Christ is risen!

It’s Easter! I’ve completely lost my voice through a horrible cold that couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time — but I managed to serve the Easter service. We had a good Lent, I managed to lay off the wine, oil and animal products except for one piece of cheese a day (after I noticed I started getting rather dizzy), lost about one-ninth of my weight — and although I didn’t manage to read the entire gospel according to St. Mark in Greek, I did get back into coding — weirdly enough.

And now I’ve got three weeks of holidays for coding, visiting  museums and Wroclaw, for the Libre Graphics Meeting.

Anyway: Christos Anesti! Christos Voskrese! Christus is opgestaan! Christ has Risen!

The weirdest Easter ever… But Christ is Risen!

At least for me. The very first Sunday of Lent we first took a look at the 16th century house over our Church. (The Church bought the  house to get the cellar so we could convert it into a place to drink coffee after services, so we could convert our current coffeeroom into an extension to the “nave” of the church.) We liked what we saw, so we decided to try to buy it.

Problem was, we had only until the very last day of Lent, that is, six weeks, to buy it because of some tax-related issue that would have bumped up the price with about 17.000 euros. Speed was, accordingly, of the essence. And house buying is already quite nerve-wracking. It became impossible to fast properly, so I’ve missed the Big Red Spiritual Reset Button time this year, which makes it hard to have a proper Easter, John Chrysostom’s Easter Homily notwithstanding. A pity, because various circumstances outside my control made a good, thorough Lent a bit of a necessity for me, this year. And we’re not muslims: once it’s Easter, you cannot decide to somehow do the skipped fasting anyway at a later date. Easter is Easter, for everyone. Again, see John Chrysostomom.

We succeeded, despite complications like Irina losing her job in a very stressful way right after the mortgage application was signed, the seller’s representative going on holiday in the middle of it all and more. Friday 30 March we signed the papers — one hour before the absolute deadline, and we became the proud owners of a big, sixteenth century house. At least, parts of it are C16, and there are parts of all the following centuries.

During Holy Week we started renovating, ripping out the ca. 1930 partitions in the attic, the C18 maid’s room in the attic and more. We discovered rotten beams in the roof, a sewer gas outlet right inside the house, the kitchen ventilator ends in what used to be the previous owner’s study. All the fun things. Builders, painters, gas & electricity people all offered to the do work for us for ridiculously inflated prices. Except the painters, who wanted more money than we have, but were quite reasonable in their estimate. There’s a lot of wood in that house, all of it bare. Apparently the previous owner, who was a shaman of sorts, believed that bare wood was spiritually important.

But most of the scaffolding for the new walls for the kids’ rooms in the attic are up, friends of ours are helping with building, my dad is over to help with the work. Progress is being made!

Oh, and: Christus is opgestaan! Christ is risen! Christos voskrese! Christos anesti! (Father Theodore also added Rumanian and Finnish to this years string of translations, but I can’t spell those languages.)

Palm Sunday

This year is one of those rare years where western Christianity and eastern Christianity celebreate Easter at the same date (excluding those people who keep the Julian calendar, of course, there’s always something). When that happens the children in our parish take part in the great procession of all children from all parishes and communities in Deventer, no matter the denomination, that goes along all churches. There’s a donkey, too, usually a young one. The procession passes our own church and Father Theodore blesses all the sweets-on-a-stick we call “palmpasens” that the children carry.

That’s me and Father Theodore waiting for the children to arrive:

A blessing with a vengeance:

Next week is Holy Week. I’ll be in Church pretty much permanently from Wednesday evening to Sunday afternoon. Accordingly, I won’t be able to exercise my gift of the gab to make sure KOffice gets as many Google Summer of Code slots as possible within the KDE project, but no doubt others will fight the good fight. It’s amazing — there hasn’t been a single bad GSOC proposal for KOffice this year. They were all really great, all nine or ten of them!

(Pictures by Menna)

The desire for unity

I’ve been watching from the corner of my eye the life videocast from the Church of St. George today. The Patriarch of Constantinople and the Pope celebrated the Holy Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. I was hoping for a miraculous restoration of full communion — for the Patriarch to beckon the pope with the chalice, or something like that.

That was too much to hope for — of course. And if it had happened it would have rent Orthodoxy in two. But it was a hope-giving celebration nonetheless. With the Pope reading the Lord’s Prayer in Greek during the Liturgy, with the mutual speeches in which the Pope time and again referred to Peter and Andrew being brothers, as should the successors of Peter and Andrew be. And during communion the pope was actually grinning, like he thought “wait and see — I’ll live to see communion between our churches!”

It was a beautiful liturgy and a beautiful ceremony concluded by the solemn exchange of gifts — a gospel for the Pope and a  communion chalice for the Patriarch. As the commentator said “They’re almost like a couple, affianced but not yet married who almost cannot wait any longer to consummate their unity”. Now that’s a simile that’s worth remembering!

The problem is that while the heads of the churches know each other and want unity, they both have stubborn and contrary believers in their flocks that really don’t share their prime bishop’s desire.

One of the points of the joint declaration was that even on a local level, meeting between the churches is a Good Thing — I understand it a call on Roman Catholics to find their nearest Orthodox parish and visit, and on Orthodox Christians to find their nearest Roman Catholic parish and visit, too. Learning to know each other and to love each other. Fun trivia detail: the declaration was written in French but read out in English.

