Tag Archives: Orthodoxy

“El niño divino, que está cansado de llorar en la tierra por su descanso…” — Lope de Vega

24 Dec

“The heavenly babe suffers distress, Ah, how weary He has grown with the sorrows of this world.”

“Der Himmels knabe Duldet Beschwerde, Ach, wie so müd er ward Vom Leid der Erde.”

I recently tweet-balled out an Anglican — I’m assuming — convert to Orthodoxy who had tweeted something about how Western influence on later Russian iconography had produced “softer” and in his opinion improved images of the Nativity with Mary leaning lovingly over the baby instead of the traditional Orthodox rendering where Mary is lying, turned the over way, lost in thought while nurses tend to the baby. I think I told him that if he wanted cute nativity images of cute babies he could post on YouTube, he should join the Franciscans. More on that later.

So maybe it’s weird for me to send this very sentimental lied as a Christmas message. But the quote above says enough.

This is originally a 17th century poem by Spanish poet and playwright Lope de Vega; translated into German by Emanuel Geibel and set to music in 1890 by Austrian composer Hugo Wolf in his Spanisches Liederbuch, a collection of lieder based on both religious and secular poetry of the Spanish Golden Age.

The full German translation, original Spanish, and English translation (last by Richard Stokes from a collection of lieder translations he did with tenor Ian Bostridge) is below. The singer in the YouTube video is, of course, the immortal Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.

Merry Christmas to all.

Die ihr schwebet – Lope de VegaEmanuel Geibel

Die ihr schwebet, Um diese Palmen, In Nacht und Wind, Ihr heilgen Engel, Stillet die Wipfel! Es schlummert mein Kind.

Ihr Palmen von Bethlehem Im Windesbrausen, Wie mögt ihr heute So zornig sausen! O rauscht nicht also! Schweiget, neiget Euch leis und lind; Stillet die Wipfel! Es schlummert mein Kind.

Der Himmelsknabe Duldet Beschwerde, Ach, wie so müd er ward Vom Leid der Erde. Ach nun im Schlaf ihm Leise gesänftigt Die Qual zerrinnt, Stillet die Wipfel! Es schlummert mein Kind.

Grimmige Kälte Sauset hernieder, Womit nur deck ich Des Kindleins Glieder! O all ihr Engel, Die ihr geflügelt Wandelt im Wind, Stillet die Wipfel! Es schlummert mein kind.

Pues andáis en las palmasLope de VegaPastores de Belén. Prosas y Versos Divinos

Pues andáis en las palmas,
ángeles santos,
que se duerme mi niño,
tened los ramos.

Palmas de Belén
que mueven airados
los furiosos vientos
que suenan tanto:
no le hagáis ruido,
corred más paso,
que se duerme mi niño,
tened los ramos.

El niño divino,
que está cansado
de llorar en la tierra
por su descanso,
sosegar quiere un poco
del tierno llanto.
Que se duerme mi niño,
tened los ramos.

Rigurosos yelos
le están cercando;
ya veis que no tengo
con qué guardarlo.
Ángeles divinos
que váis volando,
que se duerme mi niño,
tened los ramos.

You who hover

You who hover About these palms In night and wind, You holy angels, Silence the tree-tops! My child is sleeping.

You palms of Bethlehem In the raging wind, Why do you bluster So angrily today! Oh roar not so! Be still, lean Calmly and gently over us; Silence the tree-tops! My child is sleeping.

The heavenly babe Suffers distress, Ah, how weary He has grown With the sorrows of this world. Ah, now that in sleep His pains Are gently eased, Silence the tree-tops! My child is sleeping.

Fierce cold Blows down on us, With what shall I cover My little child’s limbs? O all you angels Who wing your way On the winds, Silence the tree-tops! My child is sleeping.

Translation © Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder: The Original Text of Over 1000 Songs by Bostridge, Ian, Stokes, Richard (2005) Hardcover Hardcover – October 20, 2005

Lope de Vega 1562 – 1635
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf 1950
Hugo Wolf – Getty Images


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Catholic Madonnas and Orthodox Panagies, from the Byzantine Ambassador

19 Nov

Screen Shot 2017-11-19 at 5.19.37 PM

Hmmm…  Need to think about that one.  It’s right but I don’t know why — which may be the most Orthodox answer.

