Monday, March 16, 2020

Random Coronavirus Thoughts

Living in a city where the authorities are daily pushing healthy people more and more into isolation in the name of safe social distancing, I spent the past weekend as I normally do, save for the few places I like to frequent that have been shut down for the next month or so. I wanted to test the waters and give it time to see if all the hype is justified. In other words, I have not been practicing social distancing that much. Instead, here is what my weekend was like.

First, before this whole coronavirus panic started, I was writing a short post for my Honey and Hemlock website on author Mary Shelley and her views on Greeks and her references to Constantinople in her writings. She is famous of course for writing Frankenstein, but she is also the author of a lesser known novel called The Last Man. The Last Man is basically about a plague that emerges in Constantinople and spreads over to Greece, with Greeks being main characters in the story, and from there throughout the entire world until finally a last man survives. I read the book many years ago, and as I was writing I realized I needed to read this book again. The next day, the coronavirus panic began, and I began to slowly reread The Last Man. If anyone is looking for good reading material during this epidemic, I highly recommend The Last Man by Mary Shelley.

Monday, March 9, 2020

The Many Religious Roles of Max von Sydow

The world was informed this morning of the loss of one of the great actors of our time this past Sunday at the age of 90 - Max von Sydow. Despite being, according to reports, an agnostic or an atheist, he could probably be credited with playing the most religious roles of any other actor throughout his career in which he featured in more than 100 films and TV series.

Max von Sydow has actually been on my mind this past week. In the past few days alone I have purchased tickets to three films he is in that will be soon shown by a few local theaters on the big screen. The first is The Exorcist which I will see in a few weeks, the second The Greatest Story Ever Told which will be shown on Catholic Good Friday, and the third is Shutter Island which I will see at the location where it was filmed in a few months. These are the only shows I have purchased in advance because they are all sure to sell out, and the common denominator in all of them is that they feature Max von Sydow.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

The Year I Kept the Holy Three-Day Fast at the Beginning of Great Lent

When I was fifteen my grandmother in Greece told me how she once met a monk who ate or drank absolutely nothing for the entire first week of Great Lent beginning on Clean Monday until after the Divine Liturgy on the first Saturday of Great Lent. The only other ascetic feat I remember her telling me about this monk was that every time it rained he would go up to the roof and stand outside with his face upwards towards the sky until the rain stopped. I was fascinated by this, and it was the first time I ever heard about the tradition of keeping a strict fasting rule for the first week of Great Lent. It was then that I also learned about the tradition of keeping a three-day fast from Clean Monday, or more specifically from Forgiveness Sunday Vespers, till after the Presanctified Liturgy on Clean Wednesday, during which time absolutely no food or even water is permitted. When I asked my pious grandmother if she ever did it, she replied no, because of its great difficulty.