Sunday, September 21, 2014

Four states in four days

Today I would like to congratulate you all with the feast of Our Lady’s Nativity, especially the parishioners of the parish in Albany which is celebrating its patronal feast day.

It’s been a while since my last post, which recounted Holy Saturday, with a promise of Paschal joy; sadly, I never managed to get around to it! Since then, much has happened. Fourth year ended, I went to San Francisco to seek my fortune, and I managed to get a decent summer job in the city. I came back to Jordanville several weeks before the beginning of the school year. My last year.

The Thursday before the school year started, I took a trip down to Lakewood, New Jersey for the feast day of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. In addition, it was the official retirement celebration for Protopresbyter Valery Lukianov and the opening of the new Diocesan Center for the Eastern American Diocese.

I drove down with Fr. Ephraim, who was going there both to sing and to act as representative for the Seminary. He said that he had to make a speech for the banquet accepting the St. Alexander Nevsky Scholarship.

“Oh…so, who’s getting the scholarship?” I nonchalantly asked.

“Well, you are,” he said. It was quite an unexpected relief, especially since I would have otherwise had to use my summer money to pay for tuition! In addition, I am merely one of the many recipients of the scholarship. Apparently, the organizers of the scholarship are planning to expand it to help out up to twenty seminarians each year, so hopefully this will allow for more to come to the seminary.

We managed to get to the church in time to practice a little for the vigil. The choir director was the formidable Maestro Vladimir Gorbik. Although he was very strict with us, the high caliber of the singers allowed us to proceed at a quicker pace. For my part, I barely managed to hang on!

Vigil was long and festive. After vigil, Fr. Ephraim and I tried to find a place to eat, but it was already ten and many places were closed. We settled on Applebee’s, not known for its Lenten food. We ordered onion rings, fried shrimp, and other heavy food. I don’t recommend going to Applebee’s on a fasting day. After dinner, we went to our lodgings. Our host was a long-time parishioner, a very friendly and hospitable woman, who gave us an impromptu tour of her curio-filled house.

On Friday, the next morning, we drove to church, which took longer than usual because apparently Lakewood is infamous for its bad drivers. There’s even a popular bumper sticker which says “Pray for me—I drive in Lakewood.” Nonetheless, we managed to make it to the church on time.

Liturgy happened, followed by long announcements and awards, and then a cross procession round the church. By the time we had the banquet it was already two o’clock. I was a little worried, because I was planning on meeting Sophia in Albany; we were to go to Massachusetts for the weekend. When all was said and done, it was almost five when we got back on the road. Fr. Ephraim dropped me off in Albany at half past eight, where I met a long-suffering Sophia, who had spent the past few hours in Albany going stir-crazy.

“I hadn’t gone stir-crazy! I helped out at the church, listened to podcasts, and stretched,” said Sophia, who is currently sitting next to me while I type out this blog post.

Sophia and I went to Massachusetts in her grey Honda Odyssey (the “mom van” as she calls it) and arrived in Springfield, where gracious Matushka was awaiting us at Fr. Brendan Crowley’s.

On Saturday, we went to Amherst and Northampton, north of Springfield, where the knuckle-shaped mountains of the Pioneer Valley protruded from the horizon. We also went shopping for a sweater, because I was chilly. After scouring the Salvation Army racks and finding only badly-fitting, ugly sweaters, Sophia settled on a few gardening books, and was standing in line for the cashier when she spotted a brand-new grey sweater, with the sticker still on it, hanging practically in front of her. It was my size! I immediately accepted this turn of fate.

That evening, we went to St. Nicholas Church for vigil. Though the parish is said to be based in the Springfield, MA area, its new physical location happens to be across the state line in Enfield, CT. After a half-century of having their church life centered in a former store building with a spooky basement (and a pretty flower garden), the parishioners at St. Nicholas prayed and raised enough money to relocate to a newer building. Because she had been farming in Central New York all summer, this was Sophia's first visit to her childhood parish's new home.

After the morning liturgy, we joined in for coffee hour, where the parishioners had realized that the new building’s kitchen was adjacent to the yard and that food could be simply passed out through the window. Sophia and I then went to meet up with her parents, and we had a delightful time munching on Chinese food and visiting Forest Park, which had a lot of stuff in it.

Sophia: “No!!! There’s a zoo and waterfalls and ducks, and—”

Me: “A lot of stuff.”

Sophia: “Imagine if I was in Hawaii and I wrote a blog entry saying there was a lot of stuff there!”

Thus, I had been in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut over the course of four days. I am very grateful for the kind hospitality, not to mention the convivial company I enjoyed.

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