Saturday, 26 April 2008



The icon of the Anastasis – the Descent of Christ into Hell and His Resurrection – is a sacred image that was created and developed by Christian artists of the Orthodox Byzantine Church. It is one of the favourite themes in Eastern Christian Art and the traditional Byzantine icon for the Resurrection. The Anastasis image was created in the late seventh century and continued to evolve until it reached its final form in the eleventh century.

The Liturgy of the Hours, evolved over the whole lifetime of the Orthodox Church is a source of the iconography of the Resurrection. It is rather difficult to ascertain which came first, the Liturgy of the Hours prayers, or the awareness of the Anastasis event. What is certain however is that there are many references to the Anastasis event in the Liturgies of Great and Holy Saturday of both the Western Latin Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

In the Matins of Great and Holy Saturday,
the priest chants:
“O Messiah, Jesus, Whom are you seeking in the depths of hell? Hell’s foundations quaked and trembled, seeing You Opening the graves of mortal men. When devouring Hades Engulfed the Rock of Life, In great pain he burst asunder, And the dead, held captive from all ages Were released.”

Epiphanius of Salamis, writes this piece, now forming art of the Vespers for Holy Saturday:
“Yesterday he was stricken, Today, he strikes the abode of Hades, With the lightning of his divinity; Yesterday he was bound up, Today, he ties down the tyrant in indissoluble bonds; Yesterday he was condemned, Today, he presents freedom to the condemned.”

Christ, standing on the broken gates of hell and the scattered symbols of sin’s enslavement, takes both Adam by the hand and hauls him out of his tomb, with Eve watching awe-struck behind him. It is a very dynamic image. Christ’s knees are bent but he is not walking in either direction. Rather, the sense of movement is up. The action is all Christ’s. Adam and Eve are being pulled from their tombs towards Christ and towards redemption.

John the Baptist and King David (left) as well as angels and other figures from the Scriptures watch the miracle of the resurrection in acknowledgement of Christ’s divinity, their gestures an affirmation of the miracle they are witnessing.



“A song will outlive all sermons in the memory.” - Henry Giles

Johann Sebastian Bach is one of my favourite composers and his music is as close to perfection as we humans can get. In his music one can hear all of the emotions, all of the human condition, all of our joys and sorrows. This cantata that I have selected today is one of consummate artistry and genuine feeling.

It is Johann Sebastian Bach’s "Christ lag in Todes Banden" (BWV 4 – Christ Lay in Death’s Bonds) and is very apt for this Easter Eve.

1. Sinfonia.

2. Choral.

Christ lag in Todesbanden
Für unsre Sünd gegeben,
Er ist wieder erstanden
Und hat uns bracht das Leben;
Des wir sollen fröhlich sein,
Gott loben und ihm dankbar sein
Und singen halleluja,

Christ lay in death's bonds
given over for our sins,
He has risen again
and brought us life;
therefore we should be joyful,
praise God and be thankful to Him
and sing Hallelujah,

3. Duett.

Den Tod niemand zwingen kunnt
Bei allen Menschenkindern,
Das macht' alles unsre Sünd,
Kein Unschuld war zu finden.
Davon kam der Tod so bald
Und nahm über uns Gewalt,
Hielt uns in seinem Reich gefangen.

No one could defeat death
among all humanity,
this was all because of our sins,
no innocence was to be found.
Therefore death came so soon
and took power over us,
held us captive in his kingdom.

4. Choral.

Jesus Christus, Gottes Sohn,
An unser Statt ist kommen
Und hat die Sünde weggetan,
Damit dem Tod genommen
All sein Recht und sein Gewalt,
Da bleibet nichts denn Tods Gestalt,
Den Stach'l hat er verloren.

Jesus Christ, God's son,
has come in our place,
and has done away with sin,
thereby taking from death
all his rights and power,
nothing remains but death's form;
he has lost his sting.

Cantus Cölln.
Dir. Konrad Junghänel.

1. Choral.

Es war ein wunderlicher Krieg,
Da Tod und Leben rungen,
Das Leben behielt den Sieg,
Es hat den Tod verschlungen.
Die Schrift hat verkündigt das,
Wie ein Tod den andern fraß,
Ein Spott aus dem Tod ist worden.

It was a strange battle,
that death and life waged,
life claimed the victory,
it devoured death.
The scripture had prophesied this,
how one death gobbled up the other,
a mockery has been made out of death.

2. Arie.

Hier ist das rechte Osterlamm,
Davon Gott hat geboten,
Das ist hoch an des Kreuzes Stamm
In heißer Lieb gebraten,
Das Blut zeichnet unsre Tür,
Das hält der Glaub dem Tode für,
Der Würger kann uns nicht mehr schaden.

