than as a first one — of all this I am ignorant. Nor is it entirely clear to me how the Amish differentiate themselves from the Mennonites. There is a translation of the complete works of Menno Simons in my home town’s public library, but I confess that I have not read it closely. I did, on the other hand, years ago, read a work by Johann Denck on the subject of the love of God, translated in the Library of Christian Classics volume titled Spiritual and Anabaptist Writers, and found it impressive. I don’t at present have that work at hand, but it seemed to me at the time that much of what Denck was saying about the goodness of God and about the necessity for faith to be expressed in active works was in agreement with what I believed, as an Orthodox Christian.

It is likely that, if I made a close inventory of the things the Amish believe, I would find things to disagree with (e.g., the invalidity of infant baptism; also, I have no clear idea what they teach on the person of Christ and on the Trinity). But I think it is worth acknowledging that the Amish have got some things profoundly right. Undoubtedly sin is a universal human condition, and Amish families and souls must have their internal problems and stresses, as do any families and souls; and perhaps these problems and stresses are compounded by having to live, in the eyes of the rest of the population, as a kind of living tourist attraction. Yet the Amish way of life, with its emphasis on faith and community and working the land, is, I think, both beautiful and reasonable. I can think of no group of people who are in a better position to face some of the looming crises of the twenty-first century, in particular the end of cheap oil and the consequential end of cheap food, than are the Amish. They are a people from whom the rest of us ought to be learning, and they are part of what keeps the United States from descending completely into the abyss of commercialism and amnesia of God.

As a fiftieth-birthday present, I was given a gift card, with which I recently purchased a small computer at Best Buy; yesterday, after much anxious experimentation, I finally got it to work booting Windows Vista on one partition and Ubuntu Linux on another; if I can get Linux to connect to the internet, that will be my preferred operating system. Tonight there is a meeting of the New Jersey Linux Users Group in Hackensack; I plan to go to it, and to see if someone there can help me to set up a wireless connection and a dialup modem. This is, in any case, my first post to the blog from the new machine.



August 14, 2009

This has been an unusually hectic week for me, and next week promises to be even more so. I have been on the road most of the past week, shuttling back and forth between New Jersey and Long Island, singing at various church services and attending a burial service in Pennsylvania on Wednesday (a very pious Greek lady who attended my parish in New Jersey died last weekend and was buried at a monastery); tonight I drive back to Long Island, to attend two liturgies over the weekend and to sing at a concert Sunday afternoon. On Monday I will drive to Cleveland, Ohio to look into a possible teaching position at a private school; at the same time, I have just been informed that I need to get the final proofs of my article for Communio back to them by Wednesday. Aggravating this frenetic hurrying about, I have pretended to be a computer geek, and attempted to set up a double-booting system on a laptop I purchased the other day; the results have been pretty horrendous, and, as I write this, I am waiting for the hard drive to finish reformatting before I leave for Long Island, hoping that there will be at least one working operating system on the machine before the procedure is all through.

All of this is offered in extenuation for my continuing, long-term neglect of this blog, and to give notice that that neglect will probably be prolonged for at least the next week or two. Wishing readers of this blog a blessed feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos.

Transfiguration canon

August 6, 2009

The following verses are translated from the fifth canon for the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ. The Greek text is taken from Joseph Schirò, ed., Analecta Hymnica Graeca e codicibus eruta Italiae inferioris, vol. xii, Canones Augusti (ed. Alcestis Proiou) (Rome 1980), pp. 60-62, 68-69. In one of the manuscripts, the poem is ascribed to one “Andrew”; perhaps this is St. Andrew of Crete, the hymnographer.

