12 August 2012

Voloshin's 'Holy Russia'


I am no longer quite the Russophile that I once was, but I still think a bit about Mother Russia every once in a while. I believe it was while I was turning over in my mind the words ‘all Rus’ from the commemoration of Patriarch Kiril in the liturgy this morning that I thought of one of my favourite poems from my Russophile days. In his wonderful anthology, The Heritage of Russian Verse, Sir Dimitri Obolensky included two pieces by a minor poet named Maximilian Voloshin (1877-1932). The second is entitled ‘Святая Русь’, or ‘Holy Russia’. Here is Obolensky’s ‘plain prose translation’ arranged into lines roughly reflecting the Russian verses, with a few interesting words from the Russian in brackets: 

Was it not for you that Suzdal' and Moscow
gathered the land apanage by apanage,
collected gold in a tightly packed bag,
stored up a dowry in their coffers,
and reared you as a bride
in a narrow [расписном], frescoed tower-room [терему]? 
Was it not for you that the Carpenter-Tsar [Плотник-Царь]
built by the sources of rivers a spacious house,
with windows looking out on to the five seas of the earth?
With your beauty and warlike strength
were you not the most desirable of brides
for the sons of foreign princes? 
But from childhood you had a liking
for wooden hermitages [скитов] deep in the forests,
for trackless lands of nomads in the steppes,
for free open spaces, for ascetics’ chains,
for pretenders, felons, and unfrocked monks,
for the whistling of Nightingale the Robber [Соловьиный посвист], and for prisons. [1] 
You did not want to belong to the Tsar,
and this is the way things turned out:
the enemy whispered: ‘Scatter and squander,
give away your treasure to the rich,
your power to slaves, your strength to your enemies,
to villeins your honour, to traitors your keys.’ 
You lent your ear to the evil counsel,
you gave yourself to the robber and to the felon,
you set fire to your suburbs and crops,
you laid waste your ancient dwelling-place,
and you went out humiliated and a beggar,
and the slave of the meanest slave. 
Shall I dare cast a stone at you?
Shall I condemn your wild and passionate flame?
Shall I not bow down [поклонюсь] before you with my face in the mud,
blessing the trace of your bare foot,
you homeless, wanton, drunken
Russia—fool in Christ [во Христе юродивая Русь]! [2] 

I never bothered to learn anything about Voloshin beyond Obolensky’s brief note that he was ‘a Symbolist...chiefly remarkable for his poems inspired by the Revolution which he hated and feared, but accepted as part of Russia’s spiritual destiny.’ [3] However, for the sake of this post I decided to consult Evelyn Bristol’s chapter on the years 1895-1925 for The Cambridge History of Russian Literature. Here is what I found: 

The minor poet Maximilian Voloshin (real name: Kirienko-Voloshin, 1877-1932) grew up in the Crimea and was later expelled from Moscow University for political activity. After spending several months in Siberia he went to Paris to continue his education, and there fell under the influence of José-Maria de Heredia for his own work. After travelling extensively in Mediterranean countries, he published a collection of poetry in Russia in 1910. Though his poems are often responses to such particular geographical locations as Paris, the Mediterranean, or the Crimea, they are characteristically intimate reflections on broad cultural themes, incorporating frequent allusions to myths, history, and biblical events. he could create memorable scens of the bleak coastal heights of the Crimea, and he knew the value of small but telling details. His overall philosophy was pessimistic from the start, however. 
After experiencing the First World War, the revolution of 1917 and the ensuing civil war, Voloshin wrote anti-militaristic works of which the most popular was Deaf-Mute Demons (Demony glukhonemye, 1919), which dealt with the violence and atrocities then afflicting contemporary Russia. He moved permanently to the Crimea, to Koktebel, where his house became a refuge for friends of all political and literary stripes and his poetry was infused with Christian mysticism and a new sense of mission. After 1923, however, he could no longer publish. [4] 


[1] Obolensky has a footnote on ‘Nightingale the Robber’ which reads, ‘A fantastic creature of Russian heroic poetry, half bird, half man.’ 

