Friday, March 29, 2013

Клирос и Кладбище

I was already lying awake for a few minutes in bed when my computer lit up and played “Mr. Blue Sky.” Silencing the alarm, I got ready for kliros. During Lent, most of the daily services (Matins, Hours, and Vespers) are done in the morning, starting around six and taking three to five hours, depending on a number of variables. Due to the time and the length of the service, whoever gets assigned that day is excused from classes. Friday is a pretty light day for kliros. We read two less kathismata* and don’t have to do Vespers since that is done later in the day combined with the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.

When I got to church, the monks were finishing up the Midnight Office and were still reading commemoration books for the dead. I picked up a few books and started scanning through the names, some of them written down ages ago. Then it was time to start. Hierodeacon Tikhon and I went at a pretty good pace through the service, with help from the serving priest, Fr. Anatoly. We were finished in only three hours, with two hours to rest before the Presanctified Liturgy at 11 o’clock. I used the time to finish up an article on Wikipedia that I’ve been working on, and then went to liturgy. Tonight I’m actually going to Albany to sing at their service so I’ll be attending two Presanctified Liturgies today.

Presanctified went as usual, but at the end I got pulled off the kliros by my friend, who told me that Fr. Victor needed me to sing a funeral. Having gone without much rest for the past six hours, I was not very peppy but agreed to do it.

As it turned out, it wasn’t a full funeral but a short burial service. We drove up to the cemetery on the hill where most people are buried. It’s probably one of the largest Orthodox cemeteries in the country. Soon after we arrived, a man came up driving a van holding the coffin. We opened up the back, and saw that the coffin was encased in a cardboard box marked with a sticker saying ‘SYR’ and purple tape labeled “Handle Carefully: Human Remains.” The body was shipped from Sacramento to Syracuse. The name of the reposed was Tamara, 98 years old. She came from China with St. John. We lifted the blue metal coffin and started singing “Holy God…”

The muddy, snow-covered ground was slippery for our feet, and the last few yards to the grave were covered with a foot of snow which easily gave way and got into our shoes. We struggled through to the grave, and began the burial service under the ash gray sky. I didn’t exactly know the words to the hymns, but we managed to get through the best we could. In the end, Fr. Gabriel took the shovel and committed the coffin to the earth. We threw in clods of mud into the grave and went our way.

To the newly-reposed handmaid of God Tamara, memory eternal.

*A kathisma (pl. kathismata) is a division of the Psalter, composed of an average of 8 or 9 psalms. There are twenty kathismata in the Psalter.

No comments:

Post a Comment