I finally finished The Monk of Mount Athos. It is not the sort of book that it’s wise to gobble up at a sitting, though I could have done so as it is rather short. It’s more like the Gospel, that you can slowly absorb a few paragraphs at a time.

Needless to say, and no insult intended, I recommend it.

Johnny and I are memorizing the Paschal Troparion in Greek. That is, I’ve already done so, and the more I sing it, the more Johnny is able to sing along. Johnny’s going to learn Russian and Greek, we’ve decided. He can choose his fourth language himself when he’s older.

We made an offer on a house today – our first house. The market is so depressed here that we were able to get literally everything we wanted in a home for no more money per month than we are already paying for this tiny appartment we rent. Rent prices are inflated because of all the foreclosures, which produce renters.

Borrowed a lovely CD from the library – a Cambridge/Rutter affair called Lighten Our Darkness. It’s the Latin service (in English) for Compline and Vespers, really splendid, we fell asleep to it last night. Well, Scottie did. I stayed awake till the last “Amen.” Well worth it.

I also found a song called Tota Pulchra es, Maria (You Are Wholly Beautiful, Mary) that kept me rooted to me seat throughout. Sadly, inspection of the Latin revealed that the song is a celebration of the Immaculate Conception, something I don’t believe in and don’t even have much sympathy for. “The original stain is not in you” the song says, and I saw in a flash why the Orthodox don’t hold with a sentiment of that sort. Not because it’s too good for Mary, perish the thought! No, it’s because we don’t hold with the idea that Adam passed down a “stain” which in religious terms implies a punishable guilt. God forbid, not so unjust! No, it is a “seed of corruption” that we bear, a division from God and our fellow man that inevitably gives rise to both death and the failure to arrive at God’s glory that is sinfulness. To put it another way, we lack, at birth, what is productive of human unity with God (and no human being can escape sinfulness while disunited from the source of his own goodness.) Human beings are given whatever belongs to their created nature, by means of inheritance. And we failed to inherit this unity with God that was part of the original human construction because our parents did not have it to give us. You cannot give what you don’t have. Adam couldn’t give through inheritance what he himself had lost.

I bought the song, at ClassicalArchives.com, anyway. There is much in it that is divine.

And finally, I’m overjoyed that my sister is coming to stay with me, possibly for a number of weeks. Just in time to help us move. 🙂 I’ve been without a kindred spirit in this place for too long.


  1. My goodness, you write beautifully!

    Please suggest more music for Orthodox folk when you can. I have no idea what to buy, but I really want to listen to more Orthodox music. I trust your judgment.


  2. Elizabeth: Thank you for your blessing, please God our house will be just as you say.

    Selena: It’s difficult to find really good recordings of Orthodox music. I often make do with really good music that is not Orthodox in origin but is at least orthodox in sympathy.

    Have you heard anything by Divna? The way that Johnny and I learned the Paschal Troparion in Greek is by listening to her rendition of it – “Christos Anesti” – on youtube, no less. It’s expensive to buy her music here because she records for a French label, probably it will be the same in Australia, but I don’t know.

    I think the hallmark of good religious music is that it doesn’t trifle with emotions (those more surface feelings, so volatile and deceptive) but targets deeper feelings, and specifically, the heart. As I learn more I will try to post about it.


  3. Wow, the Divna song you recommended is beautiful… it almost has tones of the European baroque period in places- or is that just me? Such a fresh sound, and yet so very ancient.

    I hope God blesses you with the home you’ve picked, how exciting! Plan on the purchase costing you about 15-20% more (up front, not necessarily long term) than they’ll tell you. That’s about what we’ve come across so far anyway, and we close on ours on the 29th.

    Is G. the one staying with you? That should be fun!


  4. Emily, maybe the tonality is more in tune with music from baroque and before? But yes, I think there’s at least a spiritual kinship with, say, some of Bach’s music. “Fresh yet ancient” is such a perfect description!

    Thanks for the home buying tips. I was grilling a mortgage guy today, just trying to get out of him exactly what our costs would be. We’re supposed to close on June 19th – our offer was accepted today! Yeah!

    Yes, it’s very much G. A. was talking about it but has gone a different direction. G. still needs me as I need her.



  5. Much of the music of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt seems to me to be an auditory distillation of Orthodox spirituality. I cannot listen to his music and not be profoundly moved in some inexplicable way. It is apophatic as well as flat out fantastic!


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