Ode 1
Δεῦτε συνανέλθωμεν τῷ σωτῆρι
ἐπὶ τὸ ὄρος τὸ Θαβὼρ
κἀκεῖ θεασώμεθα
τὸ κάλλος τὸ ἄφραστον
ἐκλάμπον τοῦ προσώπου αὐτοῦ.
Come let us go up with the Savior
upon the Mount of Tabor
and there let us behold
the inexpressible beauty
that shines forth from his face.
Φυρμὸν ἢ ἀνάχυσιν οὐχ ὑπέστης
τῇ ἐξ ἡμῶν οὐσιωθεὶς
μορφῇ, ἀναλλοίωτε,
ἐν ᾗ μεταμορφούμενος
παρέδειξας τὴν δόξαν σου.
Neither blending nor mixture did you suffer
when you took on our reality, assuming the form
that is ours, O changeless one,
in which, being transfigured,
you exhibited your glory.
Τὴν δόξαν μὴ φέροντες τοῦ προσώπου
τοῦ ἀναλάμψαντος ὡς φῶς
πρηνεῖς κατεφέροντο
τῆς πίστεως οἱ πρόβολοι·
Θεὸν γὰρ εἶδεν ὅλως οὐδείς.
When they could not bear the glory of your face
shining like a light, the ones who stood
foremost in faith were brought
to the ground and lay prone:
for no one at all has seen God.*
Τῷ πόθῳ ἑλκόμενος τῆς ἐν ὄρει
θεοφανείας, Ἰησοῦ,
ὁ Πέτρος ἐβόα σοι·
«ποιήσωμεν τρεῖς σκηνάς·
καλὸν γὰρ ᾧδε εἶναι ἡμᾶς.»
Drawn by desire for your
theophany on the mountain, O Christ,
Peter cried to you:
“Let us make three tents;
for it is good for us to be here.”
Ἕνα σε δοξάζομεν τῆς τριάδος,
μονογενῆ υἱὲ Θεοῦ,
κἂν σάρκα προσέλαβες,
καὶ μάρτυς ὁ καλέσας σε
υἱὸν ἀγαπητὸν ἐν Θαβώρ.
We worship you, one of the Trinity,
God’s only-begotten Son,
even if you did take on flesh;
and a witness is he who called you
on Tabor his beloved Son.
Ὡς μέθην τὴν ἔκστασιν ὑποστάντες
οἱ μαθηταὶ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ
ἐπὶ τὸ Θαβώριον,
πρηνεῖς κατεφέροντο·
Θεὸν γὰρ εἶδεν ὅλως οὐδείς.
Experiencing ecstasy like drunkenness,
Jesus’ disciples
upon Tabor’s height
were brought to the ground and
lay prone:
for no one at all has seen God.*
Ode 3
Καταλείψαντες τὸν χοῦν,
συνεπαρθῶμεν τοῖς Χριστοῦ μαθηταῖς
καὶ ἴδωμεν τὴν δόξαν
τῆν θεαθεῖσαν ἐν τῷ ὄρει Θαβώρ.
Leaving the dust behind us
let us go up with Christ’s disciples
and let us see upon Mount Tabor
the glory that deifies.
Τῷ Χριστῷ συγκαλοῦντι
ἐπὶ τὸ ὄρος τὸ Θαβώριον,
πιστοί, συναναβάντες,
έκεῖ ὀψόμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ.
Ascending, O faithful, together
with Christ who summons us
to Tabor mountain,
there we shall see his glory.
Οἱ τοῦ ὄντως ἐραστοῦ
ἐπιθυμοῦντες τῆς λαμπρότητος
δεῦτε προσκολληθῶμεν
τοῖς περὶ Πέτρον καὶ Ἰάκωβον.
Those of us who desire
the brilliancy of the truly beloved,
come, let us be joined
with those who are about Peter and James.
Οἱ τὸ κάλλος ἐκεῖνο
ἰδεῖν ποθοῦντες τὸ ἀμήχανον
κτησώμεθα καρδίας,
ἐν αἷς δεξόμεθα τὴν τούτου αὐγήν.
Those of us who long to see
that inexplicable beauty,
let us acquire hearts
in which we shall receive its shining.
Τὸ μὲν ὄρος τὸ Σινᾶ
καπνῷ καὶ γνόφῳ καὶ θυέλλῃ ποτέ,
τὸ ὄρος τὸ Θαβὼρ δὲ
μαρμαρυγὰς ἡμῖν ἀστράπτει φωτός.
Once it was, Mount Sinai was hidden
with smoke and darkness and storm,
