{    Cnytr   }

{Monday, December 06, 2010  }

.:{Cnytr's Wedding}:.

Oh by the way, I realized I never posted photos from our awesome Traddie wedding.

Going to the chapel, etc, with my Maid of Honor on my right, but that is not my Mother, clad in pearls of Ophir on my life ... it's my sister. Just clad in ... pearls.

The gathering outside, with all its biretta-ed glory.
More photos of this and the procession:
1. Here; the servers are family friends of mine since forever, there are two seminarian friends there from college, one friend of a friend, the celebrant who is one of my BFFs, and my great uncle is there as the subdeacon.
2. Meanwhile...
3. The procession also had one KHS...
4. ...and a Dominican and Ukrainian Catholic priest, the latter the pastor of my home parish, the former a very very very newly-ordained (like, the week before) friend of mine from DC.
5. More birettas.
6. The liturgical choir.

I and my new husband.

SWORD ARCH ... with Army, Navy, AND Marines!

And aside from this ...

...our wedding occasionally had the look of a Stella Artois commercial:

Please keep myself, my husband, and our unborn baby boy (due in late March) in your prayers!
posted by Lauren, 1:02 AM | link | 2 comments

{Sunday, December 05, 2010  }

.:{Advent Thoughts on a Byzantine Carol}:.

platytera ton ouranon -- More Spacious than the Heavens

Since the move to Japan with my husband, I have gotten involved with the Catholic choir on base. This pregnancy has been tough so far, with three months of morning sickness in which I could hardly stand, and for most of which I was alone; after that, a period of recovery, and then two weeks of the flu. After that, about a week and a half of feeling well before catching my husband's cold as he returned home for the Thanksgiving holiday. The choir, however, has been, in a practical way, a goal and a focus... something to obsess over instead of how badly I feel most of the time. Also, I just love it anyway. I've sung with choirs off and on since I was a child, most recently in DC with both Ukrainian Catholics and Orthodox.

This Advent, I was able to slip into our repertoire a Christmas hymn which I fell in love with during those three months of morning sickness (during most of which, I was unable to attend Mass ... the longest period ever in my life. Because I could not really go out -- at all -- I listened to a lot of liturgical music).

Since I found out I was pregnant, on the very day even, I was suddenly struck with the mystery and awe of it all. There is a whole new life growing within me. There is a person somehow contained within me, a person in all his depth of humanity, with all the immortality of his immortal soul. I suddenly felt like a kind of tabernacle, and for the first time in my life finally, finally understood on more than an intellectual level the devotion to Our Lady, the Theotokos.

However, this is just I, with my little person, my little Andy who, wonderful and awe-inspiring as he is, is nonetheless human. In his seeming limitless, he is still a created and finite being, whose beginning began with his conception. But Mary is all the more to be contemplated for her child. The hymn, which contemplates the titles of Mary, is called What shall we call you (you can purchase the track for $0.99 here; it's well worth your less-than-a-dollar).

The words to the hymn are:

What shall we call you, Full of Grace?
Shall "Heaven" be your name?
For shining forth from you has come
The Righteous Son, the same.

Or shall we name you "Paradise"
For God's immortal Flower?
Or shall "the Virgin" be your name,
All-pure by God's own power?

"Pure Mother" shall we call you, then,
Who held the Holy Son?
O pray to God for us
To save us, everyone.

I love how the carol starts with the revelation of what we know of Mary -- we know we can call her "Full of Grace", as the Angel did. But there is so much to contemplate about her that this cannot fully exhaust the mystery of who she is as the Theotokos. Indeed, her carrying of the Christ child in her womb makes her like Heaven -- more spacious than the heavens, in fact (see the icon above), because God, who created all, cannot be contained in His creation, whether on earth or in heaven. Yet, Mary contained him in her womb for nine months.

Also she is like heaven, as from her Christ our Light was born (c.f. Revelation 12). Christ is the great Light, the Sun/Son, as this liturgical Ode hails:

Sovereign Lady, you are a new heaven. From your womb, as from a cloud, you hasten to make Christ, the sun of glory, dawn in a cave in the flesh, for by his own bright rays he is going to make all the fullness of the earth cry aloud because of his measureless compassion.

Christ is also hailed as the Light-giver in the very-famous Vespers hymn phos hilaron, of Greek origin and in use both in the East and West.

Some pious interpretations of the Annunciation (from Ephraim, I believe, and later referenced by both Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Augustine) has the hearing of the Annunciation and the Fiat as almost one event, a conceptio per aurem -- that is, Mary conceiving through her ear, in a ray of light.