Here is the true Easter-lamb,
offered up by God,
which was, high on the cross' stalk
roasted in hot love,
the blood marks our door,
faith holds it against death,
the strangler can no longer harm us.

3. Duett.

So feiern wir das hohe Fest
Mit Herzensfreud und Wonne,
Das uns der Herre scheinen läßt,
Er ist selber die Sonne,
Der durch seiner Gnade Glanz
Erleuchtet unsre Herzen ganz,
Der Sünden Nacht ist verschwunden.

So we celebrate the high festival
with joy of heart and delight,
which the Lord radiates upon us,
He himself is the sun,
that through the splendor of his grace
illuminates our hearts completely,
the night of sin has disappeared.

4. Choral.

Wir essen und leben wohl
In rechten Osterfladen,
Der alte Sauerteig nicht soll
Sein bei dem Wort der Gnaden,
Christus will die Koste sein
Und speisen die Seel allein,
Der Glaub will keins andern leben.

We eat and live well
on the true Easter bread,
the old leaven shall not
exist next to the word of grace,
Christ will be our food
and nourish the soul alone,
faith will live in no other way.

Cantus Cölln.
Dir. Konrad Junghänel.

Friday, 25 April 2008


“We understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one whom we love.” - Madame de Staël

A solemn day today on many counts. On 25 April every year, Anzac Day is a special commemorative day for Australians and New Zealanders. It commemorates the landing of Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. The date, 25 April, was officially named ANZAC Day in 1916.

ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. In 1917, the word ANZAC meant someone who fought at Gallipoli and later it came to mean any Australian or New Zealander who fought or served in the First World War. During the Second World War, ANZAC Day became a day on which the lives of all Australians lost in war time were remembered. The spirit of ANZAC recognises the qualities of courage, mateship and sacrifice which were demonstrated at the Gallipoli landing.

Commemorative services are held at dawn on 25 April, the time of the original landing, across the nation, usually at war memorials. This was initiated by returned soldiers after the First World War in the 1920s as a common form of remembrance. The first official dawn service was held at the Sydney Cenotaph in 1927, which was also the first year that all states recognised a public holiday on the day. Initially dawn services were only attended by veterans who followed the ritual of 'standing to' before two minutes of silence was observed, broken by the sound of a lone piper playing the 'Last Post'. Later in the day, there were marches in all the major cities and many smaller towns for families and other well wishers.

Today it is a day when Australians reflect on the many different meanings of war. Gatherings are held at war memorials across the country.

For Greek Orthodoxy, today is Good Friday, the most solemn and melancholy day in the Church calendar. On Good Friday morning, at the service of the Royal Hours, we remember all the Old Testament prophesies that foretold the coming, teaching, suffering, and death of Christ. In the afternoon, the wooden icon representing Christ’s dead body is taken down from the Cross, and wrapped in a white sheet for burial. A cloth icon of the deceased body of Christ, called the Epitaphion, is carried in a procession around the Church and placed on the flower bedecked and canopied Bier called the Kouvouklion. We have prepared Christ’s body for the wake or the viewing.

On Good Friday evening we gather to mourn the Service of the Lamentations. We sing three lamentation hymns with many verses. The great paradox is that Christ, who is the Son of God and the source of all life, is now seen dead before us. We sing “E Zoe en tafo”, that is, “O Christ, you, who are Life, You are now laid in the tomb, and ranks of angels were amazed, glorifying your condescension.” Then the funeral procession takes place. The Bier/Kouvouklion is carried in sacred procession and, upon its return to church, the icon of the dead Christ is placed on the Altar.

Today is also St Mark’s Feast Day. Most of what we know about Mark the Evangelist, comes directly from the New Testament. He is usually identified with the Mark of Acts 12:12. (When Peter escaped from prison, he went to the home of Mark's mother.) Paul and Barnabas took him along on the first missionary journey, but for some reason Mark returned alone to Jerusalem. It is evident, from Paul's refusal to let Mark accompany him on the second journey despite Barnabas's insistence, that Mark had displeased Paul. Later, Paul asks Mark to visit him in prison so we may assume the trouble did not last long.

The oldest and the shortest of the four Gospels, the Gospel of Mark emphasizes Jesus' rejection by humanity while being God's triumphant envoy. Probably written for Gentile converts in Rome—after the death of Peter and Paul sometime between A.D. 60 and 70—Mark's Gospel is the gradual manifestation of a "scandal", that is, a crucified Messiah.

This is also Pesach, or Passover, for the Jews. This springtime holiday always begins on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nissan. The basic theme of the holiday is the exodus from slavery in Egypt; the various rituals and texts associated with Pesach help to establish and understand this crucial narrative of Jewish communal memory. The basic story is found in the book of Exodus, chapters 1-15. Chapters 12-15 contain details of the observance of the holiday itself.

