Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | May 2, 2009

Posted, Lentened and Outted

Long ago and far away, I struggled through Lent. Seems a millennium ago. There were good readings and bad. There were odd things, there were discoveries… and on the whole, I’m richer for the journey. I’m not necessarily “better”…. just more experienced.

I remember the very distinct view that came to me that hey… if only I were in a desert this whole fasting thing could have been easy. I mean if you don’t see anything… smell any burgers cooking nearby… see folks eating what you’re missing… I suppose it’s easier. Possibly. And given what’s left to us on the menu, by the time we get to the end of Lent, not eating seems the better option. This whole concession  to our weakness thing… well, it doesn’t work so well. Starve me in the desert for forty days as a concession to my weakness… halfsies just doesn’t seem to fit my piggishness. I mean… you just get tired of the lack of variety, the lack of flavor, and… let’s face it… a little dairy goes a long way toward dressing up some pretty dreary stuff. Forget the Manna from Heaven… let’s just have a little cheese. “Yeah. That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout.” No, I didn’t lose any weight, but I guess I did clean out the system. At any rate, I scheduled my annual physical check-up shortly afterward, and I’m hoping the blood looks “clean”. They can say this ain’t dieting… but y’know… it ain’t Putt Putt, either.

Of course it is a fairly decent… read easy to manage… introduction to earthly deprivation. And after 50 years where as Americans we’ve represented 4% or so of the world’s population, yet consumed 30% and higher of its output, it’s a fairly meager experience of it… but it’s something. Surely it’s not as impressive as the story OCN shared on the filming of a documentary on hunger in Ethiopia where they ate virtually nothing all week until after Divine Liturgy where a whole village shared in the meal of one chicken. I liked the close to the story where the film crew hightailed it back to London for some real food. But the point is that it’s a stretch to say we’re suffering from more than self-imposed culinary boredom. Still…

And yet the preparation yields to good experiences, too. I had the opportunity to travel to St. Mark’s (OCA) in Bethesda, meet Fr. Gregory Safchuk and hear Fr. Thomas Hopko’s talk on Sin. But of course, first I had the honor to share in the beautiful liturgy of Pre-Sanctified Gifts with Deb-on-the-Run Dillon and John Bonadello. Definitely one of the highlights of Lent!

Then as a parish, St. Gregory’s went to worship at nearby St. Peter and St. Paul in Potomac, Maryland to celebrate the chrismation of a new Western Rite parish in Littleton, Maryland. And in bringing together three current Antiochian Western Rite parishes to celebrate the establishment of a fourth, the size of the congregation together with the great setting led to one of the most beautiful services I’ve witnessed. For the first time, I heard the beauty of the Gregorian plainchant arrangements of the Psalms at their best, and it was literally breathtaking. Those of us serving behind the Iconostasis were blessed to pause and just listen. Smiles all around. It was wonderful. St. Peter and St. Paul is a wonderful church with great acoustics, gorgeous icons, and an even more gracious and wonderful priest in Fr. George Rados (Many thanks!). Chrismation is always one of my favorite services as well.

Another joy for me was oddly enough in dreaming an amalgamation of singing the words of Mama’s & Papa’s “Dancing in the Streets” to the tune of Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac”. Well… in truth it wasn’t a joy at the time because I was trying to sort it out and get it right… I mean t to sing “Pink Cadillac” but the “Dancing in the Streets” words were all I could manage… and the brain wasn’t liking it. I mean… I just didn’t know the words to “Pink Cadillac” so it was Mission Impossible… but since that’s never stopped me whenever I’ve been awake… it obviously wasn’t stopping me in my sleep either. Only the odd thing was that the mix up bothered me… but it never does when I’m awake. Hmmm. And then some Orthodox hymn words were creeping in, too… but that was just too weird to recall…. and there’s already enough logs on the fires down yonder waiting for me to go there… so we won’t… and I can’t… ’cause I was trying to sleep.

But of course I had to look’em up when I got up. And maybe this will start your motor like it did mine. I think I had no idea there were any “references” in the song… and so I share my surprise here:

“Well now way back in the Bible,
Temptations always come along.
There’s always somebody tempting
Somebody into doing something they know is wrong.
Well they tempt you man with silver
And they tempt you sir with gold
And they tempt you with the pleasures
That the flesh does surely hold.
They say Eve tempted Adam with an apple
But man I ain’t going for that:
I know it was her Pink Cadillac
Crushed velvet seats
Riding in the back,
Oozing down the street
Waving to the girls
Feeling out of sight
Spending all my money on a Saturday night
Honey, I just wonder what it feels like
in the back of your Pink Cadillac,
Pink Cadillac.”

Oh, and I’ll confess that right before that Saturday night, I’d stumbled on a 1950’s honest to goodness pink cadillac in the gas station parking lot on MacArthur Boulevard over by what used to be the Defense Mapping Agency. It’d had a hard life, and I can tell you… the 1950’s fantasy… well… I guess our parents longings were for a world far more pedestrian than we’ve come to expect. The interior was … uh… disappointing… call it plainer than a go-cart. What can I say? Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.

And like my Lenten Journey… the cadillac fantasy seems parked for refurbishing. Maybe we’ll get it fixed up next year. Maybe it’ll run again. Maybe those crushed velvet seats won’t ride like the crude things they look like by today’s standards… Yeah. Maybe next Lent… the whole will ride easier, ’cause then… maybe…

“…my love will be bigger than a Honda,
yeah it’ll be bigger than a Subaru
Hey man there will be only one thing
and one car that will do.
Anyway we don’t have to drive it honey,
We can park it out in back
And have a party in your Pink Cadillac.”
(Apologies to Bruce for my Thickheaded modifications).

Yeah. Sounds like big ambitions, but a smaller reality. ‘Bout right.

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