Art and Faith

Sunday, 2 December 2007

O Come, Let Us Bow Before God Our King! Rakhmaninov

These are the first prayers of the Vechernya (“Evening Service”, Vespers). This recording preserves the liturgical intonations before the choral setting, so the hymn proper does not begin until 35 seconds into the video. The basso taking the part of the deacon is the famous Vladimir Miller, a well-known soloist from the Valaam Ensemble (how low CAN he go?). It is sung by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir directed by Paul Hillier (a moderate-sized group of 30 voices).

Many translations into English incorrectly render poklonimsya as “worship”. That is a Protestant usage best avoided as it obscures the meaning of the text. A poklon is a bow, therefore we “bow” before God our King (a physical act of reverence), we do not “worship” God our King (a fuzzy and diffuse mental action). Orthodoxy is always concrete and actual in its liturgical texts, therefore, this unfortunate (and overly Anglican) translation should be abandoned by all right-believing Orthodox without further ado.

Dmitri Belyukin. The Road to Church. 2003

The Road to Church (Dmitri Belyukin, 2003)

Well, it’s the Lord’s Day again! I know where I am heading… what about you? We may meet on “the road to church!”

This is another one of Mr Belyukin’s “metaphorical” paintings. The church is in the distance, and there is still a good deal of muddy road to be traversed before we arrive there. We are going to get our boots muddied, and we may slip and fall a time or two before we get there. In other words, a highly-nuanced allegory of the Christian life.

Also, it appears to be spring time, a period when the earth is reawakening yet again from winter’s slumber. The second metaphor, of course, is the rebirth of faith in Russia after the long Red winter.

May God bless you and yours on this Sunday.

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