Monday, June 3, 2013

What I Saw In Russia — Day 7

Sunday was finally here, the last full day of our trip. It was hard to believe that the trip (and this blog series) was coming to an end. But as they say, everything has an end except for sausages, which have two.

We got up extra early to go to St. Tikhon’s University in order to practice with their choir for liturgy. I was half-asleep again. Their choir was made up of many current and former students, both professionals and amateurs. There were about forty girls and five or six guys (there must have been quite a few female tenors). Practice went well enough, and the music was evenly divided between us.

We then went to the university church, was was still large but dwarfed by the other giant cathedrals we’ve visited. One man randomly went up to me and said in Russian, “Excuse me, but are you Filipino?”

It was the first real antiphonal liturgy in my life: we even alternated the verses for “Bless the Lord” in the beginning. Bishop Theodosy was serving again; it was our fourth hierarchal liturgy that week. I was pretty exhausted through the whole thing and was going flat all the time, but Communion lifted my spirits. At the end of liturgy, I said, “You know how they had nap-time in preschool, and we all hated it? I wish we had nap-time. Nap-time is wasted on children.”

Our fellow choir was very kind and hospitable to us, and gave each of us little icons of the Mother of God. We then took a picture together:

After another bountiful lunch (in which I didn’t touch a drop of wine) we had our first concert of the day in the Conference Hall. I was happy to see my friend Ksenia, whom I hadn’t seen in three years. She had recently moved to Russia after a year teaching English in Japan. I had met her in San Francisco, so Nicky and Alix were also happy/surprised to see her. As for the concert, you can see the last part for yourself:

Following the concert we had an informal meet and greet session with the audience, and I made some new friends. As is normal for Russia, there was more singing. And then some people set up two pianos and were playing some pieces.

We soon had to leave the University to go to the Protection of the Mother of God Church in Yasenevo, a suburb of Moscow. (In between we also squeezed in a trip to the shrine of St. Matrona.) It was the parish church for Lia, one of the readers in our concert and highly involved in youth activities in the Church. When we got to the church we were amazed: it was one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen, and it’s not even complete! The interior and exterior both have scaffolding, and only the lower church was finished.

We entered the lower church. There were replicas of many of the major sites of the Holy Land, from Bethlehem to the Holy Sepulchre. Everything was copied in minute detail. In a sense, I got a two-for-one deal with this trip.

The concert was very well-attended with Lia’s youth group, and a large number of disabled people. At this point I was completely exhausted and ready to faint, and the only thing I paid attention to was the many mistakes I made. But despite everything, due to God’s mercy we got a wonderful reaction from the audience. The highest praise came from Fr. Melchizedek, who said that he didn’t even need to say his Communion Rule that night, because the concert was prayer for him. You can listen to the concert and see pictures here.

After the concert we went to the Optina Hermitage dependency nearby, where we had one final dinner. Fr. Melchizedek was a very friendly, good-humored man, and judging from the health of the parish, an amazing priest.

We went outside and took some group pictures. The girls got some babushka-sized headscarves, so they posed for some photos, which I helped take (“Now imagine you’re seeing something in church you disapprove of! A sixteen-year-old girl just walked in wearing pants!”). We then piled into our van and went back to the convent. It was getting pretty late, but the night was just beginning!

* We stay out all night!
* Trouble at Sheremetyevo
* One last meal
* Back again

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