I do talk about the themes of the “knowing submission” of Mary in a 2015 post: The Annunciation: “And I thank you for choosing me…”

Virgin of Kazan.jpgThe Virgin of Kazan’ — Russia’s “national” Bogoroditsa

In images of the Nativity, however, there is a serious difference.  While western Virgins are shown lovingly kneeling over their newborn Son, in traditional Orthodox representations, the midwives are taking care of the Child or the kings are bent over it, while Mary is lying in bed and turned the other way in a post-partem funk, which has always seemed more psychologically honest and astute to me, in a way that perhaps only abstraction in representation can convey.

After all, Mary knows how all this started and, undistracted by angels (been there, done that), kind shepherds or generous kings, is troubled by how it will end.  Is that a female perceptiveness and sensitivity that the Byzantine Ambassador nicely calls “taciturn authority.”?  The Nativity narration most of us are familiar with, Chapter 2 of Luke, begins:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

…but does not end with Mary’s rejoicing, but rather with the slightly jarring:

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

19 δὲ Μαριὰμ πάντα συνετήρει τὰ ῥήματα ταῦτα συμβάλλουσα ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτῆς.

Nativity Byzantine Museum

And ‘cometh the moment, cometh the tweet’:

Screen Shot 2017-11-19 at 6.58.24 PM

Christmas fast started this past Wednesday and I totally forgot.  Other dates coming up.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com


Photo: Athens metro — “Today is the nameday of…”

3 Dec

IMG_0833In recent years — I don’t know how long — the Athens metro system has began to add a list of daily namedays to the signs on platforms that give passengers the date, time and weather — so they don’t forget to at least call or text and well-wish their friends and relatives.  A nameday, for those who could possibly still not know, is the feast day of the saint you were named after.  Above the weather, the sign in the photo, which I took back on October 21st, says: “Today is the nameday of: Artemios, Artemes, Artemis, Artemisia, Artemida, Gerasimos, Makes, Gerasimina, etc.”  It’s really different versions of two names — Artemis and, the most popular among them, the male Gerasimos, the patron saint of the Ionian island of Cephalonia — but the Orthodox calendar usually celebrates more than one saint on each day of the year, since it didn’t go through their files the way the Catholic Church did after Vatican II and remove from the calendar those saints whose miracles didn’t have the requisite scientific backing (……)

Saints’ days and namedays have come up on several occasions on this blog, probably the most detailled exposition of the tradition on my part is this post from last December: Today is my nameday,” from which there’s a money quote below in case you don’t want to wade through the whole text.

This is all a part of a very tender traditionalism that has taken hold of a segment of the Greek soul since the current economic and social crisis began, the kind of refuge a society is wont to take in comforting old forms of social behavior and interaction under such circumstances, but had begun before things hit rock bottom the way they have now; it had actually started to lift as soon the the heavy malakia of metapoliteuse thinking had started to wear off as early as the 90s: this term — metapoliteuse – is defined briefly in the first footnote of this post: “Careful what you wish for…Erdoğan and Ottoman Turkish” — but culturally included a rejection of all things Church-and-Orthodoxy-related as part of the reaction against the right-wing, the monarchy and the Church of Greece’s unforgivable support in the 60s and 70s for the junta that tormented Greece with its idiocy until it fell in 1974  (See much of Pamuk’s commentary on the much more radical spiritual vacuum in which the Turkish Republic’s anti-clericism left his own class in Turkey and that may be part of the state that society finds itself in today.)  I owe readers a post that will be called “The Perfect Metapoliteuse Idiot” to borrow the term and subject matter from Mario Vargas Llosa‘s book “Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot” which describes a sociological phenomenon and type startlingly similar to its Neo-Greek counterpart.


And so the nameday makes a comeback.  Not that the Western birthday celebration and its obnoxious gimme-gimme narcissism has not also taken root here; it has.  (And like everywhere else, no one thinks about what a baby learns about the world when a glowing piece of confectionery is shoved in front of his face and all the big, powerful adults in his life chant to him like he’s the emperor.)  But the nameday celebration, in which you give and, generally, don’t expect to receive, is still going strong.

(Let me make just one note here: the “traditionalism” of which I’m speaking has nothing to do with the invented, racist, cruel Neo-Traditionalism of Golden Dawn and its supporters; theirs is the obnoxious militaristic “tradition” — including its revolting Spartan/Leonidan warrior pretenses that has nothing to do with any real past — of a reborn Greek fascism.)

