Happy Greek Independence Day!
Find out about Agia Lavra, the church where the revolution began, in my Church Hopping column on Burnside Writers Collective.
And read my previous post on the history of March 25 being Greek Independence Day here.
From the website:::
March 24, 2014. 7-9pm. Stephanie will lead a writers workshop with Nana and Maurice at the Redeemer Offices, 1359 Broadway, 4th Floor, Main Conference Room. Admission is free. Please bring 1-2 pages of your writing for critique.
See you there!
Go home and wash up.
Clean up your act.
Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings
so I don’t have to look at them any longer.
Say no to wrong.
Learn to do good.
Work for justice.
Help the down-and-out.
Stand up for the homeless.
Go to bat for the defenseless.
~Isaiah 1: 13-17
In the Greek Orthodox faith today is Καθαρά Δευτέρα — Clean Monday. Clean Monday is to Greek Orthodox believers what Ash Wednesday is to Catholic believers. It’s the start of Great Lent. Well, technically it begins at sunset the Sunday before.
Lent is thought of as a time of abstaining. We fast from meat and dairy. But it is more than that. It is also a time of taking on new, better habits. Today we not only wash ourselves from our past wrongdoings, but we work on behalf of those who need a helping hand.
Usually you can make it to more than one Carnival because Greek Orthodox follow the Julian calendar, while Catholics use the new, Gregorian, calendar. However, this year our calendars coincide.
Carnival is basically a time to many go wild right before the seriousness of the 40-day fast of Great Lent leading up to the Crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Though it’s certainly tied to Orthodox Christianity, practicing Orthodox believers don’t participate in its more reckless aspects that are tied to Dionysus. The parades and floats, though? Those are fun!
“Are you in a cult?” my friend once asked me.
My friend and I led a Protestant ministry for young adults, and I had mentioned that I actually celebrate Easter on a different day than most Protestants. Growing up, I had always celebrated Easter at the Greek Orthodox Church. Granted it was the only time of year my family went to the Greek Church (we went to a Protestant church the rest of the year), but we were pretty adamant about that being Easter.
No, I’m not in a cult, I sighed, aggravated that she would think that. In fact, there’s much more tradition and practical reason for celebrating Easter when I do.
The Greek Orthodox Church follows the old calendar system, the Julian calendar. Protestant and Catholics later decided to follow the new Gregorian calendar. What this means, though, is that sometimes Protestants and Catholics celebrate Easter before Jewish observers celebrate Passover. And if you know anything about these religions at all, you know that that doesn’t actually make a lot of sense since Jesus’ Last Supper is suggested to be a Passover meal.
This year, however, our calendars happen to coincide!
…I guess that means no discounted Easter candy for me this year.
Mmm… smell that smoky aroma? It can only mean one thing! Today is that special Greek holiday known as Tsiknopempti. Literally, it’s Charred Meat Thursday.
Yes, that’s right. We have a whole holiday devoted eating meat. Tsiknopempti is the preamble to Great Lent. Basically, you eat a whole lot of meat now because you’re going to be fasting for a long time. Longer, in fact, than the 40 days of Great Lent, since the meat fast starts ten days before that.
Do you fast?
Previous posts on Tsiknopempti:
image via Wikipedia
While out collecting firewood near a French grotto near Massabielle, on February 11, 1858, a fourteen-year-old miller’s daughter by the name of Bernadette Soubirous had a vision of the Immaculate Conception. Some people believed her; others did not. Bishop Laurence questioned her and believed, and today Bernadette is recognized as a saint. The message she had heard from the Immaculate Conception was to build a chapel in the grotto. Today there are many chapels in Lourdes.
There is also a grotto devoted to Our Lady of Lourdes in Lowell, Massachusetts. Jack Kerouac wrote about it, and Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and Bob Dylan have visited it when stopping by the Beat novelist’s hometown.
I had the good fortune of visiting Lowell’s Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes with eminent Beat scholar Roger Brunelle, who shared some of his own stories. I wrote about it in my Church Hopping column for Burnside Writers Collective. Two years later I visited again, this time with my Kerouac biography coauthor Paul Maher Jr.
image by Jim Maggas via Wikipedia
After a weekend of trudging through dirty city snow, I was surprised—and thankful!—this morning to discover the temperatures had risen enough to melt away the large icy barricades surrounding every crosswalk. I changed out of my snow boots and put on ballet flats. Ballet flats! In the winter! Even my puffy black jacket didn’t seem necessary, but perhaps that’s because a few days before it had been so cold I was wearing my jacket in my apartment.
The warmer winter temperatures had perfect timing. Today is the day in the Greek Orthodox religion where the priest throws a cross into the river and boys jump in to save it. We call it Theophany, but many religious New Yorkers would more likely know it as Epiphany. It refers to the day John the Baptist baptized Jesus of Nazareth in the Jordan River and is the revelation that Jesus is the Son of God. You can read my explanation here.
I wouldn’t recommend actually jumping into the river yourself, but I have witnessed the Blessing of the Water ceremony. If you ever get a chance, it’s quite a sight to see here in New York City!
Do you mind if I tell you about my reading with Jason Harrod, even though it happened a few weeks ago? I know it’s waaaaay overdue but I still want to share it with you because it was a fun event and I was happy to see some of you there.
So I get to Space 38|39 a bit early and, as any bibliophile would do, I spend my time browsing the bookshelves. And look what I spy on the shelves! Do you see it? The original scroll version of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road! Providence, right?!
I actually read the same passage from the book I coauthored with Paul Maher Jr., Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” as the one I read with David Amram. Someone recorded it so I may have video in the future to show you from the reading, but in the meantime you can see me reading it with Amram here. I selected this particular passage because Jason had asked me to read something about wrestling with God, and here Paul and I tell about when Kerouac felt God wanted to have a few words with him and paid penance for watching a bullfight. It’s actually a pretty gruesome passage, so I always feel awkward reading it, but I think it’s an important passage. It speaks a lot to the way we try to reconcile our actions to God, and it demonstrates Kerouac’s softer, sensitive side.
I was invited to read a second piece and chose an old personal essay I had written. Jason joked with the audience that most of his songs were about God, girls, and the road, and it fit in perfectly with my writing. My first piece was about Kerouac’s road trip, but my second one was about my own road trip, where I met a woman who talked to me about God. The essay I read was called “Man Cannot Live on Bread Alone,” and it’s an early piece that Burnside Writers Collective published. You can read it here.
I made Jason play guitar as I read, and it was beautiful. I love collaborating with other people, and he’s a super talented musician. You can get Jason Harrod’s new album, Highliner, here.
Paul and Bets also performed, and they were so adorable. They’re this amazingly good-looking couple that look like they should be on TV, and they sang songs that transported us from the grime of New York City to the quaintness of the South. And you guys! They whistled! Oh it was too hipster cute.
Anyway, after the show this woman comes up to me, and starts saying her name and how I may not remember her but…. And I was like of course I remember you! It was a woman I used to work with and whom I actually met with on a regular basis right before the publishing division at the company shut down. She and another woman had been a blessing on my life in dealing with work and life and the transition with the company, but whom over the course of the past few years I had lost contact with. It was such a surprise and so nice to see her. She had no idea when she came to Jason’s album release that I would even be there, so we were both surprised!
Anyway, New York City is a small world full of wonder. It was a great honor to get to read at Jason’s album release party and to have so many friends show up to support it and to run into a few I wasn’t even expecting to see!
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Burning Furiously Beautiful is now available as an ebook! You can download your copy here.