[2] Sir Dimitri Obolensky, ed., The Heritage of Russian Verse (Bloomington, IN: Indiana U, 1976), pp. 257-8. 

[3] Ibid., p. xxii. 


[4] Evelyn Bristol, ‘Turn of a century: modernism, 1895-1925’, The Cambridge History of Russian Literature, rev. ed., ed. Charles A. Moser (Cambridge: Cambridge U, 1995), p. 425. 

04 August 2012

CiRCE Report, Part I


I’ve decided rather than posting my CiRCE report all at once, to instead make it a two-parter. So here is Part 1, dealing with the various speakers heard on Thursday, 19 July. 

As I mentioned before, the conference theme was ‘A Contemplation of Creation’. Nine of us set out from OKC, including my wife and me and my terrific boss, Nathan Carr. We arrived Wednesday evening in time to stop by and say hello to Joshua Sturgill and Erin Doom, who were setting up the Eighth Day Books table, before heading to the welcoming reception. There, after reconnecting with Matt Bianco, Buck Holler, and Andrew Kern himself, I finally met the delightful Darren and Kimberly Jahn. Kimberly had recently (?) begun reading Logismoi and had already ingratiated herself by sending me a free copy of David Hicks’s Norms & Nobility. My wife and I decided to crash their dinner plans and get to know them a bit for the rest of the evening. 

Thursday morning began with an opening talk by Andrew Kern called ‘A Contemplation of Creation, Part I’. After an oligatory but meditative look at Genesis 1, Andrew quoted from Dorothy Sayers’s Mind of the Maker: ‘As soon as the mind of the maker has been made manifest in a work, a way of communication is established between other minds and his. That is to say, it is possible for a reader, by reading a book, to discover something about the mind of the writer.’ [1] This established the prevailing theme of the talk—the role of analogy in our understanding of God and creation. I don’t recall whether Andrew quoted it or not, but Wisdom 13:5 is a good statement of the thesis that makes use of the very term he emphasises—‘For by the greatness and beauty of the creatures analogously [ἀναλόγως] the Maker of them is seen.’ According to Andrew, our ‘habit of mind’ vis-a-vis creation should be primarily one of analogy rather than one of analysis.  

Next there was another plenary session, with John Mason Hodges talking about ‘Music & Metaphor: Towards a Sacramental View of Creation’. Hodges opened by emphasising that the Scriptural metaphors used for Christ—the vine, the bread, etc.—use things made by Him in order to describe Him. In other words, Christ is not ‘like’ a vine, the vine is ‘like’ Christ. He then segued into the topic of music by pointing out that metaphors function by bringing two things together in harmony—the sign and the signified. The bulk of the talk however consisted of an analysis of three movements from Holst’s The Planets—Jupiter, Mars, and Venus—and of the Louis Armstrong/Ella Fitzgerald duet, ‘Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off’. Hodges highlighted the metaphorical meanings in the music of Holst’s suite, and of the lyrics (primarily) of the Gershwin composition (focusing in particular on the lines ‘But oh, if we call the whole thing off / Then we must part / and oh, if we ever part, then that might break my heart’). 

At the first breakout session, I chose to attend a talk by Edward Chandler on ‘Language & Creation: Man, the Image of God’. Chandler began by discussing the imago Dei, arguing that approaches to the subject could be grouped into three categories: the material (entailing an anthropomorphic theology); the psychic/noetic, i.e., the idea that the soul or mind is the image, and is merely housed in a container (Chandler thought that this seemed to be the tendency of St Augustine as well as what he called ‘my beloved Cappadocians’!); and finally, the composite, a psychosomatic emphasis, which he identified with Aquinas (but I associated primarily with St Gregory Palamas and the Philocalic tradition generally). Chandler’s point was that language as a God-given ability was bound up with the imago in part because it is itself a psychosomatic unity (immaterial thought or meaning + material sign), but also because human language is analogous to God, who uses language to create in Genesis. Chandler connected this with liberal studies by pointing out that the inevitable offspring of language is literature, and that we learn classical languages in order to read literatures. In this way, language enables us to know ourselves as human beings. For Chandler, this meant that Latin instruction, for instance, should move as quickly as possible into the reading of texts, and not focus on grammar per se

Lunch on Thursday was spent in the charming company of Dr John Patrick of Augustine College in Ottawa, an abridgement of whose essay, ‘The Myth of Moral Neutrality’, I had just read in Doxa, the newsletter of St Michael’s Skete. Unfortunately, Dr Patrick’s deep well of fascinating stories made me quite late to the next breakout—Earl Nelson’s earnest talk on ‘Contemplating Babel: The Spiritual Dimensions of Learning Latin & Languages’. Nelson discussed the story of Babel as an account of the splitting up, not only of languages, but of cultures and thought-worlds. He sees it as a locus of estrangement on two levels—between different cultures (usually a synchronic estrangement), and between a present culture and its own past (more like a diachronic estrangement). Nelson saw language learning as the process of a becoming part of another culture and overcoming the divisions of Babel. He was quite firm about the importance of gaining fluency in reading the classical languages, and not being content merely to produce translations, whether mental or written. 

Thursday came to an end with a 3-man panel consisting of Martin Cothran, David Hicks, and Gregory Wolfe (of Image Journal) discussing Christian views of creation while in the roles of St Athanasius the Great, St Basil the Great, and St Augustine, respectively. In the spirit of the KU Pearson Integrated Humanities Program, on which this feature of CiRCE conferences is based, I did not take notes. Instead I simply sat and listened, and when Andrew Kern refilled the participants’ wine glasses, managed to procure a swig for myself. It started very slowly and awkwardly (though not without humour), but ended up being an interesting discussion. I was thrilled to hear Hicks (St Basil) tell Cothran (St Athanasius) that his favourite book by him was the Vita Antonii (as I mentioned here). Wolfe repeatedly mentioned ‘hanging out’ with a bunch of no-goodniks who theologically denigrated creation (the Manichaeans), and emphasised that his Confessions highlighted the allegory of Genesis in part to overturn Manichaean ideas. Unfortunately, Hicks seemed to get a bit confused about St Basil’s dates, but I doubt any non-Patristics folks noticed. 

Because the CiRCE prize-giving banquet was scheduled for Friday eve, the PH staff elected to have our traditional dinner out together on Thursday evening. I ate a sickening number of ribs at Ramsi’s Cafe in Louisville, browsed a bookshop, and had a brief conversation with Joshua Sturgill (of Eighth Day), Stacy Shipman (itinerant Orthodox student/teacher), and Nyleen Lacy (of the brand-new Orthodox classical school, Christ the Savior Academy in Wichita) before returning to the hotel to find part of its roof had been ripped off by a tornado. Thanks to God, no one seems to have been injured. 


[1] Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979), p. 49.

03 August 2012

Liturgical Consummation, Part III: St John Damascene


This will be the final installment in my ‘Liturgical Consummation’ series of posts consisting of excised material from a forthcoming paper called ‘Likeness & Approach: M.M. Bakhtin, C.S. Lewis, & the Liturgical Consummation of Literary Genre’ (first post here, second here). The more time goes by since I wrote these, the less I like them, but here you go anyway. 


