The dream started like any other cantoring dream. I was in front, at the temple, almost certainly in Richmond. The pews, because we still have them, were populated by evangelical Protestants, mostly of the older missionary variety with the faded button down shirts, some white, some Asian, all with greying hair.
In medias res, I am vaguely aware of two things. The first is that this is a chrismation, and we are about halfway into the liturgy already, preparing for a transition from the office of chrismation to the Divine Liturgy. The second is that there are some evangelical kids who, upon hindsight, look like the Chinese kids who used to come to our English evening service at the charismatic Cantonese Anglican parish at which I used to intern ten years ago.
As we are singing, I invite one of these kids to be an altar server. I figure it would be good experience and that the other altar server kids would teach him the ropes quickly. I should have known it was a dream at this point, as we do not have enough kids to be altar servers in Richmond.
The scene suddenly changes. It is the same iconostas as Richmond, but we are no longer inside, but outside, in an amphitheater, much like one of those camp meetings that’s a cross between the Baptist preaching tents and the outdoor liturgies I always see our Patriarch presiding over in Ukraine. As we come into the Trisagion that bridges the chrismation with the Liturgy of the Catechumens where the Word of God is read and proclaimed, I realize that we have a disaster. Our regular reader has not shown up. I am cantoring, and the newly chrismated who has gotten into the habit of intoning the tropars and kondaks during Sunday liturgy is actually the one being chrismated.
And then I see another disaster. The kid that I told to be a server apparently couldn’t figure out how to open the deacon door, and opened it by the hinge. Where the door was, there is a big hole. Both Holy Roman the Melodist – the deacon displayed on our left deacon door in Richmond – and Holy Olha Equal-to-the-Apostles next to him are missing.
I freak out. I am not sure what the day is, though I vaguely remember that we are on the New Calendar because we are in Richmond (as opposed to Chicago) and that it is the Feast of the Six Ecumenical Councils as well as Holy Mary Magdalene. Confidently, I open the Anthology for Divine Liturgy that the Kyivan Church uses. No problem, I figure. I’ll intone the prokeimen.
But between cantoring and flipping the pages, I keep dropping the book, and I can never get to the part where it indicates what prokeimen we are using. My spiritual father pokes his head out from behind the hole in the iconostas (which he does not seem to notice, for some reason), and there I am flipping, gesturing to him that our reader hasn’t shown up and I am panicking. He intones, Wisdom, let us be attentive, and I am officially screwed.
I can’t find the prokeimen. The liturgy grinds to a halt. I go back behind the iconostas through the hole that used to be the deacon door. I don’t know what prokeimen it is, I say. Also, I don’t know how to use the Apostol book for today. I don’t know where the special stuff is. My spiritual father hands me another Bible, and also a Chinese Bible, and then also a Good News Bible, and tells me to look for it. He assumes that my Protestant background will save me. Did you find it? he says as I flip through and I see something vaguely familiar. Yes, I lie. I don’t know why I lie, but I guess I figure that if he doesn’t know what the relevant passages are, maybe I can read something random and get away with it.
By this time, the stalling has made for impatient Protestants. They have gathered around the tetrapod in their faded shirts, and they are in a holy huddle with the newly chrismated. They’ve also taken out walkmans attached to portable speakers, and they are playing some kind of gospel music. I am aghast. I tell them that this music is not the music of our church, and that I’ve figured out the prokeimen. They tell me not to be such a legalist. All music, they say, is pleasing to God and can be used at any point in the liturgy.
Fuming, I intone the prokeimen in tone eight, the regular prokeimen. The Protestants are still there, and I am waving my arms to get them to sing, Pray and give praise to the Lord our God. Pray and give praise to the Lord our God. For some reason, there is a kleros with four-part harmony able to carry it, and it drowns out their walkman Gospel music. But they won’t give up their spots around the tetrapod. But I too have failed. I don’t know what the prokeimen is for the feasts. What I’ve intoned is only the resurrectional prokeimen for a regular Sunday. Yet I get away with it. That is a good sign. It means that I might also be able to sneak my random reading through too.
And then my spiritual father intones, Wisdom. But as I begin the reading, he says that it’s the wrong reading. I realize that I should not have lied. Now I need to flip through the Apostol reading, the spiritual father’s Bible, the Chinese Bible, and the Good News Bible to find the reading. He says that it needs to be the one for Mary Magdalene. I don’t recall seeing one for Mary Magdalene in the Apostol book; this is actually why I lied in the first place. I flip frantically, the liturgy stalls again, the Protestants are looking at me.
As I flip anxiously, the scene gets fuzzy, and I awake in a cold sweat, and behold, it was a dream.
In the public words of one of my more regular but very critical readers, more information about the ‘growing number’ of our ‘much ballyhooed’ Kyivan Psychoanalysis Study Group can be found here. The last dream I recorded about cantoring can be found here.