Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How can I keep from singing?

I've been humming this a lot recently:

My life flows on in endless song
Above earth's lamentation.
I hear the real, though far off hymn
That hails the new creation
Above the tumult and the strife,
I hear the music ringing;
It sounds an echo in my soul
How can I keep from singing?

What though the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth, it liveth.
What though the darkness round me close,
Songs in the night it giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I'm clinging.
Since love is lord of Heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,
And hear their death-knell ringing,
When friends rejoice both far and near,
How can I keep from singing?
In prison cell and dungeon vile
Our thoughts to them are winging.
When friends by shame are undefiled,
How can I keep from singing?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Visiting London, part one

I wrote this for the IDD blog but thought I would share it here. Part two next week.

I've spent the last three months studying in London as part of a program through my university. It's been an amazing experience and I'm so grateful for it. As a sort of natural result I've picked up a few tips for visiting London.

*Use Pret a Manger and E.A.T. These are both chains all around London which sell fresh, pre-made sandwiches. I'm not sure of exact prices at E.A.T., but at Pret you can easily get a fairly filling sandwich for under three pounds. The cheapest is the egg mayo sandwich at a pound fifty. They also have coffee, soup, and a few pastries. TIP: Try to ask for take-away. Restaurants are legally required to charge a special tax if you eat in.

*Go to the museums. London has some fabulous museums, especially the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, and Tate Britian. On the history side, there's the V&A (Victoria and Albert) and the British Museum. There are smaller museums and galleries that you can look up if you're interested. TIP: Go early. British school children are required to visit the major museums so with them and tourists, it can get quite noisy later on. Most galleries open at ten so you won't have to get up at the crack of dawn.

*If there is a musical performance you want to attend and you don't have tickets, go to the box office about 9:00 the day of the performance. Most of the major companies have tickets that are only available on the day. I'm not sure if this is true for plays or not, but the TKTS booths operate under a similar idea. TIP: Wear comfortable shoes.

*If you're in London for any amount of time, you'll probably hit rush hour on the Tube. Be prepared to be squashed up against the person next to you. There's really nothing any of you can do about it. TIP: If there are no handholds available, lean against the wall of the car and plant your feet.

*People in London walk fast. Now, so do I. If you walk more slowly or if you stop in their path, they will just push past you. TIP: If you feel like you simply have to have a photo of X or if you're lost, try to stop at the edge of the sidewalk or Tube platform. Walking fast is an added bonus.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

From death to life and from earth to heaven

It's already dark when we gather in the cavernous church. A few candles punctuate the shadows. We are hushed, exhausted after our long vigil. Friday's mourning services and Saturday's long service and preparations have taken their toll. Like the myrrhbearing women we have gathered before the tomb of Christ. Unlike them, we know the story and in our hearts the first thrills of expectant joy begin to stir.

At midnight all the lights in the church are extinguished. We stand together in the darkness, waiting. Time slips away and none of us could say how long until the first glimmer of light appears. Dancing across the ceiling above the altar, it is the first sign that the event we are all waiting for has come to pass. The clergy begin to sing one of the great hymns:
Thy Resurrection, O Christ our Saviour, the angels in heaven sing. Enable us on earth to glorify Thee in purity of heart.

Quietly at first and then with more and more strength until, still singing, they come out with lit candles. We hold our own to out to them and in a few moments the church is a blaze of light and song.

We process around the outside of the church. Our candles usually go out at least once and in the middle of the night the air is sharp. Our singing is a little breathless, but heartfelt nonetheless. As we return to the front door we re-light our candles from our neighbors'. Then the clergy sing for the first time the greatest hymn:
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tomb bestowing life.

As we enter the church suddenly everything is bright and full of flowers. The miracle has happened. Christ has triumphed over death and sin. We go through the rest of the service, pausing to cry out, "Christ is risen!" and to hear the answering, "In truth He is risen!"

Then, because we are Orthodox, we have a feast. Our whole being is rejoicing.

In the early hours of the morning we make our way home. We are even more exhausted but there is a smile on our lips and song in our hearts because the Day of Days has once more come and our Lord is Risen.

Originally published on the IDD blog.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

I really am sorry about the lack of posting here. All I can say is that my time is limited and even more so now that I have only a month left here. So hold on for a month and hopefully when I'm home posting will be much more regular.

In the meantime, here are some posts I've written about my spring break experience: