Review of The Sacred Spirit of Russia CD

Review of The Sacred Spirit of Russia CD, performed by Conspirare, conducted by Craig Hella Johnson

The organization of of the CD is marvelous, following the outline of the Divine Liturgy. The Troparion and Kontakion and festal Trisagion and Magnification are of Christmas. There is an extended “Concert” section (the special music that the choir sings during the communion of the major clergy) including a couple of Lenten selections “Nynye Sily” (Now the Powers of Heaven) and “Nye Otvyerzhi” (Do not abandon me)

The tempos on “Let our mouths be filled” by Rachmaninov and Kedrov’s “Our Father” were a bit on the slow side; both of these works need a more energetic tempo.

The pieces that stand out from the rest are the Ippolitov-Ivanov Bless the Lord O my soul, the Chesnokov Cherubic Hymn, the Kastalsky Mercy of Peace.

Nye Otvyerzhi was magnificent with Glenn Miller singing the solo. Chesnokov wrote this piece for a very good and low Octavist. He later rewrote the ending for those who can’t hit a low G1. The revised ending is what most basses (even Russian basses) sing today. Glenn has the ability to sing the original ending, being likely the first Octavist to perform the original ending in concerts in the USA, premiering it almost two years ago with the Illumni Men’s Chorale.

The tenor who did the cantillation seems to know how the individual words are pronounced but did not know how they work in a sentence. The Sopranos’ vibrato did not match the rest of the ensemble. This gave the feeling sometimes that they were not quite a part of the rest of the group. Intonation was excellent. On the whole, there could have been more attention paid to the consonants. The men and altos did wonderfully.

This is well worth the price of the CD just to get Glenn Miller singing Nye Otvyerzhi with the original ending. And as a bonus you get a very competent choir singing wonderful music.

On February 8, 2015 this album won a grammy

The CD is available through Musica Russica.

http://www.musicarussica.com/search/results?fulltext=Spirit+of+Russia

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Sunday of Orthodoxy: Icons and Iconoclasm

Sunday of Orthodoxy: Icons and iconoclasm

The Sunday of Orthodoxy gives me pause to consider.

The Sunday of Orthodox celebrates the restoration of Holy Ikons to the Church.

While I decry, with the Church, the lack of understanding of the Incarnation of God in the flesh that underlies iconoclasm, it is upon me to look inward. Have I not done violence to the Image and likeness of God in myself? Am I not thus, in some form, an iconoclast?

Honouring the Image of God in me requires that I allow Him to transform my Mind (NOUS) to be renewed, restored, transformed. This is hard. It is a life-long struggle. For as the Light of God illumines me little by little, I get to see the dust and dirt that needs to be cleaned, and the trash that needs to be taken out.

In this Sunday we are reminded that God took flesh. And since He did this it is not only permissible but NECESSARY to have ikons. When I apply that to myself, I find that God is insisting that I become His likeness. In this way His Incarnation continues in the Church through Communion, and through our treatment of the least  of these. In this God is calling me to be a saint. Part of me wants to be a saint; part of me rebels.

Since the day also honors the prophets, the second question must be: Have I done violence to the Image of God in others? This is what Jesus says the Last Judgement will be based on. Have I increased the burden of the afflicted? the hungry? the homeless? the ill clad? Have I failed to minister to the Image of God in the least of these? Have I failed to pay the worker a living wage? Have I made the disabled’s life more difficult or been impatient with them? Have I murdered with my attitudes of hate or indifference?  These are the questions I must look at this second week of Lent.

O Lord and Master of my Life, give me not the spirit of laziness, despair, lust of power and idle talk; † But give, rather, the spirit of Sobriety, humility, patience, and Love to Thy servant; † Yea, O Lord & King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother: for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen. †

Christ Crying

An Invitation to Fast (Fasting 101)

An Invitation to Fast

I invite all who will to join in with the choirs of other Christians and spend the following days in some form of fasting in preparation to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ.

All those who are able please join us in this fast.

For those who are not able I invite you to simplify your lives.

Fasting is not about giving up things it is about simplifying. We try to eat as we did in Paradise.

What fasting does spiritually

Fasting helps turn down the volume of the noise of the world. It helps us focus on God. It gives us an opportunity to worship God in how we consume food. Fasting should not be done without an increase of prayer and alms giving. Fasting without prayer and alms is just a diet, and a bad one at that. If we do not pray then we are no better than the demons who also do not eat.