c) St John Damascene 

The Paschal Canon (Anastaseos emera) of St John Damascene (c. 655-c. 750) [1]—still sung at the Easter Vigil in all churches of the Byzantine rite [2]—is a supreme example of the paradoxical possibilities of Christian liturgical poetry. Egon Wellesz notes that this hymn is traditionally referred to as ‘The Golden Canon’ or ‘The Queen of Canons’, [3] and the great Modern Greek writer and painter, Photios Kontoglou calls it ‘immortal’. [4] The canon form, like the Ambrosian stanzas used by St Venantius, constitutes a divergence from the ancient genres stemming from the acceptance among Christian poets of the loss of the classical long- / short-vowel distinction in the ancient meters. Already with the kontakion, the generic predecessor of the canon, ‘A new system of versification had developed based on the principle that all the stanzas had to have the same number of syllables as the Hirmus [the eirmos, or model-strophe of the form] on which they were modeled and that the stress accents had to have the same place in all the stanzas as in the verses of the Hirmus.’ [5] It was a new prosody based on the changing sound-patterns of the living language—which had become ‘qualitatively a different thing for the consciousness that creates in it’ [6]—yet still requiring great skill to compose. [7] A canon consisted of eight or nine ‘odes,’ each made up of six to nine stanzas (or troparia), but later only two, based on the same eirmos. [8] 

Here are the first stanza of the ‘First Ode’ (the eirmos of that ode) and the third stanza of the ‘Third Ode’ (really the second of the odes, since there is no ‘Second Ode’ on Pascha) of St John’s Paschal canon: 

This is the day of Resurrection
let us be radiant, O peoples [laoi]:
Pascha, the Lord’s Pascha;
for from death to life
and from earth to heaven
Christ God
hath passed us,
as we sing the victory hymn. 
Yesterday I was buried with Thee, O Christ,
I arise with Thee today in Thy Resurrection.
I was crucified with Thee yesterday—
glorify me with Thyself, O Savior,
in Thy Kingdom. [9] 

The Subject of the first of these stanzas is appropriately Heroic, and the faithful rightly sing to Him a victory hymn. Note the contrasts, however, between death and life, earth and heaven: the poet is acknowledging the lowliness inherent in nearness to God by approach by describing human beings as being ‘passed’ [10] by Christ from the lowliness of death and earth to a share in the God-like categories of life and heaven. The poet addresses ‘peoples,’ the term laos, which St John uses in the plural. This apostrophe represents the intermingling of different cultures and classes in the assembly of the Church, St Ephrem’s ‘Church of the Nations’. [11] But while the laos certainly constitutes the ‘visible community’ that performs the ‘mysterious work (ergon)’ of the liturgy, [12] in a further dimension of the polyphony of the hymn, the apostrophe also calls upon the Church Triumphant, which is invisible, as it seeks ‘assistance for projects related to the vocation of the liturgical journey’. [13] More importantly, the second-person plural verb ‘let us be radiant’ (lamprynthomen) identifies the poet with the people, once again, in a chorus: Bakhtin almost seems to be speaking of this canon when he writes, ‘This expression of value [here, of the desire for life, for heaven] becomes strong and powerful (not naturally and physically, but axiologically strong and powerful, axiologically victorious and conquering) only in the chorus of others.’ [14] 

The second stanza quoted here recognizes the paradox by which it is in crucifixion and burial with Christ—by following the cruciform way of approach—that one draws near to God and puts on His divine qualities. Our nearness, the intermingling of the Highest and the lowest, is signified by the prefix syn- attached to each of the Greek verbs in the stanza and represented in English by the preposition ‘with’. But this sharing is only made possible by the Incarnation, the prior condescension of God Himself. [15] A reference to this hymn in the work of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century Greek writer, Alexandros Papadiamandis, should make a fitting coda to these observations: 

[Upon hearing the] allegro, the first hirmos, that is to say, of the canon of the day [Easter] . . . [little Toto] leapt for joy, and her little face lit up. Her eyes, her mouth, her cheeks, all became more beautiful and smiled an ineffable smile of joy. It moved me. It seems that those inspired songs of our holy Church truly have an ineffable fragrance and beauty, witnessed to from the mouths of babes and sucklings. [16] 

In the doxological mode of liturgical poetry, the poet is able to celebrate the humble and the lowly, that which is near to God by approach—‘For,’ as a Byzantine hymn for the Nativity asks, ‘what is meaner than a cave, what is humbler than swaddling clothes?’ [17] But through paradox these poets lose none of the solemnity, the ‘specific delightfulness’ of ritual, which is nearness by likeness—‘Yet therein shone forth the wealth of Thy divinity: glory to Thee, O Lord.’ [18] It is in this way—holding in tension the categories of nearness to God by likeness and approach—that liturgical poetry represents a ‘consummation’ of literature. 