Music, food, a renewed interest in agricultural life and processes — often as a form of survival — tiny gracious gestures of etiquette — all of these are parts of this renewal.  But what surprises me the most are the ones that concern religious observations.  Often these are performed in recognition of their cultural beauty and not necessarily as expressions of any deep spiritual impulse.  Still.  All the more, in fact.  I, for example, had always been terrified of having to spend what I thought would be a barren, empty Easter in modern Greece, which I had never had to in my life; when I finally did last year (see: “Σήμερον κρεμάται επί ξύλου…“) I was pleasantly surprised at how immersed the society was in the observation of this central, defining pole of our identity.

And now we’re in the middle of the Christmas fast, which began forty days before Christmas, on November 15th.  This is the period known as Advent in the West, for those who still remember, and as the word implies, indicates that Christmas, like Easter, was once an anticipatory holiday, with a forty-day period of fasting and relative sobriety preceding it, like Easter still is and has in the East.  Christmas was not the consumption orgy that now starts in late October and a tree that goes up on Thanksgiving and gets thrown out before New Year’s even.  Christians waited for Christmas: and it began on Christmas Eve — with the setting up of the decorated evergeen in the northern European tradition, as the West’s entire literary tradition has it, and then the celebration of the “twelve days” that ended on January 6th.  But all that was scrapped because it doesn’t fit in with distinct shopping-spree periods or quarterly earnings reports and didn’t allow enough time for too many exhausting, gluttonous “holiday” parties with people you don’t want to be with and for buying plastic crap to hang on your door.

So that bright Sunday Attic afternoon, the first day of the Christmas fast, I was sitting here (below) in a very, sehr cool little cafe-bar in Pagkrati (a very cool little neighborhood), when a pretty, elegant twenty-something girl suddenly said to her boyfriend in a testily audible voice: “Σου είπα ότι είναι νηστεία σήμερα και δεν αρταίνομαι ” — “I told you it’s the start of the fast today and I don’t partake” — using an archaic form for “partake”“αρταίνομαι” — that I can’t find the etymological root of.  I nearly fell off my chair.

Plastera Cafe 1Plastera Cafe 3

Plastera Cafe 4Plastera Cafe 2

And then Venetis, a large bakery-patisserie-café chain here — which actually has some pretty good stuff — has this notice on its tables: “Νηστεύετε;” – “Are you fasting?”  And on the back: “40 μέρες νηστεία…60 νηστίσιμα προϊόντα.” — “40 Days of Lent…60 Lenten Products.”  



Commercial.  But a commercial use of something latched onto in the zeitgeist air.  Un-heard of…laughing-stock corny…less than even a decade ago.

Quote from “Today’s my nameday” that I mention at top:

“What I most love is that, among Greeks, your nameday is a day critical to your honor and reputation…

“…It’s a day when it’s your obligation to give and serve and prove your noblesse and not, as Western birthdays have become, a day when you sit around waiting for others to do for you or give you gifts.  Western, American, birthdays are only slightly less gross to me than the totally American ugliness of wedding and baby showers: “I’m getting married and/or I’m pregnant; so I’m having a party where you have to bring me things.”  And don’t even start me on bridal registries, where you tell people, not just that they have to bring you something, but what they have to bring you.”

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration

6 Aug

Fresco of the Transfiguration at the Serbian Orthodox Monastery of Dečani in Kosovo. (click)

The Transfiguration – “today” all the title tracks of the Church’s feast days start with: today, here, the eternal now – is the moment when Christ revealed his divinity to John and Peter (yikes, I think, John and Peter…) on Mount Thabor, Moses and Elijah at his side.  It’s a holiday that the Catholic West has largely ignored, probably because it’s too metaphysical and abstract and there are no Virgins or blood or cute babies involved, so it was of limited uses for the Counter-Reformation propaganda machine.

This isn’t like the Epiphany, which commemorates the moment Christ the Man and the Father and the Holy Spirit were all revealed at once, a holiday that the Catholic Church has also dumbed-down to the completely irrelevant “Three Kings Day,” because there they can cast a cute baby: though what the cute baby was doing freezing in a cave twelve days old waiting for the Kings to bring him gifts, when scripture says he had been taken away to Egypt way before, and why the Epiphany happens when He’s thirty and not a baby, is something that the Catholic Church, like much else, has never thought it needed to explain to its followers…  Just the cheap marketing of Franciscan love for the Child — which is the distant root of the cheap marketing of Christmas.

