First published September 20, 2002
ISTANBUL – In a discovery which is sure to send shock waves through shock-wave-permeable materials both north and south of the Golden Horn, an unnamed American musicologist discovered the text of an even wordier Liturgy of St. Basil this week in the basement of Hagia Sophia (Church of the Holy Wisdom, now a museum and trendy underground fish-n-chips shop).
“I was just getting an order of fish-n-chips when I noticed it was wrapped in very strange paper,” said the scholar, who wished to remain anonymous. “After looking more closely I saw that it was musical notation in the ancient Byzantine style. I managed to recover the rest of the manuscript before it was wrapped around other people’s lunches, although the second antiphon had held an Armenian woman’s lunch so long that the grease from the fish completely obliterated the writing. I retained it for study as a palimpsest.”
The scholar rushed back to his hotel, which had a badly-tuned piano in the grand ballroom. Once the notation had been translated into the modern style, the music turned out to be both hauntingly beautiful and eerily familiar. Modulating the melody into a major key, the scholar discovered that it was none other than the theme to the popular television series Dallas, albeit played backwards, upside-down, and in jig time.
“Either that or it’s ‘A Day in the Life’ by the Beatles, I’m not quite sure which,” said the musicologist. “Further research is needed.”
But what has Orthodox scholars buzzing like hypercaffeinated bees is not the tune but the text, which appears to be an elongated version of the divine liturgy of St. Basil.
“Either that or the one we have is foreshortened,” said Dr. Boutros B’gali Wau of the University of Athens. “This ancient version is most wonderful. The prayer ‘it is truly meet’ goes on for a full seven pages! I can’t wait to hear it chanted!”
Others were less enthusiastic. “As if the version we have now isn’t long enough?” asked Brad Summers, age 10, of London, England.
“Is outrage! Was it even wordier Liturgy of the St. Basil in 19th century Russia?” opined Fr. Vasiliy Vasileivich of the Church Overseas of Russian Orthodox Christians (COROC) and pastor of Sts. Vladimir and Olga and Boris and Gleb Russian Orthodox Church in Sydney, Australia. “No, it was not.”
“Knowing St. Basil’s liturgy could be longer but isn’t definitely shows God’s mercy,” was the opinion of Dr. Yeraslav Penguin, Historical Professor of Liturgics at St. Toucan’s Orthodox Seminary and Roadside Icon Shoppe. “I see no reason to adopt the newly-discovered version, God be praised,” he concluded.
Copyright © 2002-2012 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.