[1] These dates are based on Fr Andrew Louth, St John Damascene: Tradition & Originality in Byzantine Theology (Oxford: Oxford U, 2002), p. 5. 

[2] It was also turned into a rather unimpressive English hymn by the great John Mason Neale: Hymn 132 in Hymns Ancient & Modern, standard ed. (London: William Clowes, 1916), p. 133. It is easy to see why even the ‘hymns ancient’ are not exempted from Lewis’s criticism of the book in Reflections on the Psalms, p. 94. 

[3] Egon Wellesz, A History of Byzantine Music & Hymnography, 2nd ed. (London: Oxford U, 1961), p. 206. 

[4] Constantine Cavarnos, Byzantine Sacred Art (Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine & Modern Greek Studies), p. 145. 

[5] Wellesz, p. 181. 

[6] Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, ed. Michael Holquist, tr. Caryl Emerson & Michael Holquist (Austin: U of Texas, 1998), p. 12. 

[7] Wellesz, pp. 181-2. 

[8] Wellesz, p. 198. 

[9] My translation. For the full Greek text with translation, see Wellesz, pp. 207-14. 

[10] This is a reference to the Hebrew meaning of ‘Pascha’ inspired by the Oration 45.10 of St Gregory of Nazianzus. For the passage in St Gregory see St Gregory the Theologian, On God & Christ: The Five Theological Orations & The Letter to Cledonius, tr. Frederick Williams & Lionel Wickham (Crestwood, NY: SVS, ), p. 170; for an analysis of St John’s use of the orations of St Gregory in this hymn see Louth, p. 260. 

[11] Sebastian Brock, The Luminous Eye: The Spiritual World Vision of St Ephrem, rev. ed. (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian, 1992), p. 119. 

[12] Catherine Pickstock, After Writing: On the Liturgical Consummation of Philosophy (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998), p. 159. 

[13] Pickstock, p. 193. 

[14] Mikhail Bakhtin, Art & Answerability, eds. Michael Holquist & Vadim Liapunov, tr. Vadim Liapunov (Austin: U of Texas, 1995), p. 169. 

[15] Louth, p. 262. 

[16] Qtd. in Anestis Keselopoulos, Greece’s Dostoevsky: The Theological Vision of Alexandros Papadiamandis (Thessaloniki: Protecting Veil, 2011), pp. 173-4. 

[17] The Festal Menaion, tr. Mother Mary & Archimandrite Kallistos (Ware) (South Canaan, PA: STS, 1998), p. 272. 

[18] Ibid., p. 272.

01 August 2012

'Quickly to Saint Elias'

Today, 20 July on the Church’s calendar, we celebrate the memory of the Prophet Elijah the Tishbite (believed to have lived in the 9th century BC). I did a full post on St Elijah way back in 2009 when I was still a relatively new blogger. This will not be a full post in the old Logismoi style, but merely a couple of things I thought of posting related to the Prophet. 

First of all, it has long been noted that St Elijah has been taken as a type of the Christian monk. William Harmless has, for instance, pointed out the Elijah typology in St Athanasius’s famous Vita Antonii (which David Hicks at the CiRCE conference called his favourite book by St Athanasius): 