Fasting done with prayer and alms helps us defeat the passions in ourselves. It is much like being an athlete in training.

Who Should NOT fast.

1.  People who feel they “should” or “ought” to fast. Fasting is not a “gotta do” it is a “get to do”

2. People who think God might be impressed with our fasting. Our fasting is for our sakes, not for God’s.

3. People who are grieving should modify their fasting.

4. People who are recovering from a medical/surgical procedure should not fast.

5. People who have medical conditions that would make fasting dangerous should not fast. Such people must fast from fasting.

6. People who are working through Step 4 in a 12-step fellowship should not fast or should modify their fasting.

Tips on fasting.

Let us begin the Fast with Joy. Let us begin the Fast by asking each other’s forgiveness. For if we fast in rancour and unforgiveness we fast in vain. So let us be of light heart and before we begin, ask each other to forgive whatever offenses we may have committed.

Choose a fasting rule that works and do your best to stick to it, praying to God for help. Fasting does not mean total abstinence from food in this case. It means abstinence from certain food. Again, simplicity is the key. If you go through extreme effort to prepare and eat vegan food, you are better off eating a hotdog that you can zap in the microwave.

If it is your first time fasting find someONE to fast with –  just ONE person who can be a support in fasting. This is not someone to compare your efforts with, just someone who will remind you and be walking with you through it. Aside from this one person, tell NO ONE else you are fasting.

If you are experienced at fasting keep your fasting to yourself, telling no one how well or badly your are keeping the fast.

If someone presents you with food that is outside your fasting rule, eat it. For such is the fast that we should not display it to others, for that would be a defilement of the fast. As Jesus said “WHEN you fast ( not IF you fast ) do not be as the hypocrites who are gloomy, for they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to fast. Amen I tell you, they have their reward. But when Thou dost fast anoint the head and face of thee and wash so that thou appearest NOT to men to be fasting…”

Tips for ending the fast.

Be gentile about reintroducing the foods that you have been fasting from back into your diet. The original Pascha baskets were not about chocolate eggs and bunnies but rather it was a feast prepared from the very foods that we have been fasting from. And before we break the fast we ask God’s blessing on that food that we have been abstaining from. (I recommend some active culture yogurt be consumed first).

If you get off your rule before the fast is ended, do not beat yourself up for it. Just get back on your fasting rule. We are not bad or wrong if we don’t fast. We just miss the opportunity that is there in fasting.

Again I invite all to join in this time of Fasting, in whatever way we can, as an opportunity to draw closer to God.

Some Hymns and Prayers on Fasting, Prayer, and Alms

Knowing the commandments of the Lord, let this be our way of life: let us feed the hungry, let us give the thirsty drink, let us clothe the naked, let us welcome strangers, let us visit those in prison and the sick.  Then the Judge of all the earth will say even to us: Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you

O Word, supreme in love, Who with the Father and the Spirit hast created all things visible and invisible in Thy wisdom past speech, grant in Thy compassion that we may spend the season of the joyful Fast in profound peace. Destroy the beguilement of bitter sin, granting us contrition, tears of healing and forgiveness of our trespasses, that fasting with a fervent spirit and undoubting soul, we may join the angels to sing the praises of Thy power.

This should be the manner of our fasting; not in hatred and contention, not in envy and strife, not in self-glory and with hidden deceit, but like Christ in humble-mindedness. —  St. Joseph the Studite

Stretching out Thy divine hands upon the Cross, Thou hast joined together that which before was divided, and by Thy mediation Thou hast offered as a gift to the Father the nature of mortal man, that was under condemnation. Therefore we sing the praises of Thy sinless Crucifixion. —  St. Joseph the Studite

If thou dost fast from food, O my soul, yet dost not cleanse thyself from passions, thou dost rejoice in vain over thy abstinence. For if thy purpose is not turned towards amendment of life, as a liar thou art hateful in God’s sight, and thou doest resemble the evil demons who never eat at all. Do not by sinning make the fast worthless, but firmly resist all wicked impulses. Picture to thyself that thou art standing beside the crucified Saviour, or rather, that thou art thyself crucified with Him Who was crucified for thee; and cry out to Him: “Remember me, O Lord, when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom.”

O Lord and Master of my life, give me not the sprit of laziness, despair, lust of power and idle talk. † but give rather the spirit of sobriety, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant. † Yeah O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother: for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen † — Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian