Merry Christmas!

Your friends at the Onion Dome wish you New Calendar types a glorious Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord, God, and Saviour Jesus Christ!

You Old Calendar types: We apologize for the inconvenience. Regular service will resume in 13 days.

Copyright © 2016 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.


Letter from Choir Director Elizabeth

Byzantine Music Score11 September 2016 (N.S.)

Elizabeth (“the New Martyr”) Pappas, Choir Director
Orthodox Church of All the Saints of North America
Takhoma Park, Maryland

To the faithful of the choir:

Welcome back! After our light summer of only one choir practice of only 2 hours per week, we’re back to our usual winter schedule of practice after church on Sunday for 3 hours, and mid-week practice at 7:00 Wednesday, for 2. The unfortunate words that were spoken when a third practice was suggested have long been forgotten, and I suggest you do the same.
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Tenors Strike for Higher Note Count

Old Church Slavonic music notationTakhoma Park, MD – Tenors from the church choir at tiny All Saints of North America Orthodox Church here in Takhoma Park have walked off the job, citing the lack of variety in their parts in the church music. Your intrepid editor was on the story like yellow on that saffron rice Baba Olga makes.

“Three notes was bad enough,” said tenor Bob (“Tsarevich Alexiy, the Martyr or Passion-Bearer, Depending on Whom You Ask”) Bridges. “Then this new Cherubic Hymn brought it down to two. And we’re not talking ison here, oh no, the basses get notes all over the place. Here, look!”

Your intrepid editor saw a lot of lines and dots, and nodded sagely.
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Ask Father Vasiliy

Dear Father VasiliyOnce again Father Vasiliy Vasileivich, pastor of Saints Vladimir and Olga and Boris and Gleb Russian Orthodox Church in Sydney, Australia, and four-time winner in the Mr. Australia Lip Balm Makers World Cup, has condescended to answer a question from an Onion Dome reader. Welcome, Father Vasiliy!

Dear Father Vasiliy,

My girlfriend and I have been arguing about this and we need a man of the cloth to settle our argument once and for all. She says that it’s okay to use regular ChapStick before divine liturgy, but fruit-flavored ChapStick, having fruit flavor, is food, and therefore one cannot use it during the liturgical fast. I pointed out that it’s not real fruit, it’s artificial flavors, but she countered that you always say margarine isn’t real butter, but it’s not nice to try to fool your guardian angels. Which makes sense, I guess, but I want to get it from the source. Is it okay to use fruit-flavored ChapStick before liturgy?

Signed, Chapped in Chattanooga.

Dear Chapped,

Always with the margarine question. Can we fool angels with fake butter? But you are wise person and are knowing that if we fool angels, they will not be able to speak for us when we are judged for eating butter during Lent at Tollhouse 423. (If readers note this number is different from number I am using before, please understand that I am having received further information from non-disclosable source.)

So yes, this is possibly of parallel. Is not real fruit flavour (which would probably chap lip more, although I am not dermatologist), this is true. But what if it were real fruit? This would be against fast and subject to judgment at Tollhouse 717, “Accidentally Ingesting Real Fruit Flavoured Lip Balm Before Liturgy.” And if guardian angels do not realize is fake flavour? What then? How can they defend us? Is bad idea.

But this is all beside point. I am telling you point now. What are you doing kissing icons with goop on lips? Is outrage! Was it greasing of lips before kissing of icons in 19th Century Russia? No it was not! Greasy icon kissing is judged at early tollbooth, somewhere in high 40’s or low 50’s. Do not do it! Keep lips dry and chapped before liturgy so you may kiss icons without leaving smudgy lip-prints that eat into egg tempera paint, or smudge up glass, or get all over — well, who cares what happens to so-to-call-them icons made from photographs and Varathane? Smudge all you are wanting.

Only thing worse than lip balm is this so-to-call-it lipstick, made from whale blubber and dead beetles. Better to salute icon like Boy Scout than to get lipstick on it.

But I am digress. No, you may not wear ChapStick or other lip goop before Liturgy. Unless you are babushka, then you may do anything you are wanting. This I am sure is true, because my wife is having told me.

Copyright © 2016 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.