The Transfiguration, the Metamorphosis, is Christ as God, a revelation of Divinity, a page straight out of the song book of any Indo-European or Semitic paganism, an Avatar or Incarnation — man, even animal – allowing a human to see the blinding glory of its Godhead.  In this version John and Peter are just knocked to the ground, not incinerated, or impregnated or stricken with fatal love.  But it’s clearly the same idea, and found its seed, like so much else, in the Semitic Christianity of the Near East.

In parts of rural Greece, it’s the day when the season’s first grapes are – or were — brought to church and blessed and distributed as prasad* to the congregation.  I was moved to find this tradition oddly observed in most Greek parishes in Istanbul, by the most profoundly urban Greeks of all Greeks, with grapes from the manave.**  I remember wondering what it was they needed to remember by doing this.  I remember being given a handful at the Taxiarches in Arnavutkoy, munching on them as I strolled back to class in Bebek, saving a few for my best friend there.

This is the interior of the church of the Taxiarches (the Archangels, Michael and Gabriel) in Arnavutkoy.  I went there a lot because it was the largest functioning church near Bogazici U, or at least the one that I knew wouldn’t be depressingly empty.  The only church of the Transfiguration I know of in Istanbul is on Buyuk Ada (Prinkipo) and I couldn’t find a picture of it.  Below is the Transfiguration of Corona, Queens, though, where I was baptized and raised.  Under that is the Russian Orthodox Church of the Transfiguration in Williamsburg (“Preobrazhenie,” “obraz” being the Slavonic for “image,” like the Latin “figura” in Transfiguration or the Greek “morphe” in Metamorphosis) which you used to be able to see from the BQE against the Manhattan skyline before all the ugly condos for the hipsters with rich daddies went up.  Below that are some grapes.

* prasad is a food offering to a Hindu deity which is blessed and then distrubuted to his devotees

** manave is a greengrocer


Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Turns out he’s the patron saint of Haifa

20 Jul

Duh…  Of course, Elijah on Mount Carmel…

An Arab icon of Elijah — and Haifa (click)


Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Today is the Feast of the Prophet Elijah

20 Jul

The Russians, with their flair for red, always made the most beautiful Elijah icons and were always partial to the “fiery ascent to heaven” part of his story.  Greek images of Elijah usually focus on the image in the lower right of this icon, that of Elijah in the cave in the wilderness and the “still, small voice:”

And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?

10 And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:

12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

9 καὶ εἰσῆλθεν ἐκεῖ εἰς τὸ σπήλαιον καὶ κατέλυσεν ἐκεῖ καὶ ἰδοὺ ῥῆμα κυρίου πρὸς αὐτὸν καὶ εἶπεν τί σὺ ἐνταῦθα Ηλιο

10 καὶ εἶπεν Ηλιου ζηλῶν ἐζήλωκα τῷ κυρίῳ παντοκράτορι ὅτι ἐγκατέλιπόν σε οἱ υἱοὶ Ισραηλ τὰ θυσιαστήριά σου κατέσκαψαν καὶ τοὺς προφήτας σου ἀπέκτειναν ἐν ῥομφαίᾳ καὶ ὑπολέλειμμαι ἐγὼ μονώτατος καὶ ζητοῦσι τὴν ψυχήν μου λαβεῖν αὐτήν

11 καὶ εἶπεν ἐξελεύσῃ αὔριον καὶ στήσῃ ἐνώπιον κυρίου ἐν τῷ ὄρει ἰδοὺ παρελεύσεται κύριος καὶ πνεῦμα μέγα κραταιὸν διαλῦον ὄρη καὶ συντρῖβον πέτρας ἐνώπιον κυρίου οὐκ ἐν τῷ πνεύματι κύριος καὶ μετὰ τὸ πνεῦμα συσσεισμός οὐκ ἐν τῷ συσσεισμῷ κύριος

12 καὶ μετὰ τὸν συσσεισμὸν πῦρ οὐκ ἐν τῷ πυρὶ κύριος καὶ μετὰ τὸ πῦρ φωνὴ αὔρας λεπτῆς κἀκεῖ κύριος