The most significant biblical type for Antony is Elijah. Athanasius says that Antony ‘used to tell himself that from the career of the prophet Elijah, as from a mirror, the ascetic must always acquire knowledge of his own life’ (VA 7). [1] Like Elijah, Antony is called a ‘man of God’ (VA 70; cf. 1 Kgs 17:18; 2 Kgs 1:9-13). Like Elijah, he dwells in the desert and is described as ‘seated in his mountain’ (VA 59, 60, 66, 84, 93; cf. 2 Kgs 1:9). Like Elijah, he win [sic] duels against those who worship false gods and foretells the death of a military commander who comes out to the desert to seize him (VA 86; cf. 1 Kgs 18, 2 Kgs 1). In 2 Kings, Elijah hands down his cloak to his disciple Elisha; in the Life, Antony has two Elishas, so to speak, handing down one sheepskin and his cloak to Athanasius and the other sheepskin to Serapion (VA 91; cf. 2 Kgs 2:13 ff.). In the preface, Athanasius says that he learned all that he could of Antony form a longtime disciple who had ‘poured water over his hands’, an allusion to 2 Kgs 3:11, in which Elisha is described as pouring water into the hands of Elijah. This Elisha-like informant was, presumably, Serapion (VA praef.). [2] 

Somewhat along the lines of the comment Harmless cites from VA 7, St Macarius the Great seems to find a deeper significance to the connection between the Prophet Elijah and the monastic life than the external desert life per se. In Homily 6.2, St Macarius writes: 

It is not becoming a servant of God to live in a state of disturbance, but rather in all tranquility and wisdom as the Prophet said, ‘Unto whom shall I look but unto him that is meek and quiet and that trembles at my words?’ (Is 66:2). And in the times of Moses and Elijah we find that in the visions granted them, even though there was a great display of trumpets and powers before the majesty of the Lord, still, amidst all of these things, the coming of the Lord was discerned and he appeared in peace and tranquillity and quietness. For it says: ‘Lo, a still, silent voice and the Lord was in it’ (1 Kgs 19:12). This proves that the Lord’s rest is in peace and tranquillity. For whatever foundation a person lays and whatever beginning he makes, he will continue in that until the end. [3] 

So the experience of the Prophet Elijah on Mt Horeb is taken as a model of the contemplative (theoretic) life—indeed, of hesychia itself. 

It is interesting to note that in the West, the model of the Prophet Elijah eventually became connected especially with an order that—while it later became part of the movement of mendicant friars, along with Franciscans and Dominicans—was originally a collection of hermits living in the Holy Land on Mt Carmel itself during the Crusades. As Thomas Merton observes: 

The Carmelites were originally hermits. And of course their life was the traditional hermit life known to the East from the earliest centuries of the Church. They lived as the desert fathers had lived eight hundred years earlier....They were in fact simple laymen, living as solitaries in a loosely connected group, in caves and huts on the side of Mt Carmel. Their manner of life was not yet institutionalized, and even when [c. 1209-1214] they first asked for a Rule, from the hands of the [Latin] Patriarch of Jerusalem [Albert of Jerusalem], that Rule was, as we shall see, deliberately kept simple and uncomplicated....In the words of the Rule itself, [the purpose of the Carmelite life] was: ‘Let each one remain in his cell or near it, meditating day and night on the Law of the Lord, and vigilant in prayer, unless he is legitimately occupied in something else.’ [4] 

And on the connection with the Prophet Elijah, ‘the symbolic adoption by the Carmelites of the prophet Elias as their “Founder”’: 

It is quite true that the hermits living on the slopes of Mt Carmel, near the ‘spring of Elias’, where the prophet himself had prayed and dwelt alone, and where the ‘sons of the prophets’ had had a ‘school’, [5] could themselves claim to be descendants of the ancient prophets. It is quiet true that Elias, in a broad sense, was the ‘founder’ of this way of life since he had in fact been the inspiration of those countless generations that had lived there in the places shallowed by his memory and stamped with his indelible character. [6] 


Finally, Merton notes that the Carmelites too found a deep typology in the Prophet of what appears to an Orthodox reader as an almost hesychastic contemplative experience of their own: 


The author of that moving ancient text on the spirit of Carmelite prayer and contemplation, the Institution of the first Fathers, interprets the retirement of Elias in typical medieval style. To hide in the torren of Carith (2 Kgs 17:3) is to embrace the ascetical life, which leads to the perfection of charity by one’s own efforts, aided by the grace of God. To drink of the torrent is to passively receive the secret light of contemplation from God and to be inwardly transformed by His wisdom: ‘...to taste, in a certain manner, in our heart, and to experience in our spirit the power of the divine presence and the sweetness of the glory from on high, not only after death but even in this mortal life. That is what is really meant by drinking from the torrent of the joy of God...’ [7] 

One wonders if these Latin pilgrims had perhaps learned something from Orthodox monks that may have been living in the area. 

