Two images

Pentecost is the birthday of the Christian church. Twelve people were together in a room – of which they, out of fear, kept the door closed – and God “filled them with power”. This changed the syn-agoge, “the assembled” into ek-klesia, “those called out”.

This recalls to me two images.

On the first picture by war correspondent Margaret Bourke-White some American soldiers attend Mass in March 1945 in the bombed cathedral of Cologne.

Having grown up in the depressing climate of the Hungary of the seventies, I had an image of the church something like this. It was agreeable to imagine it like this. It is so uplifting to believe in the power of the cathedral, of the together-ness, of the syn-agoge.

Nowadays, with much less illusion, I find more precise the image of an Easter procession in April 1942 somewhere in the Ukraine occupied by the German army. There is no priest with them: he was put in lager, has fled, or has changed over to the invaders just like the members of the Communist Party’s puppet organization “Priests for the Peace” delegated to the workers’ district of my childhood. There is only one male among them, probably because he was not good enough either for forced labor or for a partisan. He tries to hide behind the cross from the lens of the German soldier. The everydays of the women stumbling along behind him through the puddles are marked by tensions, small-mindedness, envy, misery. On this image there is nothing uplifting. From the gate of the house put in requisition some German officers are watching the march.

There is but one thing that cannot be seen on the picture. There is a music pertaining to it that is not always heard. But it fills with power whoever hears it, just as it used to do to those twelve.

Христос воскресе из мёртвых – Christ has risen from the dead. Orthodox Easter troparium. Choir of the Cathedral of Novokuznetsk.

7 comentarios:

Jesús dijo...

A thing that has particularly struck me since I first came to live in France is that in that ‘très laïcarde’ republic, Pentecoste is a public holiday—yet Yom Kippur or any ‘Ayd are not. More striking is the fact that, as far my ‘collective’ memory can go, Pentecost has never been a public holiday in culturally-yet-not-so-actually Catholic Spain.

Incidentally, Orthodox Christian music has always had the same appeal as the Hungarian language for me: a feeling of delighted ignorance.

Megkoronáz, AJP dijo...

I love the music.

Araz dijo...

Thanks for the note, now I know the possible etymology of kilsə "church" in my language.

Russian Orthodox choir is something that appeals directly to my soul. Even in this scene from a popular soviet comedy.

Organ music is probably a bit less but still very powerful. Actually my first ever prayer I can remember was in 1984 in a church in Kaunas, I asked for a safe train journey.

As for France with its 2004 ban on wearing "conspicuous signs of religious belief" and militant racism in elite, no surprise.

Studiolum dijo...

Yes, I also feel Russian Orthodox choir singing very much opening up and elevating. It was at the end of the 80s that, as a sign of the perestroika, a number of good LPs of Russian church music appeared in the Russian bookshops of Budapest which first presented us this fascinating music. The above version of “Christ has risen” was on the first LP I heard (sung even more impressively by a more prestigious monastery choir), and so I can imagine its impact as a first encounter with this music.

When I read the Persian word “kilisa” for the first time, my instinctive first thought was that it must be an Indo-European word coming from the same root as German “Kirche”. It took a moment to realize that the concept itself was much later than the separation of the German branch from the Indo-Iranian one, and that they both – just like Turkish “kilise” – must come from Greek “ekklesia” which, on its turn, comes from “ek-kleiō”, “call out” (the same word as the name of Kleio, the Muse of History, who “calls out loudly” the names of the heroes). Interestingly, the only language I know where Christian “church” is called with the same word as non-Christian “temples” is Hungarian: we, very ecumenically (or syncretically), call all churches “templom”.

I feel it as a great honor that you have shared the memory of your first prayer (and especially that it was in a Catholic church), and I thank you for it.

Actually, among the many things you could write about, one very exciting would be the religious revival in modern Azerbaijan. It would be very interesting to see how a forcibly secularized Shiite society returns to its roots, and how much this Shiitism is different from the one on the other side of the Iranian border.

Thank you for calling attention to the series “Золото советского кино” on YouTube. A quite good overview of Soviet movies. Another topic you could write about, picking some preferred movies or trends, for they are almost completely unknown in the West.

I did not know that Pentecost is no public holiday in Spain, as perhaps the only exception among Catholic countries. What is the reason of the difference? In Hungary if not Yom Kippur, but Hanukkah has recently started to have the rang of a semi-official feast. On the other hand, 25 December is no public holiday in Orthodox Romania, and before 1990 Protestants and Catholics – some 15% of the population – were even forbidden to take holiday on that day.

Megkoronáz, AJP dijo...

There's a lot of contradictory information on the internet about which countries have Pentecost as a public holiday. It may have been removed from the list of Spanish public holidays after 1978, when the new Constitution made Spain a secular state. I read that France (a secular state since the Revolution) removed Pentecost from its list of public holidays from 2005 to 2007, when employees in the private sector were asked to work for free in order to pay for increased health costs for the elderly. This was a big political fight with the unions at the time. There's been some discussion in (secular) Italy about it being a public holiday. I'm not sure whether it is or not. In (non-secular) England & Wales, the day off work for Pentecost (known as Whitsun there) was replaced by a secular holiday, known blandly as "Spring Bank Holiday", in 1971. In Norway, another country with a state religion, Pentecost (Pinsen) is a public holiday.

I believe that although Hungary is secular, Pentecost is a holiday; whereas in secular (but 90% Lutheran) Sweden it isn't. There seems to be no pattern here at all.

Araz dijo...

Thanks for sharing these, Tamas, and for those great ideas for the next article. I will definitely start one next week, once I finally decide on topic - so many wonderful options.

Studiolum dijo...

I’m eagerly looking forward to your next posts. Of course the topic is up to you, not only the ones suggested above but whatever lays close to your heart at the moment. Just write it, that’s the only important thing.