13 καὶ ἐγένετο ὡς ἤκουσεν Ηλιου καὶ ἐπεκάλυψεν τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ ἐν τῇ μηλωτῇ ἑαυτοῦ καὶ ἐξῆλθεν καὶ ἔστη ὑπὸ τὸ σπήλαιον καὶ ἰδοὺ πρὸς αὐτὸν φωνὴ καὶ εἶπεν τί σὺ ἐνταῦθα Ηλιου
I don’t know what Arab images of Elijah tend to look like, but Elias is a very common name among Levantine Christians; Mar Elias is the name of the only predominantly Christian Palestinian refugee camp in the Middle East, south of Beirut.


Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Russia and Syrian Christians, ctd.

5 Jun

Shrine of St. John in the Umayyad Great Mosque of Damascus, said to contain the head of John the Baptist.  The mosque was built on the site of a basilica dedicated to St. John, which was built on the site of a Roman temple to Jupiter, which was built on the site of an Aramean temple of Hadad-Ramman, god of thunder and lightning.  (Click on photo; also Google Image this magnificent building; it gets much less visual exposure than it deserves — a spectacular extra wide-angle shot of the mosque’s exterior.)

Walter Russel Mead reiterates what I’ve commented on in previous posts: What Russia doesn’t forget:

“The roots of Russia’s support for Butcher Assad go deep. This is much more than nostalgia for Russia’s last Middle East ally from Soviet days. This is about getting back in touch with Russia’s pre-communist foreign policy traditions, and about Putin’s relations with one of his most reliable and important bases of support: the Russian Orthodox Church.  The Church has historically exerted a strong pull on Russian policies overseas, especially in defense of Christian minorities in the Balkans and Middle East. Throughout the events of the Arab Spring, Russia has been reluctant — to put it kindly — to join the efforts to unseat dictators like Hosni Mubarak and Bashar Assad. Though these tyrants have often been brutal toward many of their citizens, Christian minorities have, by and large, thrived under their rule.”

Some commentators, like Andrew Sullivan, find this “a novel explanation for Putin’s intransigence.”  It’s not news to some of us.  That Eastern Christians have been stuck between a rock (Western manipulation and imperialist intrusion) and a hard place (Islam when it grows intolerant, often, but not always, in response to the former) for something like a millenium now, is a fact that one has to know very little about the region to not be aware of.  Mead’s historical run-down on the discomforts of that position is extremely thorough though pretty simplistic, but his post is full of good links if you want to check them out.

I have a substantial investment in being an Orthodox Christian: on one hand, because it’s simply a supremely intelligent and beautiful form of Christianity; on the other, because it’s simply the lesser of all Christian and, by extension, monotheist evils; Rebecca West’s observation that “The Eastern Church never forgot that the primary purpose of religion is magic” is at the heart of both those sentiments.  I guess I feel some sense of Orthodox solidarity too — warily (and phenomena like Greeks going off to help Serbs kill Muslims in Bosnia or Orthodox skinheads in Moscow killing Central Asian migrants always pop up to keep me wary).  But as I’ve mentioned before here and here, there’s no indication that Russia has ever done anything in the Balkans and Near East that was not in its own imperialist self-interest and that did not often end in disaster for those it was trying to “help.”

Even less, as Mead points out, should be expected from the West:

“Linked to that memory are memories of Western Christian treachery and betrayal. From the Fourth Crusade, ostensibly sent to protect Eastern Christians but turned into a piratical assault on Constantinople [“piratical assault”??  How about thorough and almost complete looting and destruction?], to memories of how the westerners made their help conditional on Orthodox submission to the authority of the Popes, a history of betrayal shapes the Orthodox political mind in many of these countries.”

The seed of this blog was a very early, indisputably emotional and personal, desire to heal Turks’ and Greeks’ feelings for each other, which I realized could only be accomplished by fixing Greeks’ warped sense of where they belong in the world (probably a hopeless project) and which later grew into a wider ideal of regional integration and community, so this issue is really one that goes to the heart of why I write here.  Pretending that you’re French or Ancient Greeks that need help in a rough neighborhood won’t cut it.  Islamophobic panic or seeing one’s self as the Christian frontier or bastion against the Saracens leads to the group pathology of Serbs or Maronites.  Greek and Armenian alliance choices in the early twentieth century almost immediately resulted in the complete eradication of Christianity from Anatolia.  Cultural emulation intended to garner support leads to the skewed self-image of contemporary Greeks.