but Mount Tabor illuminates us
with bright flashings of light.
Ἐν τῷ ὄρει τῷ Θαβὼρ
μεταμορφούμενος, Χριστὲ ὁ Θεός,
παρέδειξας τὴν δόξαν
τοῖς μαθηταῖς τῆς σῆς θεότητος.
When you were transfigured
on Mount Tabor, O Christ God,
you showed to your disciples
the glory of your divinity.
Προσκυνοῦμέν σε, Χριστέ,
σὺν τῷ πατρί σου καὶ τῷ πνεύματι,
τριάδα ἐν μονάδι
καὶ ἐν τριάδι μονάδα, Θεόν.
We worship you, O Christ,
with your Father and the Spirit,
the Trinity in Unity,
and Unity in Trinity, God.
Χαῖρε, νέα κιβωτὲ
τῆς διαθήκης, ἧς διέθετο
Θεὸς μετὰ ἀνθρώπων
τῇ μεσιτείᾳ σου, παρθένε ἁγνή.
Hail, new ark of
the covenant, that covenant
which God made with mankind
by your mediation, O pure Virgin.
Ode 8
Τῆς θεϊκῆς σου μορφῆς
αὔραν ἐξέλαμψας
Πέτρῳ καὶ Ἰακώβῳ
καὶ Ἰωάννῃ, κύριε, ἐν ὄρει τῷ Θαβώρ,
ἧς τὴν ἀκτῖνα μηδόλως
ἐνεγκεῖν ἰσχύσαντες, εἰς γῆν κατεβαροῦντο.
When you had radiated
the aura of your divine form
on Peter, James, and John,
O Lord, upon Mount Tabor,
then, being utterly unable to bear
its ray, they were weighed down to the earth.
Τὸν Μωυσῆν ἐν Θαβὼρ
νόμου τὸν πρόμαχον
συνεκάλεσας, Λόγε,
καὶ προφητῶν τὸ ἄνθος, τὸν Θεσβίτην Ἠλιού,
ὃν πυρὸς ἁρματηλάτην
ὡς εἰς οὐρανοὺς ἀναγαγὼν ἐξῆρας πάλαι.
You called to Tabor Moses,
the champion of the Law, O Word,
and the flower of the prophets,
Elijah the Tishbite,
whom once you took away, leading him
heavenwards, borne in a chariot of fire.
Τὸ ὑπερούσιον φῶς
δεῦτε ὀψόμεθα
καθαρᾷ τῇ καρδίᾳ
μαρμαρυγὰς ἀστράπτον τοῖς θεόπταις μαθηταῖς,
ὅπως καὶ τῆς οὐρανόθεν
πατρικῆς ἀκούσωμεν φωνῆς προσμαρτυρούσης.
O come let us behold
with a pure heart
the supersubstantial light
flashing its shimmerings upon the disciples, who behold God,
so that we too may hear
the fatherly voice from heaven bearing witness.
Ὦ φωτοφόρου αὐγλῆς,
ὦ θείας χάριτος,
ὦ ἀκτῖνος ἡλίου,
ἢν οἱ πηλώδεις εἶδον ἐξαστράπτουσαν αὐτοῖς!
τίς ἂν τὴν δόξαν ἐκείνην
ἐξειπεῖν δυνήσεται βροτῶν ἢ ἑρμηνεῦσαι;
O the lightbearing brilliance!
O the divine grace!
O the beam of the sun
which men of clay beheld flashing out upon them!
Who among mortals shall be able
to describe that glory fully, or interpret it?
Ὦ παναγία τριάς,
ἡ ὁμοούσιος
καὶ ὁμότιμος δόξα,
πάτερ, υἱὲ καὶ πνεῦμα, σὲ δοξάζω καὶ ὑμνῶ
ἕνα Θεὸν ἀσυγχύτως
ἐν τρισὶν ὑμνούμενον προσώποις ἀμερίστως.
O Most Holy Trinity,
glory consubstantial, and
Father, Son, and Spirit, I glorify and hymn you,
one God hymned indivisibly
in three persons.
Ὥσπερ ἐν τόμῳ καινῷ,
ἐν τῇ νηδύι σου
ἐγγραφείς, θεοτόκε,
ὁ σὺν πατρὶ καὶ πνεύματι ὑμνούμενος υἱὸς
ἔδειξεν ἀπαραλλάκτως
καὶ μετὰ τὴν σάρκωσιν τοῦ πατρὸς τὸν χαρακτῆρα.
Inscribed in your womb
as on a new stone tablet,
O Mother of God,
the Son, who is hymned with the Father and the Spirit,
exhibited unchangingly,
even after being made flesh, the character of the Father.

* Or: for no one has seen God entirely.