Thursday, 29 October 2009

Mass, dancing and culture

Don't worry - we did not have the dancing and the Mass at the same time. Last night I celebrated Mass in the usus antiquior at the Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul for the feast of St Simon and St Jude. The choir sang the chants from the Graduale, with Mass II. Parts of this were done in a very Eastern-sounding style with a faux-bourdon arrangement but with the dominant note constantly sung by one of the cantors. The effect was quite stunning and very prayerful.

After Mass, I was taken to the "Dance Club" with Leanne Parbo "Vanalinna Muusikamajas" ("Old Town Music"). This was in a house which is part of the whole Vanalinna Haridusholleegium (VHK - "Old Town Education College") school complex. This is a remarkable achievement, offering education through all grades, including the fine arts, based on a "master-disciple" ethos.

The Dance Club has a cafeteria in the basement which served us with characteristically Estonian broth and meat pastry. We also had some black bread which was entirely produced by the school - they have their own field to grow wheat. After eating, we went upstairs to see the dancing and I was amazed to see how very similar it was to a Scottish Ceilidh. Lots of young people were enjoying themselves in set dances accompanied by an Estonian bagpipe and an accordion. It was explained to me that dancing managed to continue during the Soviet era because it is less obvious to see how one could censor dances.

This morning, we had Lauds in the chapel at the VHK school. This was chanted in Latin from, I think, the Cistercian books. Everyone just gathered round the large Antiphonale and Psalterium and followed the cantor.

After coffee in a beautiful local cafe, it was time for me to give my lecture on Fr Adrian Fortescue. This seemed to be well received: I can relax a bit more now. I answered questions posed both in English and Estonian - thanks to the highly skilled and efficient simultaneous translation service. You can download the lecture if you want to read it. The biographical information is mostly taken from Michael Davies' book "The Wisdom of Adrian Fortescue".

The second lecture was a thought-provoking illustrated talk on "The Influence of Art and Ambience on Christian Life" by Nelson Fragelli from Brazil. I was delighted to find that Mr Fragelli was a friend of Raymond de Souza who visited my parish earlier this year. He was accompanied by Valdis Grinsteins who lives in Krakow and publishes the magazine Polonia Christiana.

This afternoon, we will hear from Lina Dovgan on "Protective Signs in the Tradition of Rearing Children: Signs in Interior Decoration, on Toys, Clothing, Garments, Dishes and Egg-painting." English readers will immediately see the similarity with the work of Joanna Bogle in encouraging families to celebrate feasts and seasons.

It is quite remarkable that this truly cosmopolitan festival with people from all over the world gathered in Estonia, has shown how many concerns we share in common, and how we face similar problems, whether recovering from years of Soviet domination, tackling the assault of neo-Marxism in South America, or fighting the onslaught of aggressive secularism. The recovery of the sacred in the Liturgy, the promotion of the sanctity of human life, the defence of the family, and of Christian culture are all subjects on which, despite our different languages, backgrounds and social situations, we find ourselves not only agreeing upon in principle, but largely presenting the same challenges, more or less advanced depending on the country.

This post should be illustrated with lovely photos and videos but I have left my mini-USB lead behind so you'll have to be patient until I can borrow one. Perhaps some photos later...
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