In a sense, the ceremony was striking in its simplicity, informality — a joint blessing, a look of understanding exchanged between Pope and Patriarch, the little kid running up to the pope before he receives communion, the men chatting in the back of the church, just like the Russian men do in our church, a choir no bigger than the choir of our own church. The Patriarch laying out the pen for the Pope to sign with with a friendly gesture. A friendly family atmosphere prevailed :-).

Both churches have serious problems in addition to discord: as the Pope said, the western Catholic church is declining through  secularism. And the eastern Orthodox church is suffering from persecution by the Turkish government (which among other things seizes churches, has closed the theological school and is awfully keen to make sure Patriarch Bartholomew will be the last Ecumenical Patriarch). Sister churches in the Middle East are going through an even more difficult time. And the Church in Russia is once again being subverted and poisoned through a too close association with a state keen on abusing the church to tighten its hold on its people.

But let’s be optimistic: full communion between Roman  Catholicism and Orthodoxy in our lifetimes! It’s possible — most of the old theological disputes like the filioque, yeast or not in the communion bread and so on — have been resolved. If the Churches are sister churches and the Patriarchs brothers like Andrew and Peter were brothers, then resolving the remaining problems is merely a matter of time and a little good will. And that the Pope and Patriarch have shown to possess in spades today.

(Note for people reading this through aggregators or planets,
and especially for the people who have complained about my writing
about religion before, and for all those who are getting all worked
up about someone posting religious stuff to a planet: this is my blog,
on my server, and I write about what I want. Whether that’s hacking,
painting or religion. If you don’t want to see this on the planet you
read, contact the planet administrator about it. I don’t post to planets,
I have never asked a planet to aggregate my blog. Planets grab my rss
feed. That’s fine with me, that’s what the feed is for. But I’m not going
to limit myself in my choice of subjects. If you don’t want to read about
religion, you shouldn’t have clicked the “read more link”.)

1pi and 1pe

1pi and 1pe are linguistic abbreviations for first person plural inclusive and first person plural exclusive respectively. Some languages, like Limbu, make this distinction pretty thoroughly. Pronouns and verbs differ in form according to whether they “we, including you” is meant or “we, excluding you” is meant.

anchi we two (me + you) 1di
anchige we two (me + someone else, but not you) 1de
ani we two or more (me, someone(s) else + you) 1pi
anige we two or more (me + someone(s) else, but not you, who I’m talking to) 1pe

Source: A Grammar of Limbu, George van Driem, 1987

It is of this grammatical phenomenon that I have to think about every year, at Christmas when in Church the text “God is with us” is sung during Great Compline. For one thing, because, even after fourteen Orthodox Christmasses, my gut reaction is still “what — with us, and not with everybody else? Can’t somebody fix that text?”

Now, if we were Limbus, we’d probably sing “Mang anilummo yakma” —  and it would be crystal clear that the “us” of the text isn’t some small exclusive we-group, some in-crowd, but an inclusive we.

Mang ani-lummo yakma
God 1pi-MIDST be(LOC)
God is in our (inclusive) midst

(Of course, that’s what our text really means, God is with us on Earth, just-born, in person, so to speak. In the prosophon of the physical presence of the Son. Walking as a man amongst humanity. Limbu would, apparently, seem be really suited as a language for theological conversations.)


Our family prays every night — a very, very, very short and abbreviated version of vespers — and we like to light a karbounakia, or small bit of charcoal, and add a grain of incense. There are all kinds of good, theological and pious reasons to do so, but it’s fun, too, and it helps if the living room smells like Church, when you want to pray.

Our stock, bought last year in Greece, is now sadly depleted, so I was rather interested when a bit of outre research(1) led me to the Hermitage of the Holy Cross. Here they sell incense… But it’s almost as if they’re selling pipe tobacco! (Note: I do not recommend smoking, not even a pipe, although it is surely something every wise wife should allow her husband, the old English proverb says “allow your man his pipe and his hobby and you’ve got him chained for good”, but smoking etc. A hobby like KDE, though, cannot but be good for one’s health.)

In any case, Casper Boemann has just fixed the rotating-big-images bug in Krita. Hurray!

1Roey Katz on #koffice reminded me (without knowing himself) that I should check Ship of Fools, from whence I went to Monachos, where a discussion on head scarves attended me to the question of long hair and beards for men, where I learned that angels are trespassing on the 96th canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Council.

I bet I earned that penny for my thoughts now!


Christ is risen! (all over the world)

For those who’ve been wondering where I was last week, well, I was in Church pretty much solid from Wednesday evening until Sunday morning, 3:30 (CET). And afterwards we had a feast, so I wasn’t home until six o’clock this morning.

Holy Week is the one week in the year during which I feel most completely alive; when every day seems to be an eternity in itself. During Holy Week I never can believe that there exists a world outside the church services — everything else is so thin and unreal. That goes for work, but it also goes for KOffice and everything else. Christos anesti!

Which is good, of course. Church is the place where one goes to experience the Eternal and to praise the living God, who his risen from the dead and thereby conquered death itself. And Easter is not commemoration, or re-enactment, but actualisation — making the eternal truth present for us. Christ is resurrected in reality every time when the priest first sings “Christus is opgestaan!

And this morning, I’m going about the house, singing the Easter troparion in Greek, Dutch and Church Slavonic. Eating chocolate eggs, kissing my wife and hugging the kids. We’ve got a growing parish full of people (we really don’t fit in our Church anymore) I love, and I’ve given almost all of them the Easter kiss this morning. We had the Gospel in Dutch, Russian, Greek, French, English, Frisian, Macedonian, Georgian and Geez. And I’m blogging incoherently — but full of joy. Христос Воскресе! Χριστος