The name Pesach comes from a Hebrew word meaning "to pass through" or "to pass over". It refers to the story of how God "passed over" the houses of the Jews during the plague of the Death of the First Born. "Pesach" is also the name of the sacrificial offering (a lamb) that was made in the Temple on this holiday. Pesach is also sometimes called the Chag Ha-Aviv "Holiday of the Springtime," or Zman Cherutenu "the Season of our Freedom."

On the first night of Pesach (first two nights for many traditional Jews outside Israel), there is a special meal filled with ritual to teach the significance of the holiday. This meal is called a Seder, from a Hebrew word meaning "order." There is a set of texts that are to be discussed in a specific order. The Seder also includes rituals of eating matzah and bitter herbs, singing holiday songs, and asking questions. It is a multi-media Jewish ritual event! The texts, prayers and instructions for the evening are found in a volume called the Hagaddah, which means 'telling.' The point of the evening is not to read the Hagaddah, but to use it as a springboard to 'jump off the page.'

The most well-known observances of Pesach are the holding of the Seder meal on the first night (or nights) and the prohibitions against the eating of Hametz - leavened foods. Leavened foods include anything made from five basic grains: wheat, barley, spelt, rye, and oats. This includes anything made from these products, including beer and grain alcohols. The only acceptable way to eat these grain products is in the form of Matzah, or unleavened bread, which is baked very quickly so that the dough does not rise. This helps to remember the speed with which the Israelites left Egypt. The Bible says that they did not have time for their bread to rise. Other kinds of foods can be made from ground-up matzah, including cakes and confections, but these are prepared especially for Pesach.

Jews of Ashkenazic (European) descent often also refrain from eating a category of food called kitniyot. These are products made from seeds and beans, including rice, corn, and legumes. The concern is that the prohibited foods may be confused with these items in processed form. Many Sephardic Jews will eat kitniyot, but customs vary widely. Biblically, Pesach lasts for seven days, but, since Rabbinic times, many communities observe eight days. The prohibition against eating leavened foods lasts until sundown after the final day of the holiday. Today is the sixth day of Pesach.

Enjoy your weekend, and if Orthodox, Happy Easter! If Jewish, Happy Passover!

Thursday, 24 April 2008


“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” - Lewis B. Smedes

This week is Holy Week for the Orthodox people and Orthodox Easter is this Sunday. Today is Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday, which is the Thursday before Easter Sunday, observed by Christians in commemoration of Christ's Last Supper. The name Maundy is derived from mandatum (Latin, "commandment"), the first word of an anthem sung in the liturgical ceremony on that day. Another derivation is from the Latin mundo, "I ritually cleanse," referring to Christ's washing the feet of the apostles.

In many churches, the Eucharist is celebrated in a liturgy that includes Holy Communion. During the Roman Catholic liturgy, the ceremony of the washing of the feet, or pedilavium, is performed: the celebrant washes the feet of 12 people to commemorate Christ's washing of his disciples' feet. In England a custom survives of giving alms ("maundy pennies") to the poor; this recalls an earlier practice in which the sovereign washed the feet of the poor on Maundy Thursday. In most European countries, the day is known as Holy Thursday.

The feast of Maundy (or Holy) Thursday solemnly commemorates the institution of the Eucharist, where Christ blesses bread and wine which miraculously transubstantiate .This is the oldest of the observances peculiar to Holy Week.

Eucharist |ˈyoōkərist| noun
The Christian ceremony commemorating the Last Supper, in which bread and wine are consecrated and consumed.
• the consecrated elements, esp. the bread.
The bread and wine are referred to as the body and blood of Christ, though much theological controversy has focused on how substantially or symbolically this is to be interpreted. The service of worship is also called Holy Communion or (chiefly in the Protestant tradition) the Lord's Supper or (chiefly in the Catholic tradition) the Mass. See also consubstantiation , transubstantiation .
Eucharistic |ˌyoōkəˈristik| |ˈˈjukəˈrɪstɪk| |-ˈrɪstɪk| adjective
Eucharistical |ˌyoōkəˈristikəl| |ˈˈjukəˈrɪstəkəl| |-ˈrɪstɪk(ə)l| adjective
ORIGIN late Middle English : from Old French eucariste, based on ecclesiastical Greek eukharistia ‘thanksgiving,’ from Greek eukharistos ‘grateful,’ from eu ‘well’ + ‘offer graciously’ (from kharizesthaikharis ‘grace’ ).

Salvador Dalí’s 1955 painting of “The Last Supper” is shown above.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008


“In a separation it is the one who is not really in love who says the more tender things.” – Marcel Proust

A poem written many years ago when I was coping with a parting of ways, an ending and a separation that was predestined even from before the union that begat it. “Evasion” seems an odd title on first reading, but think about it…


My emotions leave me
Deserting the confines of the walls of my heart;
In single file they abandon me
Responding to your wily invitation.
And I – I feel empty, deluded and betrayed.