Tying your survival to extra-regional players or regimes like Assad’s that are destined to soon make their exit is a losing strategy for the region’s Christians.  The threat of Islamist violence is probably real.  Iraq and even Egypt certainly seem to indicate that.  But their only choice is probably the tricky dance of fostering, or just going with, the flow of democratic change while keeping themselves as least vulnerable as possible.  Forget Russia.  And, as Constantine XI had to heroically face in the end, there’s certainly no help coming from the Frangoi.*  If you want to live in peace and security, look to your neighbor because, ultimately, he’s the only one who can provide it for you.

* I promised an explanation of this term but haven’t gotten to it yet; for now, let’s just say a derogatory term for Western Europeans.

The church above, which Read uses in his post, is the Church of the Savior in St. Petersburg, built in a Neo-Muscovite mediaeval style, which sticks out like a sore thumb amidst the Neoclassical elegance of the city, on the spot where Alexander II was assassinated in 1881, modelled on the style of the church of St. Basil on Red Square below.  Both are routinely used to immediately signify “Russia!” and its exoticness or orientalness.


Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com


27 May

Today is Pentecost (it was last Sunday in the western Church), the day that commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit and the divine enlightenment of the gathered Apostles, when they were suddenly given the wisdom to speak all languages and that marks the institutional beginning of their mission and the Church generally.  What the New Testament doesn’t say is that the Apostles were gathered to celebrate Shavuos (lit. “weeks”), “Shvuyes” in deep Yiddish pronunciation,* the day God gave the Torah to the people of Israel.   The Christian feast of a gift of divine wisdom was based on the existing Jewish feast of a gift of divine wisdom, and Shavuos comes seven weeks after the first day of Passover, like Pentecost comes seven weeks after Easter – it means “fiftieth” – a name Greek-speaking Hellenistic Jews were already using for the holiday long before the Christian era.

I always loved the reading for Pentecost from the Book of Acts (below in English, the original Greek and the Vulgate Latin).  In its endless list of peoples I always felt a kind of Pax Romana yearning for unity that still moves me, especially when it’s properly recited.  It’s a bit of a sad holiday too because it marks the official end of the Easter cycle (like it does the end of the Counting of the Omer in Judaism).  The day before is one of the several “soul Saturdays” on which the Orthodox Church commemorates the dead; old folk beliefs held that the dead dwell among us from the Resurrection until the eve of Pentecost and then depart again.  And tonight at vespers, people kneel for the first time since Holy Week; the joy of the Easter season prohibits any kneeling or prostrations during the seven weeks it lasts.  It’s the return to Real from Divine time.  And from the period of renewal where death has been defeated to real existence again where it still holds full sway.  Until the promise of the next Resurrection.

I couldn’t find a recitation of the actual second chapter.  But here’s a beautiful Arabic recitation of the first chapter of Acts — which uses the same phrasing as a Greek reading would — where Christ preps the Apostles on what’s in store for them and, like a good rabbi, tells them not to ask too many questions:

And here’s Giotto’s depiction of the event from the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, which probably contains more spectacular art than any other equivalent square footage of space in the world:

And El Greco’s more violent, Cretan-Spanish imagining (it became a tradition to include the Virgin in the scene, especially in the West, though Acts doesn’t mention her):

2 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.

And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.

And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.

Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.

And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?

And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?

Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,

10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,

11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.

12 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?


2 Καὶ ἐν τῷ συμπληροῦσθαι τὴν ἡμέραν τῆς πεντηκοστῆς ἦσαν πάντες ὁμοῦ ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό, καὶ ἐγένετο ἄφνω ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἦχος ὥσπερ φερομένης πνοῆς βιαίας καὶ ἐπλήρωσεν ὅλον τὸν οἶκον οὗ ἦσαν καθήμενοι, καὶ ὤφθησαν αὐτοῖς διαμεριζόμεναι γλῶσσαι ὡσεὶ πυρός, καὶ ἐκάθισεν ἐφ’ ἕνα ἕκαστον αὐτῶν, καὶ ἐπλήσθησαν πάντες πνεύματος ἁγίου, καὶ ἤρξαντο λαλεῖν ἑτέραις γλώσσαις καθὼς τὸ πνεῦμα ἐδίδου ἀποφθέγγεσθαι αὐτοῖς.