Toddler’s Guide to Orthodox Parents

TACOMA — God exists outside time, therefore all times are the time to loudly raise our voice to the Lord. Parents might say that it’s not appropriate to be loud at all times, but we know better. This is why most of the liturgy is written in the present tense. Follow this guide for proper education of Orthodox parents on the importance of the “holy noise” Father Alexander Schmemann talked about in his final sermon. Here are some tips:

“Silent wrist tug” is a perfect game to play with other toddlers, because you can build quite a bit of excitement before making noise, which your parents will barely tolerate. Then, all involved can shriek and giggle when the sermon begins.

Focus noisemaking on the quiet parts of the liturgy, and behave well during the loud hymns. Other adults will think judgmental things about your parents, but your parents know that picking up a child making a moderate amount noise will cause him or her to escalate to loud shrieking, so they wait until a loud hymn to discipline you.

If your mom says, “You are behaving very badly, and I am going to take you outside,” you should repeat that back to her in a very bossy tone next week as the thing you want, “I am behaving badly, and I have to go outside.” Once outside, show glee at every punishment parents can think of. If your parent succeeds in breaking your defiance and making you cry by holding you upside-down by the ankles, meet us next week at the playground for gymnastics lessons so you’ll learn how to resist that, too.

Your dad may have established “My head is not a drum” early on, but he didn’t say “trampoline.” Long prostrations during Presanctified Liturgies are a great time to sit on his head and bounce.

If your mother frowns at you while holding you, this means she needs you to stretch her mouth back in to a smile with your hands, a game which is way more fun than play dough.
If your gums are hurting, your mother’s headscarf, especially the chin knot, is especially good for teething. Or, if you’re not allowed to have this, you can shriek. Your mom will appreciate being given a choice.

Many Orthodox churches do not have pews. This is because they are toddler parade grounds on which we demonstrate how much progress we have been making on learning to crawl or walk. Also, if one of your parents is in the choir and the other is not, this is an opportunity to make them feel equally loved by playing “shuttle run,” going from one parent to the other every five minutes.

If your parent appears to be about to do something uncivilized, such as take you outside, here are some things you can do to charm people:

  • Find old ladies, smile brightly, and ask what their names are.
  • Find a child your age of the opposite sex, hold hands, and slowly walk across the church. This will take your parents’ mind off punishment and instead lead them to make wedding plans.
  • When a child on the opposite side of the church shrieks, be silent for 60 seconds. This will make your parents glad that their child is not the noisiest in the church right now.
  • Similarly, be silent when a childless adult’s cell phone goes off in church, as the other adult’s mistake will make them happy.
  • Sing along with the choir without being asked. Or, announce loudly after the anaphora that “Theotokos song next.” People will ponder this for a moment and be quite impressed when the choir sings “It is truly meet to bless you, O Theotokos…”

If you would like to know how a wireless microphone works, smile at a priest, or deacon point at the microphone, and ask, “How dat work?” The clergyman will be delighted to show you which part you talk in to, and won’t suspect that you’re planning to grab one later. Orthodox churches often have tables with tablecloths that go all the way to the floor, and they are great places to hide while you broadcast nursery rhymes.

If you have been making progress on potty training, you should find a quiet moment during the service to announce you need to put something in the potty, and make clear which part of your body is going to put it there. Bonus points for calling out exactly what it is you intend to produce.

The Litany of Supplication and the Litany of the Catechumens is official toddler-walking time outside the church. Don’t let your parents forget that. This is why the deacon says “catechumens depart!” We’re pretty sure “catechumen” is Greek for “pre-schooler.”

Orthodox people believe in consistency in worship, and toddlers can be great at enforcing that. For example, if your father refrains from venerating an icon because there is a priest hearing confessions next to it, that is when you should bellow, “Kiss Jesus!” Furthermore, you should demand to kiss every icon in the church, because who is going to say no to that?

Your parents need prosphora. Take a piece from the bowl, then ask your dad to pick you up. Hold on to the bread for a little while, and later, when he’s talking with another adult, sneak the piece of bread in to his open mouth the way he does so with spoonfuls of strained spinach for you. This is a good way at the end of the service to return the love your parents show to you.

This story was filed by recovering reporter Thomas Eric Ruthford, who is working on a more serious book, Please Cry: A Father’s View Outside the Incubator, which he blogs about here.

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