My every thought scatters,
Escaping from the cramped prison of my mind
In heterogenous gangs they escape, run
Behind you, flying, following you.
And I – I’m arid, solitary, desolate.

My few joys disappear,
Away from my life they vanish;
They fade like the few luminous gleams
Of the last firework.
And I – I’m in the darkness, sad, dejected, melancholy.

My hopes run away from me,
They fly like delicate, blue butterflies.
My soul, a bare little box
Containing only the emptiness of despair,
A zero, a null void, a barren waste;
And I – I can feel nothing now.

Without you, in my torment,
I’m only a carcass
Without hopes, joys, thoughts or feelings.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008


“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Today is Earth Day, and it is on this day that we make a point of taking heed of the planet’s cries for help. Environment groups all around the world organise demonstrations, special events, lectures, and increase awareness about issues that we should be thinking about every day of the year, not just n Earth Day.

In 1969, as a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson (1916-2005) came up with one of the most powerful ideas of his time: Earth Day. Inspired by the teach-ins dealing with the Vietnam War, Earth Day was an instant success, drawing 20 million participants the first year (1970). American Heritage Magazine called the first Earth Day "one of the most remarkable happenings in the history of democracy." Each year since, Earth Day has been celebrated around the world.

When Senator Nelson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995, President Clinton noted, “as the founder of Earth Day, he is the grandfather of all that grew out of that event— the Environmental Protection Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act. He also set a standard for people in public service to care about the environment and try to do something about it.”

Quite aptly today, an Australian group promoting environmentally-friendly tourism has won an international award. Ecotourism Australia was named winner of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Conservation Award at the eighth Global Travel and Tourism Summit in Dubai. Ecotourism Australia was formed in 1991 as a not-for-profit organisation made up largely of private sector tourism businesses.

The group won praise for its ECO Certification Program, which encourages best practice among tourism providers in ecological sustainability, natural area management and quality of ecotourism experiences. Earlier this month, they declared Queensland's Hidden Valley Cabins and Tours, in the Paluma Range north-west of Townsville, Australia's first fully carbon neutral tourism operator. For the WTTC awards, recognising best practice in sustainable tourism development, 11 international judges chose three finalists in each category before visiting those on the short-list.

I planted a tree today. What did you do for Earth Day 2008?

“In the end, we conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” - Baba Dioum, Senegalese poet.

Monday, 21 April 2008


“Any subject is good for opera if the composer feels it so intently he must sing it out.” - Gian Carlo Menotti

We watched an opera on DVD yesterday and it proved to be quite a good production. The medium of the DVD certainly lends itself well to opera, with its great video and audio quality, but also with the action so well transported from stage to TV screen. The opera was Claudio Monteverdi’s (1567-1643) “Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria” in Humphrey Burton’s version of 2002. The story is taken from Homer’s Odyssey and concerns the homecoming of Ulysses from the Trojan War.

Monteverdi can be justly considered one of the most powerful figures in the history of music. He was the first to write what we consider nowadays as opera. Monteverdi became known as a leading exponent of the modem approach to harmony and text expression. In 1607 his first opera, “Orfeo”, was produced in Mantua and it was followed by several more. In 1640, “Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria” was composed. This was Monteverdi's first opera for Venice. The opera was very successful in Venice, where it had ten performances, and was then taken to the Teatro Castrovillani in Bologna.

The production in this DVD is French and playing the leads are: Kresimir Spicer as Ulisse, Marijana Mijanovic as Penelope, Cyril Auvity as Telemaco and Joseph Cornwell as Eumete. The settings are a little sparse, but one then tends to concentrate more on the music. Well worth seeing and listening to this!

Sunday, 20 April 2008


“The position of the artist if humble. He is essentially a channel.” - Piet Mondrian

Piet Mondrian
 (1872-1944) was a Dutch neoplasticist painter who began his artist career painting landscapes, but soon moved to more abstract styles. After spending time in Paris before World War I, where he was influenced by cubism, he began to develop his own style of pure abstraction. His style, which he called neoplasticism, avoided both the reproduction of real objects or even filtered perceptions of real objects (as in impressionism). He refined his neoplastistic style during the 1920's, producing the abstractions with black lines and red, blue and yellow blocks for which he is best known.

Like many European artists and musicians of the early twentieth century, Mondrian left Europe for the United States during World War II and settled in New York, where he remained until his death in 1944. The works from his New York period, including Broadway Boogie Woogie (see above) and Victory Boogie Woogie (which was unfinished when he died) took his geometric abstractions in a different direction.