15th century Annunciation by Crivelli; the ray of light is clearly visible here

However cute and quaint this seems, it emphasizes her role as Second Eve, for as Eve heard the words of Satan and became the vessel by which sin entered the world, Mary heard the words of the Angel and became the virginal vessel by which Redemption entered the world: "By means of the serpent, the Evil One poured out his poison in the ear of Eve; the Good One brought low His mercy and entered through Mary's ear: through the gate by which death entered, life also entered, putting death to death." (Also -- gives new meaning to "Faith comes through hearing"!).

Note, too, that this light is also sometimes visualized in the Crucifixion in the piercing of Christ's side.

Back to the Eve/Mary references, here I may start to wander away from traditional Eastern interpretations of these images, simply because I've been imbued with the Western way of thinking about these things.

"Paradise for God's Immortal Flower" -- this seems mostly like an obvious Christological reference. She is the hortus conclusus, the West would say anyway, the enclosed garden of Song of Songs 12, which has never been entered by anyone. Her virginity is a blooming of virtues, but Christ is the fruit and flower brought forth miraculously from this garden. Mary is also seen as the shoot from the stump of Jesse, bringing forth Christ the Immortal Bloom of Salvation. Hildegard von Bingen writes about this in her O viridissima virga:

Hail, O greenest branch,
you who have branched forth in the windy blast
of the quest of the saints.

When the time came
for you to bloom among your boughs,
(hail, hail to you!)
for the sun's heat distilled in you
a fragrance like balsam.

For a beautiful flower blossomed in you,
which gave its scent
to all the spices
that were so dry.

And then all appeared
in full greenness.

Then the heavens dropped dew upon the grass
and the whole earth was made glad,
for her womb brought forth grain,
and the birds of heaven
built their nests in it.

Then food was made for all people,
and great was the joy of the banqueters.
Hence, O sweet Virgin,
in you no joy is lacking.

Eve despised all these things.

But now let praise be to the Most High.

The horticultural image can be taken even farther: as one man brought sin into the world by the fruit of a tree, so one man redeemed us from sin by becoming the fruit (sometimes also thought of as a blossom or flower, as here) which hangs from the tree of the cross. As Eve was the vessel of the first transgression, Mary is the vessel of the great Redeemer. Adam consumed the fruit and was condemned; we consume the fruit (Christ in the Eucharist) and are saved.

Incidentally, the balls which hang from Christmas trees was a Teutonic reference to the fruit which Adam took; a Christmas tree is a kind of reminder of why we need Christmas.

However, the floral reference may be equally applied to Mary herself and her perpetual virginity. Mary herself is known in the East by the names of the "Unfading Flower" or the "Unwithering Flower" or "Flower of Incorruption"; the icon above, juxtaposing both her Divine Child and the flowers of her virginity, juxtapose these two things. Although more ado would be made in the West than in the East about her Immaculate Conception, her perpetual virginity is quite often lauded by the faithful.

Indeed, the very last verse of the hymn moves more explicitly to this mysterious juxtaposition of Mary's virginity and motherhood, as she is the Pure Mother whom we exhort to pray to her Son for our salvation (a constant refrain in the Divine Liturgy is, "Through the prayers of the Mother of God, save us who sing to you"). The Akathist hymn celebrates her special position in this regard: “Rejoice, thou through whom creation is renewed... Rejoice, thou through whom and in whom the Creator is adored... Rejoice, heavenly ladder, through whom God has descended... Rejoice, bridge leading those on earth to heaven... Rejoice, supplication before the Righteous Judge... O thou who didst bear the world’s Salvation, through thee are we raised from earth unto heaven’s heights... Rejoice, O fiery pillar that doth lead all mortal men to the life on high." Even in the west, St. Fulgentius calls her the ladder: "Mary became ... the heavenly ladder, for by Mary God descended from heaven into the world, that by her men might ascend from earth to heaven." "And thou, O Lady, wast filled with grace, that thou mightest be the way of our salvation, and the means of ascent to the heavenly kingdom," says St. Athanasius.

A pre-Christmas ode sums up our Advent awe:

Virgin without bridegroom, where have you come from? Who begot you? And who is your mother? How do you carry the Creator in your arms? How was your womb not corrupted? We see great marvels have come to pass on earth, All-holy, and we make ready in advance that which fits your need: the Cave from the earth; and we ask heaven to provide the Star; and Magi are advancing from the eastern regions of the earth towards the west, to look on the salvation of mortals being suckled as a babe.
posted by Lauren, 4:19 PM | link | 0 comments