Ἦσαν δὲ ἐν Ἰερουσαλὴμ κατοικοῦντες Ἰουδαῖοι, ἄνδρες εὐλαβεῖς ἀπὸ παντὸς ἔθνους τῶν ὑπὸ τὸν οὐρανόν· γενομένης δὲ τῆς φωνῆς ταύτης συνῆλθε τὸ πλῆθος καὶ συνεχύθη, ὅτι [ἤκουον εἷς ἕκαστος τῇ ἰδίᾳ διαλέκτῳ λαλούντων αὐτῶν· ἐξίσταντο δὲ καὶ ἐθαύμαζον λέγοντες· Οὐχ ἰδοὺ πάντες οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ λαλοῦντες Γαλιλαῖοι; καὶ πῶς ἡμεῖς ἀκούομεν ἕκαστος τῇ ἰδίᾳ διαλέκτῳ ἡμῶν ἐν ᾗ ἐγεννήθημεν; Πάρθοι καὶ Μῆδοι καὶ Ἐλαμῖται, καὶ οἱ κατοικοῦντες τὴν Μεσοποταμίαν, Ἰουδαίαν τε καὶ Καππαδοκίαν, Πόντον καὶ τὴν Ἀσίαν, 10 Φρυγίαν τε καὶ Παμφυλίαν, Αἴγυπτον καὶ τὰ μέρη τῆς Λιβύης τῆς κατὰ Κυρήνην, καὶ οἱ ἐπιδημοῦντες Ῥωμαῖοι, 11 Ἰουδαῖοί τε καὶ προσήλυτοι, Κρῆτες καὶ Ἄραβες, ἀκούομεν λαλούντων αὐτῶν ταῖς ἡμετέραις γλώσσαις τὰ μεγαλεῖα τοῦ θεοῦ. 12 ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηπόρουν, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες· Τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;


2 et cum conplerentur dies pentecostes erant omnes pariter in eodem loco

et factus est repente de caelo sonus tamquam advenientis spiritus vehementis et replevit totam domum ubi erant sedentes

et apparuerunt illis dispertitae linguae tamquam ignis seditque supra singulos eorum

et repleti sunt omnes Spiritu Sancto et coeperunt loqui aliis linguis prout Spiritus Sanctus dabat eloqui illis

erant autem in Hierusalem habitantes Iudaei viri religiosi ex omni natione quae sub caelo sunt

facta autem hac voce convenit multitudo et mente confusa est quoniam audiebat unusquisque lingua sua illos loquentes

stupebant autem omnes et mirabantur dicentes nonne omnes ecce isti qui loquuntur Galilaei sunt

et quomodo nos audivimus unusquisque lingua nostra in qua nati sumus

Parthi et Medi et Elamitae et qui habitant Mesopotamiam et Iudaeam et Cappadociam Pontum et Asiam

10 Frygiam et Pamphiliam Aegyptum et partes Lybiae quae est circa Cyrenen et advenae romani

11 Iudaei quoque et proselyti Cretes et Arabes audivimus loquentes eos nostris linguis magnalia Dei

12 stupebant autem omnes et mirabantur ad invicem dicentes quidnam hoc vult esse.

* See next post


Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Milosevic Party Emerges as Kingmaker

8 May

“Milosevic Party Emerges as Kingmaker,” New York Times

Daniel Zdravkovic, a 21-year-old mechanic, was too young to remember the Milosevic era but said that he, too, was nostalgic for the socialist equality his parents and grandparents had known. He said he liked Mr. Dacic because he was honest, strong and decisive.

“I am too young to remember the Milosevic years, but they couldn’t have been worse than today when no one has a job,” “I would rather have closer ties with Russia, which is a better friend to Serbia than Europe.”

…though there’s no historical precedent for believing in that friendship other than vague notions of Orthodox solidarity.  At no point in its two-century-long war with the Ottomans or after did Russia in the Balkans behave in a way that could even remotely be interpreted as anything other than acting in its own imperialist self-interest.

Except for Count Vronsky of course…and poor Garshin.


Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

“Deute labete fws…”

5 May

Come and receive the light…  Easter at my house.


Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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