Finally, to bring the consideration of St Elijah down to the level of the ordinary life of traditional Christian laymen, in her fascinating book, Cosmos, Life & Liturgy in a Greek Orthodox Village, Juliet du Boulay writes: 

...there is a hint, in a poem to the Prophet Elias (Elijah) quoted later, that mountain tops are regarded as openings to the heavenly world. This prophet customarily has his churches on the tops of hills and mountains, so the invocation of Elias is the invocation of one who, as the inhabitant of the mountain peaks, lives at the point where earth meets heaven. [8] 

Eventually, du Boulay makes good on her promise to quote the poem, sung by young girls who perform a traditional folk ritual in traditional Greek villages on 1 May: 


Quickly, quickly,
Quickly to Saint Elias;
And Saint Elias to the sky
So that God will send rain
For the wheat, for the barley,
For all the grains of God.
Holes, holes for the wine,
Channels, channels for the water.
The farmer with his mattock
To stop the water running out. [9] 

In du Boulay’s words: 

The song takes the form of a call to the village to appeal to the Prophet Elias, previously noted as having his churches on mountain tops in reflection of his vision of God on Mt Horeb, so that he will intercede ‘for all the grains of God’, and its structure is parallel with a similar prayer made every week in the Divine Liturgy during the Litany of Peace: ‘For temperate weather, for abundance of the fruits of the eath, and for peaceful seasons, let us pray to the Lord.’ The structure in both is of an intercession made directly to a holy figure, and what is prayed for, translated as temperate weather (εὐκρασία ἀέρων), means precisely a good mixture or a good balance of the atmosphere, whose consequence is fruitfulness. Thus the symbolic language, which could be ambiguous on its own, is in the song and the mime that accompanies it made into a pattern of words and actions which is continuous with the pattern of prayer offered in church. [10] 


Although I’ve never witnessed this little ritual, I did have the good fortune once to attend a Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Prophet Elijah at one of these little hilltop churches du Boulay mentions. My chief memories are of a woolly Pontian priest whose Greek dialect I couldn’t understand at all, and of the lingering breakfast in the cool shade just outside of the church. 


[1] This remarkable comment is found on p. 37 of Robert Gregg’s translation—St Athanasius the Great, The Life of Antony & The Letter to Marcellinus, tr. Robert C. Gregg (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 1980), p. 37. 

[2] William Harmless, Desert Christians: An Introduction to the Literature of Early Monasticism (Oxford: Oxford U, 2004), p. 70. I've added the citations from VA and from Scripture to the text, whereas Harmless had them in endnotes. 

[3] St Macarius the Great, Pseudo-Macarius: The Fifty Spiritual Homilies & The Great Letter, tr. George A. Maloney (NY: Paulist, 1992), p. 76. 


[4] Thomas Merton, ‘The Primitive Carmelite Ideal’, Disputed Questions (NY: The New American Library, 1965), p. 168. 


[5] Merton notes here: ‘Schola not only in the sense of a place where one learns, but in the more original and etymological sense of a place of leisure, quiet and retirement, where one can think deeply’ (ibid., p. 169, n. 2). 

[6] Ibid., p. 169. 

[7] Ibid., p. 172. 

[8] Juliet du Boulay, Cosmos, Life, & Liturgy in a Greek Orthodox Village (Limni, Evia, Greece: Denise Harvey, 2009), pp. 33-4. 

[9] Ibid., p. 88. 

[10] Ibid., p. 89.