I’ve always wanted to see the Easter Liturgy in Moscow. First, because of Maurice Baring’s wonderful description in The Puppet Show of Memory, but also because I have a friend who was actually converted by it. He had been raised a complete atheist and knew practically nothing about religion. But then one Holy Saturday he was stuck in Moscow on account of the trains not running or something. He resigned himself to walking through the streets all night, but then found a church, went in, stayed the whole night there, and was converted.
Now I find that the Patriarchate has posted youtube clips of pretty much the whole service (part 1 above). First comes Matins, with the procession around the outside of the Church described by Baring. My favorite part though starts at about the 38 minute mark when first the patriarch and then one after another the other bishops and priests enter the sanctuary and then come out again and shout “Хрїстóсъ воскрéсе!” (Christ is Risen!) and the whole church responds “Воистину воскресе!” (He is risen indeed!). I guess it represents the apostles repeatedly checking the grave and proclaiming the Resurrection to one another.
I have suggested that the funniness of Three Men in A Boat is founded on Jerome K. Jerome’s sensitivity to the fallenness of the world, or, as he aptly puts it, “the natural cussedness of things in general.” That phrase occurs in a scene that is the symmetrical opposite to the sleeping-in scene discussed below. It is a waking-up-too-early scene:
I WOKE at six the next morning; and found George awake too. We both turned round, and tried to go to sleep again, but we could not. Had there been any particular reason why we should not have gone to sleep again, but have got up and dressed then and there, we should have dropped off while we were looking at our watches, and have slept till ten. As there was no earthly necessity for our getting up under another two hours at the very least, and our getting up at that time was an utter absurdity, it was only in keeping with the natural cussedness of things in general that we should both feel that lying down for five minutes more would be death to us.
What could be a better description of how life in this valley of tears actually feels? It is that sense of injustice at a world which never seems to conform itself to reason.
In one of the many train conversations recounted by Maurice Baring in The Puppet Show of Memory a Russian student gives the following opinion of J. K. J.:
The student talked of English literature with warm enthusiasm. His two favourite English modern authors were Jerome K. Jerome and Oscar Wilde. When I showed some surprise at this choice, he said I probably only thought of Jerome as a comic author. I said that was the case. ‘Then,’ he said, ‘you have not read Paul Clever [presumabably Paul Kelver], which is a masterpiece, a real human book a great book.’
I have not read Paul Kelver, but I would maintain that Three Men in a Boat is “a real human book.”