Earlier today I walked into a friend’s office and saw a very old book. It was leather over boards with broken brass clasps. Here’s a picture.
“What is it?” I asked.
“A Bible, I think,” said my friend, Rod, adding that his wife picked it up on a sojourn in Russia.
I asked for a gander, and he graciously set the book on the desk in front of me. It didn’t exactly look like a Bible, but I didn’t know what to make of it. It did look Russian — Slavonic. But that’s where my smarts stopped. How to figure this out? I decided to snap some photos and see if anyone had an idea. I randomly opened the book to this page, and Rod took a picture.
I then posted it to Instagram and Facebook and soon had an answer. One friend, Sergiy, responded and said that the running header referred to Alexander Nevsky, a saint of the Orthodox church (about whom more here). Sergiy’s wife, who apparently can read Old Church Slavonic, confirmed it. I’d opened the book to a canon for Alexander Nevsky, a hymn in his honor.
So it wasn’t a Bible. It was some sort of service or prayer book. But to learn more we needed another sample. So Rod took a picture of the front page — the table of contents, as it turned out — and Sergiy said the book was a collection of such canons.
Now, all of that would be cool enough — the book is a couple hundred years old, maybe older, a rare treat for a book lover like me — but here’s where things get interesting.
Another friend, Jamey, posted something on Instagram about the feast day of Alexander Nevsky being today. St. Nick’s feast day is December 6, so I was confused. But then it dawned on me. While it’s December 6 for those of us on the Gregorian calendar, for more traditional (non-Gregorian) Orthodox the liturgical calendar is thirteen days behind, making today November 23.
And guess who’s feast day is November 23? St. Alexander Nevsky! To which I can only say, it’s fun working in a Christian publishing house.