“Everyone must have two pockets, with a note in each pocket, so that he or she can reach into one or the other, depending on the need. When feeling lowly and depressed, discouraged or disconsolate, one should reach into the right pocket, and, there, find the words: Bishvili nivra ha-olam “The world was created for me.” (BT Sanhedrin 37B) But when feeling high and mighty one should reach into the left pocket, and find the words: V’anochi afar v’efer “I am but dust and ashes.” (Gen. 18:27)
This evening a dear friend and I reunited in Toronto and spontaneously decided to attend Vespers at St. Moses & St. Katherine Coptic Orthodox Church.
The evening prayer and raising of incense was set to begin at 7:00 p.m.
Aside from the priest, two young men chanting liturgical responses, and one woman from the community, my friend and I were the only ones there.
Before beginning vespers, Fr. John Boutros came over to give us a brief explanation of the prayer.
“The purpose of vespers is start wondering now: where has my life gone? It’s a journey toward reconciliation in preparation for the liturgy the following day. Accordingly, people will usually go to confession after Vespers and during the Midnight Praises on the vigil of the Divine Liturgy. As the sun sets, you are invited to ponder: What am I doing? Where did the light go? Where did my life go?”
Fr. John also gave the analogy of working on a paper or a project into the late hours of the night saying, “When you’re working late at night, you can lose sense of the time. The purpose of these evening liturgies is partly to enter into the timelessness of eternity.”
This is the structure of Vespers in the Coptic Orthodox Church:
This is a really short post to direct you to this excellent commencement address delivered by Ryan T. Anderson.
He titled it, “‘He Knows What He Is About’: Living a Life That Matters”, which is derived from one of the most splendid quotations of John Henry Newman that Dr. Anderson quotes at the outset and on which my friends and I have been reflecting a lot in recent days.
Particularly of relevance to the theme of this blog, I was struck by how Dr. Anderson exhorted the high schoolers on multiple occasions throughout the address to contemplate the thoughts they might have on their deathbeds as a key to discerning how to live a life that matters.
Below are three short excerpts:
“We got you something for your birthday to remind you of your mortality,” Sam said.
Daniel and Max followed him into my office and the three of them proceeded to present me with a box that contained the skull pictured above.
“Thanks,” I told them. “Very thoughtful!”
Some years ago, a religious sister with the epic name Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble, received a ceramic skull during a retreat. This began her daily meditations on death, about which she tweeted, chronicling her new insights that came from keeping a skull on her desk. Working on Parliament Hill, I particularly appreciated Day 6.Continue reading
On this date two years ago, I was running through the Paris Catacombs – running because they were about to close and it would not have been an opportune place to be locked in for the night.
If you’re curious about the Paris Catacombs and if reading Atlas Obscura won’t make you too nostalgic for travel, here’s some info:Continue reading